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It’s Hard to Learn You Matter When You’ve Been Conditioned to Think You Don’t

·385 words·2 mins

“You really need to go to the doctor,” you say.

I grumble at you. Come up with an excuse. You are not impressed.

“Fine,” I say finally. “I’ll go.” It’s been months that I’ve been struggling with something minor. Something that’s been easy for me to ignore. But you’re worried it could be something serious.

It probably won’t be. Statistically speaking, it’s most likely something minor. But you’re right… it’s been long enough and I’m uncomfortable. I just hope the doctor won’t laugh at me for coming in with that issue.

Maybe a weird neurosis, but I always think I’m bugging the doctor whenever I come in. I’m not the patient who is convinced I have a brain tumor every time I have a headache. I’m the patient who has the medical office holding refills hostage so I’ll actually come in for my physical and labs.

But I always feel like the doctor will think I’m the person on Web MD revving myself up. I always feel like they’re going to think I’m exaggerating, dismiss me. That complaining — even about actual concerning symptoms I’m having — will ruin our professional relationship somehow.

It’s probably because of my mother. I have a sister who is a hypochondriac and would feign illness — and so my mother would default to assuming her other children were doing that as well.

If we were sick or hurt, it was always a game of “prove it.” A lot of times this was more trouble than it was worth. So I’d routinely go to school sick, for example.

I basically learned that my own illness wasn’t to be taken seriously — and certainly not complained about.

But you are not having it. So I go to the doctor.

The doctor doesn’t laugh at me. He is concerned. Says it was good that I came in. He orders some tests. Takes me seriously.

And as I wait for everything to come back, I find myself wondering at how early experiences can set us up to think that our health doesn’t matter. That no one will care or believe us.

And how it can take decades — and the love and support of people who can see through that illusion — to learn to take care of ourselves the way we deserve.


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