Because dismissing a women’s health is the ultimate misogyny.
The strangest thing happened. After nearly two decades of dealing with my autoimmune asshole of a body, doctors suddenly decided that I was a hysterical moron. Up until that point, doctors took my health seriously, listened to me ,and took it for granted that I wasn’t neither neurotic nor an idiot…and I, in turn, took it for granted that they would believe me. Because I’m an adult…and I because I have no fucking reason to make this shit up.
And during that time, I kept hearing these horror stories from other women–primarily, middle-aged, middle-class white women–who went from doctor to doctor with mystery symptoms, and being dismissed as silly ninnies…or given a scrip for anti-depressants. I just shrugged it off. I didn’t have to worry, because the blood tests and, later, the unfakeable physical damage, provided incontrovertible proof that shit was real. In other words, it wasn’t my problem and sometimes I even secretly agreed with the doctors that maybe their symptoms were manifestations of their own stress or unhappiness. It makes me cringe to admit this, but it was far easier to believe that the dozen women or so I have known over the years were maybe just a tiny bit hypochondriacal than it was to believe that they were suffering from mysterious ailments that negligent doctors dismissed as “stress”.
Forgive me ladies, for I was blind.
It began with an ophthalmologist. My left eye decided that it hated me and everything I stood for. Consequently, Eyeball sole existence was to cause me searing pain. The fact that yet another body part had betrayed me wasn’t exactly a revelation; I am also required to see a neurologist, a gastroenterologist, a neuropsychologist, a rheumatologist and the occasional surgeon. I take it for granted that various factions of rebel innards will form nasty alliances; twenty years of sharing space with a progressive, degenerative, autoimmune disorder is going to take its toll. In other words, I’m a fucking veteran. So I know the drill: for any appointment, I go in, describe my symptoms to Dr. Specialist du jour, wait for him or her to prescribe prednisone (because it is always fucking prednisone), take my scrip and go. No more than 15-30 minutes, tops. The whole process is very neat, very methodical, friendly but no-nonsense.
Which is how it should go.
But this time, some asshole infant in a white coat didn’t even let me finish my concerns. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me, because I already dislike his face. He looks just like the rich, smug, repulsively handsome foil to the lovable slobs in all of those bad 80s movies. “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about; just a bit of inflammation. Probably a result of the autoimmune process.”
I was so stunned by the sheer obviousness of his “diagnosis” that all of those potential “No shit, you pompous ass” replies, stuck in my throat.
“Take these drops–they’re free samples,” he said (while also giving me a cursory, mildly contemptuous”your lot couldn’t possibly afford to buy your own” glance), “and if you’re still feeling a bit of irritation, call the receptionist and make another appointment”. Then he oozed out of the room, leaving a slime trail of hubris in his wake.
Apparently, he sent out a memo, because all of the other specialists I saw after treated me with the same good-humored, overly-patient civility that I have grown to despise…not only because it is insulting, but because I’m NOT BEING TREATED…even when there is concrete evidence of illness. Before, it was merely infuriating; now, the situation is becoming dire. Recently, after a seven fucking hour wait at the ER (God, I hate this Third World State refugee camp), where I was fucking writhing in the worst pain I’ve experienced since childbirth, in the fucking waiting room, no less…then finally into a damn room and into the requisite CT–which showed inflammation in two major organs and another vital tube of some sort–they sent me home with a prescription for a mild painkiller.
I told the resident toddler, Dr. Skippy, “Look, if you’re worried that I’m a junky, rest assured, I don’t need your drugs. I could get anything I wanted, including my own dilaudid if I wanted…and your dilaudid,incidentally, isn’t doing dick. It’s not going to help until you get the swelling down. Please, jesus god, I’m begging you: let me stay overnight and pump me full of a truckload of steroids. Do that and you’ll never see me again”. I mean, I fucking begged. If you asked anybody who knows me that I begged to be put in the hospital, they would drop everything and send a priest–nobody hates fucking hospitals more than I do. In fact, I am notorious for checking myself out and going home “against doctor’s advisement”.
In other words, I was fucking desperate.
But this didn’t register with Dr. Skippy. Instead, he launches into a deliberately slow explanation of why steroids are dangerous, all the while speaking in the exact tone you would address a particularly imbecilic child. For once, I cut the doctor off by saying, “You do realize that I’ve taken prednisone countless times, right?”
With this awkward, phony-ass sincere expression in his”See? I am establishing em-pa-thy with you” eyes–I swear to God, I had this vision of him practicing Professional Concern before a mirror–he leaned forward, and said in this hushed, checkmate voice: “All the more reason not to take more.”
And patted me on the shoulder.
I literally jerked away from him. Simultaneously, he recoiled and took one large step back, both indignant and wide-eyed, outraged and perplexed, as to why his white man, white coat privilege failed to grant him some sort of magical, anti-hypochondriac force field. He was gloriously, satisfyingly speechless. Which was a good thing, because I had shit to say.
“Listen to me–I don’t need you to tell me about the dangers of prednisone; I am on intimate terms with prednisone and I have lived through so many side effects I could write my own medical journal. You can not even begin to know the horrors–stop nodding, you don’t–and the utter misery it can cause. But…it…WORKS. And when things get dire–and things are goddamn dire, doctor–it is the only thing that works. It’s miracle poison and it’s damn well worth the side-effects if it will keep me from experience unbearable pain and, you know–DYING.”
By now, he had regained consciousness and was struggling to regain his smug-ass composure. He replied in haughty Assholese that he was far more qualified…blah blah, smug, smug, smug, blah blah, blah…than I could possibly be.”
I let him go on for a moment, but I just didn’t have the patience. Pain can turn even the most devoted puppy into a snarling, vicious animal…and I was fucking done with being cornered by taunting white coats who didn’t even pretend to respect me.
“Stop. No…stop. You listen to me. I don’t care how many goddamn letters you have trailing your name.I don’t care if you were first in your class at Smart Doctor school. I don’t care if you are the Mackdaddy of every expert in your field…you are not the expert of my body. So don’t you dare presume that you know it better than me.”
Drop mic. Chastened doctor. Newfound respect…and much needed treatment. Ha. Of course not.
He stormed out, practically throwing my prescriptions at me (which I left behind…take that hydrocodone and jam it straight up your ass, Skippy) and I limped out as quickly as possible before security taught me about real pain.
In other words, my little speech didn’t do shit. I’m still in the same pain, I’m growing more apprehensive about the possible outcomes…and I have no where to go to get help.
But that slapped-face shocked expression, though.
I am certain that–during my final moments, when my sorry life is passing before my eyes–I will get to see that face again. And when I do, I will die laughing.
I’m not done with this shit; Part II to follow shortly…FR