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Dear Doctor,

I couldn’t sleep till late last night. It is not always that anyone succeeds in making me angry, so angry that I am unable to fall asleep. You succeeded where many have failed and ended up giving me insomnia on just the day I wanted to sleep early so as to get up all lily fresh today. You see, today happens to be my birthday, not that you have reason to know that of course. Just saying.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not one of those people who palm off responsibility for their action on to others, one of those *YOU-made-me* types. They are the ones I seem to see around me in droves. Every single thing they do or feel is because someone else did or said something. But I am not like that, if I may say so. I know MY anger is solely MY responsibility. All I am saying is that you are the starting point which got me there. Anyways, getting back, let me shed light on darkness, in case you are wondering what this is all about.

The other day, I came to you regarding a matter of a feeling of something being stuck in my throat. It has been almost three years now that I am feeling this way. I can’t eat anything solid without coughing (I have begun carrying water around with me). I am unable to sleep as breathing is difficult. Like a dog that goes round and round before settling on a comfortable spot, I turn this way and that, stretch my head backwards as much as I can, turn on to my tummy, in short try all sorts of stunts to find a position where I feel better enough to fall asleep.

Of course I told you none of these things in detail, just the bare essentials, and mentioned a safe ‘one year’ in response to your ‘how long?’ for worry that you might chastise me for neglecting to see a doctor for so long. You poked and prodded my throat, left, right, center and I dutifully told you when and where it hurt, on the right side, only on the right, not the left, the left side has been always fine.

Let me take a moment to tell you that I was actually pretty impressed with you. Unlike the *what’s wrong-here is your prescription-okay, next!* type of doctors, you asked me what I did, how many kids I had, what they were doing, where they lived, what my husband did, where I stayed etc etc. Wow, someone who really is taking an interest in the overall patient. That’s what I thought and also told my husband later on. Little did I know then that the fact of my being a homemaker with children who have flown the nest had just become the reason for my being *judged*. But I am jumping the gun.

So, that’s how our first meeting ended, with you asking me to come for detailed tests on a particular day. Feeling getting choked is not a light thing, your opinion, not mine. On the scheduled date you promptly sent me off for the tests. Blood. Urine. CAT scan, the works. Third visit was when I came to see you with the reports and also when things went wrong, obviously for me, not for you.

My husband and I had already gone through the reports while waiting for you, and seen that everything was fine. He even joked that I had an expensive CAT scan done only to confirm I was fine. But we were happy and relieved about it. Now we were awaiting your expert opinion on what lay behind my problem, because a problem I did have, in spite of the reports coming clean.

You went through the reports, found everything was good, and turned to ask me how I was feeling. Since I wasn’t aware that I had to lie, innocent babe-in-the-woods that I am, I told you the truth: I still feel like something is stuck in my throat. Wrong answer. If the reports say nothing is wrong apparently the patient is supposed to say, everything is fine. To hell with whatever the reality is.

If the patient’s reality is different from what the machines have spit out, then something is wrong with the patient, of course ONLY if she is a woman. I HAVE YET TO SEE MY HUSBAND (or any man) BEING TREATED THIS WAY. He might come back to you ten times or more, but your kind will still give them your ear. But woe betide if the patient is a *middle-aged woman* and a *homemaker* to boot, then the conclusion even the very first visit is, something definitely wrong with her head. Isn’t that your stand? Of course, you didn’t say so in so many words. But unfortunately for you, I happen to have a brain that is in perfect working condition and a sharpness which is more often than not is missed by pompous asses too full of themselves. Like many others before you (and not just doctors, also friends, foes, even close family members) you made the mistake of thinking my skull was empty of contents.

You gave me a look and started writing out the prescription. Vitamins. Iron. And then you said, “This tablet is to be take at 6 p.m.” You didn’t tell me what it was for. I asked you if it was a painkiller because that was the first thing that came to my head. I like to be *informed*. After all I am the one swallowing the medicine, not you. My intention was for you to then tell me what the medicine was for. That’s the exact point when things went wrong.

You paused dramatically, looked at my husband, then at me and gave a smug smile much like the one a know-it-all adult who has successfully fooled a kindergarten kid who had come with some unreasonable demand would give. Then you nodded and said, “Yes, this will make it better and you’ll be fine.” I resented your condescending way of speaking. For God’s sake I am fifty-six, not bleddy five, not that I have EVER spoken like that to my children (or any child for that matter) even when two years old! And with that inherent sharpness of mine (pardon me for repeating it, but it calls for repetition) I felt something was wrong. But I kept my counsel. I mean, what could I possibly do? So my husband and I went back home.

It took more than a day for us to get the medicine you had prescribed. And this is where the ANGER comes. What do I find it to be? A mood elevator. I am not given to swearing, but at this point I will say, WT bleddy F! What the hell do you know about me to prescribe mood elevating drugs? If my mood was any more elevated than it already is, I would be flying in the sky like a hydrogen filled balloon! You didn’t know that about me, did you? besides, where the hell is the ethics in prescribing medicines without informing the patient? How dare you stereotype me? How dare you treat me like voiceless cattle? Even the vet who comes to treat my dog does not do that. He tells me in detail what each medicine is being given for. And you have the audacity to prescribe something I do not need and then NOT TELL ME THEIR TRUE PURPOSE.

Mister Doctor, I have come across your type a lot. Such types think women are hypochondriacs by default. They need attention, so they make up illnesses. Everything is in their head. Smirk smirk. Or is it that your own wife is the sort and so you think all women are like her? No, I am not defaming your wife. She could be an admirable woman for all I know. It is just that I knew a doctor years back who had the temerity, the cheek to tell me that his wife had a low threshold of pain.

So bleddy what? Does that mean ALL women have low threshold of pain? My wife faints at the sight of a needle, he added. I was totally disgusted. Why did he think I made the backbreaking journey of an hour from Binnaguri to Bagdogra in an army one ton over the worst roads leaving my tiny tots behind? To feast on his *handsome* face or for his *exhilarating* company?! But I was damned if I’d give him the satisfaction of a reaction. I kept an absolutely non committal face. You know what? I never returned. I’d much rather live with illness than meet such doctors and listen to their condescending blabbering, which incidentally is how I am going to do things in the present too.

I don’t suppose you have even seen women of my type, and believe me, there are more of us. We don’t belong to the generation where our lives revolved around the home, husband and kids. I am not pining for my kids who have left to make a life of their own. I am not hankering for lost youth, not crying over my wrinkles or grays, not even the fact that my knee gives me problems and I cannot travel as much as I wish pulls me down. I KNOW to deal with the problems in my life and in case they seem beyond me, I have the maturity to understand they are such and give it the time it needs. I know what patience means. Acceptance is second nature to me.

Yes, I am a homemaker BY CHOICE and I LOVE what I do. And no my daily life does not consist of obsessive polishing, dusting, washing and keeping everything in its place. Those are the people you need to watch out for (sorry for the advice) for if you take their duster or cleaning liquid away from them, they become lost and start disintegrating. I have TEN THOUSAND other things that interest me and they ELEVATE MY MOOD beyond any elevation you have in mind. Have you heard of something called music? Have you ever watched the storms gathering, the rain falling? Did you ever try to capture the perfect picture of a raindrop on the tip of a leaf? Have you watched the different birds in flight? Do you know the thrill of flowing words? Ever watched kittens playing? Have you ever had a cold and wet nose of a dog poke you begging you to throw a ball? Mood elevator, my foot. Even the most mundane job of preparing daily food is mood elevating.

I am glad not all are like you. Apart from the vet I already mentioned above, who shows more respect to my dog as a patient than you showed me, I do know others too who have dealt with me in their capacity as a doctor, not as one of a herd, but as an individual IN SPITE OF MY BEING A WOMAN. My orthopaedic surgeon comes to mind, who never fails to explain and clear any doubts regarding the medicines he prescribes (I once expressed the doubt that a particular one might make me put on weight and he pooh-poohed my worries but didn’t belittle, only said why my information was wrong). May be he has not asked about my children or their details, but he has definitely respected my role and concerns as a patient. Do take some tips from those like him and also the vet.

The very least you could have done was tell me there was nothing wrong with me and sent me home. That would have been respect for yourself as a doctor and to me as a patient.


The Angry Patient

(Any mistakes in this post will be corrected tomorrow. Yep, too sleepy)

©Shail Mohan 2015