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My Trip to the Optometrist

When anxiety surrounding doctor visits is a challenge.

I experience severe anxiety when I have to go to any type of doctor.

Whether it is the dentist, the gynecologist, a primary care physician, a dermatologist, or an optometrist. It’s all the same anxiety.

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I’m not sure where it stems from, but I think it’s a combination of the anxiety I’ve always experienced with Bipolar II disorder, coupled with my upbringing where I never saw a primary doctor unless something was wrong with me.

Nothing is wrong with me, so I don’t see a need to waste my time going to see a primary care physician just to get some much-needed referral. I used to have a PPO (versus having an HMO), and under that plan they didn’t make me go to doctors to get other doctor referrals. It makes no sense.

Things have been different, though, since my insurance changed. I had to go to a general HMO practitioner to get a referral for a gynecologist, because that is one doctor you can’t afford to avoid, and I was happy to be free from having to see him again because I had the referral, so I thought I was off the hook. Then my gynecologist retired and I was back at square one to acquire another gynecologist, and had to go back to my primary care physician, and he refused to treat me cause I hadn’t gone to see him in five years.

Why would I go to a primary care physician if I didn’t have a problem? So I had to get a new primary care physician so I could get a new gynecologist and that was another traumatic experience, because going to a new gynecologist is like going on a blind date, but you’re naked on a table. I survived, but now I had a new primary care physician that I have to stay in contact with 'cause that’s what they do, those are the requirements for an HMO. It’s like it’s held over my head should I need any other type of referral.

Let’s go back to the golden years for a moment.

I grew up with a PPO that could allow me to go directly to my chosen gynecologist who I was with for two decades and never had to go through a middleman to get any referral, and when I switched to an HMO everything changed. I couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for my usual gynecologist 'cause it wasn’t covered, so I had to say goodbye. The same went to all my other doctors under my PPO.

Back to the current state of events. I have to see an optometrist every year for an eye exam just so I can get my contacts refilled.

I made the appointment and prior to the appointment, I experienced heightened anxiety, but I knew I had no choice in the matter. When I walked into the office, the anxiety hit hard.

“It stresses me out to see doctors, and I really don’t want to be here, but please don’t take it personally.”

Anxiety can cause me to say things that might not be cool, but at least I was being honest.

“Just put this over your left eye and read the letters.”

“E, OMG, FKJ, HGM.”

“OK, the next line.”

“Ah ... DTY … I’m not sure … Z, K.”

“OK, please put the cover on the right eye.”

“E, OMG, FKJ, HMG.”

“Great, next line.”

“TJL? ... NFY ... I think I don’t know.”

“OK that’s good, you can sit back.”

I watched her touch buttons on her iPad logging my mistakes and the anxiety continued to rise.

Next up was the close vision test, and I knew I was in a losing battle.

She held the test card in my hand. I thought, does she know how close I’ll hold it to my face, or if I hold it farther away I might do better. I gave up on thinking how to skew the situation and confessed, “My close vision had been draining, so the results won’t be good.”

She said I could get reading glasses and then asked me the dreadful question, “How many hours a day are you in front of the computer?”

Aside from writing, I thought to myself, how many hours do I watch Hulu and Netflix and YouTube and wasn’t sure, but I knew it was bad.

“Five hours, maybe.” That was a flat-out lie.

“OK, let’s check your periphery vision.”

“Is this necessary, or some test for research purposes?”

“No, it’s not for research.”

“OK.”

I put my face into the device and she said to watch some image flash and click a button if I can see it. It became a competitive game to me. I’d see the flashes and think, I gotcha. I finished and asked her how I did and she told me I did great.

“You know I think you can cheat on that test cause the machine makes a noise when they don’t show the white dot, unless they're trying to trick me.”

I watched her move to another machine and held my breath.

“Looks like you don’t need any further tests today. Your eyes are stable, so I’ll go ahead and refill your prescription.”

Hooray! I have a whole year before I have to endure this torture again.

When I walked home I felt such relief, and thought about all the stress I put myself under for these doctor visits. I thought about all the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced since my HMO started.

My primary care physician fired me, my dermatologist quit, my gynecologist retired, and now I have a new primary care physician that wants me to see him and take blood samples every six months. It’s too much. Anxiety is brutal enough on its own; we don’t need to add any more fuel to that fire.

I think I’m going to start over, again, and find a new primary care physician. There has to be some kind of HMO leeway out there. Enough with the middleman.

Stay tuned.

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