Far too often grappling with a chronic illness is a fight not only for your health but also for your dignity. Many times the medical community can unintentionally compound the pain of those suffering by minimizing their experience or even invalidating them entirely. It can take years or even decades for some patients to get an answer to what is plaguing them, and for some the diagnosis never comes at all. Here are some actual responses I have encountered from doctors in my 15 year journey to getting my diagnosis of Lyme disease.
“Is it possible you’re feeling depressed from all the weight you’ve put on this year?”
Earlier this year when my symptoms seemed to be worsening with greater intensity than ever before, I went back to the drawing board so to speak and decided to pursue fresh eyes on my case. One of the doctors I visited listened for a couple minutes as I described my worsening pain and fatigue and how totally disabling they had become, and offered this remark in response. I had mentioned when describing my concerns that I had put on 30 lbs in the course of 6 months, and I had intended to offer that as a symptom pointing to the seriousness of my worsening condition. For the rest of the appointment this doctor consistently circled back to my weight not as a symptom, but in his opinion the root cause of all of my health issues. When I asked about further testing for Lyme disease, I was met with questions about my diet. When I described my increased dependence on my cane, I was questioned about my exercise routine. I left the appointment with handouts on why this doctor believed most everyone should maintain a vegan diet (despite the fact my history of seizures requires a high protein diet to manage, as noted by my neurologist right there in my chart,) a referral to a nutritionist, and a prescription for antidepressants he said could help me “jumpstart” my efforts to get up and moving more. Sadly, this is a common story in medicine today. Patients with higher BMIs are often written off as inherently unhealthy, and their symptoms attributed simply to poor diet and lifestyle choices rather than considering their weight may itself be a symptom of a larger underlying problem. Because of the additional shame of feeling blamed not only for their weight management issues but their worsening health as well, overweight patients are more likely to stop pursuing answers entirely, as its easier to avoid the uncomfortable and fruitless appointments rather than continue to be subjected to the relentless suggestions their weight is the real problem.
“Sometimes miscarriages simply happen. It’s the body’s natural way of stopping a pregnancy that would likely not have been viable for one reason or another. When they happen early, there usually isn’t a real ’cause’ other than that.”
To date I have had a total of 7 miscarriages, most all of them in early pregnancy. I was eventually able to have a couple doctors consider more serious possible root causes, but only after that number began to climb, and more often than not my concerns were met with a regular insistence that “these things happen.” I’ve had more statistics about the commonality of miscarriage offered to me than I can possibly recount. Pregnancy loss is an emotional experience in and of itself, and having multiple unexplained miscarriages adds an additional dimension of confusion, guilt, and anxiety to grapple with. In the end my pregnancies were marked as “high risk” because of my history of …