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What Dr. House Taught Me About Life as a Medical Mystery

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If you asked most kids what their favorite TV show is, they would likely answer a Disney show, a cartoon or a funny sitcom. Few would say “House, M.D.,” a show that aired back in 2004 and centered around an internal medicine specialist battling an opioid addiction who had a poor bedside manner and questionable ethics but solved medical mysteries. That was the favorite show of 9-year-old me.

What kind of parents let their child watch a show like that? you might ask. Also, why would a 9-year-old be interested in such things? I loved Dr. House, played by the talented Hugh Laurie. Yes, he could be crass, sarcastic and even mean, but still, I wished only to have him as part of my health care team. House was committed to figuring out why his patients were suffering.

“The twisted hip? It will go away. Back hurting again? It’s just growing pains. Your lungs bothering you? You’re just out of shape.” I began hearing these dismissive comments at a young age. I wish I could tell you these comments became less frequent as I got older and encountered more health professionals, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. “There is nothing wrong with you. You’re just being dramatic,” health professionals would imply. “You’re fine,” specialist after specialist would tell me, quick to rush me out the door without listening to a word I had to say.

These comments became more common as I aged. I began to wonder if the symptoms I was experiencing were all in my head. I live with generalized anxiety disorder and I thought, perhaps this is just a physical manifestation of my anxiety. I knew anxiety could cause physical symptoms, so I started to believe there really was nothing else going on aside from anxiety.

It wasn’t until this year, after seeing countless specialists and being referred to a “medically unexplainable symptoms clinic,” that a cardiologist diagnosed me with a connective tissue disorder causing joint hypermobility. I still don’t have an exact diagnosis and I may never, but that is not what matters. What matters is the fact that a health professional finally listened to me when I told her what I was experiencing. After years of having my symptoms invalidated, someone believed me.

Despite all I’ve been through, I feel lucky. I feel lucky because I know there are so many people who have similar stories. I know there are patients who continue to have the veracity of their symptoms questioned by doctors who assume they are attention-seeking. If you related to this story, I’m sorry. Keep advocating for yourself or your loved one who is struggling. You are the expert on your own body. Your pain is real, even if Dr. House is fictional. You may be undiagnosed, but don’t let anyone doubt your pain’s legitimacy.

Photo via USA Network.

Originally published: February 13, 2020
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