Mental Health vs Doctors Receptionists

This rant is courtesy of feeling like a passive aggressive Facebook status wasn’t therapeutic enough to cure how wound up I am.

I understand the NHS is overrun, overworked, tired, and a stressful place to be right now.

I tend to put off ringing the GP until something is really wrong out of fear of using up even more of their time. Afterall, there’s always somebody worse off, isn’t there?

The doctors themselves manage to be kind and decent enough to me once they realise I have a genuine problem, even if by comparison to other people they’ve seen that day, it’s not that bad. Receptionists are a different kettle of fish. They don’t even know the ins and outs, the details and the depths of a problem, yet judging by their abhorrent treatment to me over the phone and the look of distaste every single time I approach the desk, they must assume it’s bullshit. Is it my face? My voice? Does my whole demeanour just give off “hypochondriac” vibes?

Maybe there’s a school of bitchery they all have to attend beforehand, or maybe it’s a natural talent, or a job role requirement. Maybe it’s that classic false sense of authority being sat behind a desk on a swivel chair gives you. A quick Twitter search of “doctors receptionists” confirms I’m not the only one being talked to like shit by them. In fact, people all over the bloody world are complaining of the same thing.

twitter screenshot

It scrolls on and on with the same words cropping up every time. Rude. Obnoxious. Wankers. Etc.

I can understand it might get tiring when you get people using public services as a day out, bringing their whole family when one member has a cold and taking up time and room for absolute nonsense reasons. I suppose those people are the NHS version of the ones who go to Asda, stand around idly for ages with their trolley blocking a whole aisle and only end up purchasing a Mars Bar and some eggs. It’s infuriating. They are loiterers, meanders and perpetually bored and lonely simpletons. They are wasting resources. But don’t tar everyone with the same brush, please.

Yesterday I was having a mental health crisis. My depression hasn’t plummeted to such a degree in years. I haven’t even had to seek help for it in years. I just live with it, wait for it to fade out and get on with my life. But something went wrong yesterday. When you’re that way out it tends to coincide with being in a self-destructive state of “I don’t deserve help,” so I didn’t want to ring the doctors at all, but I knew I had to. It went like this:

“What’s your name and date of birth?”
– I tell her –
*Repeats my name and date of birth back to me in the LOUDEST VOICE POSSIBLE, when she’s in a waiting room packed with people I probably know.* (It’s a small village.)
– I ask if I can have an emergency appointment through sobs, and weird dying whale noises –
“We’re very busy. We don’t tend to just give out emergency appointments unless it’s an emergency,” – well no shit, Sandra. “What’s actually wrong with you?”

– I think I’m depressed, but it doesn’t matter if you’re busy. I’ll ring back tomorrow. –

“Riiiiight, well we don’t have any tomorrow, I can tell you that now. Do you get DEPRESSED a lot?”
– No, I mean, yes, but not like this. –
“Come in at 4.40 then, but you’ll have to be on time. He has a lot of people to see.”

*Hangs up.*

I mean if I didn’t feel like topping myself before, I might now.

Mental health problems can quite literally be a killer; and when they hit you hard your internal monologue is screaming “you’re pointless, a waste of time, useless, worthless, no good,” and all this other shit which isn’t true. When someone, a stranger or not, makes you feel like your problem isn’t really a problem at all, it almost confirms these lies.

I was in a hurry to make the appointment, despite feeling like I shouldn’t bother anymore. A depressed day for me means unwashed hair, possibly some food on my face and repugnant clothes that double up as pyjamas, because I nap a lot. I threw some jeans on, but kept my minging top, splashed my face, brushed my hair and called a taxi – I had about ten minutes to get there.

The doctor was wonderful. Understanding. Patient. A real nice man. He gave me lots of advice and options, things to consider, a phone number and referred me for some hospital blood tests for another health issue I have. Because of the rush of the whole ordeal and the fact I was a teary-eyed, snotty zombie, I couldn’t remember all the advice he’d given me. So today, I called them again.

I’d hoped I might get the alright receptionist. There is one. Just one. She’s new. She’s not like the others. And I did! She said she’d find out the information and give me a ring as soon as possible.

But who called me back? Another miserable twat.

A miserable, whiney old bag who gave me a lecture on not writing down what the doctor said; acted like it was this great inconvenience to go look at some notes, to find out something which could help a patient, which could make their life easier – better, even. Inconvenienced. 

There is no need. Kindness isn’t difficult, especially when it should be part of your job. If you’re a doctors receptionist, and I hope you’re a nice one, when you’re not on the phone to people who are vulnerable, you’re greeting them at the desk. If you’re a hostile and bitchy one, however, you are probably making already ill people feel worse. Why would you choose a career in health if you hate other humans?

Perhaps these women I keep encountering don’t think it’s of importance to be nice, because they’re not the doctors or the nurses themselves. But they are the first face people see when they come in. There’s still a duty of care there, surely?

This isn’t the first issue with receptionists I’ve had at this particular practice. Or receptionists in general. Last year at the doctors, I was beckoned over by one and told to make my child “shut up” because she “can’t think straight with all her racket.” I quickly told her my child was on the spectrum and she went bright red and started frantically apologising. I’ve had problems with the receptionists and their attitudes at my kid’s school (although, admittedly, that’s all better since I made a big complaint.) I’ve even had problems with a fucking librarian getting shirty with me for no logical reason. The issue is always the same, but can show itself in different ways. It’s basically too much judging, not enough knowing.

And of course, being an arsehole.




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