A woman shares her experience with a rigid medical system that refused to take her symptoms seriously all through the process.
It is not easy for women to get heard in the medical setting. Anne Matheson in her study recognized that there is an urgent need to reorient our systems away from reproducing and privileging the dominance of men through inequality, as our current systems do and advance towards systems that privilege health and wellbeing, human rights for all and our fragile natural environment. At present, the medical setup in place prioritizes men and formulates their diagnostic methods in accordance with that group. This leads to many women being dismissed for their genuine concerns. Sam Hart (@thesam_show) felt dismissed during her diagnosis due to this patriarchal structure in place and talked about it in her video.
Hart clearly expressed her discontent with the caption of the video, "One day I will let this go!" She began by sharing how all of this started two years ago. For two years, the woman went from one doctor to another, hoping for some consideration, but instead, she was hit with only one suggestion: "Lose weight." As if every problem that a woman deals with has some association with how much she weighs on the scale. The obsession with her weight both disappointed and disturbed her. She should have been taken seriously when she said to her doctor the first time, "I am tired all the time and something is wrong."
Hart added how she tried to reason with the doctor by explaining that "it wasn't just regular sleepiness, it was like excessive sleepiness. To the point where, when it happened, I needed to lay down because I was going down one way or another." Even after listening to her concerns, the doctor still focused on her weight. Everything she said to him was dismissed. Her foot gets numb, which does not matter as per her doctor. Her wanting to check her fertility because of her family history would not be entertained because her fear is anxiety.
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Hart accepted that she "could stand to lose a few pounds," but was sure that the debilitating exhaustion that she felt could not just be because of the weight. There was something more that the doctors were just not interested in finding out. The whole thing was so emotional that she had to "go sit in my car and cry for a while." The next winter, her condition worsened to such an extent that she was not able to do her job. She forced them to test her for mono, which came back negative. In this situation, rather than getting help from the doctor, she had to think about what was wrong with her.
The disappointment continued at her OB-GYN. Hart shared with her, "I'm really tired all the time to the point where it feels like something is wrong." She was hit by, "Oh honey, it's very normal to feel super tired all the time; your body is changing." This one was blaming her age. All of this occurred over two years and until her recent breakthrough, everything remained the same. She again visited her the doctor who kept on blabbering about her weight. No attention was given to anything but her weight.
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This was the straw that broke the camel's back. She understood, "I can't keep doing this emotionally when I'm just trying to seek healthcare." The next time she scheduled an appointment with a new doctor, whom she found through her insurance, she immediately walked in and asserted herself, "I don't want to talk about my weight. I am so tired. There is something wrong and you need to trust me." He immediately listened to her and sent her to a sleep study. This proved to be game-changing for her, as it finally led to a solid diagnosis of sleep apnea. The reason she was so exhausted was that she was waking 50 times throughout the night due to breathlessness. All of this could have been figured out if any of her previous doctors had just listened to her.
She concludes by putting her emotions into words, "I am trying to let go of the anger that I feel, that I have been speaking about my exhaustion for almost 10 years now and either someone has attributed it to my weight or attributed it to my hormone." Nobody tried to look deeper, listen to her or have discussions. She felt disrespected throughout the entire process in a system that was just not created to help her.
The comments section put forward their own experiences and started a discussion about medical gaslighting. @lexiet525 commented how this has become conventional behavior for doctors: "It’s crazy because, as a fat person I deal with this a lot, but it’s crazy that they said you were overweight? Where? Wild. Sleep apnea gang." @linds_irene33 wrote how a helpful doctor can make or break the experience: "I have severe sleep apnea as well - my sleep doctor told me my weight will not change that fact and it made me feel so validated!"