We live in a world where conventional medical practitioners are not set up to accommodate anything that falls outside traditional medicine. While they may have good intentions, these professionals often unwittingly participate in what’s known as medical gaslighting — a maddening process where doctors make you question your perception of the realities of your health. It’s why I rarely go to professionals in conventional medical practices. And unfortunately, I’m not alone in the feeling that medical gaslighting is more common than we think. Here are some common scenarios I’ve either encountered myself or that clients have experienced when seeking medical care.
When You Present Outside the Scope of Standard Symptoms
Let’s say you go to the doctor with symptoms that don’t link you directly with some kind of illness or condition. The traditional doctor dismisses you, attributing your symptoms to, say, getting older. This type of medical gaslighting most often happens in the beginning stages when you’re first trying to figure out why you feel tired, lethargic, achy, or just not like yourself. More than likely, the doctor will give you some kind of prescription to help those symptoms, but they won’t actually look into what’s actually causing your symptoms. For me, this medical gaslighting started in my early 20s and went on for many years.
When They Minimize Your Symptoms
Right along with the first scenario is the one where your doctor minimizes your symptoms. For instance, my symptoms of fatigue could be attributed to numerous things that might be benign. Still, the doctor never considered the bigger picture where fatigue could be caused by something underlying. When I think back, I was fatigued from an early age, always hitting the snooze button, needing more sleep than others my age, and having a difficult time even getting out of bed.
The traditional doctor would have me believe this is normal and not a big deal. Basically, the message is to “suck it up.” That message often becomes louder later in life when more issues arise, like chronic sinus infections or other illnesses. There was a time when every fall, I would get so sick that I would be in bed and not functional for a couple of months. When I tried to dig deeper to request a specialist, the doctor told me it wasn’t a big deal and that a lot of people get sick in the fall.
When You Question Your Own Sanity
Medical gaslighting, like the gaslighting you might see in a toxic relationship, can make you question your own sanity. When you try to get help for your symptoms, the doctor might make you feel like there’s something wrong in your head, and it can really do a number on the psyche.
As a result of medical gaslighting, I experienced mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. I questioned whether I was making up symptoms. I began taking medication for clinical depression, and while it took the edge off, I still couldn’t function normally. When I told my therapist I was still sad and depressed and asked when things would get better, she looked at me like I had three heads and she just said, “You just keep going to therapy and you keep taking your meds and that’s all you need to do.”
I’m not against therapy or psychiatric meds if you need them. However, sometimes you need to look beyond that to see what’s happening biochemically underneath it all.
When You Have Lab Work Refusal
Lab work refusal is another big one when it comes to medical gaslighting. Along with that is a kind of “shaming” for doing your own research. You end up feeling like you’re pulling teeth to get lab work done and try to get to the bottom of your symptoms.
While it’s true that laypersons might not understand the minutiae of medical science, they can learn enough to ask questions. I experienced this after having thyroid cancer and surgery. Three years afterward, I was still feeling like garbage, even with the medications my doctor prescribed. I asked my general practitioner to run some basic labs for that, and she said, “No, you’re too young for that. Insurance won’t cover it.” Even when I offered to pay cash, she still said she couldn’t write an order for that. Her hands were tied by a medical system that doesn’t consider that even young people can have underlying issues.
If you’ve experienced medical gaslighting, you might get to a point where you feel hopeless and defeated. You might think there’s nothing you can do and that you should just accept things. However, I’m proof it’s worth investigating your symptoms with a non-traditional medical professional.
If you’re looking for one-on-one support from someone who won’t gaslight you into thinking your symptoms are nothing, consider the All Year Resolution Membership. At $50 a month, it’s a fraction of the cost of working with someone at this level to get the support you need. You’ll start feeling better, faster, and actually overcome and resolve health issues.
Have you ever experienced medical gaslighting? I would love some feedback on your experiences. Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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