When you break your arm, everyone can see it because of the cast you’re wearing. When you scrape your knee or cut yourself, the wound is visible. It’s easy to see a person’s pain or what they went through when their scars are on the outside.
However, not everyone who has suffered or is suffering from a chronic illness has the scars to prove what they’re going through.
Last week I had to meet with a doctor from California’s state disability program to verify my disability claim and the severity of my diseases. The doctor I saw was rude, insensitive and convinced that I was fabricating everything. During the physical examination of my joints and trigger points, he was so rough with me that I begged him to stop.
He asked how I was sure that I suffered from my conditions and if I ever had testing done to back up my claim. I told him my previous doctor at UCLA ran extensive tests and biopsies, but he simply rolled his eyes to everything I had to say. Then I told him my current doctor from USC also confirmed my diagnosis and performed the same routine blood work and biopsies.
Even with this information he continued to be condescending. He was sure I was lying.
I left his office in tears from the physical pain he caused me and enraged by the way he treated me. I couldn’t believe that this person was going to sway the decision on my disability claim. I knew he didn’t believe anything I told him. He even questioned my list of medications, but I had remembered to take them with me so I was able to prove that to him. It didn’t seem to matter.
I understand that this is the procedure and there’s a reason for it all, but I felt like the doctor had his mind made up the minute I walked through the door.
I’ve also had to get x-rays done to prove the damage to my joints. And next week the disability program is making me see a psychologist. I’m interested to see how that goes and if they will make it seem like it’s all in my head.
It’s such a sad thing because I never thought it would be this difficult to receive disability benefits. It’s been 5 months since I filed my claim and I’m still waiting for their response.
Time and time again I’ve come across strangers who ask why I limp or use a cane and when I tell them I suffer from auto immune diseases they have the audacity to laugh in my face. They have absolutely no filter and expect me to allow them to put me on trial in order to prove myself.
During my working days one of my supervisors insisted that I bring in a doctor’s note for every day I was out ill, even though it was not mandatory. I obliged because she was convinced that there was nothing wrong with me.
At a different work site I worked with another “non-believer”. Anytime I called out due to hospitalization she would find out where I was staying and call my hospital room at all hours of the day to verify that I was truly there. At first I thought she did it because she cared, but during one of my absences she took my job away from me and then I realized it was all part of her plan.
I never realized that the moment I was diagnosed I would have to prove my symptoms, pain, and suffering to others.
However, I recently learned something new as well. I have the right to decide whether or not I want to be placed on trial. There will always be people who don’t believe or require more proof, but unless I feel like they’re genuinely asking out of concern, then I have no need to go into details.
When people start proving their intelligence to me, I’ll start proving my pain level to them.
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.