I have a chronic illness, and, hm. I don’t feel like a fraud, but I feel like other people will feel like I’m a fraud if I don’t present ‘right’. And I’m usually right about that – there’s a balancing act between caring enough about my health to keep myself healthy and not seeming to care too much about my health lest people consider my high-strung. That I’m a young woman definitely does not help here: my chronic illness is moderately severe asthma, and there are more than a few doctors out there who genuinely believe that shortness of breath in a young woman is an anxiety attack until proven otherwise – and good luck disproving an anxiety attack to a doctor who refuses to review your medical record or run any spirometry. I’ve gone to the ER with severe flares, with my oxygen saturation so low I was turning blue, and had a sexist doctor sit me unsupervised and alone in a quiet, dark room so I could ‘calm down,’ despite the fact that the paramedics had measured my O2 at 82%. Normal, btw, is >97%. That was a life-threatening attack, and it’s sheer luck I didn’t worsen, pass out, and die right there in the ER. Why did he assume anxiety? Because shock and awe, not being able to breathe is scary, so I was crying.
So I have to work at maintaining my health whilst not seeming like I’m working at maintaining my health. And I have to care about how I’m breathing while pretending to not care about how I’m breathing. Which is pretty much impossible in a really severe flare. But I have to wait until I’m in a severe flare before I go in, lest the ER staff ask me why I’m wasting their time. In so many words. Because we can’t trust the asthma patient who’s been living with this for twenty-five years that she’s going into a severe flare, nooooo. *eyeroll*
And then when I do get sick but not bad enough to go to the hospital (which thankfully hasn’t happened in over two years), there’s a balancing act of when I go to work and when I stay home. I general, because I get sick more often than most people, I have to stay at work when sicker than most because if I don’t show I’m sick, I’ll start getting snide remarks like, “are you sure you’re sick?”
And so on… I’ve called it chronic illness performance art in the past because if I don’t jump through hoops like a circus animal, people will think I’m faking and/or having an anxiety attack despite no history of anxiety. Because young, healthy-looking twentysomething women aren’t physically sick unless they’re coughing up a lung in front of you.
See also: pretty much everyone with a chronic illness I’ve met hates the sentence, “but you don’t look sick!” Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll be sure to avoid sunlight and make myself sicker by shorting sleep so I look appropriately sick to you, person who does not have my lungs but seems to feel qualified to make decisions about my health or lack thereof.
So, yeah. I definitely relate. And that’s without going into my rant about other people who are not in my body trying to decide what I am or am not physically capable of (if I’m not flaring, I’m as capable as those without chronic illness at my work – but until recently, I had a coworker who’d forbid me from doing physical crap in his presence because it might flare my asthma. Benevolent ableism in the same sense as benevolent sexism. To you chronically well people out there: Let the chronically ill person decide what xie is capable of that day. Because if you presume to judge for hir, I guarantee you’ll get it wrong).
huntsdoddard wrote:Please tell me you don’t live in the UK, since i don’t want to believe what the wingers tell me about NHS. Any doctor who doesn’t immediately recognize asthma should be fired on the spot.
No, I don’t live in the UK, but I’ve heard stories from there, and in the States too. The problem isn’t my medical system (I live in Canada), but rather sexism and the god complex actively encouraged in med schools. Fact is that docs can’t know everything about medicine, but they’re taught to act as if they do (and I understand why – in an emergency, being paralyzed by doubt would be a bad thing). Problem: They’re not trained to know when they need to defer to the patient who’s been living this for twenty-five years. So if you’re anything less than cookie-cutter stereotype of your disease (and I’m definitely not a stereotypical moderately severe asthmatic because my baseline lung function is really high and I’m not a wheezer at all), they’ll probably mistreat you.
Couple that with sexism about teh flighty wimminz, and it’s a recipe for experiences like mine. I’ve had similar experiences in other countries (the US and Germany), and other women with asthma from elsewhere in the world who I know also have similar experiences in their home countries. I’m pretty sure it’s not Canada-specific, I’m pretty sure it’s sexist-culture-specific.
Also, Greta, I didn’t say this before because I hadn’t had my coffee and my rant button was pushed but I’ll say it now: I’m glad you’re starting to feel better, and just take things at your own pace during your recovery. A close friend of mine was killed in a car crash two years ago next May, and I’ll still cry about her sometimes. It takes time to recover, and it’s okay to still be hurting about it. Some things never heal fully, and the death of someone close to you is one of them, I think.
but rather sexism and the god complex actively encouraged in med schools
Too many rocks stars, not enough humble physicians. It seems to be that way in a lot of professions these days, doesn’t it?
ischemgeek wrote:Erm, I'm not really comfortable continuing this conversation in Greta's comment thread - it seems like a derail, and it strikes me that it would be really insensitive of us to talk about sexism in medicine when she started a thread asking for advice and emotional support. If you want, you could come over to the A+ forums and we could talk about it in this thread I've started. I won't reply to this comment thread here anymore about this topic.