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To the Doctor Who Labeled Me as 'Non-Compliant'

Dear Doctor,

No, I am not a perfect patient. I’m only human, like the rest of the patients you see. Like them, I sometimes have trouble following my treatment plan when I have a symptom flare-up. Instructions may be a little harder to follow. I may have to miss appointments and reschedule them because I am too ill to even leave the house, much less come to an appointment.

I do my best to take my medication like I am supposed to. Sometimes, I miss a dose here and there, but I don’t think there is a person alive who regularly takes medications who hasn’t missed a dose at some point. Sometimes there are miscommunications about the dosages I’m supposed to be taking because either you haven’t explained it well to me or I was having a bad day and wasn’t getting it. These things happen. We’re not perfect.

I do my best with the rest of my treatment. I go to therapy and case management appointments as scheduled (although, as I’ve mentioned, I will need to reschedule when things are rough for me.) I make notes. I try to focus (although on many days this is difficult).  I communicate with my care team as best I can.

I do my best outside the clinic to take care of myself. I eat healthy food, avoid alcohol and street drugs, don’t abuse my medication, exercise and engage in hobbies. I talk to friends. I try to get enough rest. On the good days, I have no problem practicing good self-care. When times are bad, I don’t have the energy or presence of mind to take care of myself like I should.

Sometimes my medication doesn’t work like it should, it doesn’t work at all, has stopped working or has side effects that are intolerable. Rather than not taking them, I call you for help, like I’m supposed to do. I’m sure it is frustrating for you to realize what you have judged to be the right plan of action isn’t working out. I do not hold that against you. This is a trial and error process. You are human and make mistakes.

Likewise, I am human and am not always 100 percent cognizant enough to follow my treatment plan to the letter. I know it is in my best interest to do what my care team has suggested, and we usually get good results. Still, I make mistakes. But then, so do you.

Doctor, you see me for 15 minutes, four times a year. That’s not enough time to really get to know me or get an idea of how bad my symptoms are without me explaining it to you. The only things you know about me are the notes you have made in your charts. You don’t really know me. You don’t know what I have to deal with every day with this illness. I suppose it is very easy for you to judge me as “non-compliant” and “irresponsible” with my treatment.

In the future, I hope you can have a little more patience and compassion for your patients. You believe you are doing the best you can to keep them well. They are doing the best they can to stay well. They walk past me as I continue on with my disguise.

Editor’s note: The following is based on personal experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.