‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ (to the Clinic)

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by Nicole Kohr |

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Clinic anxiety is real, especially if you’re frequented by bad news.

When I was little, I never wanted to go to the doctor. “Clinic” meant hearing speeches that felt disciplinary in nature, adding medications to my regimen, or being threatened with a lengthy hospital stay. Needless to say, I would avoid them at all costs.

Moreover, I was a very Type A child — well-behaved, sensitive, organized. I thrived on positive reinforcement, awards, and my straight-A school career. Doctors’ appointments were the one place where I always felt like a straight-F student.

Nicole grimaces in the doctor's office before her pulmonary function test / Cystic Fibrosis News Today

Nicole before a pulmonary function test in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Nicole Kohr)

“Your weight is still low. Have you been eating?”

“Your PFTs dropped 3%. Have you been doing your breathing treatments?”

“You missed your last appointment. Are you sure you’re taking this seriously?”

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No matter how committed I was to my treatment schedule, I’d leave the clinic feeling like a failure. The dialogue was blameful. As a result, I wouldn’t want to return.

“A doctor’s appointment is not the SAT,” my mother would reassure me. “You can’t take these things to heart. They’re out of your control.”

As I’ve aged, I’ve realized the importance of routine clinic appointments. In a previous column, I wrote about the bedside manner phenomenon that exists between patients and latex predators. My takeaway was that frequent checkups are a huge part of the reason I am thriving today.

Nicole and her mom wear face masks in the doctor's office.

Nicole and her mom, Patty, at the UNC Adult CF Center in Durham, North Carolina, in January 2020. (Photo by Nicole Kohr)

Following is a list of ways I’ve combated clinic anxiety. If you face the same issue, perhaps you’ll find these tips helpful:

1. Be transparent with your team. Message them about your anxiety prior to your appointment.

2. Bring your support system with you. Holding the hand of someone you trust can help soften the blow of bad news.

3. Remember that you’re doing your best. You’re not a medication machine. Tell the doctors about your weekend. Is your puppy housebroken yet? Sometimes your team just needs a gentle reminder that you’re more than your disease.

4. Guilt is never prescribed. Be proud of the health decisions you’ve made. You’ve either learned from them or benefited from them.

5. Smile. It’s rare that you see different healthcare professionals. You’ll likely see the same ones over and over. Screaming at your doctor is a valid response — something I’ve done on occasion — but honey often leads to a better relationship than vinegar.

6. Dance party?

7. Find the good in the appointment. Did you score the last accessible parking spot? Perhaps a fellow patient held the elevator for you. Focus on the happy parts. It’ll encourage you to return for the next one.

8. Don’t assume or hold things in. If there’s an elephant in the room during your examination, address it. Doctors are there to answer your questions.

9. Ask yourself what characteristics make an appointment “bad.” I always considered a low PFT result bad, but in the same appointment, my weight may have been up. It’s about balance.

10. Above all, treat yourself. Go to your favorite restaurant. Attending a clinic means you’re practicing self-care. You deserve it.

Effie White, the lead character who sings “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in the Broadway musical and film “Dreamgirls,” pours her heart out after a devastating breakup. She feels alone, like everyone is pointing the blame at her. I’ve often felt the same way about appointments at the clinic.

Clinic anxiety is real, but there are ways to combat it. Perhaps you can tell your doctor about this cool column you read at CF News Today. That should break the ice.

Nicole sleeps on the exam table in a doctor's office. / Cystic Fibrosis News Today

Nicole sleeps on an exam table in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2019. (Courtesy of Nicole Kohr)

Check back every Thursday to read more of my story.


Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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