When Doctors Brush You off Because They Don’t Know How to Treat You

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Recently I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, The Golden Girls. Even though I’ve seen the show hundreds of times, watching a few episodes really clicked and hit home this time. If you’re familiar with the show, the episodes I’m referring to are called “Sick and Tired”.

It’s 2-part episode where Dorothy was experiencing extreme exhaustion and feeling run down and sick for months. Which, as a fibromyalgia suffer, I know all too well. This really got me thinking. How many of us have had to endure multiple doctors, appointments, and telling our story?

How many times have we been brushed off and told to “get some rest” because the doctor was unable to find a root cause of our pain? How many times have we questioned and doubted ourselves thinking that maybe we aren’t really sick?

The episode focuses on Dorothy’s struggles trying to find a doctor who believes she is sick and isn’t trying to dismiss her illness because they can’t figure it out. She sees doctors who tell her that it’s all in her head, but deep down she knows that she is not well. This is something we all have dealt with and continue to deal with.

Having an invisible illness is not easy. We know that something is wrong, but how do you prove it? There isn’t an easy test or blood work that can be done to diagnose something like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.

The scene of the episode is all too familiar. We know we are ill. Our family knows it. They support us and encourage us to seek help. (I know not everyone is this fortunate, but personally I have an incredible support system like Dorothy.) In the end, after finally being diagnosed, Dorothy encounters the doctor who dismissed her while she was out to dinner at a restaurant. Ironically, she took Rose, Blanche and Sophia out to dinner to celebrate her finally getting a diagnosis for chronic fatigue from another doctor.

She was able to confront him and inform him that she really is sick, and him dismissing her without any help was not professional or helpful. We are not all lucky enough to be able to confront those who doubt us, especially when it comes to doctors.

The rejection we face with an invisible illness is almost as bad as the physical pain we endure. Even though the show originally aired many years ago, it’s still so powerful and helpful to those of us who suffer. Since so many people question and doubt the pain and fatigue, it’s so helpful to have TV shows and celebrities like Lady Gaga and Morgan Freeman speak out to bring light to the fact that these illnesses are real and serious.  

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