Thursday, May 14, 2009

Do Not Touch Me: Unless Prior Permission Granted

I have read or maybe have seen written somewhere that Oprah Winfrey said that women are intimidated by two service providers in their lives: their hair stylists and their doctors.

I don't have issues with my hair stylist because I communicate my needs. I let the person know what I want or don't want. I watch the person like a hawk in the mirror and I stop her before it looks like she is about to "do me" permanent damage - like she has the scissors too high up on my hair - for a 'trim' or when she tries to leave a styling implement on my hair, until smoke is emitted from the iron teeth of that mechanical monster called the flat iron or marcel curler. Now doctors...well that's a different and sad story. Well, it used to be...

Have you ever seen a threatened or cornered a raccoon? It is frightening. Raccoons are dangerous when they are cornered. Prior to having an epiphany, I used to act just like one of those things at the doctor's office: vicious.

I couldn't figure out why every single doctor I encountered irked me. Then it hit me.

One day, I had symptoms that seemed to indicate that I had a very serious illness. My family doctor sent me to a specialist that he said, "Every body just loves her." My worst outbreak ever happened with her. I acted UP in there with the doctor that everyone just loved - except me of course!

First, I was scared. I was afraid of what the prognosis might be. She kept saying things like, "Hmmm..hmmm", without saying why she was making that hmm sound.

Then before I realized what was going on, she sprayed some numbing medicine in my nose and shoved a tube into my nostrils and down my throat.

Then she had the nerve to say,"Shh...shhhh...it's okay... I know..," as if she were soothing some naive little child who didn't know what was best for her. It was ON from there. Before she could pull that tube out all the way from my nose, the raccoon in me was UNLEASHED!

I slapped that tube and her hand away from me and swiped my nose with the back of my hand as if I had a furry paw and little claws to match. There was nothing lady like about it. It was a reflex. I later apologized to her. She acted like it wasn't a problem. Later I found out that she notated on my chart that I was aggressive. I found this out when I had her refer me to yet another doctor.

That woman enraged me. I believe that it was fueled by fear; my fear. I also felt humiliated and helpless. But so what, it was irrational and I had to get control. I was ashamed of my behavior. When I was calm, I sat down and meditated on it a bit and that's when I made my discovery.

It was my fault!

I had not asked for what I needed. I hadn't known what I needed. It was a situation not unlike one might experience with a stylist. I realized that I needed two things from my doctor.

  • First, it was imperative that the doctor explain to me what he or she was going to do BEFORE they did it.

  • Second, I wanted to be asked to be touched. Don't just reach out and put your hands on me. I wasn't a mute newborn or a pet at the vet. Ask to touch me.

I wondered if I was being unreasonable. But I learned long ago, it is important to acknowledge how you feel, no matter how illogical it may seem. So I tried it out...with the doctor to whom the "nose tube shover" had referred me.

The doctor looked at me and said, "It says here that you got aggressive with the last doctor." I was taken aback that it had been placed on my PERMANENT records. I explained to the doctor what happened.

Then, with my heart beating, risking that I would look and sound like A. Fool I said what I had to say.

"That woman disrespected me. She shoved something down my nose without telling me she was going to do it. Nor did she ask me if it were alright for her to do it. That is why I shoved her hands away. I just require two things from you. Please ask me for my permission before you touch me, and please explain to me what you are going to do before you do it."

He looked at me and began to explain what he was going to do and why, in great detail. Before he began his examination, he asked me, "Is it alright if I place my hands here and put this tube down your nose?"

What was I going to say, "Naw man, back up off me?!" Of course not. That would be silly for me to go to a doctor and not want them to touch me.


Do you know he did the EXACT same procedure as that woman doctor? I sat just as still as a mummy and did not swing out or get angry. Why? Because I felt that he treated me with dignity and respect. I realized what I needed and asked for what I needed. The visit was wonderful for me.

Know what is important for you. Ask for what you need. Never assume that people know what your boundaries are. Establish those personal boundaries for yourself. Know yourself.

A doctor is a person just like you. A credential does not give them the right to treat you however they want. Just like a stylist, they provide a service TO YOU. It is your responsibility to get what YOU need from that service. Do not be afraid. Speak up. If you value and honor yourself, you will speak up for you! When it comes to your physical body and your health, it is dangerous to rely upon expectations, those being that the doctor will do and say what he or she SHOULD do or say.

To serve you is an honor and privilege. It is not an entitlement or a right of theirs. It is you who are entitled to be treated in a way that you deem is with dignity and respect. Otherwise, like me, it will be your own fault. The raccoon has finally left the building, or the doctor's office, forever I hope.

A woman who knows herself is powerful. A powerful woman is a beautiful woman. Beautify yourselves bit by bit. Ask for what you need. You may not get it, but atleast you asked.

1 comment:

KP said...

The was a great blog. I'm a doctor and I sometimes find myself fustrated that people can't "read my mind." Thanks for the insight.