Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
The Snarky Voice

The Snarky Voice

In my seven years as a “professional patient,” I’ve had more than my fair share of bad experiences with medical professionals. I once had a psychologist tell me that I was making myself sick. I’ve had physical therapists give up on me after a few weeks with no improvements. I’ve had nurses insist I choose a number on their numerical pain scale – and then not believe my honest answers.

These experiences range in severity from almost funny to extremely frustrating to downright emotionally damaging. But they all have one thing in common: they have made it difficult for me to keep an open mind when meeting new medical providers.

Recently I have been dealing with some pretty severe neck pain right at the base of my skull. After a few weeks of applying heat and stretching and extra NSAIDs with no improvement, I finally broke down and emailed my rheumatologist to see what he suggested. He asked me to try PT, so this morning I met a brand new physical therapist.

She was perfectly nice – all in all it was not a bad experience. In fact, I think my neck even feels a bit better! But throughout the whole appointment I just couldn’t seem to quiet the “snarky voice” in my head.

It started with the paperwork. There was a drawing of a person, front and back. “Please mark the appropriate area of the diagram to show the location of your current symptoms.” I knew I was only there for my neck, but the snarky voice said: Can I just circle the entire person? That would probably be more accurate!

Then “List the medications you are now taking.” Half an inch of space isn’t going to be enough room for that!! Do you want me to start with the $10,000 biologic medication or the weekly chemo drugs? The steroids? The NSAIDs? The pain killers? The anti-depressants? Can I get an extra sheet of paper?

And finally “Please rate your Pain Level, with 0 being none and 10 being the worst.” My very favorite question of all time!! If I mark 8 and I’m not crying on the floor, will you even believe me? If I smile or make a joke will you think I’m not in pain?

Then I met the therapist and attempted to explain my difficulty quantifying – or even identifying – my own pain. I tried to put into words the vast amount of effort I spend ignoring my pain on a regular basis, just so it won’t send my life into a downward spiral. I think she hears me. Does she actually hear me? I think she understands. Does she actually understand? Without chronic pain herself can she possibly understand?

After the exam and some adjustments and stretches, she sends me out to her assistant to learn some strengthening exercises. One of the exercises involves pushing my head against my hand to work on the neck muscles. I tell him that isn’t going to work for me because of the pain in my wrists. He is puzzled for a while. Have you never treated someone with more than one issue? Chronic pain? Pain all over the body? Eventually he comes up with an acceptable modification.

The appointment ends with heat and electrical stimulation. The therapist tells me that she would like me to come twice a week. How am I supposed to accomplish that? I’m already using my very limited childcare time to be here when I really ought to be working so I can pay my medical bills. Can I bring my babies to the appointment with me and let them run around? I make a follow up appointment.

On the way out, the receptionist tells me that my insurance won’t cover any physical therapy until my whole deductible is paid. Of course they won’t. Why would my insurance be helpful and supportive of my health without me paying zillions of dollars?

The snarky voice wasn’t interested in keeping an open mind or giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. But here’s the thing: the snarky voice isn’t just being negative or difficult. The snarky voice is a defense mechanism I’ve developed based on my past experiences. It is there to fight and protect me, steeling me for the chance that this might be yet another bad experience. Giving me the strength to shake it off if it is.

I actually appreciate my snarky voice – but I don’t let it control me. I hear what it has to say in my head, and occasionally I repeat it to my husband and we both have a good laugh. I use the snarky voice to vent the fear and frustration that comes with dealing with a chronic illness in a very burdensome health care system. But I try not to let the snarky voice make judgments in advance. Despite what the snarky voice might be saying in my head, I do honestly try to keep an open mind when meeting new healthcare providers.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    I have always been a sarcastic person so I have a lot of difficulty controlling my “snarky voice”. Thankfully, people know me pretty well by now to identify it.

    I probably should try and reign myself in but it’s one of the few ways I stay positive!

    Great article 🙂

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    Excellent article. I had one doctor tell me to get exercise, lose weight and Spring is coming, you’ll feel better. I am 4’10, weigh 120lbs and was not considered over weight, but this doctor had a date and was in a hurry to get out of the office. This was before RA and I’m so glad the doctor I have now is not like that. Also thankful for all of you, sorry that we have to go through this, but it helps to read the comments. Bless you all.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the kind comments MaryB and glad to hear you find the information here helpful. Also glad you have finally found a doctor you are happy with. In case you need to do any type of doctor search in the future, thought you might be interested in this article from one of our contributors on finding excellent doctors: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/finding-excellent-doctors/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    This snarky voice article is tremendous. SO TRUE!!!!! I especially like when they give you a pain scale of 1-10. When I tell them 125 the look is sadly funny, and I’m sure you will know what I mean.
    I want to believe these are people who went into this wanting to help and instead they do damage.
    I read an article years ago that said that when you go to a new dr, you should interview them. That has worked for me so far. If they don’t want to be questioned, run!! After all, they work for us. Thank you again for this web site. I appreciate being with people who DO understand!! Have a good day.

  • Charles V
    4 years ago

    This article was one of the very best I have ever read, along with the responses. I laughed after reading about the insurance paying zillions of dollars, and circling the entire body for what hurts. Thanks for making my morning that much better. Knowing I am not alone in dealing with the constant pain and ridiculously uncaring providers. It is very hard some days to cope, but perseverance is key, not letting it get me down. Thanks to all.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    I’m really glad you enjoyed the article, Charles! We have to laugh!! ~;o) Hang in there!
    ~Mariah~

  • Anita
    4 years ago

    Ah, the snarky voice. Mine comes out to play when dealing with medical professionals who start in with the patronizing and condescending attitude. I control that by switching to other people. I have enough stress to deal with without those who are supposed to be helping, adding to the problem instead. I’ve learned that not all medical people appreciate those of us who choose to keep well-informed and involved in our own health care.

    Snarky Voice also really hates when doctors are stingy with the pain meds. I had one instance where a doctor refused to give me the prescription cough meds (which contain codeine)that I needed for bronchitis, ignoring that I have a long history of annual bouts with it and I know what works and what doesn’t. Heck, you can buy codeine over the counter in Canada,
    Australia, and other places, but here, they practically accuse you of being a drug addict if you ask for it.

    I think Snarky Voice is a great outlet for those of us who have to deal with all this nonsense on a daily basis. It certainly helps keep me sane 🙂

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Anita ~ I agree that Snarky Voice hates it when we are made to feel like drug seekers. I would gladly give up all the drugs if it didn’t hurt so much! But, yes, at least laughing a little helps keep me sane too! Hang in there!
    ~Mariah~

  • Cassandra Bird
    4 years ago

    I blame it wholly on the snarky voice and attitude so many greet us with. I wonder why can’t they see the pain I’m in. The difference in me since getting RA is literally huge. Can they not tell how genuinely ill and in pain we are? I cannot understand why people work in the healthcare profession and yet don’t seem to want to heal sick people. Best wishes. Wish I could let that snarky voice out sometimes! I’m the one that gets ignored because I don’t state how bad it really is x

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Cassandra ~
    I totally understand how hard it is to state how bad things really are sometimes. It is important for all of us to figure out how to advocate for ourselves, though lots of times it is easier said than done. I hope that you are able to find at least some healthcare professionals that you can connect with – once you find your team hang on to them for dear life!
    ~Mariah~

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    We have to be our own best advocate. I really have found a way to have some control. When I go in for an appt. and the nurse calls me then takes off at about 80 miles an hours down the hall, I go at my own speed, which is not fast. I refuse to ever try to keep up with anyone ever again, cause more pain to myself just because they don’t care, understand or any other nonsense reason.
    If it takes me 3 seconds longer so be it. I’ll get there.
    I do have to brag about 5 doctors I have in 5 different specialties. They are caring compassionate people and I am truly blessed and appreciate having them. They don’t rush!!

  • elisee55
    4 years ago

    The voice that repeats itself in my head that gives me energy to advocate for myself gets very snarky some days. I was smiling when I read this article. Circle the whole person? Did that one time! You want me to what? I left my physiotherapy balance class injured because the back ‘strengthening’ aggravated my facet joints so much I could hardly walk. And why are there signs all over medical offices stating that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated? It makes a person feel like you will get labeled if that snarky voice ever sneaks its way past my lips….. And of course it rarely does.

    Btw I liked the photocopied list of meds idea. I recently filled out an application for disability benefits that had almost enough room for the list of my meds. I guess at least they recognized that people applying for benefits based on a severe and prolonged disability might have a significant list of meds they are on.

    The snarky voice is such a good way to view this. A touch of humor dry brushed onto a not so nice situation…

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    Perfect Elise. Thank you for your wonderful comments.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Elise~
    Sometimes we have to laugh or we’ll cry, right? ~;o)
    ~Mariah~

  • Angela Lundberg
    4 years ago

    Great article, Mariah! I totally relate to all of it. Usually my Snarky Voice emerges moreso after my appointments. During the appointment I’m usually too tired after going through all of the crap that it took me to get there (tons of different orthopedic specialists, several different physical therapists). I, too, try hard to keep an open mind even when I feel like being a huge smart-aleck sometimes. And I think that’s just fine. 🙂

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hey Angela ~
    It can be so hard to keep an open mind, especially after previous bad experiences and – as you mention – all the crap it took to get there!
    ~Mariah~

  • Carla Kienast
    4 years ago

    Mariah: Instead of pushing your head against your hand, why don’t you just beat your head against the wall instead? Sheesh. I’m not sure that’s a snarky voice as opposed to the voice of reason. (One thing I do is take a printed list of all my meds and past surgeries and just give it to them. Two lines isn’t enough for me, either …)

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hahah, Carla! That does occasionally sound more efficient! But a printed list is a great idea!
    ~Mariah~

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    I like the list too, but do they actually pay attention to it? Worth a try.

  • Poll