Clinician notes from my recent doctor’s visits have included comments such as “patient was tearful,” and “patient was in distress.” My initial reaction to reading these remarks was, “Oh, no. They are going to think I’m crazy and will blame my symptoms on anxiety or depression.”
I struggle with a fear of not being taken seriously. My concern is deeply rooted in the fact that my symptoms were dismissed for years before I eventually received a proper diagnosis. This experience led me to hide my feelings because I wanted to avoid being labeled as “emotional.” So, I would like my medical team to understand why I may be “distressed” or “tearful” during a checkup.
During some appointments, I display frustration that many medications to treat my symptoms are contraindicated for me. I become angry when I hear, “We are running out of things that we can do for this.” I know that my medical team has my best interests in mind and are doing all that they can. My anger is not directed at them but toward my own body.
I’m continually looking for ways to feel better despite being told on many occasions, “This is just how things are right now.” I often leave appointments feeling hurt and sometimes hopeless. I usually suppress my emotions until I leave the office. I try my best to stay calm as much as possible during appointments to avoid labels like “anxious” or “depressed” because I don’t want my emotions to cloud the bigger picture of my physical health.
Sometimes, I can’t conceal my emotions and my doctors see that I’m upset. I show my hurt and pain as I try to explain what I’m going through. I cry in fear of what my body is telling me. I find it hard to put my feelings into words. My scars are still fresh, and my wounds have yet to heal. When the body has gone through multiple traumas, as mine has over the past few months, it can easily get stuck in “fight mode.” I struggle not to wince or shiver each time someone touches me.
When I express emotions at appointments and it appears as though I’m in distress, it is because I am sick of being “strong” while holding it all together. I’ve learned that doctors won’t get the full picture if I’m quiet and behave as if I am “taking it well.” I know how hard it is to act like everything is fine — it can be more challenging than revealing my feelings. I cry because of the pain, both physical and mental, and the scars that remind me of recent traumas.
Explaining my health to medical doctors sends my emotional state into overdrive. Sometimes I fight back with anger. At other times, I become “tearful” and upset, or I hide my emotions until I leave the clinic. However, I realize that when I conceal my feelings, doctors are confused about how to treat me. If I develop trust with my care team, I allow them to understand my vulnerability and let myself communicate my emotions. Being “distressed” is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is an indication that I am fighting my hardest.
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