My sister and I had an interesting conversation that I thought would make a good blog entry. She was talking about her reluctance to see a doctor, even when she was clearly in need of medical attention. She is not really “afraid” of doctors, but she has this deep-seated fear that the doctor will think she is just whining or making up her symptoms. She would rather not go to the doctor than risk a doctor not taking her seriously.
My sister frequently waits so long to go to the doctor that she will be prescribed prescription-strength pain medications because the doctor cannot believe she is not in unbelievable pain. My sister has a very high tolerance for pain and dissociates the pain away. So, she has gone to the doctor after draining the puss out of an abscessed tooth for weeks and not being aware of being “in pain.”
I am not as extreme as my sister is, but I, too, am guilty of disregarding my body’s signals, which is how I wound up flying on a sinus infection and getting vertigo as a result. I have been fortunate enough to find a great primary care physician, who I have been seeing for at least five years. She has done a great job building my trust, and she believes me and takes me seriously no matter what my symptoms are. I have never gotten the impression that she thinks I am whining or that I am making anything up. In fact, she is more likely to express concern about me waiting too long to see her for medical issues.
Before I found this doctor, though, I had the same issues that my sister describes. My body frequently does not exhibit common signs of an illness. As an example, when I had the sinus infection over the holidays, I had no yellow or green discharge and no fever (two common symptoms of sinus infections). I had a bad headache and congestion, but I attributed that to allergies and being cranky. So, it doesn’t occur to me to go to the doctor unless I have uncontrollable bodily fluids or a fever. My body rarely runs a fever (pretty much only with the flu), so I generally decide I need to suck it up and deal with it.
I think this ties into the messages my sister and I received as children. Our mother rarely took us to the doctor. When she did, it was generally after we were on the mend, and the doctor would accuse us of faking. So, both of us have dealt with a deep-seated wariness of medical doctors, expecting them not to believe us.