Today almost exactly marks the anniversary of a very low point in my life. It was two years ago yesterday that I visited a hospital emergency room in a plea for some medical assistance. I had been suffering with the symptoms of my allergies steadily growing worse for two years, not having a clue what was causing these symptoms and begging for help. My family doctor had decided it was a over-reactive lymph node and allergies to dust. My ear, nose, and throat specialist had prescribed medication and then when I tried to follow up with pictures of face-distorting sinus swelling (of my own face), begging to be seen, she dumped me as a patient. I was considering seeing a naturopath, because no conventional doctor had helped me. I felt like I was seeing all the wrong people, but as the gatekeeper to all the specialists, my family doctor held all the keys, and he thought I was wasting his time.
When I arrived at the emergency room, I was trying not to burst into tears. I just needed someone to believe me and get me the diagnostics and help I needed, not sideline me. If the hospital couldn’t find me someone to diagnose me, who could?
I was placed in a bare room with scratches all over the walls, patches, and a single chair. I could tell it was their psych room, the one they put violent or suicidal people into. I stayed there a long time, by myself, while the hospital buzzed outside my door. I went to the washroom, came back, and still no one noticed me. I tried to distract myself by reading or contacting my husband on his phone, but my husband didn’t know what to say to me and the book wasn’t a big enough distraction. Finally someone stopped by to tell me they hadn’t forgotten about me. They were sorry about the accommodations, but it was all they had available and it shouldn’t be more than another 15 minutes. The cell phone was dying.
More than 15 minutes later, a woman finally stopped by to talk with me. She listened with an sympathetic face while I told her what had been going on, how desperate I was becoming, how I couldn’t find help, how my family doctor didn’t believe me or take me seriously, how it took a month each time to get in to see my doctor for an appointment, and begged her to help me get the resources I needed to figure everything out. When I was done, she pushed onto me a prescription for anxiety medication, and told me to make an appointment with my doctor, saying she would send a note to try to get him to see me within a week.
I walked out of the hospital numbly. *This* is what a desperate plea for help got me? Sent right back to where I was before, but with pills to “fix” my mental state so I wouldn’t mind so much. The only good that had come of it was that I was now exhausted and would probably be able to sleep that night.
I never took a single one of those pills. I don’t fault those who do – I know how I was feeling and I don’t wish it on anyone. What stopped me every time I thought about them was that to me it was *wrong* for me to alter my brain chemistry so that real, important things mattered less, just because no one was willing to help me with them. They would still exist, and needed fixing. Why should I change myself because of the inadequacies of the people around me? Maybe I’d lose some of the drive to find answers, and for all I knew, that could prove fatal. Maybe it was fear more than ethics. Who knows?
In the ten months after that appointment, I saw a naturopath, who did nothing for me but take my money, sell me useless supplements, and guide me through an elimination diet I could have done on my own. Then, after extensive searching and phone calls, I found a good, new family doctor with my impassioned plea. He believed me and sent me to specialists to have the proper tests done to figure it out. He didn’t make we wait a month for each appointment with him. I was patch tested and diagnosed with chemical contact allergies. I had started to make big changes in the products used on me and around my house. I was finally on the mend. A couple of months after that, I started this blog, to do what I could to try to prevent anyone else from ever having to go through what I went through.
Those pills still sit at the back of my medicine cabinet. I can’t really give a single reason why. Perhaps I secretly worry that the same things might happen again someday. Do I think I’ll ever take those pills? No. But I can’t quite let go. Perhaps it’s a reminder of my dilemma of whether to change myself or to fight the system. Perhaps they’re a reminder to me of how the health care system can utterly fail a person if they don’t stand up for themselves far beyond what they think they can endure or surmount.
Don’t give up. Keep fighting for the medical help you deserve. Eventually, someone will listen.