Until this past year, I never saw a physician on a regular basis. By regular basis, I mean that sometimes entire years went by before I sought medical attention. I’ve never had great insurance, so I never went unless I was ill and obviously not getting better. Sometimes this has the potential to backfire magnificently (like the time in college I struggled through four months of terrible, heaving coughing and ended up scarring my lungs), but to me, it was just a way of life. If I knew I didn’t have the money to see my physician, I couldn’t go. Urgent care was definitely out, and I never, ever thought about going to the ER.
In 2015, I saw more physicians than I had in the previous four years. Perhaps it’s because of this concentrated dose that I was forcefully reminded why I avoid going unless I really have to.
This list is not an indictment of my physicians. My PCP and the specialist I’m currently seeing, while not perfect, are actually the best medical professionals I’ve experienced in a long time. Rather, this list is a personal expression of decades of frustration at the medical community at large, a frustration that has only deepened over time.
- Your BMI is awfully high / You’re overweight / You’re fat.
Firstly, [BMI is a terrible way to pretend to gauge someone’s health]. Secondly, over what weight, exactly? People mock the idea of big bones, but I’ve always been a solid person, even when I was a “regular” weight baby/child. I remember my first foray into Weight Watchers when they told me my goal weight was 115, a number the scale had literally not seen since I was ten years old.
Thirdly, I don’t need someone with a medical degree to tell me what I can see with my own eyes. I know I’m fat. Until recently, I was fat and healthy. My current medical issues don’t have any bearing with my fatness, and even if they did, it wouldn’t make me less worthy of treatment.
These statements are obvious, unhelpful, and waste the precious time I’ve paid for.
- It’s because you’re fat.
My fatness has been used to doctorsplain why I’ve gotten poison ivy, had allergies, ear infections, flus, headaches, carpal tunnel, blood in my eye, breathing issues, irregular periods, and neck trauma. Not only is this not true, it’s again unhelpful and a waste of the time I’m paying through the nose for.
- Don’t you have insurance?
Speaking of paying through the nose… I understand that everybody’s body is literally different, and that in the medical field, you have to do different kinds of tests to diagnose someone properly. But when a physician says I should do a certain barrage of tests (which are statistically likely to give a false answer 50% of the time, requiring at least another round), and I ask if there’s a more conclusive and direct route to getting the answer needed, and the attitude I get back is that I’m some uneducated peasant, a lot of the time I get the same question: don’t you have insurance?
Yes, I have insurance, because otherwise, my government would fine me for not having it. Does that mean I have good insurance? That I can go to my PCP every time I have a cough that won’t go away? Hell no. My deductible is a third of my yearly income. I’ve never once, in the ten years of paying for my own insurance, met half of my deductible. So that means on top of paying for my insurance, I pay for my medical stuff out of pocket.
- You’ll need to lose weight.
This is a particularly baffling response that often comes after I’ve explicitly stated that I have no interest in losing weight. Whether I’m getting a procedure done, or coming in because I have an ear infection, I don’t need the weight lecture. I, like most fat people, know every iteration of this lecture.
Also, just because I’ve stopped buying into the 60 billion dollar a year notion that magically shrinking myself would make all my dreams come true, doesn’t mean I’m not willing and able to whatever I can for my own health. Losing weight has proven itself very bad indeed for my health, so I’ve chosen to focus on behaviors I can actually change to make a difference in my health, such as eating more fruit and veg every day, moving my body in ways I enjoy, and so forth.
Physicians seen my refusal to lose weight as stubbornness and unwilling to comply with treatment, despite the fact I’ve said over and over that just because I refuse to purposely lose weight doesn’t mean I won’t follow instructions. For example, one of my specialists just told me to limit my protein to help my kidneys, so guess what? I’ve been limiting my protein. Easy peasy.
- All you have to do is…
Despite the fact I mostly like my current troupe of physicians, this doesn’t mean I don’t still get frustrated. Recently, when I shared my new diagnosis to one of my physicians, he launched enthusiastically into what I can do to lose weight. Before he could build up serious steam, I told him I have no interest in losing weight.
“Oh, you don’t have to try, it will probably just happen. All you have to do is…”
Cut out carbs! (Cholesterol went down 200 points!) Cut out soda! (A patient dropped thirty pounds and didn’t change anything else!) Cut out sugar (so much energy!) The list goes on.
There are three things wrong with this exchange. One: I expressly said I didn’t want to lose weight. I don’t see my weight as a problem to overcome. Two: news flash, I already don’t eat tons of bread or pasta, and I don’t drink soda. When I point out I don’t partake in these “fat” behaviors, people assume I’m lying, or that I must be mainlining cookie dough every night.
Third, and most distressingly of all, this sort of talk makes me sad because it’s how all our medical professionals are indoctrinated in medical school. These assumptions about health and fatness can and has killed people. Not just fat people, either.
Here’s to 2016, since it will be full of medical visits and physicians and professionals who may or may not want to treat me.