Being Abused While Sick

I started writing this yesterday morning and stopped midway: 

Lack of good quality healthcare and health options really makes a tremendous difference in a person’s life. I am so raging mad right now, because I just found out my doctor had the test results that I’ve been waiting for. She sat on them for two days without any followup, including what has been ruled out and which step to take next. When I asked specific questions via email, she sent yet another vague answer, with no explanation of what I asked about, along with advice to go to an ER over an hour away if I’m still having pain. No phone call – and not one goddamn lick of concern. 

Unless I think I’m dying, the ER isn’t a place I use as a replacement for something a regular doctor should do. I think it’s ridiculous that a doctor even suggests using the ER as a substitute for her to do her job. Right now my anxiety is pretty high, because I feel like I have no options. Changing VA doctors is a process like anything else, and I don’t have the energy for it today. (This is what the VA requires, which is insane making anyone go through these hoops: https://www.va.gov/health/patientadvocate/) 

This is when I stopped writing yesterday and went to my local ER where I was treated with dignity and respect. I couldn’t take it anymore. Not knowing what’s wrong with me and being unable to do anything about it is no way to live. Plus, it was Friday, and suffering through another weekend knowing nothing wasn’t going to cut it. I’ve been unable to live a normal life for several months, unable to eat regular food for about two weeks. (I’m HANGRY!!!) Instinctively, I feel like something is being missed, but only because there have been no orders to proceed with this issue to look further. I also feel that dealing with this shitty doctor is making me sicker, because the stress is causing me to tense. 

After a bunch of expensive testing at the ER, the diagnosis was: Follow up with a gastroenterologist. All of this could have been avoided had my VA doctor properly done her job or even properly communicated for once. After experiencing her verbal abuse and now seeing that she’s denying me of my rights and quality care, I feel it’s time to get her the fuck out of my life for good. Now that I have something in writing from a different doctor, I can use this to move forward with speaking to a patient advocate next week. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person complaining about this uncaring, negligent doctor. 

All of these negative interactions with my doctor has profoundly affected me. Her behavior has brought up memories of other times I was verbally abused while ill. Anyone that can be so cruel and heartless to someone, especially knowing they are not well, is a narcissist trait. Most of these incidences were minimal compared to this doctor, but it affected me regardless. Each time, I felt helpless and at the mercy of someone else. I felt like I had no control over my own life, because I had to depend on someone else to help me, someone that doesn’t care about my well-being. 

When I was a child, I had undiagnosed allergies, which often made my nose stuffy. My stepfather constantly yelled at me for breathing out loud. I was nine. Because of this, I am very self-conscious about making any noise at all (being heard in general), and I often find myself holding my breath. (Yoga has helped with that, but now I notice I do it when I’m very stressed.)

I also had undiagnosed anemia (iron), which causes all kinds of problems that I didn’t learn about until much later. When I was 13, I wasn’t feeling well (probably getting ready to start my period). Not knowing how to describe things I’d never experienced before, I believe I told my mom I felt sick, almost like I was going to throw up. I think my mom was already aggravated about something else, so she wasn’t very helpful. Suddenly, I got clammy, my legs got weak, and started seeing black spots, which is super scary. There was nothing to grab onto, so I leaned against a wall as not to fall and hurt myself. My body slowly slid down the wall as I remember saying something like, “I’m seeing black.” 

My mother’s reaction? “Oh, don’t be so dramatic.” 

Fast forward five years later. I’m 18 years old, in military public affairs training, sick with undiagnosed anemia and endometriosis. Since anemia causes fatigue and can hinder learning and memory, I was doing poorly in my classes. It didn’t make sense to me, because I was always an A/B student – especially in my favorite subjects. I wasn’t comprehending or retaining anything being taught. One navy instructor told me I’d never be a writer, because I couldn’t write (I resented her for that). Because of my low grades, I was called into the office of someone in charge, where I had to stand in front of two majors coming down on me hard. One major in particular was yelling in my face, telling me I’m not trying hard enough, that I’m not good enough to be in his school, that I’m lying, and they’re going to kick me out of the military. 

But I was trying my hardest. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt so defeated and alone (another common pattern in my life). Once the anemia was diagnosed, my world turned around. Not only did I ace my classes, I won an award for being best in one of them. It was probably the only time in my life in which I felt things worked in my favor and I had “won” my battle. 

A few years later, I was out of the military and living with my husband and new baby. I was 21 years old and didn’t know what was wrong with me then, but my husband always yelled at me when I didn’t feel well. “What’s wrong with you? You’re always sick! You’re miserable!” Because yelling at a sick person puts a smile on their face? Not only was he extremely verbally abusive and unhelpful when I was sick, he was that way about everything, and he passed that awful trait to his offspring. Yes, I said that. 

Besides family members and this doctor, I can’t remember anyone else that has treated me poorly for being sick in the past several years. I guess I never thought it would happen in a professional office during a scheduled visit, so it took me by surprise that I would have to deal with this at all. 

This really makes me wonder how many people are out there getting abused while they’re ill? You hear about abuse happening to the defenseless elderly and doctor’s sexual abuse against patients but not so much about verbal abuse against regular people. We’re made to feel like we did something wrong, that something is wrong with us if we are sick, that we are less valuable, and don’t deserve help, love, or empathy. We’re gaslighted and made to feel like we’re crazy, which only adds to confusion and stress. 

When I found this article in a google search, I breathed this sigh of relief, because I know there is at least one other person out there experiencing this: 

Are you verbally abused when you’re sick? 

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