Too often I see videos of my chronically ill friends crying in the car after leaving a doctors appointment, frustrated, angry, upset, and hopeless because they were ignored and invalidated yet again. I love that they show the raw reality of what often happens when you have chronic illness but I hate that we have all experienced being ignored and invalidated by doctors when we just want an explanation and some help managing symptoms.
We all grew up thinking that if something was wrong, we could go to the doctor, they would listen and provide treatment. This is not our reality. Healthy people sometimes can’t imagine that this could be true and that adds to the disbelief and stigma that we face. I had no idea that it was possible to wake up sick one day and never get better. I had no idea that doctors would try to blame symptoms on my mental health, tell me that my labs were fine so I couldn’t possibly be feeling fatigued, tell me that my pain couldn’t be that bad and just to be concerned if it caused nausea and vomiting. I could go on and on.
It has taken years of explaining symptoms and seeing doctors to find one that actually listens – and that’s only available to me because of my privilege as a middle-class, white woman with decent health insurance. 3+ years for hypothyroidism (that clearly showed up on labs), 10+ years for endometriosis, I could go on. Not everyone has the resources to continue searching for one. I acknowledge my privilege and how it shapes the way I experience these issues and I would love to learn from any friends from marginalized groups about how your identities shape your experience.
Patients that are more likely to be disbelieved and ignored are also more likely to not have access to other doctors for a second opinion or alternative treatments. Race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, weight, other diagnoses, and many other factors (and their intersections) are at play here. It needs to stop.
All we ask is for someone to listen, BELIEVE US, and offer a possible explanation and treatment options to ease it manage the symptoms. We deserve to be heard and we deserve to be believed. It’s ridiculous that the doctor see my tears and frustration as confirmation that I’m hysterical, not that as a sign that they aren’t doing their job.
If you are frustrated during a doctors appointment, let it be known. If you are feeling hopeless after being ignored yet again, let the tears flow. If you want to scream in the car, let it out. If you want to vent after experiencing this, drop a comment or message me on instagram @invisiblyillfox. We shouldn’t leave a doctors appointment feeling this way, but that’s on them, not on you.