Story #9: Asserting Myself: Learning To Not Always Run Away

Donna Gateley
4 min readJun 26, 2020

For years, I had only one option when facing conflict: run away. This is not always a bad solution, but I also knew sometimes it would have been much better to stand up for myself. Going to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), I learned the importance of choosing the right time to stick up for myself instead of running, and the importance of being brave enough to do so.

I successfully did so, and am very proud of myself!

My Psychiatrist had ordered blood and urine tests for me. Finding some of the results out of range, he advised me to talk to my family doctor. So I made the appointment with my family doctor, and printed out a copy of the blood and urine test results, highlighting the out of range numbers. I also had the list of other things I wanted to cover in the appointment, including an itchy mole and toenail fungus.

I was waiting in the little exam room when the doctor came in. He was very gruff, said “Hi” in a mad way and walked to the sink reading my papers. I didn’t think much of it because although he is usually gruff, he is a good doctor. Then he said in a disgusted way “I can’t help with these two things. You must see a podiatrist (fungus on toenails) and a dermatologist (itchy mole).” I said, okay, wondering what he was so mad about.

THEN he started scolding and berating me. “Why did that psychiatrist order these specific blood tests? That is MY job.” That’s when my mind went blank, as it usually did in conflict. My first reaction was running — to say “I’m out of here” and go find another doctor. But thanks to my IOP, I took some deep breaths and started getting my thinking going again while he was fussing and fuming. So I replied “My psychiatrist needed to see that there were no major problems with me while he is treating me with 3 medications. And since it has been a year since I had my blood work done, he ordered it.”

My doctor looked up my last blood test and saw it had been a year, and said “Oh.” Then he said “But what can he do with this blood test? He can’t tell you why these numbers are out of range!” I calmly replied “He told me to come to you.”

My doctor said “GREAT! He makes a mess with these tests, and then throws it at me and says, Here, you fix it!” All this time I continue deep breathing, determined not to back off and run away. So I replied “Yes, he referred me to you, just like you just referred me to a podiatrist and a dermatologist.” My doctor sputtered a bit but couldn’t think of a reply to that.

So he said “This is not under the purview of your psychiatrist, he stepped outside of his job responsibility.” I was thinking hard how to respond to this, then I said “Yes, he is an overachiever. I’d much prefer working with an overachiever than an underachiever.”

Finally it must have hit my doctor how ridiculous he was being, because suddenly he changed his tone and attitude and started talking to me with respect, getting back to helping me solve my health problems in his usual way. Wow, I did it! Sticking up for what I knew was right, and more than right, very useful to me, worked! By the time the appointment finished, he was even talking kindly AND respectfully and did his usual good job. Thank you IOP program for helping me to handle this in the best way, instead of my old go-to of simply running away from the conflict.

LESSON LEARNED: Facing conflict, I now have 2 options AND a process! First, the process. Take some deep breaths and get my brain unstuck from brain-freeze before choosing a response. Then I can decide rationally between TWO options: (1) Staying and being assertive OR (2) running away.

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Have a good week!

— Donna Gateley



Donna Gateley

I like to write about my experiences, family history, family stories, raising a Deaf, special-needs child, Sign Language, Cued Speech, and Lessons I’ve learned.