How the US medical system has ruined me.


…or maybe it was just growing up poor in the US. Regardless. I have an ingrained reluctance to visit the doctor. It seems crazy to me logically, because for my kids it’s free and it’s not that expensive for me either. I think another thing that plays into it is that I’ve had a lot of problems in the past getting assistance with various medical issues. When I run into dismissal from medical personnel I tend to shut down and stop asking them altogether.

When I was younger we were poor. I didn’t go to the doctor much. I was depressed I think as a child (frequent moving, no friends because of moving, emotional eating, parents divorce etc), but it manifested as a general malaise. I don’t remember going to doctors much (or really ever), but I do remember being taken to a slew of alternative practitioners. Acupuncture, muscle testing, aura viewing and so on were all used to diagnose and treat my malaise. I was diagnosed as allergic to a slew of common things which further isolated me. It’s unfortunate that my mother resorted to this as I think some of the recommendations were harmful physically and medically in the long term for me.

Because of my own medical issues I developed the philosophy that if I couldn’t physically point to what was wrong there was no point in going to the doctor. In my early 20’s I had gone to the doctor for something undefined. I gained around 50 pounds in about 6 months and was alarmed about it. After being dismissed and sent to various specialists, including a gastroenterologist, I had gotten a maybe-yes maybe-no diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome that did not fit the ‘right’ criteria.  I had one medical team ham handedly working on it. They were earnest, but it was over a decade ago (ok, more like 15 years ago) and they were rigid in their diagnosing criteria, which I was not meeting. Then I moved and the new doctor (after a six month wait mind you), insulted me and dismissed me, so that was the end of getting any help for that. I carried on only going to the doctor with issues I could point at and pretty much knew I could get treatment for. Because of the US medical system all this was expensive and led nowhere.

When I was a bit older I took another run at it. Told by a doctor to lose some weight I asked how I could go about doing that. Said doctor was baffled and had no recommendations. I’m sure his thought was ‘durr, eat less?’, but I had emphasized I exercised regularly and watched my intake. I was sent to a nutritionist and she found nothing wrong with my diet. So that went nowhere.  Also the nutritionist trip was very expensive because my medical insurance did not cover it.

After the birth of Thing 1 I went to my doctor four separate times asking for help, only to be turned away with a shrug. I asked for help some other places as well and didn’t get much. I guess I managed so well by myself that ‘keep doing what you are doing’ was the best response anyone could give. it didn’t address the actual medical issue at all, but it allowed us to manage. It was not ideal.

This problem with my attitude came to a head about a year ago when my older child ended up in the hospital. She had had a cold and a cough for a while. It was coming and going, but the cough was ever present. I had taken her to a (different) doctor for her tendency to have a lingering cough previously and been dismissed as ‘slightly wacko first time parent’. As is sometimes the case. So we just let her get worse and worse thinking that a doctor was unlikely to do much of anything. When we took her in that day she had been awake coughing pretty much all night and the day before. We were hoping for some kid okayed cough syrup or something. Instead we were sent to the hospital. Where she was in for two days. On oxygen. So yeah, we felt like scum.

When thing 2 was born I had the same issue as I had with Thing 1, and as a last ditch swapped doctors, who (mainly because I armed myself with information and a request for a specific medication) began treating me for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Woo. So, there is that. It didn’t help the issue I went in for (milk supply), but it is helping another one I had given up on (weight loss).

I’m not sure if it’s just my bad attitude or some kind of institutional bias I have encountered from being female, poor, overweight or having a chronic condition. I feel like if I don’t know what the problem is likely to be then the doctor is a waste of my time, and depending on where you are, money. It doesn’t strike me as that is how is should be. I feel like it’s wrong that I need to either drop hints or flat out ask for specific treatment. Even now that it’s essentially free for my kids to go to the doctor, I balk at taking them. I think I’ll be dismissed or criticized. I put off going for myself as well because I don’t feel like it will do anything. It’s really no wonder that it’s a common thing to wait until a medical problem requires emergency work to get treatment. it’s because people are sensitive to being dismissed. If we gather the muster to seek help we do want to be taken seriously, not shrugged at.


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