#CelebrateingtheRainbow at the workplace – share your stories of Pride!
Upon discussing this incident with friends and family, a few shared their unpleasant experiences of seeking medical help during periods. Rude comments, dismissing remarks, and disappointing medical cures, is all they received for their distressing problems.
Photo by Christelle Hayek on Unsplash
Trigger Warning: This deals with gaslighting and dismissing of women’s pain and may be triggering for survivors.
As someone who recently went through a difficult experience with a doctor, I know firsthand the importance of finding a physician/specialist who takes your concerns seriously.
It all started with feeling dizzy while riding the scooter. Jaundice was diagnosed. For three months, I was suffering from the problem and nothing I ate seemed to help. I was feeling helpless and unsure of what to do, until I finally decided to seek the help of a specialist.
He was recommended highly online and offline, known for his exceptional medical expertise. Although a few people did say that “he is quite moody sometimes, but mostly okay.” We overlooked it thinking about the noble profession and his hectic schedule.
The day of the appointment started with rigorous questionnaire all about the duration, and symptoms of the problem I was undergoing. After another couple of hours, I sat in face to face with the doctor in his clinic room. He looked simple. And stern.
As I sat there in the specialist’s office, listing down my symptoms, amongst all the reasons he asked me was also about my periods. “Are there any issues in your periods?” As I nodded a yes, several other questions trailed along.
I answered patiently about all the problems, excessive bleeding, and cramps. I mentioned about experiencing severe pain during my first three days of periods. The doctor laughed it off saying, “Are you sure, the pain lasts that long?”.
Over my affirmative and half infuriated yes, he casually exclaimed, “periods pain is mostly mild, and the severity is mostly in the head.” He did not stop there and added further “there is no medical proof of severe pain. This PMS, mood swings, cramps are modern world terms. Use the hot water bottle like our nani-dadis, you are sorted.”
Sorted. Like seriously! Where did it entangle? I was baffled. How could he possibly comment on the severity of my pain? And he dared to mock about it, suggesting a home remedy and asking me to overlook it. He was a damn specialist. Sorely agitated, I was thinking how some doctors lack empathy.
The ‘Chandi’ in me was breaking my bones. Not just he lost all the respect as a professional, but also being a human being. His attitude towards my pain was unacceptable. As a medical professional, it was his job to listen to his patient concerns seriously, not mock. The fact that he dismissed my ‘menstrual’ pain because he believed that problems during period is woman-made. It baffled my senses.
During my growing up years, the pang of jealousy had hit hard several times watching my friends walk and sway the bleed days. Gradually, my senses fell in place realising it is different for every girl or woman. Some has those carefree days, some tuck themselves in bed, some deals with mood swings, a few walks on popping painkillers, and some like me toggle in between tablets, hot water bag, curses, and mood swings.
It is not uncommon for women’s health concerns to be dismissed or overlooked by medical professionals. This is particularly true when it comes to menstrual pain. However, for many women, menstrual pain can be debilitating and significantly impact their quality of life as the nature of menstruation varies from one person to another. They skip work, rest, food, joy. They live in pause. Waiting normalcy.
A lot of studies have been done worldwide to understand the gravity of the physical and mental pain women undergo during these three-four days. However, many doctors view menstrual pain as a minor inconvenience that can be easily managed with over-the-counter pain medication. How possibly can they understand? Especially, the ones not experiencing it. I mean who was there to tell these bunch of male doctors about women’s problems? Or there were women to let them know the problems. Or maybe told but they did not find it worth considering it medical issue?
While my mind was processing the facts, his unexpected reaction, and the prevalent notion about menstruation, he misjudged my expression stating, “Not that I am saying you use it as in excuse to stay away from work or something (pause)..it’s just that it is not medically established that such severe pain occurs during periods.” I was stoned of embarrassment. My eyes almost welled up.
“Excuse me SIR, you just did not deny the pain but also called me a liar. How much you know about the girls’ monthly problems, because from where I can see, you know NOTHING. You were highly recommended by some people I knew, but after what you just said, made me regret my decision. You are highly insensitive, and definitely lack empathy.”
I said it all loud to him but inside my brains. The humiliation had made me numb. I felt insulted. The words denied spilling out of my sealed lips. With blurred eyes, I almost left his chamber. I almost left his cabin when he said, “We need to run some blood tests and examine your liver. Nothing for cramps right now.” I heard him scoffing. How am I going to live with this? The Chandi trapped in my soul snapped free the moment I questioned myself, and I actually shouted out aloud at him:
“You know what, I had never seen such insensitive and cruel doctor like you in my life. Are you sure you are here to diagnose the patients? Because, from where I can see, you basically ask the symptoms and provide nushkha like any jhola-chaap doctor does. Or maybe not know enough how to acknowledge the problems that exist beyond your domain.”
I stormed off. He was screaming from behind calling the assistant doctors, and helpers to get me out of his clinic. Before anyone could say something, I was out of the place steading my breadth riding on fire. I failed miserably. It took days and tears to wipe off the scar he had marked on my memory. And it itched time and again. Bitter, Insensitive, and Cruel. I could not get over the harshness for a long period of time. It still haunts me to an extent that I always search hard to find a female gynaecologist, or any specialist doctors.
Later, upon discussing this incident with friends and family, a few shared their unpleasant experiences of seeking medical help during periods. I was surprised to find that many of the experiences were similar to my own. Rude comments, dismissing remarks, and disappointing medical cures, is all they received for their distressing problems. Unfortunately, this dismissive attitude of medical professionals towards menstrual pain has been since ages. Endometriosis, for example, is a common condition that affects millions of women worldwide. However, the symptoms of endometriosis are often dismissed as “just menstrual pain.” This can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, which can have serious consequences for a woman’s health.
As a patient, it is important to advocate for yourself and insist that your concerns be taken seriously. If you are experiencing menstrual pain or any health concern, do not be afraid to speak up and seek out a second opinion if necessary. At the end, we must remind ourselves that we are the expert on your own body, and have the right to be heard and taken seriously by our medical professionals.
One of the worst encounters I’ve ever had with the specialist who dismissed my monthly problems stating, “woman-made”. It is outrageous #MedicalMisogyny that doctors still consider menstrual discomfort to be a mere nuisance. As patients, it is our responsibility to advocate for ourselves and insist that our concerns be taken seriously. We must continue to push for greater awareness and understanding of women\’s health concerns and work towards a healthcare system that is truly patient-centered.
Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we will be sharing stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.
A space tech lover, an advocate of equal rights, homemaker, mother, blogger, writer and an avid reader. I write to acknowledge my feelings.
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