Once, when I was in University, I worked at summer job at, of all places, the Ministry of Health. I was working there as a temp and was shunted around between desks at one point. As soon as I started at my new desk, which came with a new chair, I started to get horrible back pain. Fairly early on, I suspected the chair. During the week, the pain would get to the point of being nearly unbearable, where I would go home and try to lie still and grimace, but on the weekend, when I was not in the office in the chair, it would slowly get better — such that by the end of the weekend I would be feeling okay.
After a couple of weeks of this, I decided to try out my theory. A co-worker was on vacation, and I borrowed their chair. The pain went away almost right away, and all week I felt great. Then they came back and I swapped the chairs back. The pain returned.
I went to see my boss about it. My boss was quite sympathetic but said that I had to get a doctor’s note that they could attach to the requisition for a new chair. I figured that that was fair enough — government and all that — and I went down to the campus health centre to get a note. I was expecting it to be a pretty quick and easy thing given all the evidence that I’d amassed.
When I was admitted, I got not half a sentence into my explanation when the doctor waived his hand at me dismissively and pronounced that I was too fat.
He didn’t examine me, aside from just looking at me from across the room, but he was certain of it. I began to explain how the pain went away when I didn’t use the chair, how I’d measured the height and determined that it was incorrect for my height, etc., but he would have none of it. He stated that he “didn’t want to hear another word about any chair,” and that I was too fat and that that was the source of my pain.
Realizing that the session was going to be futile and figuring that I’d just go see another doctor somewhere else, I made to leave. As I was walking toward the door, the doctor said, “And anyway, it’ll do a number on your self esteem.”
Now, while I’ve dealt with self-esteem problems at various points in my life, it wasn’t an issue that was really weighing on me heavily just then.
I turned around and just said, “What?”
“It’ll do a number on your self esteem,” he repeated.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When you look at yourself in the mirror, aren’t you disgusted with what you see?” he asked, with a tone of incredulity.
“No,” I responded.
“Well, you SHOULD be!” was his reply.
At that point I left.
As with a lot of the other people who you’ve spoken to, experiences like this and others have gotten me to the point where I’m very wary about going to the doctor and don’t go even when I really should. I haven’t been to get a regular physical in many years, and that’s a critical part of good heatlh — finding problems early. However, the last time I went, the experience, while not as blatant as the one above, was about as disheartening (and I have less youthful bravado behind me now). I tried to tough it out and do the right thing by making an appointment for my next annual, and the doctor blew me off, making it clear through his attitude that he didn’t want me as a patient.
I’ve been telling myself that it’s important to my loved ones that I go back, find another doctor and get back in the habit of regular check-ups. I need to turn that from words into action, and yet I find myself immobilized by the weight of all of that history.