Looking back on my twenties, I regret a lot of what I put my body through, whether it was stripping the vitamins from my bones by starving myself, bathing my brain in cortisol from dating narcissists, blowing out my adrenal glands from workaholism, undersleeping, or drinking a shocking amount of blueberry-vanilla coffee from 7-Eleven. By the time I got into my late twenties, I decided that maybe it was time to get my shit together because, let's face it, being crazy isn't cute in your 30s.
I was sick of being a mess and sick of being, well, sick. I had been living with a partially healed broken shoulder, chronic migraines, weird abdominal pains, and a sharp stabbing foot pain; my monthly colds had evolved into a couple bouts of pneumonia. Not wanting to perpetuate the stereotype that women are "weak" and "dramatic," I never thought to get any of these maladies treated. Also, doctors are expensive as hell, and I wasn't going to waste my money on silly health insurance. Back then, the money I saved went to more important things, like self-tanner and hair extensions.
I finally scraped together some self-esteem when I was 31, thanks to intense therapy for codependence. I started going to tons of doctors — basically anyone who took my health insurance. I went to an allergist, an optometrist, a rheumatologist, and even a couple of wack-job "healers," one of whom called himself Dr. Bob. If you glean nothing else from this essay, it's this: Do not go to any doctor who goes by his or her first name only. Unless, of course, it's Dr. Dre, because that would totally be worth the story.
After I saw all those docs and got a good shrink, I started to develop things like "boundaries" and "standards," two concepts about which I was oblivious in my twenties. I had a harrowing epiphany: there's such a thing as a doctor who is an asshole.
This may not be news to you, but for someone who hadn't been to doctors very much, a crappy doctor felt like an oxymoron, given that they supposedly dedicate their lives to helping people. But every doctor I was going to was dismissive, mansplain-y, too busy, and, frankly, seemed kind of bored. For example, I told a doctor about some stomach issues I was having, and he nonchalantly mumbled, "It's probably just cramps," as if I were his naggy wife trying to get him to talk about my feelings. After I told him I wasn't on my period, he said, "You probably have IBS." Turns out I did not have IBS; he was just full of BS.
When I finally made the time to see a neurologist about my recurring and debilitating migraines, I asked the doctor if I should get an MRI on my brain, and she rolled her eyes at me. And it wasn't even a subtle eye roll. It was one of those eye rolls that seem to reverberate all the way into someone's neck and cause their head to tilt, to the point where I think she should have gotten an MRI too. Apparently, it wasn't just male doctors who perceived my desire to heal as dramatic and annoying.
Just when I thought that was as poorly as a doctor could behave, I had an ER doc tell me to "Calm down" when my ear was hanging off my head after a dog bite (you may just have to read my book for this story). After saying "Calm down" — a command I thought I'd only ever hear from boyfriends I was arguing with — the doctor followed it up with, "You're not gonna die." What's worse is during this whole ordeal, he had the audacity to be wearing a coral-and-turquoise cuff bracelet, so in addition to dealing with a condescending tone and a dismissive hand gesture, I had the added confusion of having to process the complications of a doctor shopping at the same stores as Stevie Nicks.