It feels like the NHS is failing me

I first went to the doctor sometime in March. I experienced headaches and dizziness during football matches and often felt weak too. I always experienced this issue during football to some extent but it seemed to have gotten worse around that time. It made it really hard to enjoy a game at all and even though it wouldn’t make me quit football (I probably won’t unless I lose a leg) I didn’t think it was entirely normal either so I thought it would be worth going to the doctor. I met a really nice man who asked a lot of questions and seemed to take a lot into consideration. He didn’t really know what could cause it though and so he asked for a blood and a heart test. I had the tests about 1.5 weeks later; then the results in about another 1.5 weeks later. I wasn’t called for my results; I had to call them and when I did the doctor I had seen wasn’t in. Another doctor informed me that nothing came out of the tests and that I should be fine. That was the end of it. I wasn’t even advised to go back to my original doctor, apparently, I didn’t have an issue anymore.

I tried to get a new appointment but without success. I decided to wait with chasing it up as I feel it’s rather stressful going to the doctors and having to call them as well. All my assignments were soon to be due too and there were no football matches at the moment. Then when football started back up I decided to wait for the end of the season as I didn’t think anything could be done before my last match anyway. However, in May something else and slightly more concerning started happening. I experienced a few days in which my headache (and or lightheadedness) felt so severe that I didn’t feel capable of doing anything but sitting still. I had headaches in April and in the months prior to that but it wasn’t anything like this. I didn’t immediately go to the doctor though. I thought that it would be a few one-time happenings, perhaps, but then they continued to persist on a daily basis so by the end of May I called the doctor.

I was seen by another doctor this time. He didn’t ask as many questions as the other one had. I didn’t feel like I was taken as seriously. Simply put, it felt as if I was a student to him and apparently students are not to be taken seriously in Britain. Apparently, we complain a lot when nothing is wrong. Most of our issues can be put down to depression, anxiety and stress; there isn’t ever a need to look for any other cause. He prescribed me some pills and nose spray and at first, I felt a little bit relieved. For a few minutes, I thought that maybe this could actually work but then when I got home and took a closer look at the pills I thought this wasn’t quite right. My dad’s girlfriend is a doctor and I visited them last year in December. I suffered from headaches then and had bought some strong sort of ibuprofen as I was told this could help. When she saw it she advised me not to take them as they can do more harm than good if taken too often. Moreover, they are not an actual solution, they are a quick fix for the moment. It turns out the doctor in the UK had given me a similar sort of pill. He had given me 56 of them. You are only allowed to take these pills after eating as they can create stomach ulcers. My dad’s girlfriend confirmed to me that these were the pills she would not advice; they could be used for relief for a few days, but it wouldn’t solve the issue. My doctor in the UK had told me to come back in about a month if my problems persisted. So despite my reluctance to take the pills, I took them for a while and nothing changed. I also tried the nose spray, but still, nothing changed. The doctor hadn’t really explained the reason for the pills or the nose spray to me so when I found out that the pills were not meant to solve anything I felt a little bit betrayed, especially as he did not want to see me again until a month had passed.

By that point, I felt like I was struggling with getting through a single day. I spend most of my time on the couch in the living room, waiting for time to pass. At the end of May, I went to the Netherlands and hoped that my head would sort out itself; maybe I was making it up after all. During my stay there I didn’t have a really bad day every day, but I struggled through the majority of it. (I was able to keep up appearances though. Only as soon as I felt like I could drop them and didn’t have to be around someone, the pain came through as badly as before.) Sadly I couldn’t go to a doctor in the Netherlands as I cannot be insured there since I officially live abroad.

I went back to the doctor once I returned to Aberystwyth and this time I went in prepared; I had made a diary that stretched over the period of a month. I was seen by a female doctor and she seemed to take my concerns seriously. She didn’t think I was suffering from a migraine or a tension headache as my symptoms didn’t really seem to fit into either. She thought it would be a good idea to have a scan of my brain to ensure I didn’t have a tumour. She told me to come back once the results were in and that we would take it from there. The CT scan was taken the next week and results were ready the week after. I called the doctor for them but my doctor wasn’t in. She wasn’t going to be in until September and that was the end of that.

I struggled to make myself dinner or lunch or breakfast during those two weeks. Instead, I went out to eat so I didn’t have to make anything myself. I knew it wasn’t a viable option to continue doing this but at that time I thought it would still be a better option than not eating. Even though two weeks don’t seem very long, it felt like a really long time to me and every day I waited for time to pass. I slept a lot, sat still a lot and didn’t get to do much although I tried. I didn’t feel like I could wait until September; I called the doctor again in the end of July.

I was seen by a male doctor that I hadn’t seen before. I told him about the issue and the things that I had tried so far. He went over my file, turned around and basically concluded that as it doesn’t seem to be something physical it must all be in my head. Was I feeling depressed? Yes, I was starting to feel down by the constant headaches as they were stopping me from doing most things. Was I feeling anxious? After feeling down for several days as caused by the headaches I would feel anxious at times. Well, there you go, maybe antidepressants were an idea. I told him that I had never felt this stable and happy in my life before the headaches started. I genuinely felt like I had completely conquered what was left of my depression from the past. He didn’t believe me and asked what I felt like when I felt anxious. He described me pills and said that if they wouldn’t work all of this was caused by my mental health. He didn’t explain what the pills were supposed to be doing. I left feeling rather upset.

I decided I didn’t want to take the pills unless someone explained to me what they were doing. I called in next Monday and requested a female doctor as they were the only ones who actually seemed to listen to me. The other doctor had told me to keep a diary. At the time, I couldn’t be asked to tell him that I already had. The female doctor from before had taken it so I couldn’t give it to him anyway. By that time my back had been hurting as well for about a month. (I don’t mean lower back pain, the pain I experience every day, I mean a pain that starts around my right shoulder blade. At first, it feels like pins and needles are going in and out of my back. This feeling had been spreading through to my lower back, my shoulders, the other side of my back, the neck, eventually to the front, my arms, hands, legs and feet as well. At the same time, the right side of my back, especially around the shoulder blade hurt a lot; so much that I was unable to sit in my desk chair from the start of the afternoon onwards.) I had asked the previous doctor about this too. He felt my back and concluded it would go away on its own (guess what, it hasn’t).

So I wrote a new diary for my head, a diary for my back and a list of how all of this was affecting me. I took all of this with me when I saw the female doctor. She didn’t even look at them. She took me seriously and assured me that we could find a solution, even one before the start of term. She thought I was experiencing a constant migraine which is different from a migraine as we all know it. She thought this same migraine is what’s causing my back to act up too. It’s only possible to prevent migraines so she prescribed me three types of pills. One of them was to lessen the ache as it was happening (I have felt no effect on them whatsoever even after increasing the dose) and the other two were to prevent. I was only to try one of these first and to take one pill before going to sleep. I felt dizzy throughout the night after taking the pill. I’m not sure how I got through the day that followed; the side effects were really bad. I was only able to speak to another doctor, but he advised me to stop taking them. I got to speak to my own female doctor the next day and she told me to start the second set of pills and to come back after two weeks.

2 weeks later I called. She was on leave for two weeks, did I want to see another doctor? I said yes because every day still felt like a genuine struggle. I saw another doctor I hadn’t seen before. He told me he couldn’t do anything for me and that I had to wait for my doctor to return. He also seemed to suggest it was my fault I hadn’t stuck to a single doctor and that this was why I was still experiencing my problem. I kind of broke down in front of him (always great when that happens) so then he gave me the option of starting over from the start with him or wait for my doctor to return. I need to mention that this doctor also seemed to blame everything on my mental health. ‘Do you feel down and anxious?’ – ‘Before these headaches started I had never felt this good before in my life.’ – ‘Do you go out with friends often?’
Needless to say, I thought I’d have more of a chance if I waited for my own doctor to return.

I also need to mention that the pills I was prescribed by ‘my doctor’ only lasted for exactly two weeks. She went on leave without informing me even though I was told to come back to her after two weeks of trying said pills. If she knew that she was going on leave, which I assume she did, then surely she could have informed another doctor that if my current pills weren’t working for him to give me the next set of pills? Because that was her plan, to go through a list of pills and see if any of them work. Also surely, my previous female doctor could have told me she was about to go on leave too. Maybe I would have gone to a doctor who has not gone on leave during this time period if I was informed that both of them were about to leave.

So anyway, I was told my doctor would return on the 21st of August. When I called that morning I was informed that no appointments with this doctor were available. I was to try again on Wednesday or Friday morning. I called again on Wednesday and I was informed the same. When I asked about Friday the receptionist couldn’t tell me if my doctor was having any appointments. So I asked about the week after. She told me to try, but it sounded as if it was very unlikely that I’d get an appointment.

Did I mention I sleep badly? Did I mention that I sometimes lie awake for about 2 hours during the night and desperately need that one extra hour I can get between 8 and 9 am? Did I mention it is only possible to get any appointments if you call the doctor just after 8 am? Did I mention I feel even worse during the entirety of my day if I get less sleep than I usually do? Did I mention it is therefore rather frustrating if I have to set an alarm for 8 so that I can call the doctor for an appointment that doesn’t seem will ever happen? ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about it. I don’t know anything,’ thanks. Really helpful.

So what am I supposed to do now? Term will start in about a month. There’s no way any of this is going to get fixed at this rate and I’m about to go into my third year. I would honestly consider taking a year out due to ‘medical reasons’ if the tuition fees weren’t 9000 pound a year. But hey, what can I do? Gotta just take things as it is, learn to surf these waves or something.

The NHS is publicly funded and the biggest National Health Service in the UK.

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