I stand before you and tell you that I am not trying to be a bother, I am not exaggerating my pain. I am tired and I am sore.
But like a person who stands on trial, I feel as though I need to sit here and plea my case in order to convince you that I am not guilty of lying, but I am however
I am a victim of patient shaming, and yes, that is a thing!
Whilst I walk out of your office, you stand there with other doctors chatting, chatting with that judgmental smirk on your face and you all turn your head whilst looking at me. Assuming that I am “another drug addict just looking for drugs” or “another women who is making herself sick with depression” even though you very well know with your degree that hangs on your office wall that depression is a chemical imbalance of the brain. But I am not a drug addict, nor am I sick because I am depressed. I am a mother so you assume I am just tired or “fed up”.
10 minutes you spent telling me that I need to exercise more, that happiness is a choice” and if I “think happy I will feel better”. Those 10 minutes spent criticising me and blaming my symptoms on my weight, eating habits, the fact I am an overworked mother, and even that doctor who told me that I don’t do enough cardio, need to do yoga and to drink more water like it will magically take away my pain. Those 10 minuets. Those 10 minuets spent finding excuses for my symptoms and putting them down to an unlikely cause could very well have been 10 minutes spent telling me truthfully that you’re not sure what is wrong with me whilst also reassuring that me that you will investigate and refer me to specialist to further help me. You could have referred me to see a psychologist to gain extra support after I bravely told you that I feel like I am failing my children & husband due to my symptoms. You could have referred me to see a specialist to investigate my chronic pain. You could have even squeezed in enough time to print a blood test referral form, in only those 10 minutes.
And when I say 10 minutes I really mean 5 minuets, you’re too busy rushing your patients out the door so that you can make an extra buck.
I didn’t even have time to tell you everything I wanted to say, nor did I have time to ask you all of the questions that I wanted to ask.
You made your judgment the second you called my name to come into your office. I didn’t come to you and ask for drugs. In fact, Why do you jump to that conclusion the second I told you I have pain? I didn’t want pain medication to mask the pain, I wanted to know why I was having pain and I wanted to know what was wrong with me. I didn’t want medication, I wanted to fix the issue and was begging to find ways to manage the pain, but you simply don’t care.
I didn’t come to you to tell me that I am overweight or underweight , I didn’t come to you for you to tell me that I am just an exhausted mother or that I am just hormonal, I didn’t come to you so that you can tell me that I am depressed or just need rest and more sleep. I came to you for support and help, I came to you in pure exhaustion (and not because I am a mother, not because I am overworked and not because I am depressed ) I came to you in fear and I came to you in tears. I was scared, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And you, the doctor, were the only one I could go to for answers and help.
You didn’t do any test, you did however tell me that I was too young to have any serious health conditions and that I only had a kidney infection. But I know that’s not the only reason you dismissed me. You categorised me, you stereotyped me, and you put me into the “too hard basket”.
You didn’t know what was wrong, it wasn’t black and white for you. I was in that grey area in-between, it was easier for you to assume that my complaints of pain and flood of tears were due to me being mentally unwell, unfit, or a straight up drug seeker or liar.
It was far more easier to make up these ridiculous reasons for my symptoms rather than to admit that you didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t have the flu or something common that you could swiftly fix. So you handed me antibiotics for an infection that wasn’t even there. You told me to drink water, to exercise more, to meditate, and to have someone mind my children so that I can have some time to myself . You rushed me out the door so that you could see your next patient, who I am guessing you will treat just as poorly as you did to myself and just as horribly as the one before me too.
I left your office in more tears than before I walked in. In-fact, I have left many doctors offices in tears. Why do you continue your job when you have lost your passion for your work? Need I remind you that our lives are in your hands? Our lives are in the hands of a doctor who has lost their compassion, empathy, drive, motivation, and care. Sadly, this story is all too common for those who suffer complex illnesses.
And for a moment there, I believed you. I am not a doctor, therefore you must know more about my body than I do, right?
“Maybe I am just depressed like he said I was, maybe the pain I feel isn’t real ? Maybe my kids are sucking the life out of me? Maybe my hormones are playing tricks on me ? Maybe I am imagining this….
So I kept pushing myself and trying my best to ignore the pain that I was in. I was drinking so much water that I was going to toilet every 10 minuets, I was swallowing vitamin after vitamin thinking this would help. I was exercising, eating healthy, and taking breaks. I tried to ignore everything that I felt, very well convinced and believing that the pain I felt was in my head. But ignoring my pain and “ just pushing through” like you suggested, only made my symptoms excruciating worse. I tried everything you said believing that everything I felt was due to depression.
But nothing you told me to do worked, I grew a little sadder, I grew increasingly frustrated and I finally did grow… anxious.
I spent years of living with debilitating symptoms that were getting worse as the days passed by. These painful and debilitating symptoms eventually effected my work, my home life, and my relationships.
But you, ”the doctor” just didn’t care.
You ignored my swelling, you ignored the fevers, you ignored my pain, and you ignored everything even though it was clear I was getting worse! Yet, time after time I was dismissed and handed more antibiotics for “just another kidney infection” or some sort of made-up infection/mental illness diagnoses. I came to you for help, I came to many other doctors for help, but what do I do when the only person who can help, simply does not care?
I was defeated.
Years passed before I met a good doctor, and at this point in my life I was lower than rock bottom, the lowest I have ever been. Sometimes I felt that I was better off dead than alive. I deeply felt that my family and my children were better off without me, I was useless and I was a burden. What was the point of being here on this earth when I was not living? I was and only by a thread, surviving.
And I finally was….. depressed.
I was sitting in the waiting room when a new Doctor called my name, I was anxious whilst she guided me to her office from the waiting room. She asked “how can I help you” and I will never forget this day. All of a sudden I broke down crying the second she asked how can she help. I then cried even more thinking to myself “Oh My God, stop crying! She’s going to think you’re just depressed too!” But I couldn’t hold back my tears. I cried whilst telling her that “ I just want stronger antidepressants to help me, I can’t live like this anymore, If I am making myself sick because I am depressed PLEASE just give me something to fix it!”
She had a glow within her smile, a smile that automatically makes you feel at ease. I could feel her care and empathy. She didn’t interrupt me while I was talking, she just sat there and she listened.
Rather than to ignore me, she checked my pulse, blood pressure and temperature. Checking these things was something the other doctors didn’t bother to do after my first few visits because my young age meant “nothing serious could be wrong”. The ones who did check my vital signs told me that my blood pressure, heart rate and temperature was high because I was depressed and anxious.
But this doctor was different. My blood pressure and heart rate was yet again high and I also had a temperature. She saw my file on her screen and she scrunched her nose up when she noticed how many times I was given antibiotics for “kidney infections”. She asked me why no one did further testing after the previous ones were close to normal yet my symptoms were still growing worse. She looked at me and smiled, in a way, it was like she was trying not to laugh.
She said these words, words that I will never forget, words that automatically made me feel at ease and felt like a weight had instantly been lifted. Words that finally gave me something no other doctor did… HOPE.
“Darling, You’re not sick because you’re depressed, you’re depressed because you are sick”
She treated me like a human being. She didn’t rush me out the door, she asked me a large list of questions, she ordered for further and more extensive blood work and investigated until she got her answers. She was irritated when questioning why I had so many “kidney infections” and why not even one doctor investigated to work out why these infections were not going.
She would giggle sometimes when she told me that I was a challenge, but my symptoms being a challenge to figure out for her did not stop her from helping, in-fact, I think that is what drove her to help me. She didn’t know what was wrong with me so she worked her ass off to figure it out. She was just as curious as I was in finding out what on earth was wrong with me. She did countless blood test that were not your standard type.
And It wasn’t long after that I was finally sitting in a specialist waiting room.
I now have two amazing Doctors along with my one specialist who specialises in complex cases like mine. You see, it took 1 doctor to care and 1 doctor to investigate. This 1 doctor caring and believing in me resulted in a domino effect of other doctors listening and finally helping. These 3 doctors cared enough to investigate, they were honest with me, and rather than to ignore me or assume that I am seeking drugs, rather than to dismiss my pain or make irrational causes for my pain because they simply didn’t know what was wrong, rather than to send me home with ZERO help, they investigated to find the cause of my issues and they supported me emotionally through the process of investigating. It took 10 seconds to print off a referral, it took another 5 seconds to print out an extensive blood test form, and only 2 days for the results to come back.
These blood test results strongly indicated that something was not quite right within my body and my immune system. If only you and all of the other doctors did the more extensive blood test, if only you had listened, if only you had cared. But I didn’t look the part did I?
I may have looked okay on the outside, but inside, I was NOT okay at all. I was seriously sick! And you should have known this, you should know that not all sicknesses are visible. You looked straight over the facts and judged my complaints as fake, simply based on having a young age?!
If only you cared enough to ask more questions, if only you didn’t judge me and stereotype me. If only you did that simple blood test within those 5 rushed minutes, you would have known that I was sick. Terribly sick, and maybe it would not have gotten as bas as it did had you helped me all those years ago! The antibiotics you gave me for those “kidney infections” were doing me harm. I was peeing out blood as you knew, yet you ignored. I was not urinating blood because I had a year long infection. I was not having pelvic pain and bleeding due to “a bad period”. I was not having headaches due to stress. I was NEVER in pain due to any mental or emotional cause! You would have known that if you just took the time to investigate.
Here is only a short list of a few issues I had going on in my body…
And a lot more other symptoms/illnesses not mentioned above.
Every single symptom had an answer!
Majority of my conditions were caused by having lupus, and the other conditions were preexisting conditions that I didn’t know I had thanks to you.
I had lumps cut out of my neck because my lymph nodes were enlarged, I had surgery on my bowels, bladder and pelvic area.
At my “young age” I also needed a full hysterectomy due to cervical cancer cells and server endometriosis.
I was on steroids, pain killers, anti-inflammatories, 2 different types of chemotherapeutic medications to suppress my overactive immune system, not to mention the long list of other medications to help treat and manage my conditions. I have had over 10 surgeries, too many treatments, injections and hospital stays to count, and that’s not including the 22 lumber punctures that I have painfully had in order to relieve the fluid on my brain and behind my optic nerves.
I lost my hair due to the medications, some of them made me feel sick to my stomach, some of them made me put on weight. BUT, I was finally functioning and on my path to healing. Medications for complex illnesses like mine are trial and error, it is a journey of constant changes.
Although I wasn’t well enough to work, I was able to move a little easier and I was able to be the mother that I wanted to be again. I suddenly felt free mentally because I knew that I was finally heard. I had doctors who believed in me, I had doctors who cared, I had doctors who validated my pain, who investigated, who supported me and who respected me. I finally had somewhere safe that I could go to gain the support that I so desperately needed.
And that is all I ever needed, one doctor to do their job properly. One doctor to care enough to listen. That one doctor to not give up the second they are unsure what is wrong.
So to all the doctors who dismissed me, the ones who judged me the second they found out I was a young mum, the ones who told me I am “just depressed” and exhausted from motherhood, the ones who told me I needed to exercise and meditate, especially to the ones who refused to do further test and told me that I’m too young to have anything serious wrong with me and the ones who’s handed me antibiotics for infections I never had.
To the Doctors who treat their patients less than human. Next time you have a patient come to you in tears, scared and unsure what is happening to their body.
Listen! Care! Investigate!
Respect that your patients know their bodies, and when they say something doesn’t feel right, believe them. If you can’t spend 10 minuets of your day helping a patient, then you don’t deserve the responsibility of being a doctor.
Your job is to help your patients, not ignore them.
Our Lives Are In YOUR Hands
Your negligence very well could be the difference between life and death.
There has been too many people take their own life due to living with undiagnosed chronic pain, simply because a doctor wouldn’t help them. And when YOU, the doctor doesn’t believe and help, the next doctors will take your report into consideration and the cycle of zero support continues. Simply based on YOU and that report/note that you typed on your patients file. Understand that your words and reports make a significant difference to your patients care. I understand that you’re tired, I know that you see a lot of patients, I know you have people who abuse medication and come to you for all sorts of other wrong doings, but I am not them. I do not deserve to suffer for someone else’s mistakes, I do not deserve to suffer because you have lost your passion, I do not deserve to suffer because of your ignorance. Do not place me in a category before you hear me, and God dammit, investigate even when in doubt!
Hate to overwrite your degree Doc, but no-one, and yes, not even you the doctor, knows my body more than I do!!!
The ones who don’t turn away the mysterious symptoms and complex patients, the ones who show empathy and support. Especially the ones who break that doctor code and ignore the previous doctors notes and investigates against the previous doctors professional opinion.
Thank you for taking that leap of faith. Thank you for ignoring that note that says I am drug seeking or just depressed. Thank you for giving hope to those who need it most. Thank you for being there when no one else was. Thank you for believing in your patients, and thank you for doing your job and for showing other doctors how to do it right!
I can promise you that in a world full of neglectful doctors who have lost their passion, your empathy and care does not go unnoticed. You give one thing to your patients that holds more value than you can imagine …. HOPE
The impact your care and compassion make is indescribable. And above everything else, I need you to know….