Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tell Me...

What would you say if your doctor said, "Tell me about your stress"?

When mine asked, I told him I didn't have a clue what to tell him about my stress. (Why didn't he just say, "So, summarize the encyclopedia for me"?)

He wasn't taking no for an answer. I went in to talk about tummy troubles. I wanted to talk about my symptoms, and possible solutions. Again, as I am feeling worse and worse. I was a little annoyed at how much time he wanted to spend in chairs, blah-blah-blahing when I have been telling him for MONTHS that I have some issues going on. Physical ones. "Tell me about your stress."

So I told him, "I have a lot of it."

He said that is why he wanted me to tell him about it.

What would you say? I mean, really, what would you say? Picture it. Your stomach hurts, you are not sleeping well, it's your third visit to this office, which means it's the third time you've dashed away from work, at this rate parking fee will hit the $14 max, and this guy has barely ever touched the gizmos in his little black doctor's kit. You're still sitting in chairs; you haven't even crinkled the paper on the exam table yet. He wants to chat. About your stress.

I thought I felt my anger flare.

But then I heard myself say quietly: "My son is autistic." And my eyes welled up. "My son is autistic, my daughter is two, my husband and I have demanding careers, we don't have family nearby."

The anger seemed gone, and I felt very, very tired.

"I understand," he said. "So what do you do for yourself to deal with this stress?"

And the anger came back again for a flash.

"Did I mention my son is autistic?" He got me a tissue.

Now, stress is NOT what is making my stomach hurt. It surely does not help, it may even exacerbate the problem. But I do have some medical issues going on, and eventually this guy got to that.

He is a good doctor. I probably sound like I have an axe to grind with regard to doctors, and that is not true. I know some amazing doctors, women and men who I hold in the highest esteem. This doctor cares, he listens, he pays attention, and he offers solutions -- he might go about it a little slowly, but, hey, it beats the bum's rush. It is good -- no, it is right -- that he looks at his patients holistically, that he appreciates the role that emotion plays in overall health.

What surprised me today is how I reacted. It's been months since our diagnosis, and I freely talk about my Rooster's struggles. I didn't realize I would still get annoyed by people hinting at my need to take yoga or get massages for a little me time that just doesn't jive with our reality. I didn't realize it would still make me well up to say, "My son is autistic."

I have often replayed in my mind conversations I've had, wondering how I might have done them better, what I might have said. I have thought a lot today about my answer to, "Tell me about your stress." My own answer still shocks me on some level. I am sincerely curious: If the doctor said it to you, what would you say?


Niksmom said...

I think I actually told my doctor once that I've gotten so used to living in a constant state of stress that I no longer know how to relax. Very sad but so true.

pixiemama said...

Sister - I have said the exact same thing. I lay it out there. And I always feel stunningly exposed. Because I'm not used to talking about what my children's issues mean to ME. I'm using to talking to their teachers, their doctors, their therapists, their aides.

Feel better! (And try some good probiotics - ReNew Life Ultimate Flora, Critical Care - for the tummy troubles. May not solve the issue, but certainly won't hurt!)

redheadmomma said...

Noah's ABA program manager (which I eventually fired) was observing us at our house, and she said to me, "You seem stressed." Yeah? No shit, sherlock!

However! I mantain that we create our OWN reality. If one really wants something, they can figure out a way to get it. And that includes time away from the kids to recharge, or any number of things to get your endorphins going...if only remembering to breathe deeply.

To say that "me" time doesn't jive with your reality may inadvertently be selling you short. You have the power to do whatever you want to do. I promise.
Okay, you can get annoyed at me now :) lots of love, R

gretchen said...

I don't know about you, but I try to downplay my stress. I think if a doctor asked me, I would say "well, every mom has a lot to do and has to keep a lot of balls in the air..."- like I feel like if I complain about stress I'm wimping out on "momhood." Like we're in the marines or something and can't complain about how hard it is because we signed up for it.

But it IS hard. And it's ok to admit that. Having an autistic child makes it HARDER. It's a fact. And your doctor is a good one to be interested in your stress.

KAL said...

I would say "My life feels out of control and I'm going along for the ride." I can certainly relate. I think, also, that the rooster's diagnosis is still relatively new. It is overwhelming to readjust your lives and expectations and schedules. You're still getting your bearings AND you have a two-year-old who needs a lot of your attention. Juggling stinks and it's easy to put our needs dead last - I do it all the time. I still do it most of the time until I reach a tipping point. Hang in there. Glad you have a caring doctor who is interested in helping the whole person.

Joeymom said...

Yep, I had that conversation with mine- with my mom in the room. :P And what did I say?

"Well, I have an autistic child, an SPD child, three jobs... why do you think I have any stress?"

And the "what do you do for it?" question was: "When do i have any time to do anything?"

I even blog on the fly. There are no rough drafts. From my brain, through my fingers, to your screen. Editing done after publishing (you know you caught the post right after it went up, because it's full of typos and no links!) Its one of the few things that cane done in five minute scraps of time.

I'm on Wellbutrin. Woo. Hoo. Still need sleep (though we're doing better here than you are there with the sleep thing).