Reaching for problem within - Dr Mary Wren

Columnist Dr Mary Wren
Columnist Dr Mary Wren

Two of my patients had revelations recently.

The first lady had been attending for months because of bleeding while on the contraceptive pill. She had investigations to check there wasn’t a physical cause but the problem persisted.

She was very anxious, upset and quite weepy. I asked what I usually ask people: “What was happening in life when the problem started?” Turns out she moved to Sheffield and really missed her family. She was trying to bury her emotions but now the stress was coming out with the bleeding as the focus. We chatted and suddenly her eyes lit up. She realised her bleeding was odd – because her body chemicals were all over the place because the months had been emotionally challenging. Now she understood she could choose to do something about i, I expect her bleeding problem will settle.

The next lady had very erratic bleeding with long gaps. She too had all the usual investigations done-which were normal. Same question – what happened when the problem began? She had split from her partner and changed jobs. Life was stressful, she had buried her emotions and focused on working hard. We discussed how physical effects in the body can come from chemical and hormone changes from stress. She decided to talk to a friend and possibly get counselling to work through emotional pain.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the physical problem than look at the emotional pain underneath. A pill or a test is easier. Most people agree that it is easier to have a broken leg than depression, or have an operation than anxiety.

Somehow physical things are more acceptable to talk about and less painful to look at. It can be easier to have a doctor give or do something than to take responsibility ourselves.

Often the obvious physical things are only there because of a hidden chain of events underneath. The doctors can help by asking questions but we can help ourselves too. When did it start? What happened then? Do I need to make some change or adjustment in how I think or how I see things? Maybe I need a friend to talk to or I need to let go of some anger. Have a go and see what gets better.