How Medical Gaslighting Affected Me
Medical gaslighting is a term I’ve only come to know in recent years. But, it’s something that I have, unfortunately, experienced many times since I was first diagnosed with endometriosis.
In the past, I’ve had doctors laugh at me when I’ve questioned if cyclical symptoms I’ve been experiencing could be related to endometriosis. I’ve had them tell me to stop Googling treatments they've failed to suggest. I’ve even had a GP question me on why I thought I needed a treatment the hospital had requested I have!
I used to feel I had overstepped my mark as a patient. That I shouldn’t be questioning their suggestions or thoughts, and I should know my place.
But, endometriosis and I have really been through the mill over the 25 years or so of my life that it's been present. I’ve come to the point where I’m over doctors belittling me. I do now, more often than not, know that I have more knowledge on the subject than the doctors I have spoken with.
Saying that, you would think I can deal with doctors like this now. But that wasn’t the case when the most recent event occurred.
An incompetent doctor
Seeing a new doctor when you live with a complex medical history is a nerve-wracking experience. That doctor only knows you through your medical notes. They don’t know YOU.
Unfortunately, I had to see a new doctor.
To cut a very long and complex story short, this doctor not only belittled me numerous times but did so in the presence of his staff, a ward full of patients, their visitors, and my own family. He told me everything I had been told by various other doctors, had seen with my own eyes, been presented with via scans, and had lived with since diagnosis, was wrong.
Despite being formally diagnosed with endometriosis, undergoing countless treatments, experiencing numerous hospitalizations due to the pain it has caused… I didn’t have it.
He stood, with the contradictory evidence in his hands, and said "You should be happy that you don’t have endometriosis".
This experience completely threw me. I was at my most vulnerable, post life-changing surgery and dealing with further complications. He made me question myself, everything I had ever known, and every medical professional I had seen.
Had it all been in my head?
This, of course, had a knock-on effect, and now, almost 2 years on, I still haven’t fully processed the event. In fact, just writing about it triggers all the same emotions. I relive it time and time again. And to cope with this, I've bottled it all up.
Since then, I haven’t seen doctors about things I should have. I’ve failed to tell them about things they could help me with. I've lost all trust in healthcare professionals. And the fear of opening up to them and showing them this vulnerability has become too much for me to cope with.
He took away all the strength I had gained over years of endometriosis tearing it away.
Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?