If I went to the GP with a sore throat, she or he would look in my throat, possibly even take a swab. If I had broken a bone, I would be x rayed, and any broken bone would be mended in a certain way. There are blood tests for a range of diseases or conditions, MRI scan and tests for various bodily fluids. But yesterday, I sit in front of my GP and tell him that my depression feels much, much worse. How much worse?, he asks as he flicks eyes over my notes on the screen. He is about the fifth doctor I have seen. The last one took time, asked me to complete a depression test and talked about other possible causes, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which accounted for my low resistance to infection.
But this doctor seems in a rush. I guess they are busy, this appointment has taken me a fortnight to book. I start to tell him the symptoms which are worse, starting with my sleeplessness. As soon as he hears this, he jumps into life and starts typing, telling me that, yes, I have a stressful job, don’t I and my daughter is ill. Yes, I say, but getting two or three hours sleep a night over weeks and weeks is gradually eroding any ability to cope. Perhaps if a temporary drug could be given to assist me to sleep. No, he doesn’t think that would help. He asks me what drugs I am taking and suggests an increase as it is ceasing to have the same effect. He looks at the dose and whistles in surprise. I ask what is the matter and he tells me that we are now at the maximum dose before impatient treatment is recommended. He says this as if it is a warning, but the word inpatient sounds restful and comforting. He tells me to come back in a month as no further increases will be possible and anyway, I need to deal with my ” issues”. Medication isn’t the answer.
What a great idea. If only I had thought of that. I just need to go home tell L to stop being anorexic, give up work and pay the bills with fresh air and prayers. Or remove my defective serotinin deficient brain and replace it with one of those serotonin efficient brains. How simple it really is. He is already printing off the prescription. I have not had time to tell him about the sudden panic attacks, the exhaustion and muscle pain or the sore throat which never goes away. There seems no point in mentioning my inability to leave the house for four days when on leave or the sudden tears or lack of confidence in my ability to do anything. Or the constant effort of putting on a mask for everyone. He is already handing me the prescription and we are done. He is a young doctor, seeing this middle aged woman with depression in front of him and is probably irritated by the whining about depression – people like me need to pull ourselves together and deal with our issues rather than popping the happy pills. Thank goodness the Government put GPs in charge of the Health Service….
But, I suppose, what else can he do – if only he could dip a stick in a urine sample and tell me my depression scores 8.2 on the scale and I should therefore take this medicine or be referred for this procedure or prescribed the drug which will sort that out. Mental illnesses are messy, imprecise both in diagnosis and in a cure. I feel as if I have wasted my time and his time – but I have pills at least. Which may work or may not. I put make up on, brush my hair and head to work.