About six years ago I moved to a new area with my (now) husband and got a new job. It was my first time living so far from where I grew up, and the first time I had to be totally self-supporting, so I was pretty stressed at the time. I had been having panic attacks, although at the time, I didn’t know that’s what they were, and when I was having them, I thought I was having heart attacks.
I went to a new doctor, who ran tests to make sure my heart was operating the way it’s supposed to (it was), and surmised that I was having stress induced panic attacks. She suggested mindfulness exercises, and other ways to do relaxing self care, which has helped me manage stress in my life. I remember feeling satisfied with the level of care at the time. She suggested I make an appointment to do a full physical workup and a Pap and pelvic exam, since I hadn’t had one in two years. I made the appointment.
What happened at that appointment was vastly different from what I had previously experienced with this doctor. I am not sure why she didn’t fat shame me at the first appointment, but at the second one, she made a point of telling me over and over that I needed to follow the plate diet (eating food off of smaller plates, and portioning the plate with veggies, a small amount of meat, and an even smaller amount of grains), needed to exercise more, and that she was very concerned about how much I weighed (190lbs., 5’7″). I had actually tried talking to her about migraines, but she didn’t seem interested in hearing about them, and expressed that if I just lost weight, I would have less “headaches”. I had also asked her about birth control options, since my partner and I wanted to have sex without condoms. I explained to her that I had been on the pill in the past, and that the ones with estrogen made me feel very sick, and that I didn’t like taking them. She prescribed a pill to me that has estrogen in it.
On subsequent visits, this doctor would not listen to me about any health issues I was having. Even though my sex drive had diminished to nothingness, my migraines had gotten more frequent (from about 6 a year, to one every month, like clockwork, around the time I got my period) and more intense, I was feeling depressed and anxious, and had a high level of fatigue a good portion of the time (all side effects of the estrogen based borth control pill). None of that mattered, she just wanted to talk about ways I could lose weight. No matter that I told her I ate a well balanced diet, and exercised on a regular basis; she just thought I was lying.
Anyway, fast forward a year and a half. I had lost my health insurance because I quit my job to finish my Masters degree, so I had to stop seeing that doctor whether I wanted to or not, and I had run out of BC pills. I ended up going to Planned Parenthood to get a new prescription, because they have a sliding scale of fees for people who are low income (the appointment ended up being free). The doctor asked me about my migraines. The ones I have tend to be accompanied with an aura, which, as it turns out, means I should not have been taking birth control pills that had estrogen in them. Because they can significantly increase my chance of stroke. So the first doctor I saw was so blinded by my fat, she prescribed me medication that could have killed me, or caused devastating brain damage. Awesome.
I have a new job and different health insurance now, and a couple of months ago, my husband and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. I went to the doctor to make sure all my stuff is healthy. The new doctor asked me many questions and was suspiocious of my infrequent and irregular periods, and decided to run some tests. She suspected I may have polycystic ovary syndrome, and wanted to check things out to make sure. Welp, my test results came back, and yes, I do, indeed, have PCOS. Which is a big reason why I am fat, and why I carry most of that fat in my midsection. She has started to treat my PCOS, and has never once shamed me for being fat. In fact, she was sympathetic to me, and even contemptuous of the treatment I had received because I am fat (she rolled her eyes when I told her how the last doctor had treated me). She expressed that she knows it must have been difficult for me to not know what was causing all my strange symptoms that all suddenly made sense, but have people just assume it was because I was fat. I am 31 years old, and have never had a doctor treat me as kindly as the one I have now. She even gave me a hug when I cried over my diagnosis (because it can cause infertility and I was very upset by that)!
I am still angry at the incompetence and fat-shaming of the first doctor, but I am really grateful to finally have a doctor who seems to understand and actually care about me, the person, rather than my fat.