Dear Problem Patients

An open letter to anyone who’s ever felt dismissed by their doctor

Brianne Benness

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Photo of a person wearing a purple hoodie curled up on a grey couch under a striped blanket and facing away from the camera.
Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash

Dear Problem Patients:

I want you to know that I believe you. No matter what is going on with your body or how strange it sounds when you try to explain it, I want you to know that I believe you.

Maybe your friends are pulling away because you keep canceling plans and you don’t have the words to explain why. Maybe your job performance or your studies are suffering because it takes all you have just to keep a healthy-looking face on during the day. Maybe you’ve stopped working entirely because your foggy brain and your tired aching body can no longer perform tasks that used to be easy. Maybe your family thinks you need to stop being so dramatic; maybe they’ve said this to you explicitly or maybe it’s implied when they roll their eyes, when they stop asking you how you’re doing. Maybe your doctor leaned away from you when you brought up your concerns and suggested you see a therapist. Maybe you feel really alone right now. Maybe you’ve been feeling alone for a long time. (If you struggle to explain what’s happening to friends & family, I’ve got a letter for them too.)

I want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that there are so many other people who feel uncertain and isolated and scared because something is happening with their bodies that their doctors can’t explain. I want you to know that every single person with a diagnosed illness has been where you are now. I want you to know that a diagnosis doesn’t magically make these feelings go away.

Maybe you’re wondering if this is all in your head. Maybe you’re wondering if you brought this upon yourself somehow. Maybe you’re taking your physical and mental health into your own hands with an interminable to-do list for self improvement. Maybe the doubt and the guilt and the wondering have stopped you in your tracks completely.

I want you to know that the wellness industry is gaslighting you. I want you to know that a lot of people are making a lot of money by trying to convince you that you can hustle your way back to good health, no matter your circumstance. I want you to know that getting more exercise or eating a better diet or improving your sleep hygiene might help you feel better…

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Brianne Benness

Host of No End In Sight, a podcast about life with chronic illness. Co-founder (& former co-producer) of Stories We Don’t Tell in Toronto. She/Her.