When we ignore symptoms

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We ignore symptoms for a variety of reasons. I can tell you why I do and maybe you are the same way.

  • I was taught a long ago by the disinterest of doctors to minimize my symptoms because they seemed to think I was exaggerating my pain or other stigma causing me to retreat. So I began to be more stoic, became to minimize it, and began to only mention symptoms I felt were ‘important’ enough. If they lasted a long time, I would then mention them. Or get severe, then I would mention them.
  • I don’t like to make a fuss. It could be just something normal to fibromyalgia or not important. And I don’t want to make a fuss about something that will a) go away on its own or b) isn’t that important.
  • I have more important things to talk about with my doctor in the short amount of time I have with her. So I prioritize and those symptoms I do not feel are important enough get shoved to the wayside for some other time.
  • It just isn’t bothering me enough to give it attention.

My doc now, who is a great doctor, is annoyed as hell I do this. I will finally mention a symptom and when she asks how long I have had it I say ‘Oh around 6 months or a year.’ And she knows I haven’t mentioned it for all the time when I should have. She gives me a look of disapproval and I smile sheepishly… and do it again for some other symptom.

Here are things I have ignored and Should not have. But keep in mind some things I ignore because of bad experiences with doctors. So reason number one. Stigma. And so I do not then mention something similar because I do not want to deal with similar stigma.

  1. Woke up with a numb hand. Half of it was numb and over the course of the week the numbness progressed over the hand. I waited for it to go away. It got worse. Tingling, thick numbness. By the time I went to my doctor he was indifferent about it. I waited for my neuro six months down the road. Turned out to be peripheral neuropathy. Cause unknown. Another neuro speculated I had a stroke in my sleep since I was at the time in a status migraine. Bravo on me for ignoring that one.
  2. The worst chest pains I have ever, ever felt, and I am positive were not fibromyalgia related chest wall pain. After when I mentioned it to my doctor she was frustrated I didn’t go to the ER but said it could have been angina. My heart had been doing some very abnormal rhythm (which I also didn’t go to the ER for, even though they were very scary indeed) things due to undiagnosed hypothyroidism and I suspect it was angina. But how it felt and the intensity of it? That felt like a heart attack. And I did nothing. I didn’t want to make a fuss. Because when I was younger I had chest wall pain and an ER doctor brushed me off because he didn’t believe in FM, never ran one single test. And recently same thing happened to me. Being a woman and being brushed off for having chest pains is a theme it seems. So I didn’t go in. And I know that I should have. It happened two nights in a row. I didn’t do a thing either time. And then since then I use it as my Marker for chest pains. So I do nothing because it Isn’t like Those chest pains. Granted most chest pains I have are chest wall pain.
  3. I had severe cramping abdominal pain. The worst I have ever felt in my life one night. I did nothing. Writhed in pain all night long. Asked my doctor about it on my next appointment, he said it was likely a burst ovarian cyst. He couldn’t imagine how I didn’t think that pain wasn’t important enough to go to the ER. But I thought it would pass. I just didn’t want to make a fuss over something that likely was nothing. I was waiting to see what would happen. If it didn’t go away, I was going to go. It was agonizing though.

I have other examples of when I should have definitely gone to the ER, but I hate the ER and I hate making a fuss so I worry it might not be anything… but it was and I should have went. There are times I wonder what would make me go to the ER. And what do I think IS worth it? If not a possible stroke, heart attack and writhing pain? What then? What is worth the effort to me? I don’t know.

But the fact is I delay reporting certain symptoms because I don’t think they are important enough. I wait and see approach it. And I don’t want to make a fuss so I won’t go to the ER unless I am desperate… and with chronic pain and illness, it takes a lot to make me desperate. Temporary things usually do not do it. I worry. I really worry. And I contemplate going for sure. But with so many bad experiences under by belt, I just refuse to go.

It is in fact one of the worst Symptoms of being a patient for so many years and exposed to a lot of stigma. This idea that I have to Make Sure First it is something Serious before I do anything about it. And only then when faced with stigma can I demand the attention I deserve for the problem. I am not making a fuss. I am not exaggerating. This is a real problem. No normal person would have waited and not gone to the ER the way I did for any of those incidents. No normal person waits to tell their doctor about a symptom until it lasts or until it is ‘important’ enough.

It disturbs me enough I have been trying not to do this. Actively trying not to feel like I am such a ‘hassle’. It certainly isn’t my job to figure out which symptoms are ‘important’ and which ones are not. I am not a doctor. And ignoring serious problems because of bad ER visits is downright dangerous.

And doctor stigma is dangerous. Being treated differently because I am a woman. Because I have a mental illness. Because I have pain. All these things impact how I then react to a doctor, which then makes treatment more difficult. If I undermine my pain to not be seen as exaggerating then they can never understand the pain I am in. Because they taught me to be stoic and undermine my pain. And they taught me never admit to depression, or they will not believe your pain. So I hid my depression for years. In various ways, they teach us how to behave around them and in some ways that can be detrimental.

“You’re so stoic,” I get from them now. You made me so, I want to say. You made me so.

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2 comments

  1. This sounds so much like me. The thought of going to the ER is completely beyond me. I just wait and see too, to the frustration of my doctor and family. But seriously, what more do they expect. We would be at the ER weekly, at least if not daily. I’m not going there. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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