(1/2) In elementary school, when I was around 9 or 10, I started presenting symptoms of asthma. Hadn't had any issues before then, but one day in gym class I had an asthma attack. It wasn't so severe that it put me in danger, but it was scary (as not being able to breathe tends to be) and prompted the nurse to call my parents. My dad said "she doesn't have asthma" and we went home. The first time I saw a doctor about it at all was when I was 13, and he diagnosed me with an Anxiety Attack
2/2) I was only 13 but I nearly argued with this grown man because I thought that sounded like absolute bullshit. We saw one more doctor after that, I forget if it was my PCP or not, but I was finally Officially diagnosed with asthma after 3 years of being completely untreated and several asthma attacks. Since then I’ve been scared of being brushed off or not taken seriously by doctors, and I’ve watched my friends (all women) deal with being treated poorly or brushed off as well. It’s scary.
It’s god damn terrifying the level of medical neglect that happens to female bodied patients, especially those of us with chronic conditions. When I was home I wet to see my NHS doctor and have started the laborious process of having the diagnosis of “bulimia” and “ednos” removed from my file, because, as I knew all along, I don’t have an eating disorder.
I do have a problematic relationship with food because it makes me ill due to severe allergies, but I don’t suffer from the other defining characteristics of an eating disorder. But, y’know, I’m a woman, so these issues with food must be purely psychological…why else would they keep me heavily sedated and put me through rehabilitation for 7 years trying to convince me that I was making myself sick, when in actual fact I was going into mild to steadily worsening anaphylalctic shock several times a week for over two decades which was quite literally killing me from the strain on my body…who knew? Not my doctors that’s for sure. They just upped my sedative prescription whenever I complained of more pain and told me sweetly, “it’s just nerves, you need to calm down.” And this wasn’t just one doctor, this was several specialists across the board over many, many years. But they all had one definite trait in common. They were all male. And they were angry that I kept challenging their diagnosis.
They didn’t even offer anti-depressants. Just a sedative. It was literally a case of “shut up and go away you hysterical female”.
Which isn’t to say it hasn’t happened over here too with private care.
I presented in the ER with chest pain and not being able to breathe and the attending physician saw “anxiety” in my file (which by the way, has gotten better since I’ve started to get my allergies under control. I’m still fucking nuts, but at least I know I’m sane about it), didn’t bother to do a physical, and prescribed a sleeping pill, while talking over the top of my head to my husband about how “some women can be quite anxious”. I thought ETD was going to murder him with his own stethoscope. But instead he advocated for me and pushed for an EKG, and exam where the doctor put his stethoscope to my chest but didn’t actually listen and said “you’re fine”. The following day my female PCP, in a tower of fury screamed “oh my god I think you’re having an asthma attack, didn’t he listen to your chest?!” and started me on a course of medication. She was wrong about it being asthma, but it was allergies causing my airways to close, so she was closer to the mark than “your wimmin parts are making you hysterical, here is a sedative”.
Which is why I now bring ETD with me to all new medical appointments. I shouldn’t need my husband there to verify my pain and symptoms, but that’s the way this world of ours works.
When I handed over my US doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan, the (new) doctor I saw in the UK went ashen, his skin literally went grey the more he kept reading and then he looked up at me and said “why didn’t anyone test you for any of this?!” to which the reply was to smile sweetly like poison and reply, “apparently it was just nerves.”
I thought he was going to throw up when I told him about my teeth problems. I didn’t even get to the part about potential mercury poisoning, I just got to “which was when they did the root canal without anesthesia” and he demanded to know how I could be expected to cope with such pain, to which I glanced again towards my medical file at his fingertips and was able to say with complete honesty: “Practice”.
I’m 100% convinced if I’d just had a single doctor who listened to me when I was 12 when I said “this is making me throw up”, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now. Even at 15, if someone had listened to me sobbing “but I’m not making myself throw up I’m not, I’m not I promise” as they put me into a “special wing” in the hospital, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now.
But then I’m also 100% certain if I was born with a dick instead of a uterus, none of this would have ever happened. And not because my illness(es) itself doesn’t affect male bodied people.
But hey ho…can’t be bitter about it…cause then you get all the Positive Thinkers telling you you’re Keeping yourself sick, which, y’know, always nice to be gaslighted by the internet for not being a ray of fucking sunshine they can wank off to for their Positiviity Porn along with “tragic event happens but some fucker makes it about them” and “it could be worse you know”.