So, I know you know the following things about me, because you read my blog, but lets get the ball rolling with the following information, so we know what privileges I’m starting with before I go flaunting my opinions all over the place.
I am a fat, white, cis-gendered female. I have qualified for the “obese” category since I was a kid. I was a giantess among elementary schoolers, and while I’m no longer the tallest one around, I’m still Fatty Fatterson from the playground. I have no medical education.
Ok, now lets talk health care. Recently (yesterday) I was reviewing the summary my clinic sends me off with after every appointment, and noticed that in June they added “Obese” to my medical “problem” list (right up there with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Anxiety). Now, it’s been a few months, but I don’t remember it even coming up in conversation… in fact I can think of ZERO times my weight has come up with my rheumatologist. Funny enough, this same comment was scrawled across my first OMMP application by the doctor at that clinic, again without conversation. It leaves me asking the question – should I be grateful I don’t have to have “the talk” with my doctor, even if it comes up in my file? Or should I ask for it to be stricken from the file, because it seems totally irrelevant?
I ask this, because you know what else is on my chart? My real, actual weight.
In a seemingly unrelated twist (trust me, I’ll bring it back around), I recently read this article, Trans People Are Speaking Out About Their Horrible Experiences With Health Care, shared by a friend of mine who is well on their way to becoming a doctor, with the caption “Anger. Much anger towards my profession.” (Stay with me. I am NOT saying that what I deal with as a fat woman is necessarily similar to what trans people have to deal with… but it is a great article and it focuses on health care. Cool.)
Around the same time, another friend had posted that her doctor had googled her symptoms right in front of her…
And last night, someone posed a dermatological question in a Fat facebook community. It was something that I think most people have experienced, but my first instinct was to tell her to talk to a doctor. My second instinct was to private message her and tell her to go to a doctor than tell me what she found out so that I could know what it was because I experience the same thing. I was hesitant to reply in comments because at that moment I thought “What if we’re the only two, and I’m outing myself as a gross person.” A thought that honestly leaves me feeling embarrassed for two reasons: 1. She had the courage to say something, so why couldn’t I? 2. A zillion other people ALSO had the courage to say something immediately diminishing any fear of judgement in the first place. But there’s stigma for you.
In any case, these moments got me thinking about when I first started experiencing RA symptoms. It was May of 2014, and I was waking up with what I now know is the morning stiffness (heh heh). At the time I thought my arms were falling asleep while the rest of me was asleep, because I would wake up sore from the shoulders down to my finger tips, but the symptoms would recede throughout the day. This transitioned into more hand pain and yadda yadda, shit progressed. The thing is, things could have been diagnosed SO. MUCH. EARLIER if I only had the vocabulary to communicate with my doctor.
AND NOW WE GET TO MY POINT
Honestly, it was reading Health At Every Size that made me realize something: Doctors are just people. I always kind of imagined them as infallible and god-like and to be listened to for one’s best health. But the truth is there is a wealth of issues out there with various symptoms, and it’s A LOT to handle. This is why there are specialists and what not. But our general practitioners are not necessarily equipped to handle everything we can throw at them. Not only that, but they are force fed the same information and media bias everyone else is. Because they are people.
What I’m getting at is this:
- Get informed. Google your symptoms, and continue to refine your searches until you find something that resonates. I’m NOT saying that you should self diagnose, however this kind of clarity might be helpful for your doctors and help you get treated properly and quickly.
- Stand up for yourself. If your doctor is not addressing your issues to your satisfaction or is addressing things that you don’t find to be an issue, tell them. Make them clarify their points to you until you understand. And if they are not willing to work with you, fire them. They are there to help you.
- Don’t forget that mental health is health too. Blaming issues on weight or hormones without proper investigation is demeaning and damaging and cannot be cancelled out by losing weight or stopping HRT.
Anyways, there’s some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain. I am curious to hear your opinions… this is a topic that has really been at the surface for me, lately, and I’m curious to examine it from other angles.