Do you avoid going to the doctor?

There’s a great post over at Fat and Sassy, linking a study which concludes fat people of a certain age are hospitalized far more than their thinner peers. A quote from the study:

Appropriate primary care could have prevented these hospitalizations, Ferraro said. However, those who are overweight or obese may not have sought regular care because of embarrassment or other issues related to their weight.

I was raised in a household where you always went to the doctor if something was even mildly wrong. Throat hurts, persistent dizziness, weird skin thing, etc, you let it go for a few days but no longer than two weeks, and then you go to the doctor.

When I was in elementary school, I was brought to the pediatrician a lot. I don’t really remember all the times I went, but I do remember one particular time: that’s right, it was the time that my doctor made me cry because he suggested I wasn’t getting any exercise and eating tons of junk because I was a chubby kid. The reality was, of course, that my mom didn’t even allow junk food in the house, and nearly every afternoon and evening I would either be riding my bike or playing games with the neighborhood kids (after dark we used to play a great hide and seek game called ‘Bloody Murder.’ Gruesome title that had nothing really to do with the game except that if you got caught, you had to lay down ‘dead’ while your capturer got to scream “Bloody murder!” and run off).

After I passed through middle school, I started actively starving myself, and then my doctor’s visits increased because my ailments increased. However, no longer was I a target for my weight, though once in a while I was still harangued about being ‘overweight’ by the BMI charts. Of course, I told them I was ‘on a diet’ and ‘working on it,’ and they shut up pretty quick. They never dreamed that the ‘diet’ had anything to do with the fact that my blood pressure was always abnormally low, and that I was usually dizzy and pale whenever I was there. They would ask me if I’d had anything to eat that day, and I’d say, “Oh, you know, some carrots. I’m trying to watch my weight,” and that would shut them up. Diet of carrots for the fat girl? Guess that’s okay, though all her indicators show she is STARVING, DEHYDRATED, and in a CONSTANT FOG. But that’s okay. Fat girls don’t deserve to have the ability to use their brains and feel well, right?

I used to visit the doctor perhaps twice or three times a year, for various things. In the past four years, I’ve been once, for some chronic dry skin at the corners of my mouth (that still hasn’t go away, gar). All I needed was a prescription for something stronger than I could get over the counter (nothing was working). I sat in the doctor’s office for 40 minutes before I got seen—no one else was there—and then the nurse briskly led me over to the scale. “Oh, I’m not getting weighed today, I came in for a skin issue,” I explained. She looked at me like I had two heads. “But we need a baseline for your weight, we don’t have one, you’re a new patient.” I smiled at her, and repeated pleasantly. “No, I’m not going to get weighed today. But thanks.”

She made no attempt to hide the disgust on her face as she then led me into the examination room. She angrily started getting the blood pressure equipment together, and I asked, “Do you have an extra-large cuff? I have large upper arms, and the reading won’t be correct unless you have an extra large cuff.” She again looked at me as if I had two heads, or rather, how dare I, the patient, a fat patient no less, make suggestions? She pretended to look for a different-sized cuff, and then without a word as to whether she found one or not, retrieved the original cuff she’d been going for before I said anything (so obviously not a larger cuff). She strapped it around my arm and pumped furiously, breaking several blood vessels on my arm and causing extraordinary pain. Note: I also have painful fat syndrome due to lipedemic fat on my arms, legs, and other areas. So it was doubly painful.

This might sound horrific. But my weight wasn’t mentioned after that, not by the nurse or doctor. I came away from that visit as if it were a win of all things. Though my upper arm was tender the rest of the day. And the prescription my doctor gave me didn’t ultimately work for anything except to temporarily abate the symptoms. Of course, I’m afraid to go back in order to seek a referral to a dermatologist.

I’ve had this likely easily curable skin condition for over a year now. And it’s probably not going to be enough to land me in the hospital for any reason. But how many of us sit on other more serious symptoms, because of the fear of going through humiliation and sometimes real pain and torture because of our fat?

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10 comments on “Do you avoid going to the doctor?

  1. arkveveen says:

    The same thing is happening to me as well… I often avoid going to the doctor, I went a whole year with this wierd feeling of disorientation or lightheadedness all day every single day. Accompanied by constant heart palpatations.

    I am such a weak hearted fool, I can’t even confront my mom to go drive me to the clinic for a checkup; and even then, the doctor doesn’t really diagnose me at all so it still doesn’t help. I do worry I am going to die and end up inflating the statistics that ‘fatness kills’. I rather avoid arguing with my mom about weight and health, because I’d end up crying like a baby and she’d say ‘you’re raising your voice because you don’t believe that fatness isn’t harmful, you’re just trying to convince yourself by raising your voice… a stupid idea my mom got from her idiot mom.

  2. Heidi says:

    I had a *dream* last night about seeing a fatphobic doctor. At least in the dream I was enlightened enough to tell her “that’s enough. I’m done.” when she kept bringing it up – dream me just walked right out of the office!

    But yes, I do it too. They never get my b/p reading right (I could have high blood pressure, or not, but who knows, because the auto machines can’t get a reading and the nurses who do the readings never support my arm, chat to me while doing the reading, all no-nos). I am worried every. single. time. I see a health practitioner because I’m scared that the weight issue will come up.

  3. daturagreenleaf says:

    It sounds ridiculous, but reading this makes me a little glad that I live in a third world country which has REAL health problems (you know, like AIDS and Malaria), and so doctors are hardly aware of weight hysteria here. It comes up occasionally, but I’ve never had a doctor weigh me unless weight was specifically being discussed by me. And no GPs here have nurses… so nobody to glare disapprovingly at you!

    I know you didn’t ask for advice on your skin condition, but I’m going to offer some anyway, so feel free to ignore it! I’ve also suffered from chronic dry skin around my mouth for years, and I feel your pain. Things that have worked for me: changing toothpaste (it is possible to be allergic to your toothpaste and for it to only show up around your mouth or on your chin), moisturising my lips before bed-time with a natural beeswax lip balm (mineral oils make it worse), and avoiding mouth breathing by using antihistamine nasal spray (if you have allergies, you may be mouth breathing at night).

    (Long time reader, first time commenter!)

  4. Meems says:

    I’m always shocked that the one time something was overtly blamed in my weight, I was within 10 lbs. of “normal.” Basically, I was barely overweight! Reading all of this makes me feel lucky that I’ve mostly had doctors who listen to my concerns without automatically jumping to the blame-everything-on-fat trope.

    I don’t really have any comments on the study except this: No fucking kidding.

  5. Dude…I totally used to play Bloody Murder. So much fun.

    I don’t have anything coherent to say about the rest of it because it is so predictably depressing.

  6. loriersea says:

    I did for years. After my son was born, I went almost four years without getting a check-up. I only went in because we really wanted another baby and I needed my IUD removed.

    I’ve had to get over it, recently, because I’m pregnant. I’m now at the point where I’m going in once a week. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a wonderful OB who has never taken any issue at all with my weight, and has been assuming that all will run normally with the pregnancy. But, she’s going to be doing delivery duty at the hospital for one of my appointments coming up, and I have to admit that I’m terrified, because it means having to see a new OB that week. I’m hoping the fact that I’ve gained very little weight this pregnancy will mean that he won’t automatically assume I have unhealthy habits, but even that is just sad. I would LOVE to just skip that appointment, but I’ll be 39 weeks and so it’s not really an option. I’m just hoping that the OB will have the good sense not to harangue a woman a week away from her due date about her size.

  7. bbwcarolyn says:

    I’m very grateful now that I don’t usually put off going to the doctor. I’m past menopause – and about 2 years in, I had a period. I thought it odd, so went to my doctor, who also said it was NOT normal. Long-story-short, I had a hysterectomy and they found a cancerous tumour (stage 1B) in the tissue taken out.

    The take away lesson from my experience is you DO need to go to the doctor when something seems physically wrong.

    I’ve been screamed at, cursed and literally mis-treated (wrong treatment) by doctors. My anxiety levels go off the scale when I have to go to a new doctor. I usually don’t argue (that kind of person is NOT going to give my opinion any credence), other than to say I will never be back. Then I do persist until I find a doctor who is a decent person and will treat me respectfully.

    Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – I’ll live to my late 80s and dance on all their graves. Bwahaha!

  8. biggirlblue says:

    Eek.

    I visit my regular doctor once a year. I had a calf on her a few years back when she asked what I was going to do about my weight. I think she might have made a note on my chart because she doesn’t ask anymore. I also see a neurologist once a year.

    I guess I’m so regular because I have a health background and an overactive imagination.

    As for seeing a Dermatologist, do you need a referral? Couldn’t you just look one up in the phone book?

    One of the commenters mentioned the anxiety of seeing a new doctor. I feel the same way. Hate it. Especially when they have an intern. Nerve racking.

  9. […] I was moved similarly by Big Liberty’s story of being a chubby child: When I was in elementary school, I was brought to the pediatrician a lot. […]

  10. ndlesdream says:

    I had this exact same problem after my husband and I moved from our little town in Idaho to Vancouver, WA, just over the river from Portland, OR. I went to a GP, who advertised specializing in obesity by the way, to find out why I was gaining weight like crazy in incredibly short periods of time (I’m talking like 30 lbs. in a month, 40 more lbs. in 6 weeks, not normal for anyone). She took one look at me and “did the math” on her little pad of paper to show me how many calories I MUST be eating every day. It was like over 8000 calories, EVERY DAY!

    I told her she was wrong, I knew it wasn’t true. She just shook her head, said I was wrong, that I was lying to her and to myself and that I had to be stuffing my face all the time, that it was the ONLY explanation. So I left, after paying the bill we had no insurance to cover back then, and cried all the way down the elevator and then all the way home.

    Fortunately I did eventually find the answers I needed: it was discovered that I have Cushing’s disease (which I already knew actually) and I was able to find an online list of fat-friendly health care providers in my area. I have to travel into Portland whenever I want to see my nurse practitioner (who rocks!), but it’s totally worth it to be treated like a regular ol’ human patient again!

    I hope everyone here searches for a similar list for whatever area they live in; your life, health and dignity are worth it, YOU are worth it!!

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