A couple of years back in the surgery of a local GP:
“Are you sure you’re not just trying to do too much?”
“Are you feeling anxious and / or depressed?”
No, I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was trying to run 20 metres with a horse for an inspection and was becoming out of breath. My father and my grandmother on my mother’s side had asthma so my diagnosis should have been fairly obvious. So why instead was the patronising GP trying to prescribe me anti-depressants - made by the big pharma who gave him his notebook and pen - instead
of trying to diagnose me? Why did he feel a woman in her thirties should be capable of running 20 metres or exercising 5-6 days a week?
Here is the question for you – would a man have been told the same? Correct me if I’m wrong but I think not.
My response to this misogynistic excuse for a medical professional was:
No, I am not depressed. I am however frustrated by the physical issue I am experiencing and your attitude towards it.
Is it any wonder we have people 10-20 years older than me on "Operation Transformation" trying to get fitter, when they are only unfit as someone like you told them it's better to go home and sit on your hole on the couch and eat jellies, rather than get physical exercise?
I’d like another doctor please.
I’d like a referral to a specialist.
The referral to the specialist showed that I have asthma (what a surprise!) which is triggered by allergies to tree pollen, grass pollen and dust. My inability to run related to the fact that my office was doing renovations and I was inhaling dust 8 hours a day.
In 2020 I had surgery on a rare dental cyst. The surgery was delayed by 5 months due to surgeons not being permitted to operate due to a lack of PPE. In that time, I took enough painkillers to kill an elephant, had seven antibiotics - one of which I became immune to and one which I had an allergy to.
I was sticking needles into my gums to drain the never-ending infection. Eventually this was deemed a medical emergency and an amazing team removed my cyst, my tooth and bone grafted my jaw. I signed a waiver to state I understood I may not have feeling in my face afterwards but luckily, I did. The surgery was a success, and I was extremely grateful.
Fast forward two years and I started having some weird symptoms. I had an unending pain in a straight line from a crowned root canal up to my right eye. Occasionally this would spread across my cheek and into my forehead. My vision in my right eye was blurred and I struggled to keep it open when reading. After treating me for a sinus infection twice, my dentist suggested seeing an optician.
Side note – never google “pain in one eye”.
The optician unfortunately had the same patient outlook as the GP.
Him: “Well, I don’t think your symptoms are particularly serious”
Me: "Um, I can’t see properly out of one eye?"
Him: “Eyes are meant to work as a pair. Why would you close one?”
Me: Um, because I can’t f**king see properly out of it, so I can’t read with it open?
Anyway, armed with the knowledge that I didn’t have an eye tumour and that I sleep with my eyes partly open (lovely), I went back to my lovely dentist who referred me to a facial pain specialist. I didn’t immediately book an appointment.
Why Not? Because that’s what happens to us. The annoying persistent attention seeking women. We become convinced that there’s nothing wrong with us and we should just “offer it up”.
On Halloween, my head and neck ached all day at a seminar no matter what pain killers I took. On a normal day while it wasn’t as bad as Halloween at this stage, I dreaded sitting trot as it literally rattled my head and neck until it hurt. At competitions I would literally have muscle ache all over after a test and would grit my teeth in trot work. I dreaded being out in cold air as my face and head hurt.
I finally confessed this to my coach who told me it wasn’t normal, nor in my head. I rang the specialist and quite honestly, it was the best decision I made last year. After being assessed by the first doctor, another who is an expert was called in.
- I have hypermobility in my jaw (no surprise as I have it in my thumbs and ankles)
- My bite is not aligned which explains why I wake up at night with an aching jaw, my teeth literally don’t touch at rest
- I have nerve damage and pain because of my operation (not in any way the fault of the amazing surgeon, just always a risk of surgery)
- I have trigeminal neuralgia which means that the nerves in my face and beck become inflamed and sore.
This lovely man sat me down, looked me in the eye and said...
It is not normal to have a headache most days
It is not normal to be in pain most days from anything and everything
It is affecting your quality of life and you do not realise.
I’ve been prescribed medication for nerve pain which has been a huge help. I have been to a physio who specialises in face pain, and I am due back to the specialists next month.
Above all, my mental health improved simply by being listened to and by understanding what was wrong with me.
My advice to anyone who is experiencing symptoms that are not being taken seriously, who has been effectively dismissed by a medical professional or who has been diagnosed as anxious / depressed while the cause is ignored, is to bloody stand up and shout. Demand a second opinion, insist on seeing a specialist, do not be convinced that its all in your head or that its normal.
I am not alone in this experience; I know this from speaking to others.
Have you been palmed off by a medical professional for an issue that was affecting you working, riding or going about your daily life?
Why not get in touch with an article about your experiences?