After I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease last year, it was time to find a specialist who could really help guide me through the condition: What medicine to take, what lifestyle changes to make, and on and on.
I really adore and respect my primary care physician, so when she recommended a particular endocrinologist, I figured I couldn't go wrong. My first impression was positive: Female, youngish, fellow thyroid-problem sufferer, kind of a loudmouth.
But the things that ended up coming out of her mouth were far from awesome. In fact, they threw into stark relief the importance of finding a health care provider who would not only listen, but who also wasn't, well, a jerk.
Based on the two - and only two - visits I made to this doc, here's a brief list of giant, verbal red flags that meant I needed a new doctor immediately:
1. "The good thing about not eating dairy is that you'll never get as fat as the people who do."
See, the whole reason I knew something was off with my body in the first place was that I had gained a bunch of weight rapidly. Not to mention, I frequently experienced annoying bloating and stomach discomfort.
In an effort to pinpoint what was disrupting my system, I cut out a bunch of stuff all at once (like meat, dairy and beer) and then slowly added them back. Turned out dairy was REALLY not agreeing with me. Fine! Great! Whatever makes you feel better, right? Too bad that when I informed the endocrinologist about my personal discovery, she had to get nasty about it.
What she could have said: "Good for you for figuring that out! Who needs ice cream, right? Let's do a food sensitivity test to be sure."
2. "Sometimes it's all about putting down that last cookie and going for a run instead."
This quote was accompanied by a hand motion: This woman literally mimed a lock-and-key motion in front of her mouth in case I hadn't understood that she thought I should eat less.
I get that if you don't stay super active as you get older and your metabolism slows, you'll gain weight. I just turned 31; I'm under no illusions that my metabolism is still kicking like it was 10 years ago. HOWEVER. I like to think I'm self-aware enough that, were I eating endless sleeves of chocolate-covered Oreos all day, I wouldn't wonder aloud to a health professional where my weight gain was coming from.
What she could have said: "As you get older, it's really important to stay active and eat healthy. The more you take care of your body, the more it will take care of you."
3. "... And how did you come to this decision?" [Accompanied by suspicious expression]
This one needs a little context. See, the endocrinologist decided to take me off my thyroid medicine to see how my body responded. She warned me, though, that when I decide to get pregnant, I'll need to come back; thyroid issues can really affect the health of a fetus, and I'd need to start taking meds again. I politely informed her that I strongly doubted I would ever have children, so that wouldn't be an issue for me.
Endo lady literally stopped typing and turned to stare at me, sizing me up. With her eyes narrowed, she asked me how I came to my decision. You mean how I came to my very personal and none-of-your-business decision? I could feel my face reddening with rage. I wanted to shout, "And how did you COME to the decision to dye your hair that color?" Instead of throwing her own bad attitude back at her, I informed her I'd never wanted kids in the first place and that my partner supports my decision.
Then I got the look I'm sure so many women in exam rooms before me have received: The "You just wait!" smirk. Great.
What she should have said: "OK, sounds good. But just keep the medicine in mind if you ever decide to have kids."
Moral of the story
Often, you're the only one who can advocate for yourself. This is particularly true when it comes to your own health. Don't stick around with anyone - friend, romantic partner and especially a doctor - who's a jerk.