I visited my favorite doctor last week. She is the only one of my original set of doctors I have kept. Despite her not being covered by my current insurance. She is irreplaceable. Unlike the rest of my doctors, she “gets me.” For me to start over and try to establish this kind of relationship with a new doctor? I’m not sure I’ve got that many years left to me. Or if there is another doctor like her anywhere.

I hadn’t seen her since before all the heart surgery in March, so we had a bit of catching up to. We talked about me, her, life, getting older, Garry, drugs and how some things — like marijuana — just don’t do what they did when we were young.

And the importance of feeling better.

The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works
The garden in front of the clinic where my favorite doctor works

Anyone who has been sick for a long time knows what I mean when I say “I just want to feel better.” There comes a moment in time when whatever is wrong with you has dragged on and on. It feels like an eternity, like forever. You can’t remember what it was like to feel good. You’ve done everything you are supposed to do and still, you feel like crap. Whether it’s cancer, recovering from surgery, anxiety, bipolarity, the pain of chronic illness — or any combination of the above plus whatever I didn’t mention — one day, you just want to feel better.

You really don’t care how.

Whatever it takes, whatever drugs, surgery, therapy, whatever. Just — make me feel better. I want a day without pain, without anxiety, without nausea. I want to feel normal or at least close. Whatever normal is. Because I am not sure I remember.

The problem is, doctors don’t see medical value in feeling better.

Feeling lousy isn’t a medical condition. And feeling better is not a definable goal for medical professionals. The doctor keeps telling you you’re fine … and you don’t feel fine. You are tired, in pain, crabby, unable to sleep. Nauseated. Exasperated. Fed up with everything.

Just two doctors — out of so many in my world — believe feeling better is a legitimate goal. One is my cardiologist and the other is my shrink. Technically, she is my psycho-pharmacologist, but shrink is easier to say. Her self-assigned task in this world is to help me feel better.

“After all you’ve gone through,” she says, “It’s what I can do for you. I can help you feel more like you used to feel before all of that horrible stuff happened.”

That she understands the concept  is nothing short of a miracle. So I’m going to keep her. Despite insurance.


Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.


  1. Marilyn, Thank you, thank you, and thank you again! I feel like you understand utterly and completely how I feel. I’ve been recovering from a ruptured brain aneurysm and subsequent ischemic stroke since Nov. 2011. I’ve run the entire gamut of emotions. I’ve done everything I was told to do and have felt defeated more times than I can say.

    The only doctor who truly understands me my neuro-psychologist. I want so badly to feel better, and yet the battle seems to be more uphill at times than not. Arrogant doctors that didn’t have a clue (I.e. my PREVIOUS neurologist, who stated that I should just consider myself ‘lucky to be alive and deal with the deficits’) and an unreliable/nearly non-existent support system didn’t help. I’m trying hard to get through a depression now so I can feel better now and move on and start enjoying life and feeling good. A lot of my comfort has come from the wonderful people I’ve met through my blogs. Thank you again.

    Take care and I hope you feel good soon! Eva


    1. I wrote this for me and you and the millions of others who never seem to get compassion or understanding — or real HELP — from the doctors we depend on. I am tired too. Weary of the endless battle with pain and disability and life just trudges on. The last one I got from my doctor was I should just cope.

      I wonder what he’d say if it was him, not me? I bet he’d be screaming for help! Hang on in there. There’s little else we can do.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Most do, but I’ve met a few who seemed to think they had to prove they were just like men by being worse. Though I think you are overall, right. The problem for me has been that most of the women doctors I’ve found are too young and inexperienced to be willing to deal with all my chronic and not-so-chronic stuff. I finally gave up. But I miss having a woman for a PCP. It’s the first time in many years I’ve had a male doctor as my primary.


  2. Not fair that from angst comes our best writing. This is powerful and helpful stuff. Make it a book. I want to put it by my bed until needed. It is appreciated today, and will be needed tomorrow, or the day after, or…..


  3. Marilyn, I feel your pain. Having suffered from depression for years I have uttered those words on numerous occasions. Thankfully, living in the UK we never have to think about whether or not we can afford health care or whether our insurance will cover the bills. Our Health care system is on the whole very good and free at the point of delivery. I wrote about depression yesterday in the wake of Robin Williams tragic death. You may be intereted in reading it http://wp.me/p4Fvr2-gw


    1. This wasn’t even about money. It’s about doctors’ attitudes. There is a big difference between being alive and having a decent quality of life. The medical community needs to make that differentiation and aim for something more than pulse as the gauge of “health.” Both mental AND physical!

      Mostly, at some point they need to recognize that “feeling better” is a legitimate medical goal, not a frill. Some of them get it, but most don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Boy, do I hear ya on this one. In the depths of depression, it’s “I’ve always been so sick and it’s never getting any better.” In the throes of a mixed episode, it’s “I’ve never felt so bad in my life. Why can’t I just feel better?” Man, there are times, I would do ANYTHING to feel better. It makes me appreciate the good times more, but more often than not, the good times feel fleeting. Seems like there is always some sort of BS going on — just like you, can’t catch a break. I don’t think I’ve done lots and lots of bad stuff in my life…I mean, overall I think I’m a pretty decent person, so where is all this bad karma coming from? ((hugs))


  5. I dunno, I think doctors just don’t know what to do with “feeling better”, especially if you go into the doctor’s office and announce that “I feel better.” It’s just not a treatable condition, unless he/she decides to prescribe something that will make you feel worse? I guess that would be treatment of a sort, and would at least bring you back into an area they’re familiar with? “Ahhh.., not so good today Ms. Armstrong? let me give you something that may help, (not really) wink, wink.” “Complicated” is when you start to think faster than the doctor. That means you’re jumping out of the line.., not behaving etc.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well not being important is a serious mistake.., and you’re right, but I don’t think they’ll really get it until they pull their own dip stick and discover they’re a quart low.


          1. My sister is a physician, and I love her dearly, but she can’t stand the sight of blood and doesn’t want anything to do with the ickier, nasty side of being sick. Go figure.., does this mean they are human after all, and why do we normal (sort of) folks bite that bullet and dive in where few doctors will venture alone? Maybe that’s the reason we have nurses?

            This doesn’t seem to apply to surgeons because they’re basically mechanics who are not put off by an oil leak here and there.


            1. Surgeons can be very anti-social, yet two of the best, most compassionate and sensitive doctors I’ve met are surgeons. I’ve also met “primary care” doctors who should be in administration because they hopeless with people. I have had hard-as-nails nurses, fantastic nurse, awful and nurturing physicians. Yes, they are all human. HOWEVER … concern for patients’ quality of life and comfort really shouldn’t be an optional extra for any medical professional. And though I am not a doctor, I sure have spent a lot of time sick and/or in hospitals. If there’s such a thing as a professional patient, I think I’m it.


  6. I have not suffered from the chronic conditions many of you mention, but the concept of ‘feeling better’ and ‘feeling like myself’ resonate nonetheless. Doctors in Western culture (although it is getting better) suffer their own type of malaise when it comes to illness and wellness, they seem to work best when something can be zapped by drugs or cut off and out. The concept of being well is a bit foreign, or at least the road to getting there and sustenance, it’s more about not being sick. As my mother said, when she lay dying of pancreatic cancer:.”Medicine is not an exact science.” We need more medical artists and poets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We also need more doctors who have compassion as part of their repertoire and see patients as people. Too many doctors think entirely in terns of test results. They treat their patients like inconveniences who are taking time away from golf.


      1. Very true. When my book is published, you may want to read it. I talk a lot about compassion and awareness in general and in the medical field specifically. I fully agree.


  7. Hearing someone validate how you feel always makes a tremendous difference I find. Especially when they are then willing to really help, approach the situation from a new place to get you better. I hope that day comes soon for you Marilyn,


    1. Remember when doctors were old? Guys who’d seen a lot of life and knew what a bad back feels like, how exhausting it can be to survive. Now we have these pipsqueaks who come out of medical school all hyped up on what they learned in books and lectures. They have no experience with life and can’t empathize with pain, disability, suffering. They’ve only read about it.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I don’t when it happened to me. I got old. I went from someone who could jump on a motorcycle on a whim and ride across country. Those days are gone and I’ve had to come to terms with that fact. I just can’t do the things I used to do, like jumping off a train standing still. I can’t do that anymore.

    I keep adding body parts that hurt. It started with my hands and joints aching. I didn’t bump them they just started aching. Then came one knee and then the other. I began joking that I don’t have a leg to stand on. After all the laughing stopped they still hurt. Now it’s both shoulders. I don’t know if all these joint pains are a byproduct of age or a side effect of diabetes or arthritis. I just want the pain to stop.

    I guess I could take pain medicine, Aleve seems to work. I just want to stop adding more drugs to my daily regimen. Am I slowly falling apart? I don’t have the answers and my doctors don’t even try. They have their prescription pad in hand and I tell them, no more drugs. Like you, I just want to wake up and really, at least for today, nothing hurts.


    1. You should take the pain meds. I do. They help. They don’t solve all the problems, but they make the struggle easier. And you should see a shrink. You are depressed — as many people our age are — and there IS help for that. You will be amazed at just HOW much help there is if you take advantage of it.


  9. I get this 100%!!!! ALL doctors should have this as a goal!

    For two years I suffered from asthma and sinus infections. My “doctor” threw meds at me and NOTHING made any difference at all. Her remark? “I don’t get it. Why don’t you feel better?” as if I didn’t WANT to???? I didn’t feel better because I was S-I-C-K. Last summer, when I had to pull over on my drive to school so that I could BREATHE rather than PASS OUT driving, I decided that I needed a specialist. I had waited long enough for my “doctor” to tell me (she never would have). I went. Within ONE WEEK I could breathe, smell, taste — things I’d struggled to do or plain hadn’t done in two years. My ENT and my allergist both said, “I want you to feel better.” That’s all I wanted, too. Having nearly died from this mysterious ailment, I wanted to feel better (the opposite direction appeared to be death…). Turned out to be a rare pseudo-allergy that does, actually, kill people. Feeling better was actually a condition of my continuing to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha, who figured it out for you? Was it the allergist? I’ve had uncontrolled asthma for three or four years, and the doctors I’ve gone to haven’t been able to help. This week, a book club is discussing my novel, and I’ll be joining them to read from the book and answer questions… if I can speak without coughing too much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The ENT found nasal polyps and a sinus infection and considering how long this had been going on, treated it aggressively with antibiotics and prednisone for 10 days.
        He sent me to the allergist who gave me the full test. I have no allergies. Then we talked about what happened when this started (it seemed to have started suddenly but now that I know more about it it was not really sudden, though the full on nearly deadly asthma attack was VERY sudden) and through process of elimination we discovered aspirin. I was taking that baby aspirin every night… Other symptoms (which I had but never connected) can include things like an itchy skin rash, hot flashes, fatigue, joint pain. It’s name is AERD or Samter’s Triad (same thing). The defining symptoms are nasal polyps and asthma in combination. It’s treated with a combination of a steroid nasal spray and Singulair. There is also a “cure” which is aspirin desensitization which is something I hope to do soon. http://aerd.partners.org/about-aerd/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Martha. I’m really glad that worked for you. Asthma has so many causes. I’m still looking for the right specialist. It helps to hear from others.


      2. How many people day every year die because of arrogant doctors who won’t admit they don’t know what’s going on? It’s been close call after close call for me. And then, somehow, they blame you for their not sending you to the specialist, failing to run more tests, whatever. They can’t deal with the guilt, so it has to be your fault. You are a “difficult patient” and they don’t want you. Primary care doctors especially hate it when we get complicated. They want to manage routine, well-known problems. Nothing that will strain the brain. I wonder how THEY behave when THEY are sick? Bet they are VERY complicated.


    2. TO MARTHA: I’m just glad to hear you finally got it sorted out. Those near-death by bad medicine experiences are weird. I remember realizing, one day, that I was dying. I knew it. Everyone knew it. Except, apparently, my doctors.

      Liked by 1 person

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