When writer and artist Aubrey Hirsch was finally diagnosed with Graves’ disease after five years of searching and visits to different doctors, her suspicions were finally confirmed. Hirsch created a comic, originally shared on The Nib, to raise awareness for women’s health problems and to call for women to demand better treatment.
Women with endometriosis also often suffer for years before they are given a correct diagnosis.
She decided to take a stand using her art after being constantly made to feel like she was problematic and as though her complaints weren’t being fully considered by the doctors assessing her health.
“I thought of myself as a ‘problem patient,’ when really I was a patient with a problem,” Hirsch said in a Huffington Post news story.
Hirsh argues there are too many examples of women’s health not being taken seriously, often leading to their condition being neglected. Hirsch, who is now 34, suffered from a series of symptoms ranging from extreme weight loss, nausea, irregular periods and fatigue — all without “deserving” a proper diagnosis by several doctors.
At one point, she spent four days in the hospital due to a heart scare. Not even that led to a correct diagnosis, she said.
Stress, anxiety, or eating disorders were all considered as possible diagnoses for her condition until Hirsch visited a sleep therapist, who referred her to an endocrinologist, who finally diagnosed her with Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid, making it overactive.
“Reading about the very real gender bias in medical diagnosis helped me process what had happened to me,” she told the Huffington Post. “I really did think of myself as a ‘problem patient,’ when really I was a patient with a problem.”
It turns out research confirms Hirsch’s theory, as evidence suggests that indeed, women’s health issues aren’t taken as seriously as men’s.
“I thought drawing it as a comic would allow me to inject a little humor and levity into an otherwise heavy topic,” she said.
As seen on this Twitter thread, many women have since reached out to Hirsch to share their own stories of misdiagnoses – a response Hirsch has called “both affirming and heartbreaking.”
“It’s awful to hear about so many instances of women’s pain being ignored, but I think it’s also creating space where women are finally being heard,” Hirsch said. “So many people are chiming in to say, ‘me too,’ ‘me too,’ and it helps you realize that YOU aren’t the problem. The system is the problem.”