by Mary Russell, M.S.
I don’t think I am alone in my tendency to avoid “the doctor” or any doctor for that matter. My aversion began when I was fairly young. Little Mary didn’t like the vaccinations, blood tests, and q-tips jammed down her throat to test for strep. Years later, Teenage Mary still hated shots but now also experienced an embarrassment that teenagers are primed to experience when sitting virtually butt naked on an examination table and awkwardly responding to humiliating questions. Now, Adult Mary still hates the doctor. I still hate shots. I still feel embarrassed by certain questions. On top of this, I am now the sole person responsible for paying my medical bills and dealing with the insurance companies that relentlessly avoid paying these medical bills. Though my reasons may have changed (or mounted up), Adult Mary still hates the doctor as much as Little Mary.
As adults, many of us hate the doctor as much as the run of the mill 5 year old. While our reasons may differ, our hatred is often equally irrational. We may think that we can’t stand the pain that may come with the visit, the embarrassment that comes with the questions (or more likely our responses), or the stress of having to pay our bills. More seriously, we may tell ourselves we can’t stand a diagnosis or recommendation that our doctor may give us or that we’re not strong enough to get better if we are sick.
The truth is, most people don’t LOVE going to the doctor but most of us recognize that the benefits of seeing our doctors strongly outweigh the risks of not. Furthermore, thoughts that we can’t stand the pain, embarrassment, or inconvenience inevitably lead to feelings of hatred towards the doctor and naturally are accompanied by a tendency to avoid it at all cost. Keeping in mind that it’s in our interest to see the doctor, a more useful attitude is one of empowerment. Most of us are stronger than we think and can handle a lot more than we give ourselves credit. We can stand the pain and discomfort and, if it’s a matter of life or death, have no choice but to fight – the alternative is not to be considered. If you’ve been avoiding a visit to the doctor, take a close look at what you’re telling yourself. Are your beliefs about going to the doctor helping you get checked out? If not, consider adopting a more rational and helpful outlook. You don’t have to enjoy your visit to the doctor, but I’m almost positive you can stand it. So your homework for this week: make that appointment – and feel free to reward yourself with a sticker and a lollipop.