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When the Doctor Says 'You're Fine' but You're Not

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My life with chronic illness is exhausting. I spend a lot of time looking for silver linings, but let’s face it, they don’t always exist. You get used to a lot of things when you live with chronic illnesses… cancelled plans, flares, embarrassing moments and of course doctors.

Doctors tend to go hand in hand with chronic illness. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on everything, there’s always some new symptom cropping up. You can get used to blood tests, needles, hands prodding and pressing on you and minimal dignity. And you may be quite happy to accept these things — if they come with some sort of answer or solution.

But how the Zeus do you cope when after all that, the doctor says “you’re fine.” How do you cope when you can feel something inside of you is broken, but nobody seems to be able to find it and they definitely can’t fix it?

That’s what I’m struggling with right now. I’m struggling to accept the negative criticisms, the judgments, the inaccuracies about my life, when the outcome leaves me no better off than I started. Don’t get me wrong; if being called “fat,” “lazy” and all-round incompetent would eventually lead to answers and treatment, I’d show up to the appointments in a Homer Simpson costume and own it like a boss. But it just doesn’t work that way.

I am grateful for every test I’ve been given and every diagnosis it has lead to from an underfunded, overused medical system; I know how lucky I am. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept the brush-offs. It doesn’t mean I have to sit back and ignore the pain. It doesn’t mean I have to be afraid to call for help because they’ve already investigated and deemed me “fine.”

My pain is not imaginary. My anguish and discomfort is as real as you and I are — so treat it that way. Do not dismiss it. Do not dismiss me. I am not a fly for you to swat away just because I’ve already buzzed around your ear once or twice before. I am a thinking, feeling, agonized human reaching out to you for help, because you are who I have to trust to fix me.

I am not fine. I am on the bathroom floor at 2 a.m. sobbing myself sick. I am not fine. I am curled up in bed in the fetal position for the third time this week. I am collapsed on the floor of my kitchen where my legs just gave out below me from the pain. I am not fine. I am not fine.

Do not let the mask I have taught myself to wear fool you into believing the lie I show the world. I am not fine, and you telling me I am doesn’t make me OK.

Getty image by vadimguzhva.

Originally published: September 3, 2019
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