I’ve been having physical health problems for a long time, namely, weakness in my limbs (my left arm in particular), burning feelings in my hands, numbness, blurry vision which means I zone out while trying to focus my eyes, tremor (beyond normal essential tremor) and being a Clumsy Fucker Who Falls Over A Lot. I should probably see a doctor about this, but I won’t.
The same way I didn’t see a doctor when I was passing blood clots through my arse (oh yes). And when I had an anal fissure so severe I couldn’t sit down without pain. I can tell the world these things, but I can’t tell a doctor.
When I mentioned rapid weight gain to doctors, I got two responses:
1) You are eating too much. Stop eating too much. You must be binge eating (I wasn’t).
2) It’s your medication. Tough shit. (But when *I* have said that, I’ve gotten response number 1).
Whenever I have attempted to broach a physical health problem with a doctor, it has always been dismissed as, “all in my head”. As part of my mental illness. As “anxiety”, or, “paranoia”.
This is despite the fact that I am taking medication that comes with health risks, namely, diabetes (which I don’t know if I have, but I do have PCOS), hypotension and tachycardia (which I do know I have). It’s despite the fact that the illness makes me predisposed to some health problems (as a small example, when I am ill, my body is under stress, and I get physically ill, such as the last time I had shingles). If anything, doctors should be more alert to my physical health, rather than less.
It’s also despite the fact that, save for my recent mood, I have been stable for two years. The only way they would know I have a mental health problem is by looking at my notes. And they do, instead of looking at the person in front of them.
So I don’t bother anymore. I feel that when I go to see a doctor, I am just a disembodied brain.
People with mental illnesses die some twenty years younger than people without. How much of that is because we’re too afraid to see a doctor, knowing it will be dismissed as all in our heads? Or being conditioned not to care, because doctors don’t?
Have your physical problems been dismissed as mental ones? Or the other way around? Do you avoid doctors, too?
Edit: Ooh, Rethink are launching a campaign on this very issue over here: Physical Health Charter
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder