How Being A Woman Prolonged My Diagnosis

From a very young age, girls are aware of their body. I myself began that journey at the age of 8 when I was first told I had to shave my legs. Very quickly, it seemed, I began to go bra shopping and started being more selective with my clothing. Not too tight, not too low, can’t wear white because it might show.

My breasts never really seemed like they were mine, more like something I was trying to subdue for the outside world. Always a point of interest for new acquaintances, something you had to address, the elephant in my shirt. But I truly began to hate my breasts at the age of 15.

It started with back pain while sitting in class and has evolved to sleepless nights and convincing myself that live is worth living. I pushed through a sea of, “If you think you’re in pain now, wait ’till you’re my age,” and “Man up,” to get a doctor’s appointment.

“Your pain is caused by your breasts,” was the answer from multiple PCP’s. No follow ups, no questions why my shoulder made bone breaking sounds and fell numb when I raised them above my head. I had to beg for further investigation. I have been tested three times for RA, Lupus, and Limes Disease, all negative each time. I had been X-rayed in the same spots multiple times, unnecessary radiation.

Still no answer and as the years progressed, the pain only got worse. At this time, there was a whole slew of shit storms happening in my life that always took precedent over finding a diagnosis. With changing insurance, doctors, and moving away to college, life got the best of me and I convinced myself my life was pain.

The next bullshit excuse I started receiving was stress. Everything I was dealing with was because of stress and I just needed to learn how to relax. Ever heard that telling someone to calm down makes them do the exact opposite of calming the fuck down? Now I’m aware of my stress which stresses me out and I’m just starting to feel defective. Like one of those mannequins kicked over and trampled during a Black Friday sale in Victoria’s Secret. But I didn’t ask for this, so why was no one willing to help me?

I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously because women are traditionally depicted as frail, fragile, weak, incapable of strength and resilience. Women are shown as the damsel in distress. We are notoriously displayed as over reactors in television and media. This, combined with the easy scapegoat on my chest caused 9 more years of pain than necessary.

It only spread to other areas of my body over time. Soon I started throwing up everything I ate. I got Costochondritis (twice now) which is described as feeling like you’re having a heart attack. I had to stop lifting heavy things because I felt like my knee was going to crunch and break. Even sleeping was painful, which is basically every twenty-somethings favorite thing to do besides pound watered down bottomless mimosas.

I recently started looking for people who are like me. Although not every story is the same, I found hope in Lady Gaga’s journey and her Netflix Documentary. I found inspiration to try nontraditional methods of treatment thanks to Buzzfeed’s Kelsey. And I found the push I needed and the explanation of my symptoms from Buzzfeed’s Zach. All these things seem so simple and even silly, but it helped me stay sane when I felt like throwing myself off a bridge the pain was so bad.

I finally said enough was enough and went to a new doctor and begged for a referral to a rheumatologist. Now I have a few diagnoses that my doctor and I are working through. Still a lot of testing to go, medications to experiment with, dietary changes, and adjustments to my fitness routine. I’m far from being better but I’m definitely on my way to a solution for the pain.

It’s going to be a journey to find out what the right way to regulate this is for me, I’m still in a lot of pain, but there’s nothing like being believed and knowing you are valid. For years I thought I was doomed to live in this cursed body that is only causing me pain from the inside and outside world. Anyone who feels like that, know that you are not alone, and don’t take no for an answer from your doctors. Your pain is valid. You are loved. And you are Super Normal.

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