Haunted and Ashamed

My mom's middle age overflowed with health issues dismissed as weight,and her death at age 63 was a result of one of them. I might write more about that in another post. Because my immediate concern is that history is repeating itself. When she was about 35, she started wearing out easily with minor exertion. She was increasingly slower and more out of breath doing everyday activities such as walking from the parking lot into a store. She was naturally told that it was because she was fat and dismissed. Like most fat women, mom was full of self hatred over her size. This went on for fifteen years until she had a stroke and was sent to specialists after recovering. One specialist noted her exhaustion upon exercise and diagnosed her with COPD, but DIDN'T TREAT HER FOR IT! He did refer her to exercise classes for people with similar symptoms, which she benefited from, but insurance stopped paying for it and it was about $400 per session. My parents could not afford it. So mom's condition was ultimately still ignored.

Now at age 40 it is happening to me. It's actually been coming on for over a year but it's getting bad. I can barely stay on my feet for grocery shopping. I have to stop and rest, ideally sitting down, during a short walk of a block or two. I feel ninety years old. I actually had
to stop my regular Curves workout because of the fatigue getting worse and worse. And it's bringing up fear and shame that I thought I'd overcome.

I've scheduled an appointment with my fat friendly doctor about it. I'm petrified that he'll dismiss it as a weight problem. This is actually unlikely, but as much as I trust him there will likely be other fat hating medical staff involved if he sends me for some kind of workup. I
feel humiliated at being such a stereotype of a fat person as doctors usually view us. I'm not sure I can stand the embarrassment of going through a stress test that I am sure to fail spectacularly. I am dreading the contempt of the testers as they view me as lazy and weak
willed. It brings back all of the hatred of my gym teachers watching me struggle and fail to be athletic, and encouraging other kids to tease me while I tried my best. And of course the best possible outcome is that it really is my weight. Because the other things it could be are not
pretty. So I fear either outcome.

The only thing that is making me go through with it is paranoia. And the only fact I know about my mom's bio dad other than that he abandoned her as an infant is that he died of a heart attack in his fifties. Mom saw his obituary in the paper. So I'm facing my fears and seeing the doctor. The price is shame and embarrassment and the dread of humiliations to come.

This despite my devoted fat acceptance activism and basic belief that my size is okay and not biologically subject to change. My family did not teach me to hate myself or put me on constant diets. I looked at magazines and in the mirror in seventh grade and decided with a shrug that the beauty rules did not apply to me, so I focused on things I could control like my education and music. So I'm even feeling ashamed of my shame.

I don't know what to do with all of this emotion, but I thought people might be interested how quickly my fat acceptance falters when I am faced with the hatred promoted by the "obesity
epidemic" warriors.


Anonymous said...

Any doctor that dismisses increasing SOB in an obese person--especially without significant change in body weight--is highly irresponsible. Fat or not, MANY things can be responsible for SOB, from anxiety to cancer. However, you would also be equally irresponsible to dismiss that weight would have a significant factor in ANY diagnosis given. This isn't about sensitivity, Cosmopolitan mag covers, or fads, this is about the simple physics of oxygen/energy utilization that doesn't change from person to person.

I hope your tests find your problem, that it is benign and treatable, and that all workers involved treat you with the respect and courtesy you deserve. Just be as open-minded about yourself as you would want your health care workers to be. Peace.

LoriKS said...

I found a link to your blog through Grand Rounds (medblogs) as was really touched by your entry about being dismissed due to weight. The thought of such arrogance and insensitivity angers me. One should never be dismissed, judged or should anything be assumed because of weight.

I recently read a book called "How Doctor's Think" and would recommend it. Listening to someone's story and truly hearing what is underlying was a strong message by the author. As a clinical social worker myself I think this is the first and most important lesson when you are in the position to serve or assist another.

Beginning Again said...

I dismissed lack of energy to age and weight. Turned out it was hypothyroidism, low Vit B 12 levels and Low Vit D3 levels - all very easy and inexpensive to treat. It really could be a combination of things so finding one answer might not be enough.