Wednesday, 17 May 2017

I Was Fat Shamed Today...



I was fat shamed today.

I've always hated the expression "fat shaming". I'm not really sure why, I suppose because I feel like its become a bit of a buzz word. I do so hate a bandwagon. But is there another word to describe being humiliated about your size? I'm not sure.

Today wasn't the first time I've been fat shamed - the last time it happened was around 10 years ago. Back when I was actually only a size 14/16. Not exactly catwalk model material but I also wasn't going to win any prizes for Circus Freak Of The Year either. Back then I considered myself average sized, curvy at best.

That occasion came about when I was standing at a bus stop with my then-fiancĂ©. A group of 2 or 3 drunk guys stood outside a Yates (classy...) shouted over some comments about me being chunky - I think they sang that "Big Girls You Are Beautiful" song at me (Yeah cheers for that one Mika, you  dick...) - I don't remember it all that well, probably because it ignited the inferiority complex in my delightful abusive partner who didn't feel able to stand up to the drunkards and so instead handled his frustration by absolutely battering me when we got home. So that was a fun day all around.

But since then, despite the fact that I've gone up 2 dress sizes and probably about 3 and a half stone, it hasn't happened again.

Not from anyone else anyway. I fat shame myself on an daily hourly basis - but I've been lucky enough not to have it directed at me from others. (Is that lucky? I don't know. Surely going about your life without being attacked by random strangers is more a basic human right than luck isn't it?! But I digress...)

But today, it happened again.

And this time it wasn't outside a pub, or a cat call shouted out of a white van, or as I walked down the street.

It was in my Drs office.


I'd gone to see my Dr because for the last 3 years I've been suffering with unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms - ranging from bowel problems, to chronic pain in my abdomen, extreme bloating that results in me looking 9 months pregnant most days, occasional vomiting, exhaustion, unexplained rashes on my skin, reactions to even the very healthiest of foods (the worst culprit being cucumber!) and - possibly as a result of all of these things - depression and anxiety.

After first reporting these symptoms 3 years ago, I was initially diagnosed with gallstones. I was pregnant at the time so they couldn't be treated.

My case was never followed up after my sons birth until around a year later when I chased it up and was told its "Probably fine" because most people live with gallstones that never bother them.

The next time I went back to see them about the same symptoms, I enquired about whether it could be celiac disease (which Dr Google had suggested during one of my many searches...) - they did a blood test which came back clear, and said "Probably not. Its probably IBS".

No tests were ever done, and I assumed this was because there were no tests to diagnose IBS. Last week though, I was informed by a reader that IBS actually CAN be tested for - so I decided to go back and ask about this as my symptoms were not improving at all, despite following a strict diet.

Which brings us to today.

When I sat down in the Drs office, she did what she always does - asked what I was there for.

I told her I was back again about the same problems I saw her about in January. She brought up her notes and asked me to remind her of the symptoms.

So I told her...constipation that isn't resolved without daily use of laxatives despite a high fibre diet, pain in my abdomen particularly in my sides, a lot of tenderness when the kids press on my tummy, reflux, high anxiety, reactions to almost all foods even the healthiest things, exhaustion - and the fact that, despite having strictly followed a low calorie diet for a long time, I wasn't losing any more weight.

She picked up on the last symptom immediately, and responded abruptly with "Well that ones simple, to lose weight you just need to eat less"

I was a bit taken aback, aside from the fact that this was only one of several things I'd just said and wasn't what I was asking for her advice on - I HAD just told her that I was following a low calorie diet.

And if she had checked my notes, she'd see that I'd been under the care of the nurse for assistance with this and had lost 2 stone last year - with my weight only creeping up again when my thyroid became underactive once more and I was put back onto steroid based medication.

I said again "Well that's part of what I'm worried about. I HAVE followed a very low calorie diet strictly but I'm not losing any more weight, and I don't think that's normal"

She rolled her eyes, sighed and said again "Well then you're obviously eating too much, its scientific fact - you just need to take in less calories than you burn off. If you reduce the calories, its impossible not to lose weight. That's all there is to it"

I tried again. "But Dr, that's what I'm telling you - I keep a record of what I eat, I use a tracker and I log everything. I am eating less than 1100 calories per day, but I'm not losing weight anymore and my stomach is getting more bloated every day - I can stand up and show you now, my tummy is as round as if I was 9 months pregnant. Its rock hard, swollen."

This time she threw her pen on her desk, grabbed a fistful of her hair in exasperation as though I was the most idiotic and annoying person she'd ever had the misfortune to deal with and practically shouted at me "Well I'm telling you, that isn't possible! If you're not losing weight, you're eating too much!"

It was clear that she was hell bent on shooting me down in flames and not accepting a word I was saying, so I changed tack and said "Right ok, well this isn't even what I'm here about - I'm here about the symptoms and finding out what's causing them"

But again, she continued - "Yes and that's fine, we can discuss that but let's just agree that weight has nothing to do with it - I mean even if you had something like a thyroid problem you would still be able to lose weight if you were consuming less calories than you were burning off so we can't call that a symptom in this"

I tried again to steer her back to the actual purpose of my visit, "I do have a thyroid condition, Dr. I've had it for 16 years. You have me on medication for it at the moment. My concern at the moment is that it's been assumed I have IBS without any tests being done. As you know, I suffer with anxiety and I read an article this week about how many cases of ovarian cancer have been misdiagnosed as IBS - the symptoms are exactly the same as mine and include weight gain and bloating in the stomach, and it worried me, so I'd really like to have some actual tests done to find out what's causing the problems rather than just having it labelled as IBS with no investigations done at all"

She rolled her eyes again. "Well yes the symptoms of IBS and ovarian cancer are the same, but ovarian cancer weight gain would be just on your stomach and you're fat everywhere so...."

Now here's where I'm going to point a few things out - I suffer with extreme social anxiety and panic disorder, and at the start of this year I was so depressed about my weight, inability to control it by diet and the resulting low self-image that I became afraid to leave my house. The drs know all about this, they referred me for counselling to deal with it.

I vividly remember standing in my living room back in February sobbing and hyperventilating, with Jon standing in front of me trying to persuade me to walk out of the house and get into the car where the kids were waiting for us - and I couldn't do it. I was terrified of stepping outside the front door, I didn't want anybody to see me or look at me - I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to stay inside my four walls and hide from the world. I was terrified of peoples judgement. The thought of people looking at me made me feel sick.

It took months of  therapy sessions, many of them focused around weight and self-shaming, to get past that point in my mind and live a more normal life again. But it's still a daily struggle and sitting in a Drs office being repeatedly and brazenly called a liar, and treated like a complete idiot is not something that somebody like me is able to easily handle.

Confrontation of any kind is one of my biggest fears. I am totally incapable of not just breaking down in tears.

I'm not sure how I didn't burst into tears and run out of  her office there and then, I think I was so shocked by her outburst that my reactions were slower than usual.

I could rehash the rest of the appointment, where I blinked back tears and allowed her to feel around my stomach as she repeated - over and over again, in a cold and bullying tone - "There's just lots and lots of fat"" - but there's not really any point.

Despite stating herself that weight had nothing to do with issue at hand, she seemed completely fixated on it and didn't bat an eyelid or even give me an answer when I asked if her the pressing and palpating she was doing on my stomach should be causing me so much pain if there was nothing there but fat (It still hurts now 5 hours later, and to be honest has me quite concerned...)

I left the office and felt in a bit of a daze for the rest of the day. Jon kept asking me what was wrong, and I couldn't even find the words to bring it up.

The thing is, my counselling experiences this year have helped me to recognise why I've felt so depressed since the encounter with the Dr.

I spent years in an abusive relationship where I was regularly called fat, humiliated, and physically assaulted. And so now, when I feel under attack, I revert back to the self-preservation behaviour I developed then.

I don't get angry or upset, I go into myself - I find it impossible to speak, or even cry - everything is internalised. I cry without being able to allow the sounds out of my throat, if that makes any sense - I physically keep all of the emotion inside and I keep myself hidden away from the world.

I came home, went straight to my room and stayed in there until it was dark.

I can't vocalise my thoughts and feelings - I can't even speak to Jon about them, the words won't come out - but I can write them down.

So here they are.

Doctor...

I came to you today for help, after years of struggling with the same symptoms and trying to find answers and solutions.

I came to you to put my mind at ease, on the advice of my partner and friends, after weeks of worrying myself sick over the article I read comparing the symptoms of cancer and IBS.

I came to you with the simple request of being referred for tests, to get an actual investigation into my symptoms and diagnosis after 3 years of struggling rather than repeated assumptions about it.

I am not someone who happily lives their life as a fat person, who doesn't give a shit about it and has no intention of trying to change it and no regard for the damage it can do to my health - I worry about that every single day.

I TOLD you that I am actively trying to lose weight - infact if you'd bothered to check my notes properly you'd have seen that I have already lost 2 stone, but the weight loss has stopped despite my efforts.

You have no right to call me a liar, to make your assumptions about me and to continue to interrupt me, talk over me and dismiss my questions and fears whilst repeating the same comments about my "Fat" again and again, despite having earlier said that "weight had nothing to do with it"

A patient should not leave your office feeling more concerned about not being heard than when they entered.

They should not leave your office in tears, with that familiar feeling of wanting to hide away in the house forever, not let people see me, not speak to anyone and never dare to ask for help again.

And they certainly should not leave your office feeling triggered by your words and actions, left reeling as the familiar feeling of being insulted, spoken down to, talked over, deliberately shamed and HUMILIATED took me right back to that abusive relationship

I hope that you went home today feeling happy in the knowledge that you shouted me down and got your point across that I am just a stupid fat person who has no idea about how to lose weight and therefore needs to have it shouted at them repeatedly, have their flaws and biggest fears pointed out again and again, and be told that they are obviously a liar because science says so.

I came to you so that I can find out what's causing my problems and find ways to get healthier. KNOWING that weight loss is a major factor in that and concerned about how I can move forward with that when my efforts aren't working.

And I left with the knowledge that a fat person will never not be seen as stupid, lazy, self-damaging, unwilling to help themselves and incapable of doing what's required of them.

Because obviously I'm just another fat, over eating liar who's too stupid to know how to help themselves.

I must be, science says so.

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23 comments

  1. I would actually put a complaint in about how unprofessional she has been. She was so rude!
    x

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  2. Please make a complaint to the Practice Manager, and change your GP. Sending my love and hugs to you.

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  3. This is sickening. I've suffered with similar unexplained symptoms for a few years. My Dr just blames literally everything on anxiety. Like my arm could drop off and he'd say it was my fault for being an overthinking weirdo. Nightmare. Sorry this happened to you!


    www.earningbythesea.co.uk

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  4. Oh Hayley this made me cry, how utterly vile is that doctor? I would put in an official complaint as she has no right to treat you that way, nor to ignore your concerns about your health. I am so sad for you right now, and so angry too, I know how it feels to suffer with mental illness and something like this can play on your mind for years, if not a lifetime. I have no words of wisdom other than to offer my love and support. Oh and also, have you ever been tested for H-pylori? I have had stomach issues exactly as you describe for 3 years now and was fobbed off with gall stones and other issues. They finally tested for H-pylori and it was positive, and although the treatment has been gruelling, once they get rid of it I should see an end to a lot of my issues. It's worth a thought. Much love. xxxxx

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  5. I am terribly sorry that you were handled so insensitively by someone who is clearly well educated being a doctor after all! It appears that education does not cure ignorance! I hate the way that other people have this huge power to make us feel like rubbish! Its not on! I firstly want to tell you that you are beautiful!! I've battled with my weight for so long and I've been fat shamed so much in the past I can completely relate to how you must be feeling! Sending you a virtual hug!!

    Sophie xx
    www.sophobsessed.com

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  6. Sending love and hugs! What a rude, uncaring doctor that was. I wouldn't be going to see her again but I would be getting a second opinion. You are doing everything you can. Some support would be nice. Eesh! x

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  7. I would put in a complaint. She may also be treating other people in the same way! Its totally disgusting and how you are feeling must be soooo bad. What a hateful woman.

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  8. Oh my gosh what a awful person she sounds like. I would put a formal complaint in and change doctors as you don't deserve to be treated in that way xx

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  9. That doctor was a complete bitch! How dare she ignore your legitimate concerns and basically call you a liar for what you were saying about your diet! On a side note, your symptoms do sound very similar to mine, have you heard of Adenomyosis? (just a thought) x

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  10. Oh Hayley! This is disgusting. How dare that doctor treat you in this way?! I'm so so sorry that you had to go through this. I hope you have now found the strength to talk to Jon about it and get some support. If you feel you are able to at any point, I really feel you should consider reporting this as to me, She requires some sort of disciplinary action for the way she behaved! Sending lots of love and I hope you get the problems diagnosed and treated soon xxx

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  11. This is just awful Hayley. You need to put in a complaint to either the GP surgery or PALS. I don't know who she thinks she is speaking to you like that. :( xxxx

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  12. Hayley please write a complaint to the practice manager. No one should be made to feel like this.
    Then when you feel strong enough get a second opinion. This is simply not good enough

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  13. I absolutely agree that you should definitely put in a written complaint. She was highly unprofessional and, frankly, I hope she gets more than a slap on the wrist! NOt saying that you should worry about there being anything majorly wrong with you, but what if there was and she missed it because she was so fixated on fat shaming you? I would have none of it hun. You have the voice and the audience, I'd doctor shame her! Good luck! xx

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  14. Oh Hayley, this is just awful I can't believe a supposedly medical professional would treat their patient like that, what a b*tch! How she treated you is utterly unacceptable, definitely make a complaint about her, she shouldn't get away with speaking and treating you like that xxx

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  15. Hayley I'm so, so sorry. What a vile woman and a disgrace to the NHS and her profession. I had an awful experience with a GP shortly after I had Martha last year and a complaint to the surgery manager really is your best way to proceed. I know it will be incredibly difficult for you, but please do it xxx

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  16. Oh lovely - you Doctor was so out of order. I've had Docors be like this before over my back when I've asked for help and they've got really short with me. Some Doctors do more damage than good. I really think you should complain. xx

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  17. disgusting behaviour on your doctor's part. I'd make a formal complaint if I was you - there could be more vulnerable people that she'll speak to like that and it's terrible. Aren't doctors there to help?! x

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  18. This is just awful Hayley, I can't believe a professional person did this to you. I honestly think you absolutely must put a complaint in so that she doesn't do it to anyone else and so that you might actually stand a chance of getting some tests done and getting proper answers. If this is her way of dealing with such a calm, quiet and knowledgeable patient can you imagine how she is with others too. She needs a real kick up the bum and a reality check! Much much love , Ruth xxx

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  19. what a horrible experience, please complain as I don't think people like her should be facing customers/visitors. I had similar but less distressing experience when I have seen my cardiologist who I felt at the time humiliated me in front of his students constantly telling me that I'm overweight and need to lose fat.

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  20. Complain not only to the GP practice and ask to be seen by a different GP, but most definitely get in contact with PALS. That is awful behaviour from somebody that is in a caring profession.

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  21. I hope you're okay? What a horrible experience. If you are up to it put in a complaint. Make sure you don't let her stop you trying to find out what's wrong either. Book an appointment with a different GP and take someone with you, if are comfortable to, as support. Never get an appointment with her again for anything at all.

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  22. Oh Hayley, what a cow! I've had very similar symptoms and its taken me years to get a diagnosis. Please out a complaint into every place possible! Move doctors if you have too! Don't stop or give up into you have an answer xx

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  23. I'm absolutely shocked by your GP's behaviour! It sounds like she has some serious issues which she should work through herself. I know it will be hard for you to not take it personally, but honestly, she's the one with the problem. I would move surgery or insist on seeing another doc at your surgery. Definitely avoid her in future! Virtual hugs xxx

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