Doctors’ Visits for a Cutter
I hate being seen at the doctor’s office
This is from my own experience. This is not generalized but individualized.
I don’t like going to the doctors. There are a plethora of reason why. One of them, I experienced today, as I do many and most times I go to the doctors for anything; from a simple check up to actual surgery. I had to get my blood drawn today, like I do many times throughout the year because of a certain medication I’m taking for Bi-Polar. I normally have two issues when I go in for this:
1. I hate needles and I hate blood. With all that I do to self harm, specifically cutting, people find this so odd. I was at my friend’s house one day when her daughter, running around the house, tripped and fell and busted her lip. She actually bit a hole through her lip and it was initially bleeding profusely. I couldn’t look at it. My friend and her daughter were both in a freaked out panic. I knew me panicking would make things worse, as well as my own anxiety for different reasons. I tried to keep my composure trying to assist them in getting their things together so that I could rush them to the hospital. I tried my best not to look at the blood soaked tissue.
We got to the hospital and my friend’s daughter needed stitches. I knew I didn’t do well with the sight of blood and wounds, so I tried to prepare myself. I also wanted to try and support and comfort my friend and her daughter. So, I stood by them. The nurse came in to stitch up the little girl’s lip. Simply looking at the prep work and the little girl holding her lip almost made me vomit as I got woozy. I was asked if I should step into the corner with my back turned when I almost passed out. I can’t do blood and needles and wounds. Blech. I’m either on the verge of throwing up or passing out at the sight of any of them.
Then there’s the needles. Oh god I can’t tell you how much anxiety comes over me waiting for the moment when the needle goes in. I have to prepare myself for it. I have to look at it to see when it’s going to happen, yet at the same time, I can’t look because it’ll freak me out and it’ll make me sick. It’s the pain from the needle and then the feel of the needle beneath my skin that just completes this disaster. To follow it up, there’s the vial on the end of it filling up with blood. I actually fight back laughter while getting my blood drawn because of my own queasiness and squirming and covering my eyes and covering my mouth and all that I go through before the needle even goes in. The nurses normally giggle with me while verbally preparing me for each step and letting me know when the needle’s going in. Then there’s the second reason why I’m not fond of going to the doctors, which is my biggest issue.
2. The most dreaded part of doctors’ visits is the “inspection”. It’s what it feels like. Like I’m under a microscope and being inspected. Not because of the procedure that’s taking place, but because of the ordeal I have to go through in their discovery of my scars. Today, I rolled up my long sleeve shirt as high as I could to get my blood drawn. I didn’t have a long sleeve shirt on to cover my scars. For the most part, I never hide them anymore. One, they are me. And two, there are far too many in too many open places to hide. Had I known the weather was nice out, I would have actually worn a short sleeve shirt.
I have hidden hard to find hardheaded veins that never want blood to be drawn from them. That’s normally the first thing I let the nurses know. They always have a hard time drawing blood. They either have to poke and prod a number of times and sometimes they have to get different “pro” nurses down to try after the previous one. I let the nurse know today as I scrunched up my right sleeve as high as I could. He strapped on the elastic and tapped my arm a few times. He thought he found a good vein and in went the needle. My head was turned as my eyes squinted. My blood flowed for 2 seconds then refused to continue. We decided to try the left arm. I scrunch up my left sleeve as high as I could get it and he again strapped on the elastic. I’m sure he noticed the scars on my right arm, but there were far more and severe scars along with a few freshly healing cuts on my left arm.
The nurse, just before tapping my arm to have a vein pop up, asked me, “What are those?” He was referring to my scars. Now, I know some people ask out of some kind of concern and care, possibly. But I feel as though that’s the stupidest question to ask if you looked my scars. Why would you ask a question that you absolutely know the answer to? In writing this last sentence, a thought popped into my head. Maybe they’re trying to be polite rather than jumping to, “Do you cut yourself?” Maybe that direct question to them is rude. That’s possible. But, I’d rather that question be asked directly than to be pandered to, if I can use that word here. It’s also an embarrassing question to answer for me. I would be fine with one seeing the scars and seeing them just as one would see my nose. I have one, it’s no big deal, and move on. But it has to become a show.
Some people truly don’t know what my scars are. I have had MANY people ask me if they were tribal scars, and they were seriously asking. I sometimes don’t answer that question and let them assume so. They don’t look at me in disgust or something or someone to save. They see me just as another human being. They see me as if they just saw someone with tattoo, nothing to gasp over. I even had one woman ask me if I could do some for her. So, I know there are many people who truly don’t know what my scars are or where they come from or why I have them. But again, I’m often asked stupid things by people who know what they are. Back to my doctor’s visit.
When the nurse asked what the scars were, I quickly said, “They’re from self harm.” I tried to be as nonchalant as I could. It hurt inside and I was embarrassed for him to ask, but I kept the smile on my face that I had when we joked about my veins and them refusing to give blood. He looked at me and said, “No, you shouldn’t do that. You’re not a notepad.” I did like the last part. No one ever said that. So, I didn’t feel like he was being as condescending or “all knowing” as many others are with his unique point. Still, he asked. He saw and didn’t know how to handle what he saw and if he should say something.
I’m always told, “Oh, you shouldn’t do this. You don’t need to do this. You’re too beautiful.” 1. “You’re too beautiful,” is very triggering for a doctor or someone of an authority-like position to say to me. They don’t know, but it is. 2. If I wasn’t “beautiful”, it wouldn’t matter that I mutilate my body like this? 3. I’m pretty sure by now I know I “shouldn’t” be doing this. Obviously, with the horrible words I write about myself on my body, I hate myself at some of these points to feel like I “should” be doing this. 4. You don’t know what I “need”. You don’t know that some of these kept me from killing myself many times. That as much as I know there are so many better things for me to do to take care of myself, this was what I needed in the moment. 5. Being talked to like a child is the worst thing in those moments. They are trying to be helpful and genuine but they don’t realize how condescending it can feel.
Doctors’ visits are a nightmare. They are anxiety provoking as is. Then I have to walk in with all of my battle-scars and be inspected and dissected. This is something I view for myself having lived this life: in my head, I see it as a vet coming home with his scars to bear. He’s not asked why he has them. It’s known that they are there because he fought a war and came home to bear them. There are stories behind them. There are nightmares behind them. There are sleepless nights behind them. There are addictions behind them. There are hauntings behind them. He won a war by surviving it. The scars show that. But they carry so much more to his story. I am a war hero. I am that hero. But the doctor’s office is another battlefield of another kind that I have to get through repeatedly.
I share with you my experience in these next lines. I share them not to glorify cutting. I share them not to condone it. I share them not to relish in it. I show them to take you along my walk and experience as I go into each doctor’s visit. As I walk into each specialist’s room and lay on their table. As I lift my sleeve for blood pressure check or to check my levels for my medication. To take you along my experience of momentarily trading the state of my mental health for the sake of my physical health.
The scars covering my stomach are what they see when I go in for chest or abdominal pains or routine pap-smears
The scars all over my thighs and legs are what they see when I have to repeatedly get my knees checked or have to go in for physical therapy
The scars hiding my triceps and biceps are what they see when I have to get my blood drawn
And the scars all around my arms are what they see anytime I have to go in
So yeah, I hate doctors’ visits. I hate being under the microscope. I hate the unwelcome and ignorant caring advice and encouragement. And I always leave with my head low inside but at the same time, I walk away having gotten through the visit without breaking down. I walk away knowing what these scars cost and what these were the cost for. I walk away knowing that most of the people I walk by don’t realize the hero in their presence.