“I Told You I Was Sick”
For some people living with a chronic illness, being treated as a ‘hypochondriac’ is a traumatic, one-time event.
It’s that one unforgettable moment in a sick person’s life when their doctor clears his throat in a certain way, throws a suspicious glance over his shoulder, or suggests that ‘talking to someone’ might help. Or, it’s that not-so-subtle moment when the doctor rolls her eyes, sighs exasperatedly, and shouts, “Enough already! There’s nothing wrong with you!”
Suddenly, it hits you with gut-sinking clarity that the doctor you’ve put your faith in to heal you doesn’t even believe you’re sick. It’s then that you’re left wondering just how long you’ve been being humored.
I think that’s what gets to you the most. The sudden realization that it’s all been an act. That you, in your innocent earnestness, have been being seen as an attention-seeking nutcase for months, but you didn’t have a clue until the doctor slipped up and revealed her true feelings.
For me, it wasn’t any one particular event. You see, I was born sick. From birth, I struggled with chronic digestive problems, a completely blocked nose that forced me to breathe through my mouth at all times, brain fog, behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and frequent infections.
This was the 1980s, when being chronically ill wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. In a classroom full of healthy, energetic kids who were eager to learn, participate, and socialize, there I was, eyes glazed over, mouth agape, jumping at the slightest noise or touch, and constantly doubled over with stomach pain.
The many health specialists I was taken to were sympathetic—at first. But when test after test came back “normal” or negative, the unanimous conclusion was that I was a manipulative child making it all up for attention.
Once I grew up and moved out on my own, I started going to every doctor that would take me. I refused to accept that nothing was wrong with me when I was miserable all the time.
It wasn’t until my hair fell out, and I was nearly skin and bones from excessive and unplanned weight loss, that I finally received the validation and answers I’d been searching for.
In 2002, a naturopathic physician put me on an elimination diet to figure out what foods were causing me so much trouble. It turns out I’m horribly intolerant to gluten. I also had a bunch of other food and environmental allergies, as well as an autoimmune blood disorder called ITP.
Even after I was able to tell people, “I told you I was sick”, the battle was far from over. As a matter of fact, it was just beginning. Because it was a naturopathic doctor and not a medical doctor who diagnosed me with gluten intolerance, it probably wasn’t true.
It was then that I realized just how much power those pediatric doctors actually had. It didn’t matter that I had been diagnosed or even that I had blood work to prove my ITP. The image of me as a manipulative, attention-seeking liar was branded so firmly into the brains of those around me, that they couldn’t let it go even after the evidence was right in front of them.
It wasn’t until 2014 when I became extremely ill and ended up in the hospital that I received the rest of the diagnoses I had been so desperately seeking. Now that everything is on paper and confirmed by multiple medical sources, I am treated like an entirely different human being.
That is, I am believed, nurtured, and protected. But I never, EVER should have had to go through that kind of mental torment to receive what every human being needs to survive; support.
So, medically-trained professionals, I leave you with this: The more you dismiss us, shun us, bully us, and project your own interpretation of our behavior onto us, the more likely we are to have a complete nervous breakdown and confirm your original belief that we are “hysterical”.
Just remember, we didn’t walk into your office that way.
About the Author
Jaime A. Heidel is a professional freelance writer with a passion for natural health and wellness. After being sick from birth to age 22, a naturopathic physician finally gave her a reason for her lifelong mystery symptoms: Gluten intolerance.
In 2010, Jaime founded the website, I Told You I Was Sick in an
effort to validate, support, and educate others living with chronic disease.
After years of accumulating knowledge through both research and trial and
error, the dedicated writer took the information and turned it into a book called, Life Beyond Chronic Pain – The Step-By-Step Guide to Healing Chronic Illness Naturally. In it, Jaime uses cutting-edge research to explain the development of autoimmune disease, how to get to the root cause of the problem, and how to heal your chronic illness in an order that makes a holistic approach most effective.