To All the Doctors Who Have Doubted Me
Dear Dr. X,
I have anxiety. I am irrationally anxious about the things in my life I have no control over. Sometimes the very act of sitting still provokes uncontrollable tension throughout my body.
My anxiety actively jeopardizes my friendships and my self-worth.
I have a psychiatrist who is my cheerleader, and yet tells me how it is. I take medication every night and have emergency medication in place. I have experienced withdrawal and never want to experience it again.
I have learned to listen to my mind and fiercely fight back.
I have accepted my psychological pain can and does manifest itself physically.
I have completed two successful years of college, making the dean’s list each semester. I have managed to raise my GPA to a 3.8, despite my lack of motivation to even leave the bed. Using the little energy I did have, I devoted myself to the kids at the family crisis center, because my pain cannot come before theirs.
And yet here I am — an open book about my mental illness, and you still don’t take me seriously. You review my exhaustive list of medications and somehow still manage to circle back to the assumption my physical pain is merely psychological.
Doctors are the masters of our well-being. When a patient’s labs or tests are inconclusive, you apologize for the lack of medical research available. And yet, when labs are inconclusive for patients with mental illness, this same doctor concludes, “maybe you should see a psychiatrist.”
Excuse me, but have you not been listening? Have I not made it clear that I already do see a psychiatrist? That I am more attuned to my body’s rhythm than most?
So here I am, begging you to take me seriously.
As a person who has struggled throughout their lifetime with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), I understand there is no conclusive cause, test or successful treatment. IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, and many face the same daily pain as I do. I know others share the same disappointment and frustration I feel after each doctor’s visit.
But now, imagine having a hidden and misunderstood illness like IBS while battling anxiety.
If doctors fail to take the majority of IBS cases seriously, where do I stand? I’m left to believe that since every x-ray, ultrasound, CT, colonoscopy, endoscopy and labs have come back clean, it must be my anxiety. But I won’t subscribe to this perpetual stigma of mental illness.
I will not let your hurtful words define me or anyone else.
I know my pain is real, and no person in a white coat can take that away.
So Doctor X, see me; not my anxiety.
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Thinkstock photo via champja