Wednesday, October 5

dear doctor

I have gone to 7 doctors about my illness since I first noticed that something was dreadfully wrong with my body as an 18-year-old. Each time, I tried to control my excitement that ‘this might be the doctor who will help me’. And most of the time, I was either bitterly disappointed right then and there by their misunderstanding and belittling of my pain, or in a few weeks or months after trying their treatments and finding myself as sick as ever. Every sufferer I know has been on a very long journey to find a doctor who can understand and help. Meanwhile, the days, and months, and years tick by – with no one who knows what to do.
Doctor No. 1:
Told me that I was depressed (which I was), and this was causing fatigue. But didn’t explore the million dollar question which is this: was the depression causing the fatigue, or was the fatigue causing the depression? Ah, Doctor No. 1, you did not solve the problem. You did give me a doctor’s certificate, and for that I am grateful.
Doctor No. 2:
(GP & Naturopath) Put me on restrictive diet, prescribed vitamins and other costly concoctions. I am still on these things, not because I think they will heal me completely by themselves, but because I think my body needs every single helper it can get – and diet and nutrients are essential. Told me I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome –Doctor No. 2, thank you so much for giving my suffering a name, it sounds so much more convincing than, “I’m not well.”
Doctor No. 3:
Told me that I was a stress-head, and asked repeatedly if I had anorexic tendencies. Told me there was nothing wrong with me physically – I just needed to have fun, eat fattening food, enjoy life (ah, but ‘tis hard when so sick). I tried so hard after that appointment; I wanted him to be right, for the cure to be that simple. I ate caramel slice, I went for an enthusiast walk each day, I skipped flute practice, I chanted ‘it’s in your head’ to myself – alas, Doctor No. 3, you were mistaken.
Had appointments with psychologist that Doctor No. 3 had referred me to – psychologist told me that being engaged was making me stressed and ill, too much pressure too young. Told me to just move in with Ben (because living together without a marriage certificate is so much less stressful). We didn’t see eye to eye, so I left.
Doctor No. 4:
Told me I had bronchitis and glandular fever. True, at that time I did. Told me to stop trying to go to uni with a raging fever each day. You were a wise doctor.
Doctor No. 5:
Horrible, humiliating lady. Told me she didn’t believe in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or my story of being bedridden for months. Told me she wouldn’t give me a referral to see a specialist in Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) I’d heard of, because she had never heard of it, and was too lazy to find out what it was. Doctor No. 5 made me cry so I didn’t go back.
Doctor No. 6:
Told me she had lots of patients with fatigue and understood the numerous symptoms. Told me that it would be abnormal if I wasn’t depressed, as being couch bound is very disturbing. Gladly referred me to the POTS specialist. Spends most of our appointments talking about the big picture of life. Doctor No. 6, you are a breath of fresh air.
Doctor No. 7:
Specialist in POTS – diagnosed me with POTS and said I had the full hand of symptoms. Made me feel like my case was normal, curable, and certainly not in my head. Actually - lack of blood to my head, due to blood pooling in legs, is the issue. Helped start me on my strenuous exercise programme. Doctor No. 7, now I am a fitness junky, and feeling oh-so-much better. It took a long time to find you, but 7 is a perfect number.

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