Medical trauma

Something I had never really heard of until I spoke to others in the chronic illness community, was medical trauma – defined as a set of psychological and physiological responses to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures and frightening treatment experiences.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Since my teens I’ve avoided medical treatment as best as I could, I couldn’t face the humiliation or apathy I usually endured. I honestly thought I was just too sensitive and that it was normal, other people just coped with it better than I did.

Since a young teen I went to the doctors with severe abdominal pain. Usually around my appendix. Always to be told I was just a “worrier”, it was just IBS and that I should try to relax.

I went about painful periods, was put on the pill and that was that. I mentioned my concern over my irregularity and something not being right, I was told to stop worrying about it.

As an older teen I went to the doctor about something – I can’t even remember what, but I asked him a question about the pill and he said he could only help me with one thing, I started crying – it wasn’t easy for me to get an appointment or be taken there and I felt embarrassed. He asked in a panic, it felt completely from nowhere “do you hurt yourself? are you suicidal?” I left the room in a rush, completely dazed, tears running down my cheeks. I avoided the doctors for a long time.

A few years later I was back to ask about my periods and fertility, the pain was now very prolonged throughout the month and I was worried. I was told to stop worrying and that they wouldn’t look into anything until I tried (and failed) to concieve.

I went to the doctors about depression, they tried to give me antidepressants but I was too scared. They contacted the school nurse. She sent me to the school therapist. I went once, she tried to get me (a 17 year old) to draw a picture of how I felt. She tried to get me to sign a piece of paper saying I didn’t hurt myself or ever feel suicidal. I left.

My first year in university I went to the doctors about my depression, they put me on antidepressants. I became a zombie, I cried hysterically or went completely numb. I went to the doctor and begged for help. She didn’t even look at me from her screen, she just told me I needed to keep taking it for longer.

The university offered me help – for my IBS. Taking into consideration high absence/need to leave to use the bathroom etc. but they needed a doctor letter. I went to the doctor and he refused – said he would not write me one as I just wanted the benefits.

A few years later, I go to the doctor with my usual concerns around fertility, the debilitating periods which had me blacking out and the pain during sex. This time the doctor actually listened, he turned to me, and said “you have been having pain during sex, how long? you do realize this could be cancer!” I was not prepared for his scolding and completely broke down. He told me that they could not even check me for cervical cancer because I was too young so they just had “a look” at my cervix. He took a blood test, but it was Friday and the bloods had already gone so he got me to drive it to the hospital myself.

Fertility test after fertility test… it took a long time and we were put on a waiting list for over a year. The final test before the consultant: HSG. It was incredibly painful, I tear up when I think about it, nearly 5 years later.

Luckily I got my wish – I was pregnant. It wasn’t all I had dreamed of though as I got HG, I felt nauseas 24/7. I could not stand up or walk without being sick. I could not keep down food. I managed to sip drinks, but I could not leave the house for months, the only time I left was for midwife appointments. Not one of the several midwifes I saw listened or took seriously my sickness, even when I was sick in front of them. I was told to eat a ginger biscuit. It was once, one of my last appointments before moving to Sweden the midwife noticed my dried up lips, my thinness and fatigue and told me I must go to hospital if I’m not able to keep down liquids.

I tried to stop taking my antidepressants during pregnancy, but I had a huge relapse and I needed them. I had been told they were one of the safest to take during pregnancy. My doctor tried to refuse me them and then said “you do realize the risk you are putting your baby in!” I replied that there would be no baby, or mother if I didn’t receive help.

Birth was a whole other story. I still get flashbacks and panic attacks. To sum it up: 21 days of early labour – 14 hours in active and then 5 days in hospital worrying because they said they were keeping me there because my baby was small – I found out later it was because they were worried about postnatal depression.

A year after birth, the pain is back, finally diagnosed with endometriosis, given an IUD. Pain still there. Laparoscopy – low and behold, there is an adhesion in my abdomen – in the place I have been worried about for all of these years. No endo though, so I’m told it might be microscopic, there is nothing they can do, discharged.

The pain in my legs got worse, sciatic pain the whole way down from my back, somedays I can’t walk, my knee gives way, I fall and the front of my foot stops working so I have to drag it along. I asked for crutches or something to use on days like that, and the doctor laughed in my face.

I went to the doctor about my chest pains, of course it is just my anxiety and he tells me I’m a hypochondriac. I got a recommendation for a new doctor and I can’t believe my luck, he listened, he gave suggestions and he is actually looking into my symptoms. Even if I am a hypochondriac, they get sick too.

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