Why I won’t be starting a gratitude journal this Thanksgiving…or Christmas…or probably ever. Just saying!

I went to the doctors the other month…you don’t say! Yes well, the doctors and I are quite well acquainted. It’s like a bad relationship I just can’t break. I go along not really wanting to be there. The conversation is pretty average, and then I have to pick up the bill at the end.

But this particular trip to the doctors stood out to me in a way that was like watching someone pick their nose in public. It was just awkward. I went because I had been suffering pain in my chest. Now I know that this could very well be related to anxiety. So that is why I left it a few weeks. Tried some relaxation techniques, the usual jazz. But on a short walk with the dog one day it was so severe I thought – shit I should just get this checked out because I don’t want to actually die because I was too anxious that the doctor might think I was a hypochondriac.

We get a lot of locums where I live so I never see the same doctor twice. Not ideal when you have 20 minutes to explain a bit of back history. I try very hard just to stick to the symptoms and not go into any mental health backlog. It seems like if I do I am opening Pandora’s box and suddenly everything and anything is mental health related. I have been a mental health consumer since I was a child. I have been to an extensive amount of therapy and researched a lot about my condition. I actively manage it and in most parts am thriving even though I still have a so-called illness.

This is why it was so disheartening when the doctor read my notes briefly. Latched on to the fact I was on medication that is used for treating mental illness and decided to prescribe me ….a gratitude journal. Yes! That is right. I sat there while a doctor explained to me that maybe my symptoms would be eased by writing in a gratitude journal every night. ‘Holy shit!’ I thought checking myself ‘Did I forget to take my meds this morning and am I tripping? Is this the doctors or a spiritual centre?’ O.K. I don’t mean to be overly critical. I get it that doctors are working in a more holistic way these days. I don’t have anything against gratitude journals. They can be great. I have used them before. But seriously… do me a favour and just check my heart to make sure I am not suffering from some kind of rare heart condition and I will be out of your hair!

I had to bite my lip to stop tears from welling up. I felt like I was 10 years old again. That was the first time my Mum took me to see the family doctor because she was worried about my mental health. He asked me if I thought I was crazy…and my heart just fell out of my chest….that and I also thought ‘I hope not because I babysit your kids’. Now that I am older though I realise that crazy people have just as much right to babysit than non-crazy people and it would be discrimination to not hire someone based on their mental illness. So there!

Anyway back to the gratitude journal prescription. What I am trying to say is that even though people’s intentions are good. Never assume that a mental health sufferer isn’t aware of coping strategies, and hasn’t tried multiple ways of coping. I already have several great routines in place and I didn’t need to add another one to the mix. There is only so much time in the day and at some point, you have to do things like go to work.

How did this story end for me? Well, I politely listened to her advice. Went home waited two weeks and saw another locum who checked me over properly and gave me the all clear. Not one gratitude journal was needed.

So this Thanksgiving I am grateful for people who use their brains before engaging with a fellow sufferer by not assuming they have the cure for us.

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