Why doctors have illegible handwriting

I think it’s important to mention from the outset what a staunch supporter of the NHS I am. I have been known to stop lessons – mid powerpoint – to wax lyrical about what a fantastic system it is. To make such grand speeches that it sounds as though I might be trying to whip the students into some sort of ecstatic patriotism about the beauty of free healthcare. I tell them it is the only thing that makes me proud to be British, and that sticks with them since they all read the Daily Mail and fly St George’s flags from their windows. I love the NHS. I love that we have created a workable system to care for those in need. I buy into it one hundred percent and worry for its future.
But.
I went to the doctor in March last year, nearly a year ago. They diagnosed me with depression and put me on the lowest dose of citalopram they could. They sent me away. I went back. They referred me to the hospital for CBT, where I spent two gruesome sessions with a group of people in far worse states than I was and learnt nothing. It didn’t help that the girls running it were several years younger than me and clearly nervous. I think I went into teacher mode, and very soon, they were looking to me for support and encouragement that they were doing a good job, and I was answering all their questions with the answers that I knew were right, because I have read more books on the subject than they can have had time for in their short lives. Don’t give me handouts photocopied from books I read when I was 19.
I went back to the doctors – a different one this time – before December and was given a higher dose. He said he was amazed I’d only been put on 10mg and it was no wonder it was doing no good. No one explained to me what the thought behind any of that was. On the higher dose, I experienced such horrid side effects that I even passed out on one occasion and banged my head pretty hard on the bathroom floor. When I went to them that day, to get them to check me over, no one asked about the medication and I wasn’t in a position to tell them. Surely, if you were checking out an otherwise healthy, young patient after they passed out with no good reason, you would check what medication they were on? Wouldn’t you?
My regular doctor, weeks later, put me down to 10mg again, and sent me away. We didn’t make any plan about when I should return. When I asked, she said “You can come back whenever you want to”. Which was very sweet, but utterly unhelpful.
The Occupational Health nurse I saw in early January asked if I’d ever had blood tests or been referred to a psychiatrist. “No”, I said, despite the fact that I have been seeing different doctors, on and off, for depression since I was 19. She said GPs were pretty useless, all in all, and suggested I go to see a psychiatrist on Harley Street if we could afford it. The Husband and I discussed it. It wasn’t about the money (not at first, though when we looked into it and found that we’d need 4 sessions at nearly £300 each, it wasn’t going to happen anyway), no, it was about the principle of the thing. I don’t go private. We have the Mighty NHS. The NHS that was starting to look a lot like it didn’t really know what it was doing…
The next time I saw the Occupation Health nurse, she was startled to find that I was no better than the last time she had seen me. It was probably made worse by the fact that there was some sort of school trip to the Civic Centre that day, and walking through a group of teenagers had given me the most extreme panic attack I’ve had in a while. She asked if I’d heard back from the counsellor she’d suggested the school pay for. No, I said, I’ve heard nothing from anyone that’s supposed to be helping me in over a month and I’m starting to feel like you’re all working in cahoots behind my back to keep me sick long enough to fire me because secretly everyone hates me. She said I wasn’t well enough to go back to work, and sent me away with no mention of when she would see me again.
It was over a week before the doctor’s had a free appointment time. And then I saw a Locum. I get that part of loving the NHS is accepting its flaws, but when you haven’t been to work for over two months and your medication isn’t doing anything and you start to think you could probably diagnose yourself better using google (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy? A thyroid problem? Bipolar Personality Disorder with hypermania?) you begin to have your doubts.
This doctor gave me a prescription for Prozac, which I know has worked in the past and sent me away telling me to come back in two weeks to be checked on (that wasn’t so hard, was it?).
Curiously, though, I noticed on the computer screen that my diagnosis has changed. Apparently, I am no longer suffering from Depression, no longer Anxiety or Stress. No, what I have is Low Mood. Brilliant. There’s not even anything really wrong with me except that I feel a bit down… which is obviously why I have had nearly a whole half term off work.
There are no quick fixes, the Locum tells me. Yep. Especially if no one else is helping.

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