I have to apologize for falling down on the job with this blog, but once again I'm pissed off, ready to go! (Wasn't that Obama's chant? Something similar maybe? Whatever.) Let me explain why I'm all fired up again. (There it is.) My husband and I decided to try for baby #2 even though the last pregnancy was a struggle, hoping that this pregnancy wouldn't be as bad. Before I got pregnant I worked out for a few hours each day, lost 30 pounds and was in the best shape of my life. I got pregnant and BAM! totally out of commission. I'm 20 weeks (which is half way) and doing my best to survive.
But right now I'm dedicating myself to updating the blog at least once every two weeks no matter how terrible I feel. Why? Well, since I'm unwell and pregnant, I'm having extensive contact with the medical profession again and so guess what I'm experiencing? Same sexist song, different sexist verse.
On top of what feels like a lupus flare, I've also been throwing up a few times per day. About a week ago I was extremely fatigued, on the verge of passing out even while sitting on the couch, and out of breath from basically no exertion. I called my OB and he told me to go to the ER. I hate going to the hospital, but being pregnant I didn't want to risk it. At the ER, my heart rate and blood pressure were elevated. The doctor asked what was going on and I told him that I have lupus and that these symptoms are consistent with a lupus flare but that I also hadn't kept a meal down for 3 days, so I figured I better come into the hospital to make sure that I wasn't dehydrated. Without doing any tests, he very condescendingly told me that my symptoms could not be related to lupus (WHAT DOES HE THINK LUPUS IS?) and that my symptoms were due to anxiety.
"I'm not anxious at all," I said. "When these symptoms came on I was enjoying a leisurely Sunday sitting home watching the Gameshow Network. No one can feel anxious while watching the Gameshow Network." My adorable sense of humor did nothing to move his opinion of my mental state.
The nurse gave me IV fluids and my vital signs went back to normal. The doctor took this as proof positive that I had been anxious. When he left, the nurse (who was the only one who had actually interacted with me during this visit) told me that she was sure I had been dehydrated and rolled her eyes as she had me sign the paper that indicated I was suffering from anxiety.
Look, there's no shame in having an anxiety attack or in seeking help for anxiety disorders. It just so happens that this isn't my issue and not only is it insulting when a doctor diagnoses you with a mental disorder in the face of a physical diagnosis that explains your symptoms and before even talking to you, assuming that all women who come in with an elevated heart rate and blood pressure are hysterical (his attitude, not my preferred characterization) impedes appropriate care and in some instances leads to women's deaths.
I've seen since my very competent rheumatologist who is running a number of tests to determine the extent of my flare and I'll also be seeing a neurologist and a cardiologist since many of my symptoms are also consistent with POTS even though I've never been formally tested for that syndrome. I figure it's about time since I've been passing out on and off since I was 18. (And I finally have awesome health insurance that covers basically *everything*. Thanks Medicaid!)
So, I'm pissed off, filled with a sense of righteous indignation, and ready to serve you, the reader. Please please please submit any stories you have of medical sexism or doctors dismissing your symptoms. This blog does make a difference. I've spoken to many patients it's helped and also patient advocates who feel that it has an impact. But it can't go on without *your* stories. So SHARE THEM!