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To People With Invisible Illnesses, From a Paramedic Who Didn't Believe You

I’ve been a paramedic on and off for 10 years now. I’ve seen the good and¬†the bad — probably more bad than good, but I’ve opened my eyes to¬†something different.

I’ve seen people in Facebook groups post about how¬†health care professionals treat people with invisible illnesses poorly because¬†they don’t understand. They’re called¬†fakers, drug seekers or attention¬†seekers. I used to be one of those people.¬†

When you’re a new EMT or paramedic, all you want to do is fit in. You¬†want to mesh with your partner and get along. You may get matched up with¬†an FTO (field training officer) who’s been on the road one year too long.¬†They’re burned out, and to them, every patient is another call away from their¬†nap or TV show.¬†

Unfortunately, I became that medic.¬†If¬†someone said he or she¬†had fibromyalgia, for example, I assumed that person was a¬†drug seeker. I thought everyone¬†could walk to the ambulance.¬†If you didn’t have a visible illness, I¬†treated you like crap. ‚ÄúC’mon, you can walk,‚ÄĚ I’d say.¬†

It wasn’t until my own health began to decline and I needed help that I began to understand. I went from¬†doctor to¬†doctor trying to explain what the problem was. They looked at me like a¬†faker. ‚ÄúI don’t know what’s wrong with you,¬†but here’s a depression medication,” I heard. “Try that because it’s in your head.‚ÄĚ

I now understand what my patients were going through. I didn’t realize how¬†demeaning it was to be treated like that. I just wanted to fit in with my¬†fellow co-workers.¬†

I’m sorry to those who I treated poorly. I understand now. I don’t work the¬†road anymore, but I still see it in the hospital. I catch myself every once in¬†a while making comments with my co-workers, but I stop myself.

What we need is a¬†little compassion, and that’s something that isn’t¬†taught in med school. I wish more awareness existed.¬†So please continue to educate¬†the medics out there. We really do love to¬†learn.