I once had an ovarian cyst that ruptured. I had no idea what it was at the time of course. It was just this brutally painful abdominal pain. Could have been appendicitis or even something worse. A normal person would have gone to the ER with such severe, acute pain. I didn’t want to make a fuss.
I once had chest pains that mimicked a heart attack so closely I wouldn’t be able to tell you any different. They radiated down my arm, through to my back. Were quite painful. Affected my breathing. I had been having erratic heart rhythms that previous week. I had to lie down from the pain. After it was down blood rushed through my body in a whooshing tingle and gave me a headache. And my heart went all wonky. During and after a normal person would call 911. I didn’t want to make a fuss.
I could give more examples but do I really need to? Where did this come from? Well, I know already. I have been chronically ill and with chronic pain most of my life. And for many of those years, I experienced varying amounts of stigma from the medical field. My pain was minimized. It was dismissed. I was told I was ‘too young for treatment’. I was told ‘I was just depressed’.
In fact, the very first time I experienced chest pains of an entirely different sort I was completely dismissed by a doctor. You see I have fibromyalgia and people with fibromyalgia can develop a condition called costochondritis, which is chest wall pain due to inflammation. I did but didn’t know that was the cause of my pain, only that I knew it wasn’t a heart attack due to its longevity. However, it did get worse and I ended up having problems breathing so off to the ER I went. Where the doctor told me it was not a heart attack, obviously. Not that he tested for this of course. And I asked if it had anything to do with FM since that seemed probable to me. And he replied he ‘didn’t believe in FM’. And therefore… he didn’t test for Anything. Completely dismissed me. Now costochondritis occurs all on its own from a virus or from the strain from lifting heavy items… and therefore if he bothered to look based on my symptoms he would have found it. If he bothered to eliminate other causes of chest pains and looked for inflammation that is. Like I had recently when they found something similar but inflammation around the heart. Instead, he found out I had a pain condition he believed was ‘all in my head’ therefore I must simply be imagining this other pain.
And that is the problem. I responded to all these doctors and medical professionals. I began to minimize my own pain. I did not want to be seen as exaggerating so I made it seem like it was less than it was. Ironically. I did not want to be seen as complaining, so I didn’t mention the pain they were not bothering to treat often. Not that it mattered since they did nothing for the pain for my entire youth and 20’s and part of my 30’s. Too young for medication you see. But I wanted them to at least pay attention to other symptoms so they would not miss things. Like asthma. And Hypothyroidism. In order to do that, I had to ensure they didn’t think I exaggerated.
So I didn’t make a fuss.
When a symptom occurred I ignored it. If it persisted for a long time I might mention it. If it was severe I would mention it… if it did not go away. If it was acute pain, I would do nothing about it in the moment but I would mention that it occurred at my next appointment. Usually.
This is hardly productive to me, but it is a learned behavior. They taught me through their indifference. And now I ignore important things because I don’t want to make a fuss.