I had a conversation with my sister this weekend that was similar to many I’ve had before. This particular sister is two years younger than me. In some ways, we’re extremely similar in our health. We both suffer from PCOS, insulin resistance, chronic insomnia, and other particular health conditions. To look at us, though, we’re completely different. Everything from our body shape to bone structure to our coloring is different:
Physically, we take after different sides of the family. Internally, we have remarkably similar hormonal structures that cause the same problems in both of us. We also share another thing in common: a difficulty in getting doctors to listen to us.
Me: doctors assume that because I’m obese, I’m unhealthy, or too lazy to “solve” my medical problems. Insomnia is put down to obesity, never mind that it began when I weighed far less than I do now and continued all during the time I was at a healthy weight. It must be a breathing disorder, they say, if you’d only lose weight… Insulin resistance would be “cured” if I just lost weight, and never mind that my glucose and A1C are normal, and that PCOS pretty much guarantees that I’ll always be insulin-sensitive. Etc.
My sister: In a nutshell, what my sister gets told by doctor and specialist alike: “Well, you’re thin and healthy, so there’s no reason you should have any problems, and that means there’s nothing we can do.” So she continues to struggle and feel awful, and no one will take her health problems seriously at all.
So yes, doctors don’t really see us. Too fat to be taken seriously, too thin to have real problems. Or really, what it boils down to is this: we’re female, and so our problems aren’t valid. Does that sound cynical or bitter? Unfortunately, it’s also true. I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple doctors who do listen, and it makes my blood boil to hear the way my sister has been treated over the last two years by doctor after doctor. It frustrates me to no end when a doctor pretends to listen to either of us and then dismisses everything we say. And it’s not just us. Every woman I know has a similar story of one doctor or another. Most of us eventually just take our health into our own hands. Case in point: After over a decade of doctors trying to figure out why I was getting sick every three weeks and not responding to medication, I began doing all the math and data-collection, and I figured out the answer myself. And this has been the case for every diagnosis that I’ve ever received. I have to gather all the data, present it to my doctors point by point, and let them come to the same conclusion that I’ve already figured out.
This is not okay. Yes, I’m ranting here, but I’ve watched for too many years as women are belittled, ridiculed, and legislated publicly, and I’m just so sick of this being the norm. It’s time for this nonsense to end.