In Sickness and In Heath
Sooner or later, we all get sick. But even if we don’t, we still have to face the inevitable checkup. Does anybody really like those? I highly doubt it. You are poked and prodded, have to fill all sort of jars with all sorts of fluid, while at the same time trying to maintain your dignity wearing a miniskirt that is slit up the back. Yes, that is my definition of fun.
If you are one of the lucky people for which a trip to the doctor’s does not produce anxiety, congratulations. You win a prize. But if you are like the rest of us: tense and fearful of the event and the ramifications of a bad checkup, then take solace in the fact that you are not alone.
Staying calm and keeping your wits about you is very important when visiting your local doctor. A nervous mind may cause the body to produce an abnormally-high blood pressure reading. An embarrassed blush may yield the diagnosis of rosacea. And a shaking body may earn you a bottle of pills designed to cure palsy.
In the past, clever doctors would endeavor to alleviate a patient’s stress by designing a comfortable waiting area that would keep the mind occupied in a calming fashion.
Attractive artwork has been known to distract the brain and lower the blood pressure, unless of course, the artwork is original. In that case, the patient will begin to wonder how the doctor could afford such a luxury, and eventually realize that it was because they charge their patients exorbitant fees. This is quite common, and is known as the “Monet Syndrome.” If you see one of these babies (left) hanging in your doctor’s office, head for the nearest exit immediately.
Another such device that calms the nerves of a patient on edge is the aquarium (right). The theory behind its use is that a patient will relax by watching the fish as they travel about in a soothing environment – either that or it will make them dizzy, and they will forget everything because they are in a hypnotic state.
The key to the success of the aquarium, however,lies in two important factors: 1) the aquarium must be stocked with an ample amount of fish or else the patient will not be distracted; and 2) the fish must be alive. A copious amount of dead fish on hand will only remind the patient of what might happen to him or her once in the examination room.
While my personal tastes favor both beautiful artwork, and attractive, live fish, I have noticed a trend away from these luxuries. This is bad news for the patient. Lately, doctors have started employing tricks to boost sales. One such trick is placing health pamphlets around the room to arouse a patient’s curiosity (and fears). Brochures such as “10 Diseases You Never Knew You Had” and “How to Incorporate Your Surgery Scar into an Attractive Tattoo” may sound appealing, but browse through them at your own risk.
The lazy doctor will simply turn on the waiting room television set or have magazines strewn about. Do NOT touch these magazines!. Think about who used them before you. I believe I have made my point.
My all-time least favorite thing to see at the doctor’s are medical posters. I have no interest in learning the makeup of the pustule, nor does my stomach. I do not wish to see cartoon tumors in living color right before my eyes, while I worry about a cough that has lingered. This does not inspire confidence in the doctor. In fact, it has the opposite effect.
When I see an exam room with wall-to-wall medical posters, I begin to wonder if my doctor knows what they are talking about. I see them as “cheat sheets.”
It’s sort of like having the doctor say, “Oh wait a minute while I check that out on these posters, I was absent that week in med school, so I will need to brush up on that a bit. Give me a few moments and I will have an educated guess for you.”
See what I mean? Not inspiring.
What do I do to stay calm? Again the answer lies in self-talk and distraction. I will bring with me either a book to read or a notebook in which I write. That way I can avoid hearing things I don’t want to hear, like someone screaming in the next room, or the guy across from me talking about his colonoscopy.
Of course this doesn’t always work, and I still hear things. That’s why I need to feed my brain a constant stream of positive thought, and especially the thought to only deal with the facts. A wart is not skin cancer, and a simple cough is not COPD. Repeat that about a thousand times, and you just might start to believe it.
While a trip to the doctor is not exactly a fun-filled event, it is very important that you don’t let fear get in the way of visiting. It’s the smart thing to do, so don’t make excuses. If it were not for my diligence in visiting doctors and doing the right thing, I would have died many years ago. Stay strong and don’t let those fears get in the way.
And, while you are at it… SMILE!!