The Horrors of Going to the Doctor for the First Time in Years

For the first time in well over a decade, I paid my doctor a visit. Well, saying “my doctor” implies that I’ve had the same doctor for a long time and I just haven’t visited in a while. No. That’s not the case. I was starting from scratch. I hadn’t had health insurance for most of my adult life so far, so when I finally got some (I have to pay for it out of pocket) the process had officially begun. Not having been to the doctor since I was a kid, and therefore never having been to the doctor without my mom by my side, I completely in the dark as to what the hell I was supposed to do. How do you find a doctor? How do you make an appointment? How do I hand them my insurance card? Do I do the cool guy hand over with two fingers, or do I do the sensible adult thumb-and-index-finger-in-a-fist hand over?

I was terrified. And that was just with the initial protocol, saying nothing of the years and years of mental build up, hyping the whole experience to a point where I became paralyzed with fear. A lot of men are reluctant to pay their doctor’s a visit, but as a formerly terrified guy, I can assure you, if you are one such person, that there’s nothing to worry about. All of your fears will melt away as soon as you sit your ass onto the paper mat. Fears like…

Fear of The Diseases I Must Have Accumulated

In the space between doctor visits, I had imagined an elaborate menagerie of wild and exotic illnesses that had no doubt infected my body. I just assumed I was going to die of a deadly and currently dormant virus that would activate the next time I sneezed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me – if anything – so my anxieties, fears, and paranoia took over. The void that would normally be filled with the comforting knowledge that comes with being curious was replaced by the baseless, fanciful terrors of ignorance.  I didn’t know, so I assumed the worst.

The truth was that I was mostly fine. Mostly. I wanted to go to the doctor for two reasons: because I hadn’t gone in a long time and because I was experiencing some numbing and tingling sensations in my limbs. Before I went to the doctor, I imagined the tingling and numbness were symptoms of an illness that would leave me decrepit and dead within a year. After the visit, I found out I have abnormally high blood pressure for someone my age and should cut down on all the high cholesterol foods. Oh, and the smoking. I should stop my dumbass pack-a-day cigarette addiction. And I should exercise more, because my blood was basically a dirty, motionless puddle of water. I wasn’t dying of an obscure disease that made doctors stare at blood work numbers the way Dan Brown characters stare at a piece of art with a coded message in  it, I was just feeling the ill-effects of being a lazy, unhealthy bastard.

Fear of Talking About Things You Think Will Kill You

For example, your third wife.

For example, your third wife.

Talking about your inevitable death can be fun. A few explosions, a double-back flip as you spray machine gun rounds into the bodies of terrorists, and then falling into a fireworks cannon that explodes your guts in the air like it’s a Chinese New Year made of you-spray. That’s a fun way to talk about the way you’re going to die. The un-fun way to do it is by talking to your doctor about how you think a tingly foot means you’re going to have an aneurism and die very soon, and everyone you love is going to cry.

Everything you talk about in a doctor’s office is potentially regarding your own mortality, be it constipated bowels or a melon-sized growth on your eyelid that wasn’t there yesterday. It’s all about how this thing feels weird and that thing is numb and I can’t breathe anymore and I don’t know where all my blood went. It’s all scary and it’s all about you. The only way to get over this fear is to do the same thing standup comedians say to a young, would-be comedian who asks how someone becomes a standup comedian: you just go do it. There’s no magic bullet piece of advice. There’s no collection of words that, when strung together in the right way, act as an incantation that chains your fear and unchains bravery. You just have to go to a doctor’s office, sit your ass on that paper, and tell him that you think there’s something wrong with your butt and you suspect it might be interfering with your lung capacity.

What’s the worst that could happen? He listens to your concern, runs a series of tests, and then treats your ailment so you don’t have to worry about it, if you even have an ailment to begin with? Yeah, that’s an awful fate.

Worry My Ailments Are A Waste of The Doctor’s Time

"This is how long you have to wait, and conveniently a symbolic reminder of your own mortality. No refunds."

“This is how long you have to wait, and conveniently a symbolic reminder of your own mortality. No refunds.”

Of all the social faux pas (faux pases?) you can commit, perhaps the worst is having what you think is a nice chat with someone when a couple minutes into it you realize you’re wasting their time. In those moments, you wish you can stuff all those words back in your head and unload them on your cat.

Speaking to a doctor can feel like that, only much worse. A doctor is an important person who has a packed schedule and doesn’t have time to dick around. They have people to heal, so why would they want to waste so much time hearing you whine about whatever Bullshit you think is killing you this week?

That thought torments a lot of men. It prevents us from taking the necessary steps to wellness.  We may be boastful extroverts out of the doctor’s office, but inside that cold, scary room, we clam up, if we even make it there at all. Not wanting to “waste a doctor’s time” is a dumb rationalization we use to justify not wanting to discover that there might be something wrong with us. Ask any doctor if they think your problem is a waste of time, even if it ultimately turns out to be nothing at all, and you’ll see frustration in their eyes. They have enough experience to know that any minor bother can be a huge problem or vice versa. Either way, they take pride in making that discovery and easing your worries. That’s the foundation of all medicine – to make you happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. If all you’re looking for, ultimately, is assurance that you’re doing okay, a doctor can provide that for you. You’re not going to waste their time; if you think something is wrong, they want to know. End of story.

Freaking Out Over How Much It Will All Cost

Pictured: a health insurance executive at work.

Pictured: a health insurance executive at work.

Of all the concerns on this list, this one is the most justified for being terrified of doctors. Medical care is wildly expensive in America. If you have no insurance or the insurance you have is crap, then paying out of pocket in a healthcare system that values profits over lives can seriously make you question whether you should just ride your ailment out and hope it isn’t contagious.

This problem…well, I’m afraid there really isn’t much advice to give, is there? Maybe get yourself on a government assistance program? Find a job with a good health plan? Start paying more out of pocket for your own insurance, like I do?

This is a problem that has existed in America for years. The Affordable Healthcare Act is easing some of those tensions, but it’s not enough. Did you read the recent Time magazine article about the absurd, entirely illogical ways healthcare companies set prices for their goods and services? It’s terrifying. And there isn’t much out there to sooth your worries. It’s a scary world where we, as a country, have decided to not care about each other enough to keep healthcare costs across the board as low as possible and have healthcare plans, both private and/or public, that attempt to cover everybody.

Man, this is depressing. What a terrible way to end this article. To brighten your day, here’s a puppy.

“You’re gonna die.”

“You’re gonna die.”

Luis Prada’s work can be found on Cracked, FunnyCrave, The Smoking Jacket, and GuySpeed. If you visit his Tumblr page, The Devil Wears Me, he will give you a non-refundable virtual hug.

More from Luis Prada

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