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5 Things I Want My New Doctor to Know, From a Victim of Medical Child Abuse

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Tomorrow morning, I have my first appointment with a new primary care physician (PCP). At 20 years old, I’ve been seeing the same PCP since I was an infant, but between the fact he’s a pediatrician (and again, I’m 20) and he was my doctor while I was experiencing medical child abuse, I finally decided it was time for a change. I went on the website for my insurance company and searched for “primary care” in their care finder, reading through the list, trying to decide who I was comfortable trying to see.

I finally found one. I found a doctor who checked all the boxes that make me feel just a bit more comfortable, so I took a deep breath, called and made an appointment. That was this morning. Tonight, just hours later, reality has set in as my mind is attempting to process and prepare for what I will be doing tomorrow.

So, to my new PCP, from your new patient, a victim of medical child abuse, here’s what I wish I could tell you before ever walking into your office:

1. I am going to be anxious. 

I need you to understand that for years, my entire life was spent between doctors’ offices and hospitals. It was unusual to go more than a day or two without a doctor’s appointment. Now, every time I walk through the doors of any doctor’s office or hospital, it feels like I’m walking back into the abuse, and it’s terrifying. Rationally, I know it isn’t the same, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like it’s the same, and it’s hard.

2. I am choosing to trust you; I need you to do the same. 

By walking into the waiting room, by signing in, by allowing my vitals to be checked, by giving my medical history, by having a conversation with you — I am choosing to extend trust, over and over again, and it is hard for me every single time. The thing is, though, I need you to trust me, too or this is never going to work. I am anxious and avoidant and often even “noncompliant,” but I still, I am honest. I’m not going to lie to you, so I need you to listen and really hear me when I tell you something is wrong. It’s been a rough road, but I know my body. I know what it does and I know when something is wrong. Please do not look at my mental health diagnoses and blow me off, telling me it’s just anxiety when I know that it’s more than that. Please be willing to extend the same trust to me I am extending to you.

3. I’m not going to be like other patients. 

You can’t tell me, “take two of these and call me in the morning.” That won’t work for me. I need to know what you are doing and why. I need to understand it myself before I will be comfortable doing anything. I know you’re the professional, but I am the one who lives in this body, as much of a mess as it may be, and if the course of treatment doesn’t make sense to me, I’ll never be comfortable with it. Because of that, I need you to be patient with me. Explain what you’re doing and why, answer my questions, hear me if I express concern — these things may seem trivial to you, but to me, they’re monumental.

4. Sometimes, things will trigger me and it won’t make sense to you.

Believe me, I’ve had panic attacks in plenty of other doctors’ offices before I ever walked into yours. I might burst into tears over the same exam you’ve given me with no issues half a dozen other times. I might not be able to take a medication, even after you explain it all and answer my questions. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some days are better than others. Sometimes, as much as I understand what’s happening and why, I just can’t do it. Perhaps because it’s too similar to something that occurred during the abuse, perhaps because I’m just having a rough day or perhaps for a different reason entirely. When something isn’t working, I need you to respect that. If you get frustrated with me because I’m struggling, I will walk away and never come back.

5. More than anything, though, please recognize I am trying the best I can with what I have.

What I went through was hard. Dealing with the aftermath has been hard. Having medical challenges is hard. All of this is hard. And I am young. I haven’t had a lot of time to figure this all out, and I’m doing it on my own. It’s a lot. I’m not going to do it perfectly. I will stumble over my words and forget things and need a minute to catch my breath sometimes. I know it’s messy, but please recognize as messy as this is, this is still the best I can do right now. I need you to remember that during the times I’m not a perfect patient, because heaven knows I won’t be. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, I am trying.

Despite my anxiety, I genuinely hope this works. Please be patient with me as I work through figuring out the details of how.


Getty image by AlexRaths

Originally published: April 10, 2020
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