The internet is a powerful tool when it comes to public health. We, who have access to the internet, can at the stroke of a few keys see we’re not alone with our symptoms. People all over the world share similar struggles, pains, confusion, and fear over what could be wrong with their bodies. We’re able to share these experiences. Lift each other up, help each other, learn from each other, and seek emotional relief. I, for one, think this is amazing. One of the biggest ways the internet has helped me, especially in the last few years, is the discussion of women’s health in western medicine and how often women are disregarded, ignored, or talked down to when it comes to their health. Every woman I know has at least one story of a doctor not listening to her stories of pain. Doctors who just flat out ignore or dismiss their symptoms. If we’re given a diagnosis at all, it is almost always related, in some way, to PMS.
Women are just always experiencing PMS aren’t they? No matter what symptoms we’re experiencing, or where the pain is, it almost always comes back to PMS. Remember though, it can’t be PMS that’s TOO severe because that’s not a real thing either. PMS symptoms can’t be that awful. It’s a lose-lose situation regardless of what your medical issues are. Woman should not have to fight to be listened to. To be believed. They should not be told to calm down or suck it up. Why is our pain less important? Why does our pain matter less? Why is it that period pain is somehow always the answer, but is never spoken about with concern? As if pain is somehow categorized on what is worthy to pay attention to. Never mind the fact that period cramps can- in fact- be so painful for some women that they’re hospitalized. Never mind the fact, that women have gone to the ER, been bedridden, or even died due to doctors ignoring their health claims. The dismissiveness of western doctors is an unspoken epidemic in western society and it needs to start being addressed. If any of this sounds familiar, know you are not alone.
I also have stories like the women in the video above. I was flat out told my pain wasn’t real and I was imagining things. I was dismissed by general practitioners because they didn’t deal with women health. I was dismissed by OBGYN’s because they don’t study nerve pain. I was dismissed by specialists because it was a mental issue. I was dismissed by therapists because it was a physical issue. The sheer amount of shame and embarrassment I felt talking about my pelvic pain issues with anyone, let alone doctors I didn’t know or have a rapport with, grew with each person who dismissed me. When I talked about it, no one had a cure, or an idea how to fix me. I did, however, have a consistent line repeated to me over and over again whenever I did decide to speak with professionals.
Oh. Ok. Sure. Thank you. I haven’t tried that already. I’ll tell you what. YOU try relaxing when someone is poking you in the genitals with a hot poker. You try relaxing when you know that feeling will come again at even the lightest touch. You try relaxing when you’re so filled with shame and fear that your body has gone into full “fight or flight” mode in a vein attempt to protect itself from the onslaught it knows is coming. The pap smear that caused burning for a week, and screams on the hospital table, is causing that extreme anxiety and pain because you’re not relaxing. You’re afraid to have sex because that pap smear hurt? That’s why it hurts when you have sex. You’re too tight. If you’d relax more you’d have an easier time with it. That’s why you’re so tight in the first place.
Have you tried lube?
Have you tried relaxing?
Have you tried imagery?
Have you tried relaxing?
Are you sure there’s no trauma you can think of?
Are you SURE you weren’t assaulted as a child?
Really? Are you sure??? I feel like you must have been. By a family member perhaps? That’s usually what causes these things.
Realizing the doctor doesn’t have any idea what’s wrong with you is such a helpless feeling. What I learned after years and years of going to doctors, therapists, PTs, sex therapists, hypnotists, acupuncturists, chiropractors is most don’t know; and most just don’t care. If you can’t fit neatly into a diagnosis box, written a prescription, and kicked out the door, they want nothing to do with you.
It makes you feel worthless and dirty and broken. It makes you feel like you’ll never be better or get better and you will forever be a person that the medical community doesn’t want to fix or figure out. You’re disposable. Not worth saving or figuring out. Not important.
Even now that I have finally received help, and medicine, and a doctor who believes me, I still have feelings of worthlessness and shame. I still feel broken at times, and struggle to re-train my brain that I am worthy, and I’m not broken. It isn’t easy. But having a support system helps tremendously.
If you take nothing else away after reading this please take this: You are WORTH being listened to. If your body is telling you things, and a doctor is dismissing you, find a new doctor. You are not broken. You are not dirty. You matter. And you are not alone with your pain. I finally found people who listened. Find those people. And know that I believe you.