As a little kid, I LOVED going to the doctor. All of my actions were (and to a great extent still are) fueled by the hope that I’d receive some form of positive reinforcement. Naturally, going to the doctor was THE BEST THING EVER. The doctor would tell me I was healthy, pat me on the head, give me a toy and send me back to my mom who was also super excited that I was healthy. Most of the time I didn’t even have to do anything – he’d hit my knee with the hammer and be like ‘good, good,’ and I’d WON. Easiest positive reinforcement ever. I kid you not… For mini Tiffany, going to the doctor was almost as exciting as going to Six Flags.
Then, somewhere in the middle of college (let’s be honest, it’s when I started drinking/smoking), I developed an almost crippling fear of the doctor that hasn’t gone away. I think I approach doctors the way I used to approach my Youth Group leaders at church – if I’d done something wrong, I was positive they could see right through me. The thing with doctors that makes them even scarier is that they have machines that can ACTUALLY see right through me. Going to the doctor feels like going to confession; except at the doctor, the consequences might be cancer, or an ulcer or, worse yet, wrinkles by 30.
My avoidance tactics (no yearly physicals; rare, infrequent visits to a new doctor every time I suspect I am dying) have created a bizarre form of hypochondria. Rather than going and just getting my shit checked out, I spend hours/days/months diagnosing myself with rare things I find on WedMD and wait until I am nearly incapable of functioning before I go to the doctor only to be told that no, no my retinas aren’t detaching/ I don’t have tongue cancer/ that’s not scoliosis, you’re just slouching. I don’t have the healthiest habits, but I’m also not excessively unhealthy, and I’m beginning to realize my doctor-avoidance is doing me more harm than good.
Two weeks ago I got in the bike accident. Chris came and picked me up, brought me to his apartment, gave me the glass of bourbon and advil that I demanded and brought me some ice.
“Don’t you think you should go to the doctor?”
“No! What is he going to do anyway?”
“Your leg is… pretty fucked up.”
“I’ve never had a broken bone before, I’m pretty sure I’d know if I had one now.” Total logic fail there, but I think I looked so pathetic that Chris dropped it.
I called up my parents to tell them and we had a similar conversation. I managed to convince everyone that no, I was fine and didn’t need the doctor’s reassurance. Success! Sort of. While I was pretty positive nothing was severely wrong with me, after a few days the hypochondria crept in. I’d look down at my weird, swollen leg and then back up at my computer screen, scanning the google results for ‘hematoma’ over and over, looking for something else that could be brewing within my body. Amazingly enough, hematoma is one of the only ailments you can search that doesn’t result in ‘maybe you have cancer/AIDS/bipolar disorder.’ It really takes skill to find something that’s possibly life-threatening about a hematoma on your leg.
I am so skilled in my hypochondria that I found the super scary, life-threatening thing. COMPARTMENT SYNDROME.
Compartment syndrome is when instead of forming a regular hematoma, the blood something, something… Anyway, the cute is simple it’s just that YOUR LEG GETS CUT OPEN TO RELIEVE THE PRESSURE. At this point I decided it was time to go to the doctor. I’d been freaking out for almost a week straight and now that compartment syndrome was on the table and I might need emergency surgery I pulled up ZocDoc and made an appointment with the first hematologist I could find. I made the appointment for the end of the next day, so all I had to do was survive the next twenty-four hours without my compartmented leg blowing up or whatever happens to you if you don’t get your leg cut open and I’d be fine.
I was so worked up on the train ride to the doctor that I was in tears, heart racing and mind filled with possible scenarios. What if I had to have emergency surgery? What if I miss Labor Day weekend? But the worst was – WHAT IF MY LEG LOOKS WEIRD AND I CAN’T WEAR HEELS ANYMORE BECAUSE IT WILL LOOK CREEPY?!?
I’m glad the doctor didn’t take my blood pressure, because normally it’s so high that they request I come back in a couple weeks so they can monitor me. I’ve tried explaining before, “I don’t have high blood pressure, I’m like this because you really freak me out,” but they never believe me. I sat at his desk, and he asked me what was wrong. I shakily gave him with my entire family medical history in under two minutes, and then gave him a play-by-play of everything that happened to my leg. He told me to stand up and took about five seconds to examine my leg.
“Yup, this looks just fine.”
“But what about the bumps?! You didn’t feel the bumps!” My brain is screaming, “THE COMPARTMENTS!” but after years of telling doctors I’m positive of this or that diagnosis, and being wholly incorrect, I know not to make myself look like more of an idiot.
“There’s a lot of blood in there, it’ll take a while to heal. If anything, I’d recommend a hot bath now and then.”
I calmed down, asked him about 57 more questions about my blood, my leg and all the other questions I’d been compiling since my last visit. The appointment was over in all of ten minutes.
“Well, that was easy.” He said as I walked out the door. As I turned to thank him, he smirked and said, “I’d say the biggest threat is not clots, but cabs.”
Well played, doctor… Well played.
After this episode, I’m beginning to see the light. Through all of these panics and freak-outs, I’ve only ended up wasting my own time and energy rather than taking the thirty minutes it takes to go to the doctor. If I had actually had compartment syndrome, I probably would have been fucked because I’d waited so long. I think I’ll make my new doctor my first primary care physician since high school. That being said, I’ve still gotta find a new OBGYN, dude stares at my boobs wayyyyy too much for me to be comfortable.
Next step: Getting myself to go to the dentist.