In my personal experience with pain, I found that being able to endure severe pain is somewhat expected from women. I once had a doctor tell me my pain couldn’t be as bad as the pain I felt while getting my tattoos. I was speechless and furious. How could he begin to compare the two?
Unfortunately many people, not only doctors, tend to throw out comparisons or disregard me when I explain how terrible my pain is. I feel as if I’m constantly having to justify myself and prove my pain to not only healthcare providers but everyone around me.
I don’t show my pain on the outside. I tend to put on a happy face and internalize the severity of it. The fact that time and time again doctors have doubted me also makes me more inclined to keep it to myself.
During one of my ER visits I had a doctor ask if I had any children. When I told him yes he said the pain I was there for couldn’t be as bad as giving birth. He was certain that I was exaggerating my symptoms, even though I made it clear that I didn’t want pain medication. I found that the ER nurses – all of whom were female — were a lot more sympathetic.
Some of the illnesses I suffer from target more women than men. I think men are perceived as being stronger than women, so doctors tend to believe them more when they complain about not being able to handle their pain. Pain doesn’t care if you’re young or old, black or white, man or woman. It attacks anyone and no two people suffer exactly the same.
I feel like some doctors are biased when treating patients and one of the major factors that contributes to their opinion is gender. Women are thought of as being more dramatic, sensitive and unable to cope.
Every time I try to describe the intensity of my pain to someone they almost always ask why I got so many tattoos if I’m always hurting. What they don’t know is that 90% of them were done before I got sick. Explaining that isn’t what frustrates me though, it’s the simple fact that they don’t believe me.
As if women in pain don’t already have enough obstacles to overcome, the skepticism of others hurts deeper than any superficial wound.
Arlene Grau lives in Lakewood, California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.