To the Doctor Who Spent 5 Minutes With Me and Diagnosed Me as Fat


It’s no shock to me that I’m overweight. I live with it every single day. It’s been creeping up on me for the last 15 years. Do you think I don’t cry myself to sleep at night after seeing myself in the mirror? Do you think I don’t see the people staring?

I’ve had more ups and downs than you can imagine. I’m sure many people take one look at me and just assume I’m lazy and all I do is eat. That’s not the case at all. I would think that someone with a medical degree could understand that. Sometimes it doesn’t just boil down to eating habits or exercise.

I’ve been on various medications for mental illness for 24 years; many of those medications have caused weight gain. Literally, the last thing I care about when I am in a depressive episode is taking care of myself. Nine times of out 10, I don’t even remember to eat at all. As it turns out, that’s just as bad as overeating. Who would’ve thought? I starved myself off and on starting at age 13 until roughly age 35. Even though it didn’t always work, I held onto it so tightly for fear of losing my last remaining crutch.

In 2014, I was finally diagnosed with sciatica. If you Google it, you get this definition: pain affecting the back, hip and outer side of the leg, caused by compression of a spinal nerve root in the lower back, often owing to degeneration of an intervertebral disk. That almost makes it sound like a cake-walk compared to what it really is. For more than I year, I was virtually bedridden and on a healthy dose of painkillers.

Our doctor thought it was related to some abnormalities in my hip that he saw after yet another MRI. He then sent us off in the direction of a “specialist.” At this point, I could hardly walk from our bedroom to our bathroom, I was in so much pain. Being overweight doesn’t help any of the procedures, or knee brace fittings or x-rays. Don’t even get me started on the procedure where they inject dye into my hips, and I screamed in both pain an embarrassment at the fact they needed more people than usual to do the procedure. Well, somebody had to hold the fat out of the way!

We went to the hip specialist and he had more x-rays taken. I explained the entire situation to his nurse, all the way from the nasty fall I took on our back-porch steps in 2012. I slipped on the ice and landed square on my back on the frozen wooden steps. I explained three to four other falls I had taken, and then I knew I was overweight, but the pain had never been like this. It was excruciating.

It was even more painful that we waited an hour for that doctor to come to talk to us. We told him who sent me and what he thought was wrong. He said, “Well, that is not what is wrong with you. This all relates to your sciatica, and you should strongly consider weight loss surgery. You know what I mean, right?”

With a lump in my throat, I nodded and he walked out. Five minutes was all it took him to decide that there couldn’t be anything else wrong, except my weight. Once again, I was given the heave-ho because it was either all in my head or it was only happening because of my weight.

I went home discouraged and sad. I vowed that whatever would happen next would be on my terms. No more embarrassing doctor visits, and no more trips to the ER.

It’s a sad commentary on our times that I’ve told my husband, “don’t tell them I’m
bipolar!” due to the standard reaction you get. Once the eyes glaze over and the condescending nod kicks in, you know you’re not going to get treatment.

It took me a few more months after the Five-Minute Clinic to get past the sheer shock of the whole experience. I decided that the side effects I was experiencing from the painkillers were too much to handle, so I began weaning myself off them. My primary care doctor agreed with that decision.

I took some time to try to figure things out. I watched documentaries, I read articles and I learned more about food and where it came from. I learned that I needed to start eating to live, not living to eat. I started a new yoga plan, and I was doing better. I was still in pain, but it was tolerable. I did start to lose weight, and I was feeling better. I will admit that during a particularly unbearable bout of depression, I gave up on taking care of me again, but I know what needs to be done, and I know I can do it.

What really makes me angry are the tears I’ve shed over that doctor that couldn’t be bothered to diagnose me with anything other than being fat. Let it be clear, he might have started the switch in my brain that made me realize I would never be taken seriously; but it was me who sought the solutions.

I still have good days and bad days, and I expect I always will. Weight loss is still a struggle for me, but it’s not something I am unfamiliar with. I’ve battled this demon since I was a chubby kid shopping in the “husky” department at Sears for school clothes. At least now I know what I need to do. It would have been nice to have a medical professional figure this out a long time ago, but that’s the way the rice cake crumbles, I suppose.

So, to the doctor that spent five minutes in the room with me, told me I was fat, and walked out, thanks. Thanks for making me so angry at you that I made the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I started to care of myself for once.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

When You Start Believing the Stigma of Mental Illness

My former roommate prompted this post. She put me down repeatedly and called me weak for doing possibly the strongest thing I’ve ever done — getting help. If you think mental illness doesn’t have a stigma, then you might be contributing to it. Think about it — words like “psychotic” are spat out like poison. [...]

5 Things to Do When You're Worried About a Friend's Mental Health

I often run student workshops on a range of issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing.  Regardless of the precise topic, the most common question students ask me is: “What should I do if I’m worried a friend has a mental health issue?” Perhaps it’s something you’re wondering about, or you’d like to be [...]

22 Messages for People Who Think They 'Don't Deserve' Therapy

Sometimes the first step is the hardest. A step towards acceptance. A step towards treatment. A step towards recovery. When you live with a mental illness, often times that step involves therapy. But therapy can be a scary concept, especially if the same voice in your head that’s fueling your mental illness is saying you don’t [...]

When the Cause of My Symptoms Was Literally ‘All in My Head'

I’ve got my fair share of labels and I am often very honest and open about them and what they do to me. But I haven’t opened up about one of my diagnoses. Why? Like most people with a somatoform disorder, I have been too embarrassed, even ashamed to admit it. When I was 17 [...]