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To the Doctors Who Told Me My Physical Problems Were Psychological

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My health took a bad turn last October. The biggest issue was syncope, or passing out. It came literally out of nowhere. It was scary for myself and those who loved me. We wanted answers. And naturally when you’re sick and want answers, you look to doctors. Little did I know finding a doctor who would look past my mental illnesses would be my biggest obstacle.

I’m the first to tell you I have mental health problems, including severe depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. I’ve experienced them nearly all of my life. So when my doctors ran basic tests and couldn’t find anything wrong, they began to blame my passing out, dizziness, vomiting, severe pain and much more on my psychological issues. “It’s psychosomatic,” I heard again and again. 

At first, I was stunned and hurt. I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong, but I couldn’t get a doctor to listen. Over time it became a routine: I would go to a new doctor, he/she would look at previous doctors’ notes, see the word “psychosomatic” and, without running any new tests, would agree. I’d look for a new doctor just for the same thing to happen again. It was frustrating, not to mention a major waste of time and money.

It took eight long months to hear the words, “It’s not all in your head.” Finally, I was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS. Finally having a diagnosis lifted a major weight off my chest, but I was still upset with my previous doctors for blaming my psychological issues. Now, looking back, here’s what I want to say to the doctors who told me my physical problems were psychological:

I’m no longer angry with you. I actually want to thank you. Yes, thank you.

Thank you for not believing me so I learned to count on myself.

Thank you for dropping me as a patient so I would have to fight harder.

Thank you for telling me things were psychological to make me feel crazy enough to never give up.

Every setback made me realize how important I am. Every time I heard the word “psychosomatic” made me realize I deserved better than just being labeled mentally ill. This journey has made me love myself and see my self-worth. I now know how much drive I have in me and how little I tolerate. I deserve the best treatment. 

I’ve since been diagnosed with many more very real health problems, and currently have a great team of doctors doing everything they can to give me my health back. I never would have found them had I not gone through so many doctors like you, so thank you.

Originally published: September 22, 2015
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