'Are you suffering from anxiety?', the GP asked in a comforting voice, the way TV doctors do when they talk to fictional patients as if they’re children. Her fingers paused just above the yellowed, plastic keys of the bulky computer monitor, awaiting my response.
'Shouldn’t you be the one deciding that?', I counter-questioned. I’d heard from friends, both online and in real life, that asking a GP for mental health advice and banging your head against a wall yields similar results. The sweet old lady was very clearly trying to diagnose me with something, but I’d only come for sleep tablets; something to knock me the fuck out. I’d assumed it was going to be a prescription-and-go type of deal. When I’d visited a doctor for The Pill six years earlier she’d simply asked, Do you want babies? Do you smoke? and then BAM: I was putting hormones into my body for the rest of my life.
'Well, do you experience any anxiety in your daily life? Do you have worries?'
We all have worries, hun. That doesn’t automatically give me anxiety. Trust me, I’ve read all the mental health awareness articles; I know the signs. I bit my tongue. Before I could answer, my mum interjected.
'She actually just sold her car. She sold it because she refused to drive it, because she was too nervous to drive it'.
Firstly, yes, I bring my mum to all doctors’ appointments (well, the ones where they probably won’t ask if I’m sexually active), because I’m an absolute baby. Secondly, every time I got in my car I freaked out at the steering wheel, including - but not limited to - the time I once had a full-on toddler tantrum when I was tasked with driving two miles to the nearest KFC. Thirdly, my mum just loves to make me sound like a massive loser to strangers. I think that’s a mum thing.
'Well, maybe that’s a point. I hadn’t considered that. Also, I can’t go to the supermarket alone, or else I panic. I have to bring a friend', I felt like I was babbling. The more I spoke the more pathetic I sounded. 'Other shops are fine though, maybe it’s just something I have against supermarkets. Maybe I have a bakery aisle allergy, like a gluten intolerance, but for the entire concept of bread'. Word vomit.
The kind lady tap tap tapped this information into her computer. The sound reminded me of when I was seven and the computer was a gloriously new invention. So glorious, in fact, that we had a dedicated ‘computer room’, complete with MDF desk, shiny black faux-leather office chair and AOL dial up tone. I wondered what she was typing. It was like the mixture of confusion and panic I felt at university when students around me started making expeditious notes as soon as the lecturer greeted the class. I assumed she was noting down, ‘afraid of supermarkets, the fucking dweeb’.
'And why is it that you can’t sleep?', she asked. My number one enemy of a question.
Dr Patel, with all due respect, if I could work that one out myself, I wouldn’t be sitting here, would I? It’s like when you lose something, and a particularly unhelpful person pipes up to ask where you lost it. Except it wasn’t my credit card or house key that I was losing. It was my sanity.