Men, Women and Doctors


            This is a pretty good life, you know, for somebody with bipolar disorder.

            The quietness in my soul comes from the presence of two things:  a good night’s sleep and a mature spiritual condition; and the absence of one thing:  drugs.

            I just want you to know—to see—how good life is right now compared to how bad it was when I took drugs.  I would sleep drugged by Ativan.  I took the Ativan to counteract the insomnia caused by the antidepressants.  The Ativan was aggravating my sleep apnea, and the sleep apnea was not being properly treated because I was “compliant,” i.e., I did what physicians told me to.

            We talked about this over lunch yesterday.  One of my guests has multiple sclerosis.  She had rarely been sick or gone to a doctor until one day her leg got numb.  She thought she had a little back trouble.  Her doctor told her she had MS, then put her on every MS drug known to the pharmaceutical industry.  Compliant, she took them—then got really sick from side effects that she didn’t know about.  She thought she was dying.  Probably was, too.  Somebody got her to another physician who took her off everything.  Gave her a couple aspirin and a pep talk.  Now my friend takes one drug and is still—several years after diagnosis—working full-time and enjoying her life.

            So here’s the question:  are you going to be compliant or are you going to be healthy?

            If you do what the doctor tells you to do then you will be over-medicated.  Doctors are not pharmaceutically conservative in their treatment.  I’ve known women to walk out of doctor’s offices with a dozen or more prescriptions.  Most doctors are male; most patients are female, so you’ve got to factor into the situation the way men relate to women.  Men who are arrogant by virtue of being physicians are telling women what to do.  And what is the woman to do?  Exactly what the doctor says.  He’s the boss, isn’t he?

            In the final years of my drugging, I was suffering terribly from the side effects of drugs but nobody knew it, so I’d go to doctors and they’d blame my illness on my emotional condition and I’d end up in my therapist’s office in tears.  That’s when my therapist—a psychologist who could have gone to medical school if he hadn’t been humble—started going to my doctors’ appointments with me. 

            And doctors immediately started treating me better.  In the presence of another male, they’d restrain themselves.  I hadn’t realized I was being bullied until the bullying stopped.  Even if all my psychologist did was sit in the corner and play games on his Palm Pilot, the physician would be more respectful of me.  He would suggest instead of ordering.  He’d say please and thank you.  Truly amazing how a physician’s behavior changes toward a woman when there’s another man in the room.

            You see, we are animals.  (We’re not vegetables or minerals, and what’s left?)  And as animals, there are fundamental truths about our relationships—truths that all our liberties, liberalism and feminism can’t change.  One is that the female animal knows instinctively that she is vulnerable to rape.  If you comply with what a male wants—even if it’s just that he wants you to take drugs—then you maintain some degree of control in the relationship.  If you defy the male then he may get angry and take you by force.  Deep down in a place that we never talk about, every woman knows this.

            The male of the species has dominion over the female of the species—unless challenged by another male.  If a woman walks into a room accompanied by a male, then every other male in the room assumes that she is under the accompanying male’s protection.  The message is subconscious but clear:  mess with her, you mess with me.

            Watch the Animal Channel.  What do males of all species fight about?  Territory and the right to mate.  Lions, giraffes, elephants—tons of wild animals fighting for the right to party with the little woman.  In the human species, we dress it up but it’s the same thing.  Last week my aide was working a table outside a concert.  Her boyfriend went to the bathroom, and some other guy came up and starting putting the make on her.  My aide is a very smart young woman—widely traveled, learned in the ways of the world—but at some level all she wanted was for her guy to come back, throw his arm around her and glare defiantly at the other guy:  “Hands off.  My woman.”

            That’s the elemental message that needs to be sent to arrogant doctors.  Every woman should always take a man with her when she goes to the doctor.

            Guys, we know that you don’t like to go to the doctor but don’t think of this as going to the doctor; think of it as protecting your woman.  Your woman will be healthier and you will be happier if you push back against the doctor who is over-prescribing medicine.  Send a message that she doesn’t have to comply with the doctor.  Then stand back.  She knows her body; she can figure things out herself.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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