It was bleakest December 2011.
So, I walked in with a slouch and a bad cold and walked out with a slouch, a bad cold and a prescription for Citalopram!
A trip to “the Surgery” was a rare event for me. I once got a ticking off for not seeing the doctor for 5 years. He said he thought I might be dead...I said that someone would have told him. #Paperwork!
He was a comical older guy with no frills. I think he lived in his office. He never seemed to age, always shirt and flannels, small jar of jelly beans. I imagine him, night and day; with his desk lamp permanently switched on. Working non stop and maybe hoping beyond hope that one day, just one day might arrive when he had finished. That he had swiped the last item at the checkout counter and the conveyor belt was empty. Then he could go home. He was beyond professional. He cared. Probably too much.
Funnily enough, the next time I saw him, I asked him to check for damage in my ear as a spider had been living in it for a week. I had finally "popped" the week long clicking noise in my ear with my finger and watched with saucer eyes as the wee beastie scuttled over my hand. Instant thermo nuclear hot flush was followed by shakes and general "Freak Out!"
“The eggs haven’t hatched yet so there’s nothing to worry about!” he proclaimed.
I nearly hit the roof! He was a regular dry-as-you-like comedian. He was my old Doctor, always a smile and a hypodermic injection of humour, if possible.
I have a new doctor now.
I should maybe mention that, where I live, the term “Surgery” is a commonly used parochial term meaning Medical Centre, Health Centre or Professional residence of your General Practitioner.
I’m kind of curious as to how this term came about as it is a noun describing the work of a Surgeon rather than a community based venue accommodating Doctors and Nurses. Last time I looked, my (new) GP wasn’t brandishing a cleaver wearing a bloody apron! I guess there’s time yet. Anyway, I digress...
Visits to my GP were always (still are) a last resort. I had been suffering a bad cold for 2 months and wanted something to relieve the symptoms. Maybe a bit of reassurance that it was a bad cold and some magic potion would see me alright.
I was already taking everything on the cold and flu shelves in the supermarket but with no success. This was the 2nd time in two years I had been like this. You never forget a bad cold! I came out with no magic potion but a diagnosis of depression and a prescription for Citalopram. It didn’t feel right.
I was too exhausted to question it all and just accepted that Doctor knew best. I think symptoms of fatigue and a heavy cold can maybe mislead.
In reflection, I had indicated my family were more like The Simpsons and less like The Waltons. I think that’s where I went wrong on “The depression Quiz!” Have you ever "played" this?!
Well, with a face like a boiled ham, I snotterbubbled my way to work and waited for the Xmas holidays.
The holidays came and I felt terrible. In time honoured tradition, I just about recovered from snotteryhellfever before returning to work. It was now 2012. Happy New Year!
It's always the way...a strange commonality that we work our butts off and get ill just in time for the holidays! Then we recover just in time to return to work! A vicious and almost unavoidable pattern of living that I have named the “Work until you’re dead syndrome!”
5 months later and I return to the Surgery again.
This time with two painful ankles, two sore feet and a handful of swollen knuckles!
“So how can I help you today?” the polite enquiry was offered.
“My ankles hurt and my feet are sore and look at these knuckles!”
I explained to my GP that I volunteered a few hours of my time helping to run a wee boxing club for “streetwise” teenagers. It was mostly keep fit and bag work with great banter. Building up positive relationships with hard to reach teenagers. Giving them a positive and healthy outlook. Sharing life with these tearaways in a safe and happy atmosphere for a couple of hours. What a great way to end your working week! It was also a great way to keep or rather try and get in shape!
I had noticed these tender knuckles some time ago and thought it was the enthusiastic bag work. But I hadn’t been for four weeks over the Easter break, and now I was concerned it might be Rheumatoid Arthritis. They were bright red and tender and some days they would be worse than others.
The Ankles and Feet!
I explained that my feet and ankles were also quite painful all the time. My Achilles always felt tight and it took me 5/6 days to fully recover after playing Sunday football. I had always put the recovery time down to my age.
I actually began measuring the recovery time over a year prior to my visit to the docs. On a Monday morning I would count the steps from my car, up a gentle slope of about 100 yards to the office before they were pain free. The number of steps slowly turned into days. The days nearly turned into a week.
Now I was thinking that the two symptoms might be linked. Inflamed, swollen, stiff, painful, and very annoying joints! Rheumatoid Arthritis? Not such a crazy notion as my Sister, my Mum and two Aunties have all got rheumatoid.
“So how are you getting on with the Citalopram?” he asked.
“The Citalopram, maybe you’re just feeling a bit low, a bit down?”
“Erm, fine and No. I feel fine. It’s the pain you see. In my knuckles and in my feet. My ankles are agony and my knuckles are like a range of wee volcanoes!” I offered Mount Etna on my left hand for his inspection and hoped it would erupt.
My GP is in his mid thirties. Don’t get me wrong, he is a nice man and I do not doubt his intentions. Maybe I had caught him on a strange day. Maybe he was trying to empathise with me. Maybe the last patient had been difficult. Who knows? I’m not sure. Was he leading me on with his question about "feeling low" or trying to smooth the path?
Hand out stretched, I expected some sort of comment or inspection but no. It was his turn for a story. I had no choice. The patient/doctor relationship was now entering a new phase. A GP disclosure to a patient!
I was forced to listen to the tale of my General Practitioner’s sporting prowess. He told me that he plays amateur rugby. And when he plays rugby, sometimes he might get a knock on his leg and it maybe takes a few days to recover. If he plays on a Saturday, he can still feel sore on the Tuesday! I stared through the office wall and across the car park and through to the castle rock in disbelief.
What? Why? What? Why would you...tell me this? What? What is the point? Am I the doctor? WTF!
I was speechless. My head dips and I now stare at the ground. THIS was depressing! My mind filled up with responses to this disclosure and none of them were going to facilitate an amicable understanding of each other’s point of view.
Oh but hang on. This is about Citalopram! This is about depression. This is about mental health before the presentation of physical symptoms and examination. “Awww!” he wanted to share in my "sporty pain" and reassure me. That’s so cutesy and caring!
And no, I never once thought that this fine athletic rugby loving specimen was actually suggesting that I should “Man the fuck up!” and “Get over yersel ya big Jessie!”
Why didn’t he acknowledge the symptoms I had presented? Why didn’t he take a look? Why the stories?
Needless to say, if there had been a boxing ring in the car park I would have lifted the top rope for him! Step inside and lets see about feeling fine by Tuesday!
A fucking knock on your leg? You sometimes recover by fucking Tuesday!?
I ignored the whole thing. It never happened. Better to try and believe that this was a collective hallucination sponsored by Citalopram.
So, I politely asked if he would trouble himself to arrange for tests to be done to ascertain whether or not I had Rheumatoid Arthritis.
“It’s quite rare in men you know...”
What? I mean WHAT?!
“well, I will wear a fucking skirt if it makes you feel better, please, with lipstick, twin set and pearls...do the gawdamn mofo test!” is what I wanted to say.
Instead I offered, “I know it is. I googled it before I made the appointment to see you.”
A two minute examination of joints was followed with;
“Ok we will run the tests and see what happens...”
I made the appointment to see the nurse the following week and get my bloods taken...