What If I Don't Like My Doctor?
Before I start, I have to be honest about something. I have been thinking about writing this article for some time and seriously contemplated not writing it at all. I never ever want to sound ungrateful for anyone who has helped me in life, especially on this difficult journey with macular degeneration.
Good or bad doctors
Every doctor I’ve had has helped me in some way. I’ve learned so much from all of them, even from the ones that were helpful medically but not kind, or from the ones that were kind but not very helpful medically.
Sometimes, we 'get' a doctor we don't like, or don't mesh with, or don't feel comfortable with. It feels frustrating to think about because we want so badly to trust the professionals who care for us. We know their guidance and knowledge is our best chance at normalcy. Not to mention, the difficulties with insurance and record transfers and initial consultations when we see a new doctor.
A community seeking guidance
Having said that, I have seen so many of our community members on MacularDegeneration.net as well as on our Facebook page who seem to feel like their doctors aren’t listening to them, don’t have time for them, think they are overreacting when showing emotion or asking questions, or just not as knowledgeable as they’d like them to be.
So, I’ve decided that writing about my experience with a doctor I didn’t really ‘like’ is okay because maybe it will help someone else feel brave enough to start over with a new one and get the help that best suits their specific needs as I did.
I don't like my doctor
My experience with this doctor, whom I will refer to as Dr. Condescending, was probably the most knowledgeable retina specialist I’ve ever had. I’ve had five, the rest I switched due to medical need or insurance changes.
Myopic macular degeneration diagnosis
Dr. C was actually the doctor who diagnosed me with myopic macular degeneration, MMD, when I was just twenty-six years old. I am grateful for that diagnosis because that is when I started really trying to live my healthiest life in order to preserve my vision. I had been seeing him on and off for about eight years prior to that diagnosis as a precaution for my very myopic eyes.
At the time I was diagnosed I was also very newly pregnant with my first child and needless to say, quite emotional when being rushed around and poked and prodded in his office. Who isn't when they're given this diagnosis?
Feeling judged by my doctor
When I first started seeing this particular retina specialist, well before I was ever diagnosed with MMD, he would make comments to my mom about how I should take shots of whiskey before coming in for my next visit to ‘relax.' You know, before dilating me, numbing my eyes (kind of) and poking my eyeballs all around, as they do, with their magnified light to check for tears, bleeding, drusen, and whatever else it is they’re looking for as they prod around in there.
Medical test anxiety
The poking and prodding has always been painful for me, as well as scary. You may be thinking, “Hey, whiskey isn’t a bad idea,” joking, obviously, but I was 19 years old. It was inappropriate and made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I was in pain and was doing the best I could. Not to mention, my mom was in the room with me when he said it and that felt extremely awkward for both of us.
Memorizing eye charts?
In later years, I remember going in to see Dr. Condescending after I got my first scotoma. It was an annual checkup on the scotoma and I was able to ‘read’ the letters on the eye chart on lines that I was unable to see before. Dr. C accused me of memorizing the chart on my previous visit. Really? Why would I do something like that? How would that help me in any way?
What had really happened was my brain had thankfully compensated for ‘seeing’ my blind spot so I could better read the eye chart. I didn’t find this out until my next retina specialist explained it to me, but shouldn’t that have been celebrated instead?
Getting a new retina specialist
My last frustrating memory of this doctor, the one that made me call the very next day for a records transfer, was from the visit when I was formally diagnosed with MMD. I had just received news of possible blindness and at the very least many sad and difficult symptoms of the disease. This is what he said to me…
“Why are you so upset? Everyone else in the waiting room would give all four of their limbs to be able to see as well as you do right now.” - Dr. Condescending
A perfectly proportionate reaction to a diagnosis
I was 26. Everyone else in the waiting room was at least 65. And really, that doesn’t even matter. Because it is not okay, at any age, for any person to tell you how to feel when you are diagnosed with a scary disease. Period.
As I mentioned earlier, this doctor, in my opinion, was the most knowledgeable one I've had. You can imagine how much I struggled with the decision to leave him and seek another doctor's help. What I realized is that Dr. C couldn't fully help me if I didn't feel safe or comfortable with him. If we couldn't effectively communicate with each other, all of his knowledge would never even reach me. Looking back, I now know it was the right decision to move on from him.
Losing central vision or going blind?
I now know things I didn't then that have really made me grateful for my decision. I remember being visibly upset in his office one day because he told me I could 'go blind.' Now, when someone is told that they think the worst. Instead of flippantly telling me, seeing me upset, and rushing out to his next patient, he very well could have explained that I would only maybe lose my central vision and not go completely blackout blind. Which was what I was thinking was going to happen.
Finding the best eye doctors
The reason I decided to finally write this article is to encourage anyone who is struggling with not feeling like they have found their perfect doctor match. Friends, what we are going through deserves nothing less than the best care from people we can trust. And not only with our physical health, but also our emotional and mental wellbeing too.
A second opinion
A second opinion is always okay. Or even a third, fourth, or fifth. If you are not completely comfortable with your specialist, if they seem like they don’t have as much time or knowledge for you as you’d like, or if they say rude things to you that make you feel bad, then I’m here to tell you that it is definitely more than okay to seek another opinion.
Heck, even if your doctor seems amazing, it’s still okay if that is what helps you feel comfortable. This is your life and those are your eyes.
Doctor's help us understand
Yes, our doctors are the professionals we trust to help us understand what’s happening to our eyes. They are so amazing that they can even stick needles and lasers into our eyes as treatments. Our doctors help us decide which supplements to take or lifestyle changes to make. But, it is so very important to feel heard, understood, and equal when dealing with our own eyes and vision impairment.
We are the ones that have to live all of our days with vision loss and uncertain futures, not them. This very well could be one of the most important relationships you have with another person in your lifetime.
Don’t settle for just anyone.
Do you like your eye doctor?
Do you still drive?