Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Anxiety Caused My Chronic Illness

Symptoms of my genetic condition have existed since birth. They became increasingly evident in adolescence. Although, it was not until entering the teenage years when frequent doctor visits were in order. Being a thin, blonde, fashionable, relatively healthy appearing, straight A student, I was immediately stereotyped upon waltzing into any medical facility.

AnxietyDepressionPsychosomaticOCDEating disorder. "It's all in your head."

The list goes on.

Mental illness is real. Physical illness is also. And both are likely invisible conditions, meaning patients are perceivably healthy in appearance. Seeking medical attention for symptoms of an unknown origin is definitely warranted. 
But, why is it that medical professionals automatically conclude mental illness when unable to diagnose the physical ailments of a seemingly healthy appearing patient? Is it pride? Is it disbelief that mental illness, if present, can be a symptom of a physical condition? Is it the absence of empathy? Laziness, perhaps? Whatever their reasoning, the quest for a diagnosis is no easy feat. The arduous search for proper medical care afterwards is not either.

Through the trying times, advocate for yourself. Persist, even if hindered by multiple dead ends. Be assertive about your pain and symptoms.

Remember, doctors are only people:

People who take on the responsibility of caring for other people. And there are lots of other people. The large majority of invisible illnesses are medical mystery cases that require work to diagnose. Not all doctors are passionate enough to undertake such a demand, as they concurrently treat hundreds of other patients while attempting to live their own lives. It takes less effort to pawn the invisible physical maladies on a mental cause. 

People that do not know everything. Doctors may have a fancy degree, but the average population is just as capable of attaining the same knowledge. Medical school lectures on the concepts of objective versus subjective data. Vitals, rashes, wounds, and blood work are objectiveObjective meaning, the discernible criteria not blatantly obvious the entire two minutes a doctor is consulted. What they are taught does not often spontaneously reveal itself in the first few (hundred) objective basic metabolic panels. On the contrary, our pain is subjective. Invisible. Rather than search for the answers in the objectives, it is easier for them to place blame on the patients than to admit they do not know. Because doctors are supposed to have all answers, right?

People who are rarely patients themselves. Invisible, chronic illness is unfathomable to the healthy. We do not expect the average healthy person to understand what they have not personally endured. Why are expectations for a healthy doctor different? Their education cannot provide insight on the firsthand experiences of patients with chronic, invisible illness. 

It was during a four month hospital admission that I arrived at this realization. An oncologist formerly on my case did not believe my diagnoses, despite years of repeated objective test results and documented subjectives. As the days end, doctors do not have medical devices protruding out of every bodily orifice. They are not left twiddling their thumbs in a hospital bed. They return home to their families.

Doctors are people too, but they are not the people living in physical agony each day - invisible illness patients are. 

I wish I could confirm that a diagnosis prevents doctors from diminishing the pain of invisible illness, that poor test results negate incorrect accusations, or that doctors stop reducing the seriousness of health matters with the statements, "...but you look good" and "its all in your head." However, I cannot.

Do not give up though. Trust that the correct resources will align in time.

"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28