A mirrored image of a man opening a door from both sides, in a doctor's office on one side and home on the other.

When the Only Place You Go Is the Doctor

A couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled for my yearly MRI. The standard "make sure everything is stable and that my medication is still working" type that most people with MS have 1 or 2 times a year. Despite the routineness of the test, I ended up calling the day before and rescheduling it. After a neurologist appointment and several blood tests the week prior, I kind of lost it a bit. It started to feel like the only places I ever go involve my illness. When you start to feel like all you ever do is go to the doctor (or some related medical establishment), you start feeling pretty wary about life.

I go to medical facilities or I go nowhere

Neurologists, blood tests, MRIs, therapists (physical and otherwise), general practitioners, infusions, etc. At my age with my illness, I certainly see my fair share of people in the medical field. I’m lucky to deal with some great medical professionals, but I’d rather not see them so often. In reality, I don’t actually see these people all the time, but because I don’t get out much, it sure seems like I do. When most of the times you leave your house involve you attending to some medical issue, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.

It’s not the pandemic’s fault

As I write this, the pandemic is still raging (and it will stay that way unless people start wearing masks). However, while I’m sure that has some effect on me rarely leaving the house, I know that this was an issue for me long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. The reality for a lot of people with chronic illness is that not too much has changed. I’ve gone long stretches of not going anywhere but to a medical facility way before all this happened.

A common experience for people with chronic illness or disability

A lot of folks are in that boat, particularly if they are on disability or have their ability to drive compromised. When you are on disability, one of the things you realize pretty early on is just how important it is to have someplace, like a job, to go to every day. It’s very easy to fall into a rut and to never leave the house, either because you physically can’t or you have no motivation to.

Frustration

Even if you have a bunch of doctor’s appointments spread out, if that’s the only reason you ever really leave the house, it’s going to have an effect on your mental well being. In my case, I start to question everything. Why am I doing this? What’s the point? What kind of life am I living if I only leave the house for medical visits? Is that even really living? Somehow, it feels worse than if I hadn’t left the house at all. It most certainly has an effect on depression, too. I rarely think of my disease as having any control over me, but when I feel like all I do is see medical professionals, that’s when I begin to question how much control I really have. It doesn’t take much for me to get doctor fatigue and feel extremely frustrated.

How telehealth can help

Obviously, trying to get out more would be helpful; that’s not always possible though (especially these days). One thing I hope to do is to start planning better, to try to space out tests and appointments more. Utilizing telehealth is another way to help combat this. These appointments don’t seem as bad when I can do them from my own couch. Telehealth makes them seem like minor inconveniences. Unfortunately, not all appointments can be telehealth, but I think by taking advantage of the ones that can, it can help lessen the frustration. I very much hope that, even after the pandemic, we can make more appointments virtual. Fewer in-person medical visits would be extremely helpful from a mental standpoint

Does anyone else ever feel like all they do is see medical professionals? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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