why are healthcare professionals so shitty
So it’s like this: when you have a chronic illness, a lot of the condescending bullshit you get boils down to two things:
1. people thinking you’re weak, and
2. people thinking it’s all in your head and/or you’re just making too big a deal out of your symptoms/everything in general if you ask for any help/accommodation.
And ESPECIALLY for anyone who’s a lady or read as a lady, there’s a heavy element of misogyny there. Like, did you know that VASTLY more women die of heart disease than men? Do you know why that is? It’s because when women go to their doctors complaining of chest pains, said doctors are FAR more likely to dismiss their symptoms as being stress-related than they’d be if a man was telling them the same shit. And so women die. Because when you’re understood - accurately or not - to be a woman, every single interaction you have with a healthcare professional is laced with the tacit assumption that your pain, fatigue, etc, are all just in your inferior lady-head.
This isn’t individual healthcare professionals being dicks. “Bitches are crazy” is a HEAVILY institutionalized attitude in medicine, and it’s roots go back to basically the CREATION of contemporary “western” medicine.
SO here’s what I’ve found as an ACTUALLY crazy bitch with a chronic illness trying navigate the healthcare system on various levels:
1. Basically every condescending, dubious/skeptical, etc response I get about my endo boil down to, “I WANT to tell you that it’s all in your head and treat you with all the disrespect and dismissal that I’d treat a crazy person with, but I have all this medical info here that tells me otherwise so I can’t just come right out and SAY what I believe here.”
2. BUT when I’m dealing with healthcare professionals in the context of my mental illnesses, that layer of pretend civility just… goes away. There’s no veiled invalidation of my symptoms, no dancing around the assumption that I’m making shit up for attention or to get out of assignment deadlines, because the invalidation of my symptoms and the assumption that I’m making shit up aren’t veiled or danced around, they’re stated outright.
3. I talked to the doctor running the clinical trial I was in about this, actually - he’s still a doctor I see when I can’t get in with my regular doctor, because I like him - and here’s what he said: “It’s true, for many doctors there is this confusion. Because depression, for example, there’s no test you can take for depression like you can take for diabetes. Any test you take for diabetes gives you an objectively positive or negative response. But we general practitioners can’t do such a test for depression. Some places they can give you an MRI and map your brain, but that’s not what we’re doing.”
4. So, most doctors see mental illness as being in an ENTIRELY different class from “physical” illness: “physical” illness is objective, because you can easily and accurately (for given values of “easily” and “accurately”, of course) test for it. But “mental” illness is entirely subjective, and they have no “real” way of easily & accurately testing for it that they don’t trust patients to not manipulate.
5. So they subject patients who present with mental illnesses to all sorts of shit that they don’t DIRECTLY subject patients with chronic physical illnesses to - particularly if those patients with chronic illnesses are white, male, etc - BUT that doesn’t mean that the ATTITUDES that inform the treatment of people with “mental” illnesses and people with “physical” illnesses are not fundamentally the same.
IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T FIGURED YET, I find the whole “mental illness” vs. “physical illness” to be totally bogus and insulting, as a mentally & physically ill person. The brain is an organ. The idea that mental illness is some kind of subjective affliction of the soul and not a concrete thing that takes place WITHIN THE BODY feels insulting on a whole new level to me (and probs to anyone who’s ever experienced regular panic attacks, too). My pain levels spike when I’m in a depressive episode FOR A REASON. Panic attacks have as profound an impact on my physical abilities as pain spikes. And I’ve written a bunch of academic stuff about how Freud & the construction of “transference”-as-medical-phenomenon are to blame for the suffering and deaths of MANY women (and people read as women), but this is tumblr so I’ll condense it: This shit KILLS PEOPLE, okay.
The people yelling at me at Concordia Health Services are part of a historical and ongoing tradition that directly and indirectly causes people trying to navigate the healthcare system to suffer unnecessarily and to DIE. And it fucking NEEDS to change. It’s not okay. It’s traumatic and horrible and shitty and terrifying and not okay at all.