This is a bit of a sensitive topic, and I know it’s relevant to a lot of people in the UK, and of course around the world.
Getting an accurate diagnosis for physical and (especially) mental health issues is a challenging experience for many. It is rarely as simple as stepping into the GP, listing off your symptoms, and getting useful support and treatment.
Overrun with patients and only allowing for one issue for your ten minute slot, it’s very unlikely that those with more complex needs will have them met.
My main negative experiences started when I was at University. I went to the GP with quite severe symptoms of anxiety and related depression, and had pretty high hopes for a successful trip. When I told my GP one of my symptoms was a complete lack of motivation to even get out of bed, he laughed and said he couldn’t help my motivation. He didn’t suggest counselling, and he didn’t offer any further treatment. It took a trip to a second GP, and a third visit, to be referred to the University counselling service alongside some private options should I choose them. Eventually, I was offered medication.
Between University years, I had a major emergency surgery. (I had a brilliant team and was treated excellently – please don’t think this post is a criticism of the NHS)
After this, and I personally think, as a consequence of it, I started suffering from what we now believe to be acute gastritis (I still haven’t been formally diagnosed with anything specific). The first bout we thought might have been a heart attack. When we got to A&E, the doctor eventually labelled it as a panic attack, or chest cramping as a symptom of anxiety. I’d been fast asleep when it started, and wasn’t at all anxious in the days previous. I tried to tell them that I didn’t think it was anxiety.
The nurse, before we left, said that’s what they say when they’re not sure of a diagnosis.
I had these, on and off, for about a year with a few weeks in between. For the most part, I managed to stay at home and ride them out with hot showers, a lot of nausea and sickness, and extreme discomfort. I tried to walk it off, only to throw up on my way back and rely on my flatmate to help me get home. I went to A&E in my University town, too. They took bloods, ran tests, and eventually said they thought it could be gastric, and that they were happy to let me go home.
I was given different medications, differing in quantity, depending on the Doctor. A GP upped my anxiety/depression medication to one of the highest doses, ignoring the fact that omeprazole increases it’s effectiveness. I went back again, and again, for different issues, had various blood tests, and have been left with a long history of tests and no positive conclusion. These are just a couple of minor examples of issues people have every day. I know of people that have spent years trying to get an accurate diagnosis.
To this day I have three or four specific issues I worry about, that remain undiagnosed. All of them have been taken to medical professionals twice or more with no, or very little, support.
I’m hoping there’ll be a positive end to this mini-journal. I haven’t been to the Doctor’s at all recently (mainly because of the pandemic) but once everything starts settling down and I feel more comfortable picking this stuff back up, I certainly will.