Jenni over at ChronicBabe had a plan for her month-long sabbatical: ask for guest posters. My contribution appears today and is cross-posted here. Thanks for including me, Jenni!
"I'm so relieved I'm not crazy!"
Someone I know has just - finally - received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. When she told me what happened in the appointment, she mentioned her relief that she hadn't lost her mind or made it all up. This despite having spent months experiencing obvious physical symptoms that something was Very Wrong indeed. I'm pretty sure most of you are nodding in recognition, having been in that place of thinking you'd lost your mind.
That's when I started wondering why it is that we doubt ourselves so much. And I think I’ve found a few reasons,
Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt
This is a no-brainer. Nobody wants to be sick. No one wants these mysterious symptoms to be an indication that there is something going on, something that likely can't be fixed by an aspirin and a Band-Aid. The only explanation is that it ain't happening, not truly. So you take a trip into denial, complete with a London Bobby standing next to you at all times, officiously exclaiming “move along, nothing to see here!”
At some point after you’ve received a diagnosis, denial leaves the building and is quickly followed by the other four stages of grief: anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Acceptance is easier when accompanied by chocolate. A lot of chocolate.
My Body Has Been Taken Over by an Alien
When you wake up in the morning and don't feel like yourself, what are you supposed to think? Where once you awoke feeling rested, now you feel as if you haven't slept in weeks. Where once you had energy, now you feel as if you're moving in treacle and then there's the pain keeping up a steady stream of complaining like your own personal (and portable) Greek chorus. Clearly the only logical reason is that you have been hijacked by an alien, here to do an advance reconnoiter before the mothership arrives.
We get used to our bodies feeling a certain way. When they don't and there's no logical explanation such as the flu or food poisoning, you start questioning reality. Are you really feeling what you're feeling? Is it an alien or have you lost your mind?
Dr. Know-It-All Doesn’t Know It All
We don't just have to fight our own jumps into outlandish explanations for the strange symptoms. Often, we are helped right along by doctors who are incapable of saying those magic three little words "I don't know." Instead, they claim you're perfectly healthy and those symptoms? Well, maybe if you found a way to deal with stress, try yoga or perhaps a spot of counseling would help. Because y’know… the medical literature is full of people who have cured chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, MS and lupus with the powers of their mind. Sadly, women are still more likely to get this type of advice, so it's pretty obvious that although we may have come a long way, the medical profession hasn't.
At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If you gut tells you that there's something wrong, believe it. Don't ignore your symptoms, but do ignore doctors who pat you on the head and tell you there's nothing wrong. Find another doctor and another one after that, if necessary. It is your body and you understand better than anyone the messages it sends out. Don't let anyone tell you that it's all in your head.