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When Doctors Tell Me, 'I've Seen Worse'

Why any doctor uses these words when speaking to a patient with chronic illness, I will never know. This phrase enrages me more than anything, mostly because of the context I’ve heard it used in. I’ve never had a doctor say it to me to help calm me down, for example, “This cut isn’t as bad as it feels, I’ve seen worse, you will make a full recovery, we won’t have to amputate your finger.” That’s not the context I’m referring to.

I’m referring to when I am pleading my case to a doctor in a doctor’s office during an appointment that lasts 15 minutes if I am lucky, when I am trying to convince him/her to take me seriously. I cannot live like this: in constant pain, unable to eat, and continuously dropping weight. I feel like I am begging for help. It takes every ounce of energy I have to plead my case in the hopes that I can convince them something else needs to be done to help me. I explain my history as thoroughly as I can and make it clear that I am not fabricating this. Just because all of the tests and procedures have not found any physical disease does not mean my body is not screaming in pain. I am not putting myself in this condition. And by no means, in any way, is this “all in my head.” But in the end, when it does not seem alarming enough to them, I hear the words, “Oh, I’ve seen worse.” I am usually caught off guard when I hear this, but a part of me wants to scream out loud and say, “I am sure you have, but how on earth is that going to help me!?” I am coming to you because I have yet to find a diagnosis, an explanation, an answer, or help.

Without undermining others’ conditions in any way, I am sure there are other patients you’ve seen who are worse, but do you think that will make me feel better? I’ve seen over a dozen doctors to date and I’ve heard these words far too many times. To me, it’s basically the doctor saying, “You’re not that bad, your problem isn’t as important as others’, it’s not as bad as you think.”

Until you are living in my body, feeling what I am struggling with, living in constant pain with no hope of finding a treatment, I don’t want to hear you say those words to me, or any other patient. Just because all your procedures and test results do not show a definite physical diagnosis does not mean there is not something wrong.