Abdominal pain? We can’t find it, you’re a hypochondriac or depressed.

Toni writes:

Let’s back up 20-odd years.

While I was in college, I went to several doctors about the pain I occasionally experienced. Every test done showed there was nothing wrong, and I was treated as a hypochondriac. One doctor told me I was allergic to feather pillows and gave me prednisone. Several doctors told me it was all in my head, and I needed to lose weight.

I finally went to another doctor, who assured me that we’d figure it out. He sent me to a gastroenterologist, who did all kinds of tests and ended up telling me there was nothing wrong other than me being fat. Given that at that moment I was at my lowest weight since 5th grade, I was astounded.

I was tired, I was worn out, I was getting used to being married and having a new job, I was stressed to the max.

I went back to see my GP, the one who assured me we’d figure it out. I trusted him totally, especially since he’d been Dan’s doctor since birth. That day, we discussed how I was feeling, and he gave me some pills that I took without asking what they were or what they did. I didn’t care, as long as they helped.

The next morning, as I took my first dose, Dan asked me if I knew what the pills were. He was reading the patient information from the box, which I hadn’t bothered to do. When I said no, he told me it was an SSRI.

Anti-depressants?! I swallowed hard.

And decided that since I didn’t know what else to do, I’d take the Zoloft and see what happened.

The next few months are very dim in my memory. I do know that I worked, slept, and ate. I also gained around 100 pounds during the 5 months I was in Zoloft. I was a zombie. I had technicolor nightmares. I was just kind of existing, not living.

I went off of Zoloft cold turkey, because I couldn’t deal with how it made me feel anymore. After the headaches became unbearable, I called my doctor and he told me the right way to wean myself from it.

I don’t deny I was depressed. It runs in my family. I was off anti-depressants for several years before things got bad enough that I asked my newer doctor for them. I’m still on them.

But remember, the original reason I was put on them was to deal with the pain that no one could diagnose, that was considered to be all in my head.

The same pains have come and gone over the years, and every test that was done showed no issue. No gall stones, no disease. Eventually the pain would ease up and I’d give up getting a diagnosis yet again. The fact that the pain would be triggered by a HIDA scan apparently never registered on the tech who gave me the tests, because none of them ever recorded that fact, and my doctor always blew that part off because the HIDA scans (for gallbladder) showed normal operation.

In October, I had severe pain again, bad enough to go to the ER. Of course, as usual, the tests they did showed nothing wrong. But this time, for the first time, I was referred to a surgeon. After I told him what I had gone through for YEARS, he offered to take my gallbladder out. Given that I was going to ask if he would anyway, I said please do.

When the surgeon removed it, he noticed that the valve from the gall bladder to the duodenum was small, and the pain I had been experiencing for years was more than likely due to that.

Everything I went through, everything that was considered to be all in my head, was the result of a congenital deformity. I’d been complaining about it since childhood and was treated like a hypochondriac because no test showed the problem.

When I was 8 years old I had an upper GI done looking for ulcers because I complained constantly that my stomach hurt. It wasn’t until college that I pushed for an answer, and still didn’t get the right one till I was 41.

I don’t know where to put the failure at on this one. Me, for not pushing harder? My doctors over the years?

One thing that I wonder about is whether or not being put on that first round of SSRIs didn’t screw me up more than anything else. I’m now on an SNRI and bupropion. It’s possible I would have ended up on them anyway, but figuring out I was started on them because something physical was assumed to be “all in my head” just makes me angry.

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  1. I’ve been having stomach pains for almost a year, similar to what you described here. I was screened for gallstones and they found none, but I’m still having the pain. I’m afraid to go to the doctor because I don’t want to hear another “You need to lose weight, and the pain will go away” lecture. (I’m 22, 5’6 and about 215 lbs). Or that its all in my head. But your story gives me some encouragement to advocate for myself. What if it is just an easy fix? Thank you for sharing.

  2. lilacsigil

     /  June 23, 2009

    Not your fault. The doctors who will not take pain and other symptoms seriously because you’re female and/or fat are the ones at fault. The doctors who gaive you treatment to shut you up or get rid of you, rather than treat your actual problem (or admitting that they didn’t know and referring you onto someone else), are at fault.

    It also raises another issue – I was given an SSRI for depression when I actually had undiagnosed thyroid cancer. I’m fairly sure I was also depressed, as well I might be, and I think the medication pulled me out of being suicidally depressed. Anti-depressants can be very helpful for people who are actually depressed. But it didn’t treat the actual, physical problem, and it makes me wonder how many women (and some men) are out there, slowly dying, while they’re palmed off with antidepressants and no real follow-up. (Or, after they gain weight on the antidpressants, told that their weight is the cause of the problems!)

    • I always wonder why doctor don’t want to spot the obvious before throwing the mistake on the patient.
      I am still amazed.


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