Saturday 25 February 2017

That First Appointment

Kate tells the story of the GP appointment which set her on the road to recovery.
- Kate Dickinson

I sat, quietly shaking at the centre of the busy GP waiting room. There was a baby in a pram to my left, a man with what seemed to be a rather severe cold to my right, and a mother trying (but failing) to control her three small children sat opposite me. It was as bad as being at a party, in a new place, knowing no one around me, completely out of my depth and feeling thoroughly awkward. There were enough people there to have populated a party as well, and very much like the few house parties I'd grudgingly attended in my first two months of university, I had arrived unfashionably late and been left with the choice of either taking the only remaining seat, located at the centre of the room, or standing. Reluctantly I took the seat, where I waited anxiously for my appointment.

My appointment time came and passed, but still I was left waiting, the anxiety building. Each time the speakers clicked into action I braced, as though hearing my name being called would be painful. It wasn't – just terrifying. "Kathryn Dickins, Ystafell Tri, Room Three" came the kind-sounding voice of a lady (oh, can you tell I went to university in Wales?).

Terror bubbled inside me as I got up and walked across the room, through the foyer and down the corridor, locating room three halfway along on the left. I knocked. The same kind-sounding voice from the speakers answered, and I went in.

"So, how can I help you today?"

I had perched myself awkwardly on the chair next to her desk, having quickly decided that taking the seat closer to the door would probably be considered strange, if more comfortable. I stared down at my lap, trying to force the words out that would neatly answer her question, but nothing. A solid minute must have ticked by, though it felt much longer, and I could see her becoming irritated by the silence. Appointments are only 10 minutes and I had already wasted 10% of that. I had foreseen this happening though and, finally conceding that on this occasion my words were unlikely to appear, I reached into my pocket for a pre-prepared notebook that I duly passed across, before receding back into myself again. I fidgeted as she read:

'I took an overdose last week.
I went to the hospital and I'm fine.
They told me that I'm probably depressed and should go to my GP about getting antidepressants.'

Silence. I peeked up. My GP's confused look that had emerged when I had produced the notebook suddenly turned to one of understanding. It was from that moment that I felt safe with her. I had been utterly petrified before this point, but she was so sympathetic, so caring and kind. In a moment and a few words I felt almost comfortable and slightly hopeful.

I hadn't been to the GP about my mental health in over a year and back then I hadn't felt any benefit in having gone. But this time, I felt it immediately. I had found a person who could see my pain and my suffering, and was, in an instant, committed to helping me get through it. I wasn't alone anymore. For the first time in years I felt as though someone truly understood me, understood my problems and, most importantly, was going to help.

A single consultation, that lasted far longer than my allotted 10 minutes, had given me hope. Having only days before believed that life was no longer worth living, I now felt as though it just might be. Little did I know at the time that my path through treatment and recovery would not be a simple one, but that does not in any way negate how beneficial and life transforming that first, most difficult, appointment was.

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