White Coats

My family is dominated by doctors. My brother, sister-in-law (and her sisters, parents, and most of her brothers-in-law), great uncle, etc. — they’re all doctors. Add a pharmacist father into the mix and a brother-in-law and best friend who are PAs, and you have a recipe for hypochondria and then some.

As a kid growing up in Michigan, I associated my pediatrician with an annual check-up and some vaccinations. No stress, no real fears; probably also worth noting that I grew up pre-Google and as such, pre-WebMD.

By my late teens and borderline adulthood, I developed what can only be described as “white coat” syndrome. I still remember being 17 years old and having a very real panic attack in the pediatrician’s waiting room among happy-go-lucky toddlers and other super young patients who would qualify for a post-exam lollipop.

A switch most certainly flipped, and so, too, did a phobia of all-things remotely medical. On one end of the spectrum, I was terrified of going to the doctor. On the other end, I was hyper-aware of aches, pains, scrapes and spots; my mind would race for hours until I could research my way to a potential diagnosis.

I had a crummy-ish experience with a city doctor a few years prior which really put me off female doctors — with the exception of my lovely sister-in-law — followed by a stint in the NYU emergency room after a bout of bronchitis that went rogue. Coupled together, these experiences only added to my fears.

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I decided to confront my fear head-on. I was dating my now-husband, who recommended his internist at a local practice in Astoria. Despite the less-than-stellar city physician experience, I had a weird elitist reservation about seeing an MD outside of Manhattan, but I trusted my new love, and so I gave his doctor a try.

I had a moment — it doesn’t quite qualify as an epiphany — where I started thinking, knowledge is power and modern medicine is pretty — excuse the soft expletive — effing amazing.

Adam’s internist changed my entire perspective on preventive health. A family friend once told me that part of being an adult, especially in a new city, is having an established medical history where you live. While I’m holding out on finding a dentist in New York (Bruce Duchan, DDS is the best dentist and I refuse to search elsewhere until he retires), I’m finally at a point where I have local doctors that I respect, and honestly enjoy seeing. I’m not absolved of my anxiety — not even close — but I’m proud of breaking down the barriers that would have had me avoiding an office visit, even if just to calm my nerves. I’ve come to a point where I’ve reasoned with the fact that it’s not them, it’s me and a fear that I’ve manifested.

My parents constantly remind me of my shitty set of genetics, and with my dad’s health issues that range from diabetes and a past heart attack to Parkinson’s, owning my health at a young age was the responsible – and only – option in sustaining my status as a mature adult.

I feel stronger than ever thanks to my trainer/coach, and more in control than ever knowing that I’m on a path of continued health for a long, happy life.

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