I have been on birth control since I was 15, and the process of going on it involved a dermatologist, a psychiatrist and of course, a gynecologist. I realize that sounds like the set up to a bad joke.
The first time it was brought up in a doctor’s office was at my dermatologist. She advised that I start taking oral contraceptives as a way to help my acne. I had a very healthy diet consisting of very little processed food (my mom is kind of a health nut). She recommended birth control as a way to help calm down my acne, without using drying topical or oral medications. I was all for it, I was very self-conscious about my acne, and I knew that at some point I would be sexually active, and I saw it as a great way to be prepared before that happened. I actually was really grateful that it was my dermatologist that brought it up, as I would be spared the uncomfortable conversation with my mother later on when I wanted it for contraceptive purposes.
I then talked about it with my psychiatrist, as she is my doctor that keeps track of all of my medications and potential effects they could have on me, as I am hyper sensitive to some medications. She told me what she believed would be best for me.
Armed with that, I finally went to my gynecologist. I was nervous at first, it was a very new concept to me, and I had never been to a gynecologist. My mom had done a lot of research about which practice would be best for my age, as I refused to go to hers because he was the one that delivered me and that just weirded me out. I walked in, and it was this large, warm place with lush couches, a fireplace, and very nice staff in flattering, neutral scrubs. It was not at all what I was expecting. My entire experience there, was warm, and I felt very at ease. Honestly, I wish every experience at the doctor is like the one I have there. My doctor is a young woman who is very non-judgmental and kind. I walked out with my very first birth control prescription and felt like that was the moment I had transitioned from a girl into a woman. Looking back now, after 4 years of anthropology classes, and I am fascinated by the fact that it was that experience that I perceived as my coming of age.
This entire process was very positive, and although it involved a lot of biomedicine doctors, every one of them made me very comfortable, and helped ease any nerves. This represents my most positive experience with biomedicine, and I was honestly spoiled, because my first real negative experience did not come until my first year at MSU.
It was not until I had an appointment at Olin’s women’s health clinic, that I saw firsthand, the negative aspects of biomedicine. It was my first semester, and I was so excited to be independent and I saw one part of that independence as having a doctor near my new home. It was time for me to get a new script for my birth control, and I made the appointment at Olin. As soon as I walked in a felt bad. The building was cold, hard, and confusing. After some help, I made my way to the clinic. I did all the normal paperwork, but instead of the inviting plush couches, there were hard, old chairs all right next to each other with harsh fluorescent lights. I got into the room, and the doctor came in. She immediately started asking me a bunch of questions, rather hurriedly, and it felt more like an interrogation than a conversation. This was not what I was used to. She then went through my list of medications, asking for the reasons for each, and then she started talking about how I should not be on some of these medications. I was not happy, here is this women, who barely knows anything about me, telling me that everything I have been doing for the past few years is wrong. Everything felt so impersonal and rushed. I realize now, that I am sure she had many other patients to get to, and didn’t have the time to get to know me, but I felt more like pill consumer rather than a human being.
It was that experience that made me realize how spoiled I was, and really see the downsides of the medical system to which I am accustomed. There are a great deal of flaws in biomedicine, but some of them can be reduced through more patient time, and inviting environments.