Friday, 29 August 2008

I Seem To Have Spent The Day With Doctors

With it being Friday, it was psychotherapy day, which meant a night of interrupted sleep, an early exit from the house and a trip to the bus stop to catch a bus to the hospital. I'm a bit paranoid about timekeeping, and I was a little late setting off this morning, so when the wait for the bus seemed a little longer than normal I worried (absolutely needlessly) about being late for my appointment. The bus eventually arrived, and because the kids are still on summer holiday, and because the traffic seemed a little lighter than normal, I arrived at the hospital with time to spare. Not as early as normal, but still early.

Today's session started as usual with me being struck dumb and unable to express myself in any way, but my psychotherapist has become used to this and after a couple of minutes always makes a little comment, half couched as a question, and I generally start talking from that point, and rarely stop for long during the session. When I do take a break from talking, there is usually a simple question about how I was feeling at the time that I am talking about, and off I go again.

If you were asked to talk about yourself for 50-60 minutes, you would probably find it quite difficult. Then imagine what it is like having to do that to someone who is a total stranger on a weekly basis. It is difficult, it is very difficult, and you end up going to places in your mind and finding memories that you didn't know existed. It is an emotional roller-coaster that can be very traumatic at the time that you are talking about those memories, but which can ultimately become therapeutic because of the knowledge of yourself that you gain from the experience.

Today, for the first time, the session did not revolve around my relationships with my family and the causes of my beginning to start to suffer from depression. Today the session was emotional for a different reason because it revolved around the reasons for my having to seek early retirement on medical grounds. It was looking at how difficult other people find it to know what to say or do when confronted by someone with mental illness, how we suffer from discrimination in the workplace because of something over which we have no control, and how it makes you feel when you find yourself in these kinds of situations.

I have to admit that I was quite glad to get outside and start to walk to the bus stop to catch the bus for my journey home.

This afternoon, I had another encounter with a doctor; this time it was a visit to see my GP. Up until a year ago I was blessed with having perfect blood pressure. Then suddenly instead of a text-book perfect BP, it started to rise. The situation has been monitored and the possibility of medication has been discussed. The last time I went to see him, my GP was concerned about the level of anxiety that I was exhibiting, and as a result of this, and the fact that I was finding it difficult to climb out of the depression that I was in, he decided to change my medication. This was my first visit since the change and he commented immediately how much more relaxed I seemed. I knew that he was going to check my BP, he had told me he would the last time we met, so I was prepared for it. To make sure that I was relaxed, I set off for the surgery early, booked myself in, and sat in a quiet corner of the waiting room reading a book to take my mind of things and to get myself into a calm state. Once in the consulting room, and after the pleasantries had taken place, the cuff was put on my arm and I was told to sit back in the chair, close my eyes and to concentrate on my breathing. GP then proceeded to get me into as relaxed a state as he could before pressing the button on the machine. But even after this attempt to get me calm and relaxed my blood pressure was still much higher than it ought to be. At least we both did our best to make sure that it was a measurement taken without the influence of a stressful situation, but the result is yet another tablet to be taken each day.

We then talked about how my psychotherapy was going, the reasons for my feeling low at the moment, but how I wasn't feeling as bad as I expected allowing for the time of year and the anniversaries that will occur next week, and that I felt the change in medication had brought this about. We talked about how I wanted to be monitored in the future, although that won't start until my BP is under control, and I said that I would like to settle into a routine of monthly appointments, which is what I had become used to over the years, but that obviously if things got very bad, additional appointments would be made.

It was a long, totally unhurried consultation (but before anybody complains about me making my GP late for his following patients, it was a prebooked double appointment). I left feeling that I had been treated as a person, not just a number on a balance sheet, and that I had been properly allowed to take part in determining the way in which future management of my health will be conducted. Somehow I really don't think that would be possible if Gordon Brown and Lord Darzi are allowed to ruin the NHS in the way they plan to. I know I won't get treatment like that in a polyclinic.

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