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Why Going From Doctor to Doctor Isn't What I Need Right Now

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I thought there would be a time when I would be done with doctors. I was tired – tired of the appointments, the endless blood work, the scheduling, the MRIs, explaining everything over and over. I told myself that before I came back to school I would be better. That I would come back to school as a healthy, active student and I would be ready to make the most of my senior year of college.

I was wrong.

In some ways, I was right. I am done with doctors, for now. And that is incredibly freeing. But I’m done with them because every specialist I saw told me they were sure I had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but they don’t treat it. I’m done with them because my primary care physician told me, “Try this medication. If it doesn’t work, I’m out of ideas. I’ve done everything I can.”

A few months ago, those sentences would’ve been too much for me. As an undiagnosed patient who had been very sick for seven months, the idea that a doctor would give up on me was the worst thing imaginable. The idea that anyone could be out of ideas was absurd. Back then, I cried every time a doctor told me they couldn’t help me. I would have thought giving up on doctors, even for a few week, would be giving up on myself and my ability to get better.

But now I know that it will be OK. I know that if this plan doesn’t work I will find a specialist who can help me. But for the time being, I am done with doctors. I might never get better even if I spend the rest of my life in doctors offices, driving to different hospitals, and getting endless tests done. At the end of the day, doctors can only help so much.

Even though I’ve made little progress in addressing my physical symptoms, I’ve made progress in how I deal with being sick. I’ve finally told my friends what’s been going on, and I’m applying for disability accommodations at college. It might not be the senior year I imagined. I might be sick for a lot of it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. The dean of student support told me on my first day back, “You might feel terrible the entire semester and spend all your time in bed, but you might as well earn credits while you do it.” And she’s right. Going from doctor to doctor isn’t what I need to be doing with my time right now.

If my experience with doctors has taught me anything, it’s that at the end of the day what matters is what I do. I am choosing to go to school. Sure, I’ll be sick and I’ll be miserable a lot of the time. In the week I’ve been here, I’ve already had to go to bed at 4 p.m. for the night because I couldn’t see anymore because of my headache. I haven’t gone a day without napping twice. I’ve already limped my way to class crying because my knee gave out. But I’ve also seen friends I haven’t seen in over a year. I’ve gone to classes and I’m learning new things, and exploring new options for my future. I don’t know if I’ll be physically able to do it. But at this point, it would be giving up on myself not to try.

Months ago, if I knew that I would have to go back to school without being “better,” I would have been terrified and become more depressed. I wish I could go back then and tell myself, at some point you have to stop. You can go back to the doctors anytime, but you only need to graduate college once. So do everything you can to get a team of doctors to support you and help you through the process, but then fight to keep living your life.

Getty Image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: September 14, 2018
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