Doctors Blame Medical Problems on Stress


The first time I experienced an excruciating headache on the left side of my head, it was scary and unbearable, but I refused to go to the hospital. When it progressed to me becoming unresponsive multiple times, not being able to really move the right side of my body, being numb, tingly, nauseous and more, someone called 911 for me, as it happened in the college library. I tried to fight the paramedics about going to the hospital. I wanted to sign a refusal and just go back to my apartment. Because I was confused, I don’t believe I was mentally competent enough to make such a decision. They accused me of faking it all, “because if I actually went unconscious, I would have fallen out of my wheelchair,” according to a witness.

As it turns out, my blood pressure was pretty low, especially when I sat up or attempted to stand, which is a classic symptom of vasovagal syncope, a condition I’ve had a history with from a young age. At the hospital, the neurologists would insist, “Squeeze harder, push harder,” when assessing my strength, even though I was giving it my all. I told them that, and they rolled their eyes.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with migraines with aura. In short, the symptoms I was experiencing had a neurological origin, but the migraines are very real. I believe some doctors stick labels on patients when they don’t fully understand what is going on. Ironically, migraines with aura fits the whole picture perfectly except for one symptom, but I was still told to see a psychiatrist and psychologist.

While stress is known to exacerbate any and all medical problems, it is dangerous to blame everything as stress. I would hate to be that doctor going through a medical malpractice suit because he or she missed something serious but treatable and the patient had a poor outcome.

I was told that maybe I didn’t handle stress as well as everyone thought I did, which was a crushing blow to my fragile mental state at the time. For years, I have been working on perfecting biofeedback, deep breathing, mindfulness, stretching, exercising and more to manage pain and stress. Initially, I was embarrassed to admit it. I felt like it was my fault, that I should be able to control it, but the reality is I can’t.

For those who’ve been told by doctors that your symptoms are “all in your head,” I just want one doctor to look at me and say, “No, this is not in your head and we will figure this out.” Just one doctor. Medicine has shown us that stress exacerbates anything and everything, but it doesn’t cause everything. Unfortunately, this is a concept not all doctors seem to understand. If they can’t find an organic cause, it must be stress. I encourage you to never, ever give up. I know it’s hard when people don’t believe your symptoms, but keep the faith. It has to get better someday.

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