I am not a good advocate for my own health. This is a problem and it’s one that I need to deal with.
As a child, I began to exaggerate every headache, stomachache, cough I could to be able to stay home from or leave school. I didn’t realize until I was older that I was school avoidant—probably because I was unchallenged and frankly didn’t get along well with kids my age. So I started, in my young mind, to internalize myself as a faker.
This came to a head for the first time at summer camp when a friend of mine called me a hypochondriac. I felt awful, but I had to be exaggerating, right? So I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to seek help. My friend was a diabetic with real health problems. Therefore, my thirteen-year-old brain determined that I didn’t need any help because her health was worse than mine. By the time we met up later in the day, she apologized for snapping at me because she was mad about something else, I had a 103 degree fever and nearly had to be sent to the hospital.
I wish I could say I learned something about my health that day. But I didn’t. I just settled into a pattern of believing that I was a faker and that other people’s problems being worse than mine meant that I shouldn’t seek treatment at all.
Shortly after college, I was plagued by the feeling of being trapped with no future and fleeting thoughts of suicide. But I’m a privileged upper-middle class white kid, I shouldn’t have any problems. I feared being laughed at when I made an appointment with a new therapist because my problems seemed so minor in comparison to others. After a few months of therapy she suggested I try antidepressants, and after talking through my worries I ultimately made the decision to do so.
I was stunned by my newfound ability to think critically about my emotions and my cognitions without being overwhelmed.
You’d think after all that I would have finally learned my lesson about advocating for myself. And I am finally starting to. I have been battling mystery pelvic pain, on and off, for almost right years. The first time, my parents didn’t believe I was sick and we were on vacation, so I was being dragged up and down cathedrals in Italy. The pain came back again about three years later. Then one year later. Then again and again with increasing frequency. After a misdiagnosis of Crohn’s disease and ruling out appendicitis three times over, I realized I was feeling this pelvic pain constantly—not just when ovulating like how it started. I’ve bled after ultrasounds and not said anything to the doctor. In fact my gyno was stunned to know that during my ovulation pain spells I can’t sleep without taking some narcotics left over from a family member’s injury or oral surgery.
I hadn’t even let my doctor know how much pain I was in. This had to stop.
Even as I lie awake at 2:30 am cringing slightly at the pain part of me is saying it’s not so bad. The other, newer part of me is saying “you shouldn’t be in pain at all!” Which is why I’m taking steps to truly diagnose and treat what I am almost certain is endometriosis. I’m seeing my surgeon on Thursday to get all the information and if all goes well I’ll be proceeding with the surgery in early August.
I just hope I can continue to take care of myself and speak up about my health.