Medical Gaslighting: Mind Your Body




I was active duty in 2003 when I was admitted to the ER because I began having severe chest pain. I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn't breathe... it felt like someone was piercing a sword through my chest and exited through my spine. It literally felt like someone had their hand around my heart, squeezing it as hard as they could, and trying to pull it out. I had severe pain radiating from my chest into my jaw. I thought I was dying.


I rapidly lost weight and could not keep any food or beverage down. It seemed to have occurred overnight. There was no explanation. Many tests were performed and no answers.


My enlistment obligation expired four months after the symptoms began occurring. There were still a few tests pending, but since I had already been accepted into the University of my choice, the Navy doctor didn't want to keep me in on Medical Hold, so he signed the required forms to release me.


A week after my end of active obligated service (EAOS), the Navy doctor called me to inform me that the results of the pending tests had returned. The manometry showed abnormal results, but since I was now out of the Navy, I would have to follow up with Veterans Affairs (VA).


I saw a physician in the VA for several months (six, to be exact). I was still unable to hold any liquids down, and rapidly losing weight. She insisted on treating me for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). None of the medications she prescribed were helping (proton pump inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, antacid, you name it) . After six months of returning to this doctor at the VA, telling her the treatment was not working, and down to nearly 87 pounds, she finally says, "Well, I don't think it's all in your head, so I'm going to send you to a specialist."


Wow. "All in my head?" After six months, I look like freaking Skeletor, how can it all be in my head? I couldn't even keep down a drink of water. I was devastated, offended, and scared for my life. "What is wrong with me?" Am I going to just wither away because I can't keep anything down? I was so upset when I left her office that day, I wrote a complaint to the CEO.


I'm laying on my side in the procedure room with a scope being pushed down into my esophagus, wide awake, as the surgeon coaches me to swallow with each advance. I denied any anesthesia because I didn't have anyone to drive me home after the procedure. I didn't drive all the way to San Antonio from Corpus Christi for nothing. By golly, we are getting to the bottom of this, today! I'm fucking hungry, thirsty, and in severe pain!


Within a matter of minutes, the surgeon says, "Yep. You have esophageal achalasia." I said, "I have a what?" Well, not really, because I had a scope down my throat, but I thought it. After the procedure, she explained to me what was going on. This is when I learned I have a very rare disease of the esophagus that would require a complex surgery. I cried. I couldn't believe it took so long to get to a specialist in the VA healthcare system with such critical symptoms. Did that doctor really think I was making it all up?


Although my case is a bit severe, this is an example of medical gaslighting. It's when you go to see your doctor and they repeatedly try to invalidate or dismiss the patient's symptoms. It is a form of emotional abuse - because the provider leads the patient to question their sanity. It can be a traumatic experience for the patient, as it was (and still is for me when I have to see a new doctor because they've never heard of it).


I'm sure there are countless veterans that have experienced this kind of treatment in the VA. Are you experiencing unexplained weight gain/loss, mood changes, or fatigue. I'm here to tell you, it's not all in your head, Love.


When labs establish normal (conventional) ranges for their tests, they are validated with a mean of ranges for the majority of a number of samples. This range determines what is a normal range for all the patient's who have tests performed in that lab. This is why I use functional ranges, which go by the average of healthy people. I can tell by reading your labs whether or not you are getting adequate nutrition.


It is also important to have the proper tests performed. My labs would have never revealed that I had Achalasia Cardia. I was severely anemic, but that could be the result of an eating disorder (which is probably what my VA doctor thought before she sent me to a Gastrointestinal (GI) specialist). The diagnostic testing (manometry/motility studies, and Esophogogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)) is how I became properly diagnosed with an incurable, rare disease. I bet your doctor never told you that it's impossible to get a full picture with just a blood test?


Here's the scoop. You know better than your provider if you feel something is "off." You've been trying to lose or gain weight and it's just not happening. It is not all in your head. If your provider is not supporting you, leave... and, maybe even report it. But then, come see me and let's get to the root cause of your imbalances. You can schedule a FREE Consultation to work with me 1:1 in a six-month program. We will explore all the potential areas in your life that may be holding your back from achieving your goals. Mind. Body. Spirit.



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