Monday, May 6, 2013

Stupid Things Physicians Say


I spend long hours perfecting the art of whining about physicians. It's a hobby of sorts. But I recently realized that healthy people have no idea why those of us with chronic illnesses start foaming at the mouth when someone says the word "rheumatologist." Allow me to give you a short list of some of the most offensive, yet common, things that we lupus patients are regularly told by the people who are supposed to be working to keep us alive. Incidentally, these are also things that you should never, ever, ever say to a lupus patient unless you like being repeatedly whacked on the head with a cane.

Updated from time to time per reader's suggestions.


12: (Not one I've gotten) "You're just a bored housewife." A lot of stay at home moms get this one. Why, I don't know. From my observations on the subject, I would surmise that stay at home moms don't have *time* to get bored. They're too busy preventing the toddler from burning down the house.

11. "You're hypochondriac/It's all in your head/You're just depressed." Yes. Because depression often makes people break out in a rash, have blue fingers and huddle up in pain.

10. "You look fine." No sh**. I look fine because I have to interact with normal, healthy people every day, and I don't want to scare them. (See here for more details on that.) But ask yourself this: would I still look fine without the wig/scarf/hat/etc., half pound of makeup and clothes that cover up my badly bruised limbs? No? I thought not.

9. "You need to try Tai Chi." Ok, I have nothing against Tai Chi. Or Chai Tea, if it comes to it. However, if you're seriously suggesting that my pain will magically go away if I start doing Tai Chi, I want whatever drug it is that you're taking.

8. "You're just stressed out." This is, in fact, true. I am stressed out. Being chronically ill, trying to find a job and having a sociopath physician will do that to a person. That being said, I'm still sick, and it's still your job to make me less so. Hop to it.

7. "You need a boyfriend/girlfriend." No joke, I was once told this (a long time ago) by a physician. Surprisingly, she didn't write a prescription. I was disappointed.

6. "You shut yourself in too much. Go out more." Ok...let's make a deal. You treat me to the point where I need fewer than 16 hours of sleep a day to survive and I'll go out more. Until then, me and my caffeinated self will continue to try to survive school and/or work, 'k?

5. "You should go out in the sun. Just wear a hat and sunscreen." You have *got* to be kidding me. Five minutes in the sun = one week of fevers. Plus I have a history of melanoma. And you're yelling at me for staying inside too much?

4. "Oh, just ignore the fevers [from #5]." Really? I bet if *you* had a fever you wouldn't be here insulting me. You'd be in bed, whining. I have spent months wherein I had to go to work every day with a fever of around 100F. I did my work. I did it well. But I sure as hell wasn't able to "just ignore" the fever.

3. "[Your symptom] is not lupus because I've never seen it before." I'm not even going to comment on this one.

2. "Your [insert blood count here] is in the safe range, so I'm not going to do anything about it." Really? Safe range? While I'm glad I'm not (currently) in the range that means I could drop dead at any moment, I'd really be a lot happier if I were in the healthy range. And that healthy range is 5-10 times  higher than your so-called safe range. That's a problem. Please fix it, or be honest enough to say you don't know how.

1. "I'm going to give you an anti-depressant for your pain." Really. Because that doesn't belittle me or the fact that my body is trying to kill itself. Don't get me wrong, anti-depressants are good things for chronically ill people. I'm on about five of them. But my pain is not all in my head, it is not the result of negative self-image, nor is it going to be cured by giving me yet another psychiatric drug. The pain, Dr. Genius, is coming from lupus, not depression.


As I read through this list, I feel that warm glow of pride that comes from the fact that some variation of every one of these things has been said to me, but, and this is key, I have never been arrested for attempted murder. Not even for assault and battery. Go me.


17 comments:

  1. I have been accused of Munchausen, that im a Hypochondriac, and that im just a board house wife. Healthy people just don't get it.

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    1. I've often thought about offering to beat up the doctor so that they can have a small taste of what it feels like to have lupus for a brief period of time.

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  2. Congratulations on your complete lack of an arrest record. You have been severely provoked.

    My experience doesn't even come close, but I did once have a male doctor inform me that my description of feeling my baby move in utero was "not what it feels like." Granted, I had only been pregnant once before, but how many times had he been pregnant?

    So remember, don't bite doctors--they taste lousey.

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    1. I second that. I can't stand any doctor after 40 years of this and not one yet has any clue or compassion. Now they are all younger than I have lived with this disease. I am taking their word? No! When I arrive now at any physicians office I want to claw their eyes out everyone of them as they all hate their jobs and are lazier than they label us.

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  3. I copied this, it makes me laugh. Think I will share it with my rheumy who sometimes thinks I have lupus and sometimes doesn't, ah, before I typed this of course. LOL Now this screen was left up on my lap top from yesterday and I have NO CLUE how I got it up here...HA, maybe one of my favorite Facebook private sites where we can all complain...will find out when I back out...thanks for the smiles. :)

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  4. I had a doctor tell me in the first year of my lupus that my symptoms were all in my head, that all my lab findings were false positives, that there was nothing wrong with except that I needed to see a psychiatrist, and then she added the insult that staying home, to raise four children, and--knitting! (How dare I.) She told me to my face that I was denigrating the cause of women.

    I had to go to that shrink just to prove I had no reason to go to a shrink, and he read my lab findings, the EEG, the brain MRI, and marveled out loud over and over, She told you this result was *normal*? She said...?! He ended the hour with, I need to talk to Dr. B. I see NO further role for psychiatry in your case, Mrs. H, have a nice day, as he showed me the door.

    Validation never felt so good. (And of course I never went back to her.)

    And then I kept randomly running into Dr. B. With all four kids in tow, and all four perfectly behaved each time, perfectly happy, perfectly cooperating. One time she was driving past and we were on the sidewalk and she nearly ran us down as she stared. I guess she had no idea families, much less families with patients, could be happy.

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    1. Perfectly behaved?!?! What were you drugging us with?

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    2. Well, in one of the cases, the people in the lab had just handed you all lollipops...

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  5. The unfortunate thing about stupidity is that, unlike Lupus, it really is all in your head.

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    1. I'm willing to test the hypothesis that it could be cured if I repeatedly apply a baseball bat to their heads.

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  6. I got the depression and fibromyalgia diagnosis. I have one I know you have gotten.
    "You don't have Lupus because you're a man and men don't get Lupus." He wasn't my doctor, he was my wife's doctor. I went with her to him for her first visit with him. Now he asks me advice about Lupus. LOL I should send him a bill.

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    1. Don't forget to jack up your price. You know he would!

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  7. I recounted an interaction with a former physician to a friend via email. Bracketed comments <> are would what I would have like to say to this doctor!

    – she noted that I had been in her office a lot recently
    – she wasn’t clear on what my symptoms are
    – I explained again ...for what, the fourth time? how I get exhausted and just start to shut down (aches, mental fog, extreme fatigue); she assured me that bodies don’t just shut down and I won’t die
    – all my blood work came back within normal limits, save the one inflammation test where 5-10% of the population have elevated levels and are healthy
    – she is referring me to a rheumatoid doctor just in case, it should take 2-3 months (more like 8-12 by the way)
    – I am young and healthy < except for the whole hypochondria thing you are intimating I guess?>
    – she listed somatization as a possibility (seriously, she used that word) As in psychosomatic, as in “get thee to a psychiatrist you annoying patient whose body is perfect, except for your brain which must be making you sick but we don’t count that as part of your body when it works better for us that way”.
    – I asked “OK, if it’s all in my head, how do I fix that?” She looked taken aback. Surprised at my vocabulary no doubt, a further sign she has not been paying attention to anything I say. Well, she said, knowing that the blood work shows "nothing" should be reassuring. Proof that while somatization is a convenient out when a doctor can’t diagnose patients, she clearly didn’t understand what she was even saying. If my symptoms were a result of mental health issues that were subverted and expressed by physical symptoms because I am somehow unable to accept that I have a mental health issue, I would still be unable to accept that I have a mental health issue regardless of what the blood work was saying. There is nothing worse than incompetence multiplied.
    – she suggested that I just live my life and do what I normally do; lots of people are tired at work and make it through
    – getting 7-8 hours of sleep is adequate
    – I should consider an exercise program; I said I had exercised before Christmas and I was left too tired to function; she said I likely overdid it, maybe I should start a walking program ( like maybe get up half an hour earlier in the morning, 6:30ish for example – hello? have you heard how much I am sleeping?), I said that walking around for a couple of hours at the mall this weekend was exhausting, she said that’s not exercise, I need to get my heart rate up and sweat
    – I am also on a lot of medication for a young person, since I don’t seem depressed, maybe I should decrease my meds in the spring to see if they are the problem
    – and she told me not to going buying any flower type potions that promise to fix this .So she foresees my desperation but still thinks there isn’t a problem. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt beatch.

    I felt like I was trapped in a Monty Python skit. The parrot is dead! Sweet jesus, it is not resting nor is it pining for the fjords.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218

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  8. Very sorry! Brackets <> seem to delete the content...sometimes. One more try.

    – she noted that I had been in her office a lot recently -No shit. I’m sick. You’re a doctor. Do the math. Your pejorative tone is duly noted.
    – she wasn’t clear on what my symptoms are - what exactly are you typing into the chart during my appointments then? is there an e doodle feature?
    – I explained again for the fourth time how I get exhausted and just start to shut down (aches, mental fog, extreme fatigue); she assured me that bodies don’t just shut down and I won’t die -who said anything about dying? and p.s. yes bodies do shut down & die!
    – all my blood work came back within normal limits, save the one inflammation test where 5-10% of the population have elevated levels and are healthy -unstated obvious math: 90-95% are not healthy
    – she is referring me to a rheumatoid doctor just in case, it should take 2-3 months -more like 8-12
    – I am young and healthy -except for the whole hypochondria thing you are intimating I guess?
    – she listed somatization as a possibility seriously, she used that word As in psychosomatic, as in “get thee to a psychiatrist you annoying patient whose body is perfect, except for your brain which must be making you sick but we don’t count that as part of your body when it works better for us that way”.
    – I asked “OK, if it’s all in my head, how do I fix that?” She looked taken aback. Surprised at my vocabulary no doubt, a further sign she has not been paying attention to anything I say. Well, she said, knowing that the blood work shows nothing should be reassuring. Proof that while somatization is a convenient out when a doctor can’t diagnose patients, she clearly didn’t understand what she was even saying. If my symptoms were a result of mental health issues that were subverted and expressed by physical symptoms because I am somehow unable to accept that I have a mental health issue, I would still be unable to accept that I have a mental health issue regardless of what the blood work was saying. There is nothing worse than incompetence multiplied.
    – she suggested that I just live my life and do what I normally do; lots of people are tired at work and make it through
    – getting 7-8 hours of sleep is adequate
    – I should consider an exercise program; I said I had exercised before Christmas and I was left too tired to function; she said I likely overdid it, maybe I should start a walking program ( like maybe get up half an hour earlier in the morning, 6:30ish for example – hello? have you heard how much I am sleeping?, I said that walking around for a couple of hours at the mall this weekend was exhausting, she said that’s not exercise, I need to get my heart rate up and sweat -well you can’t have it both ways so which is it?!!
    – I am also on a lot of medication for a young person, since I don’t seem depressed, maybe I should decrease my meds in the spring to see if they are the problem- It’s like the dandruff commercial, “but you don’t have dandruff!”, yeah genius because I treat it constantly
    – and she told me not to going buying any flower type potions that promise to fix this. So she foresees my desperation but still thinks there isn’t a problem. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt beatch.

    I felt like I was trapped in a Monty Python skit. The parrot is dead! Sweet jesus, it is not resting nor is it pining for the fjords.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218

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    1. Yikes. Sounds like you found a real winner in that doctor.

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    2. Yikes. Sounds like you found a real winner in that doctor.

      Delete