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Patient Chic: Being Comfortable in an Uncomfortable Situation

The big day has arrived: Your doctor visit! You get to look forward to the glorious occasion of sitting in a dreary waiting room, reading old magazines,trying not to think about the new crop of germs you are being exposed to, and having yourself inspected and analyzed by a judgmental stranger. Of course the first thing on your mind is, “What do I wear to such an occasion?”  Is it possible to be over or under dressed for your doctor visit? What shoes will best compliment your hospital ensemble? The hospital gown: an office visit must or is it best to avoid this infamous little piece of drapery? I would like answer these questions for you and more. Allow me to take the mystery out of your fashion diagnosis.

I like to consider myself a bit of a doctor visit fashion expert. On my resume resides a diverse array of frequented doctors offices. Over the past year, I have visited everyone from the general practitioner to allergists, rheumatologists, and neurologists. I realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to gain this kind of experience. So, allow me to guide you through the mystifying world of patient fashion.

The Clothing:

Generally, a doctor visit isn’t the most pleasant of occasions. I realize that I seem to have made it my hobby, but seeing doctors is really not my idea of fun. So, when encountering these uncomfortable circumstances, I like to try to make myself as comfortable as possible. One of the first things you should consider before selecting your patient wardrobe is the nature of the visit. Will you be expected to remove your fabulous garments? Will you be expected to move around often?

If you find yourself in a situation where you are expected to doff your duds, make sure you can get in and out of your garments with ease. Don’t wear anything with oodles of buttons, buckles, or laces. I know it will be tempting to don your best corset, but I would strictly advise against it. Quick, easy pull over clothing is best. If you are going to need unrestricted movement, I would recommend wearing workout clothing. Yoga pants are wonderful. They are comfortable and allow lots of movement without looking sloppy. They are an essential in every patient’s wardrobe.

A note on the hospital gown and some tips to get out of wearing it:

Layering is an excellent idea for the doctor visit. I like to wear yoga pants and a cami with either a cardigan or zip-up hoodie. This way you can just strip down a little and still be comfortable. Also, wearing a loose, flowy skirt has gotten me out of the dreaded backside-bearing gown on a few occasions.


Just like your over clothing, you want to make sure your underclothing allows for movement and is easy to get yourself in and out of. No Spanx or girdles! I also like to stay fairly conservative in the undergarment department when I visit the doctor. I once made the mistake of assuming I wouldn’t need to strip down for a visit. I was seeing a neurologist and it didn’t occur to me that I would be required to wear the dreaded gown. I ended up prancing about in a matching hot pink lace bra and thong. I. Was. Mortified. The lesson: Always assume that you will be taking off your clothing.

At this point, I feel like I should address the following question: What if the doctor is attractive? Can I skip the conservative underwear rule?

I’m not suggesting that all patients wear granny panties, but I still think full coverage is the way to go. In my experience, the Dr. McDreamys and McSteamys of the world only live in TV Land. Most of the male doctors I’ve encountered have been roughly middle-aged, grumpy, and had bad hair. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news ladies. But honestly, would you really want to discuss all of your bodily imperfections with the golden Greek god of medicine? I don’t think so.


Ballett flats and flip-flops are great for a doctor visit. Easy on, easy off. Are you noticing a trend? Just make sure that said shoes aren’t too smelly. Nobody enjoys smelly feet.

Hair and Makeup:

Yes ladies, I have given some serious thought to appropriate and practical hair and makeup styling for the doctor’s office. Too much time on my hands? Too many doctor visits? I’ll let you be the judge. So, first, when planning you hair style, you need to consider two things: 1) You will probably be pulling clothing over your head. (Unless you wear a button-down. That could be a good idea.)  2) You will probably be laying on your back at some point.  Once you consider these things, you will know that your hair will likely get messed up and you don’t want to have to rest your head on the lump of a ponytail holder or a bun at the back of your head. Either wear your hair down and have a ponytail holder on hand for later, or wear a top-of-the-head ponytail a la Pebbles Flintstone. Remember, comfort is key.

This brings me to makeup. Some may ask, “why bother?” I’ll give you my reasons. I’m usually pretty tense before a doctor visit, the makeup ritual puts me in a zen state and keeps my mind busy. Instead of worrying about the impending tests and what they might find, I focus on my beauty ritual. I work in the familiar steps: conceal, contour, base, eyes, brows, cheeks, lips. Doing my makeup makes me feel like I’m donning my super suit. My scared, timid alter-ego is safely hidden away and the fearless hero emerges. It may seem silly, but it works for me.

I like to keep my makeup simple for these occasions. I’m not trying for glamour and I know things are likely to get smudged if I over do it. At times like these, natural is best. Soft tones, neutrals, light eye makeup, nude pink lips are my go-to look. It doesn’t hurt for a super hero to show a little vounerability in these situations.

So there you have it, Patient Chic. Even if you are not feeling fabulous, you can look fabulous and be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Sometimes that makes all the difference.





The Name of the Beast

My Anatomy, the way I see it anyway.

Today I began Phase One of Operation: Regain Control Over My Body. Since it seems to have developed a mind of its own, I think I’ve been letting my body walk all over me. Oh sure, I changed my hair and updated my wardrobe, but that more like putting a fresh coat of paint on a rotting house. It just covers up the real mess on the inside. It’s time to do something about the inside.

Let me explain. I have body issues. It has decided to stop working properly. A few years ago, I started to have some major pain issues. I would get these bolts of pain that would shoot from the top of my head to the base of my spine and there was a constant ache between my shoulder blades. Of course I went to the doctor and after several x-rays, the doc just shrugged and offered me pain killers and muscle relaxers. I was passed on to a physical therapist who helped a little, but buried me in medical bills. A few months later, I quit school and picked up multiple jobs to help cover my medical expenses.

Let’s flash forward a couple years to the present. I finally got back to school. A good design school. I’d been spending several hours at the drawing table and my computer. Gradually, my body turned against me. The pain between my shoulder blades came back. It slid down my spine to my lower back. Eventually, it branched out down my arms, sending searing shocks of pain down to my fingertips. My hands stopped working. They would frequently go numb and I couldn’t type or grip a pencil. I was frequently cutting out of class early because I couldn’t work through the pain. To say that I was terrified is putting in mildly.
I saw a different doctor. She again gave me pain medication, but she also sent me through several tests. First I saw an orthopedic doctor who poked and prodded and shot more x-rays. Then he charged me $700 to tell me that he didn’t know what was going on and he couldn’t help me. Next, I had some neuro tests performed. Once again, I was given a bill for several hundred dollars and a conclusion of, “I dunno.” From there, I was shoved into an MRI. I have to admit that the pictures were really cool. I made the tech show them to me when I was finished. But once again, nobody could figure out what was wrong with me.

Back to my doctor I went. It turns out that I have fibromyalgia, a weird neuro-muscular disease that causes chronic pain. The way I understand it, the pain center in my brain tends to be a bit of a drama queen and frequently overreacts to stimuli. You’d never hear a doctor explain it that way, but that’s the way I like to think of it. Anyway, I finally have the name of the demon. That’s half the battle, right? All of mythology seems to think so. Once you know something’s true name, you have power over it. I have power over this.

That still doesn’t make the battle any easier. I have to admit that I’m not as strong as I would like to be. It’s very hard for me to accept that the pain’s not going away and this is just something that I’m going to have to live with. I guess at first I was hoping for some miracle pill that I could take to keep the monster at bay. I’m currently on Cymbalta for the fibro, I have pain meds for when I need them, I have Ambien so I can sleep. I have to tell you that pills aren’t really my thing. I have no idea why people would do this stuff for fun. My pain meds turn me into a zombie so I only use them in extreme circumstances. I hate it.

I’m beginning to realize that I need to take a more active approach to helping myself. I’ve started walking around my neighborhood when it’s not blazing hot out. I just started a yoga class today, phase one of Operation: Reclaim Control Over My Body. I’ve read that exercise is supposed to help. At first it’s going to hurt like hell, but then things are supposed to get better. Right now I’m at the hurts-like-hell part, but I’m going to stick with it. My art, my writing, my love life is all worth fighting for. I’m tired of letting my body control me. Starting today, I’m taking over.

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