Equality and the doctor’s receptionist

This isn’t a terribly coherent post, I just really need to rant or else I’d be tempted to lamp somebody.

I’m a bit angry and I’ve really, really, really bit my tongue hard during a phone conversation I had about half an hour ago.

I have this pain in my left breast and it’s not in one particular part so for a couple of weeks I’ve been thinking nothing of it but it won’t go away and it doesn’t feel muscular so I rang my GP’s surgery to get an appointment.

It’s constantly drummed into us by health professionals that it’s important to get bumps, lumps and twinges checked out when they’re in your breasts (and testicles for men of course) and so that’s why I was ringing.

My GP is on holiday and he’s not back until the day I go away so there’s no way he could ring me back and give me some reassurance or let me pop over and get checked out.

I have two choices it seems – I either ring up at 8.30 tomorrow and see if I win the appointment lottery or I talk to the on call doctor today and be treated like an emergency. I can’t ring up tomorrow because my memory is shot to pieces and if I’m out with the dog I have nothing to make a note on and will have no idea of what time I’m supposed to be there if I’m lucky enough to get an appointment. If.

I asked for a note to be put on my doctor’s screen so when he gets back he can see it because I’m going to have to talk to him about it as, since he’s my key doctor, he looks after the whole of me not just the mental health bit.

This confused the receptionist big time because she wasn’t convinced that she could leave a note for my doctor and ask an on call doctor to ring me. I persuaded her that since the system for appointments etc. was inadequate and that I don’t fit into the options open to me then I needed my GP to get the message and, whether this pain is an emergency or not, I need to talk to somebody about it.

Then the defensive language came – you know the stuff. “I’m just doing my job.” “I can’t change the rules.” “I’m treating everybody equally.”

I wanted to scream at her. The system doesn’t treat everybody equally – it doesn’t leave room for people like me who have complex problems and live alone but it will give priority to physically disabled people but if the disability isn’t obvious then we’re expected to sit in the corner and play with the crayons.

I asked her to feed back that the system is inflexible and inadequate and that I’m sure I’m not the only person that feels that way. Surprise, surprise – I’m not the only one. Will she feed it back? No, because that would be mean going to someone she feels is powerful (and therefore gets to hide behind their power) and acknowledging that an imperfect and inadequate system may seem to promote equality but it actually discriminates.

There is a glass ceiling when it comes to disability and those of us with mental health problems or invisible and/or undiagnosed (I’m trying to handle the news that there may be something wrong with my brain too) hit that ceiling quite early on. It’s as if we’ve brought it on ourselves and that any anger we feel is either a result of our mental health or ingratitude when really it’s more about a desire not to be treated like a pile of shit.