Dear Doctors: All I Ask Is for Someone to Believe Me
To the doctors who doubt me,
I know I’m not the only patient you will see today. I know I’m just another name in a long list of people you look after. I know I might mean little to you and the only reason we came in contact is by fate, because you supposedly are one of the few people who are able to help me. I am conscious of your life being busy and I understand you don’t have all the time in the world to look after just me. I realize my problems aren’t an immediate “life or death” issue and that you probably see people in much more critical condition than I am in.
But what I also know is that you are more than just a name to me. Yes, I may not look forward to seeing you, but to me, you were a sign of hope. (I say “were” because you have let me down so many times I now struggle to see you as being of assistance anymore.) As a doctor, you have the power to make a difference in my life, one that I need so very much, even though I am not dying.
Because I am struggling. I’m alive and will probably (and hopefully) be for a long time, but I’m not entirely sure I’d say I “live” every day. And I don’t recall the oath you took to say you would only show compassion and human decency to those who were dying. Something about your job makes me believe you are there to help everyone who needs your help, and believe me, I need it.
I am chronically ill. I am in pain. I don’t get to live my life to the fullest. I miss out on having fun. I have spent countless nights in a hospital bed. I will probably never get to do many of the things I dream of. Yet somehow, when I speak to you, this doesn’t seem to matter.
In what world would I possibly be lying about my symptoms? How could you possibly think that, as if I find enjoyment in wasting my time and money to see you? Do you honestly believe I would take the time to think up some long, painful story and tell it to you for fun? Because if you think that, I have no clue how on earth you possibly became a doctor.
You don’t have to completely understand what I go through to help me. I don’t expect you to know absolutely everything about my rare and invisible illnesses, but what I do expect is that you treat me with respect when I come to see you. I am seeing you because I want your help and because I know there is something wrong.
If you tell me one more time it’s “all in my head” and I just need to “speak to a psychiatrist” I will hit the roof. I see one every week and have for years. I have tried everything and exhausted every other possible diagnosis you could think of.
And your disbelief quite frankly does the opposite of help me, as you are meant to do.
In fact, it makes me feel like it’s my fault, which I will forever resent you for. Because if managing my physical health wasn’t hard enough as it was, you have contributed to (not solely caused, but still did not help) my anxiety that I now experience on a daily basis. You see, I am the only person who can truly understand what I go through, and when you doubt me, you make me lose faith in myself, which makes everything worse.
So next time you want to tell me that it must all be “in my head,” please think first about how that will affect what is actually in my head.
I needed you and you let me down. Next time, I ask you to look at me as more than my mismatched symptoms. I am just as aware of how confusing they all are as you, but they are real. I promise.
If there is one thing you can do to help me, even if you don’t totally understand, it’s to believe me. I cannot explain to you how much that would mean to me.
Your chronically ill patient
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Thinkstock photo via utah778.