Take a Number, Be a Number

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I was at my orthopedist’s office not too long ago. I heard him say as he was talking to one of the residents, in my presence, “Have you checked on number 17 yet?” I was shocked at this. He didn’t use the patient’s name but rather their room number.  If he didn’t want to use the patient’s name in front of another patient, then he could simply have taken his conversation into the hall.

Is that all we patients are to clinicians like this, merely a room number to be checked off? What a shame. And truly shameful behavior on their part. Now I realize that they have multiple patients to see and care for in a day. But that’s what they signed on for. To reduce the people in their care (us) to numbers is depersonalizing and unkind.

I didn’t say anything at the time – I guess I was too speechless. I had observed a careless “bedside manner” to say the least. I was told I would be getting a survey to fill out to tell them about my visit. I will no doubt be detailing what I thought of it. I only hope it has some effect and isn’t tossed off like some other annoyance like the “numerous” patients they are responsible for treating.

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Mental Health Journey, Pt. 2

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Life for a mental health patient is a journey, made somewhat better by medicines and treatments. Sometimes the “better” is marginal, sometimes it’s manageable, sometimes there’s a glimpse of a near-miracle. Medications are little slices of wonderful, if and when they work. There’s the issue for many. The ever-present IF.

With psychiatric medications, what works for one person may not, and does not, always work for another person. This is because individual brain chemistry is as unique as a fingerprint. Patients are often faced with having to try different medications to find one that works. After that comes finding the proper effective dosage that works for them. And with psychiatric meds, if A doesn’t work for you, you can’t just take one, stop and then immediately start taking B like you can a pain reliever or some other type of drug. There is a sort of “half-life” with brain chemicals when they are affected by psychiatric meds.

Because psychiatric medications have to build up in the brain tissue in order to be effective, if a drug does not work, you have to wean yourself off it before starting a new one. This can take time and is frustrating and, unfortunately, depressing for the patient. It often feels like you “roll the dice” when you try another drug because you truly do not know if it will work. In addition, you wonder how effective it will be or for how long.

And don’t get me started on the Side Effects! (too late)… With side effects of psychiatric meds, it can sometimes feel like you are experiencing the saying, “The cure is worse than the disease”. There is weight gain, or there could be weight loss. You have insomnia or you might sleep too much. You feel ravenous or have no appetite at all. There is constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention impaired coordination or memory, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, and of course, sexual difficulties. You are dealing with many of these while you are trying your hardest to JUST FEEL BETTER!