I hear every day that I am just not working hard enough; that other people have overcome worse issues; that I’m just being lazy or unwilling to do the “hard things.”
It doesn’t matter if they are talking about my mental issues or my physical ones. In fact, with both sets of problems, I am simply considered to be “malingering” or worse, I am a “hypochondriac.” The nicest way to say it is to say that I have a “somatic symptom disorder.” (SSD)
In speaking with my sister, I do realize that the way that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (latest version DSM-5) describes it, that it is not a diagnosis that is a polite way of saying that I am a hypochondriac or that I am malingering.
HOWEVER, there is a huge difference between what the DSM-5 describes and how a number of members of my health team are reacting to that diagnosis. I should be amused, in some ways, I suppose. The initial diagnosis was made by a post-doc (postdoctoral researcher) and approved by his mentor (who has never interacted with me). I requested further testing (in fact, testing with the doctor I had originally made the appointment with, but with Wisconsin’s health insurance I was required to be seen by a specific company that is used to dealing with what is often considered the “dregs of society” before being referred to the specialist), and the moment I did so the post-doc got defensive and dismissive. He promised the referral, but it took me most of a month to actually get it sent to the specialist.
I have, in fact, appreciated the work of interns when it comes to M.D.s. In my experience, these doctors are more open-minded about looking at the big picture of someone’s health. I am hoping that, since this was my first interaction with a post-doc, the greater proportion of post-docs are like the MD interns, and I just happened to come across one who was unwilling to admit to something beyond his understanding.
Unfortunately, part of the issue comes down to a blurring of lines between the physical and mental issues. You see, part of what happens with chronic pain is that there are many mental disorders that come along with it. Depression, anxiety and sleep disorders (insomnia AND over-sleeping) are often a part of the chronic sufferer’s life.
Adding the depression, anxiety and exhaustion from hyperawareness of my ex-husband to the chronic pain issues means that recovery from the abuse and the management of the chronic pain issues will mask each other.
I know quite well that after a certain amount of a time, a doctor will feel concern that their patient isn’t progressing in their health in a manner that the doctor would prefer. This, in fact, is a point where my general practitioner is at. She told me I needed to see a neurologist (in case of organic damage) and a psychiatrist (to be in charge of the medications I am taking in an attempt to lessen the impact of my mental state on my physical health). And, of course, the therapy which has been ongoing since I moved up here.
Often it comes down to doctors who just have no other idea of how to treat a patient. Good doctors will be honest with you, and ask you to work with specialists. As much as this kind of doctor can annoy me, I would much rather have a doctor who is honest that an issue is beyond their expertise.
Because of the intersection of the chronic pain and the abuse recovery, it is no big surprise that I would need specialists.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I just cannot get out of bed (or stay out of bed once I have gotten up). Days when simple errands require far more energy to complete. Days when staring at the computer screen is the only thing I can do.