Women Still Face the Myth of Hysteria in Advocating for Quality Healthcare

Women Still Face the Myth of Hysteria in Advocating for Quality Healthcare

Recently, my laptop charger cable gave up the ghost. I took it to a certain high-tech temple, identifiable worldwide by its fruit-shaped logo. A somewhat friendly “expert” asked me to plug the cable into my laptop. Technology loves to undermine me so, unsurprisingly, it all worked fine.

Trying to sound confident, I explained that it had been malfunctioning for months. He ran some software that determined that there was “nothing wrong with the cable.” Attempting to make eye contact, I assured him that there really was an issue — one I’ve tried to fix. He barely looked up from his tablet, shrugged his shoulders, and agreed to give me a “replacement charger cable” of lower quality than my original one.

That experience felt like deja vu. Less than 24 hours earlier, I experienced a similar feeling of invisibility at the doctor.

I have been dealing with a surge in painful flare-ups for a while. The shooting pains in my legs have turned into strong spasms, my pulsating hips and sacrum adding to the discomfort. “I can’t explain the pain you describe,” my doctor said, and then asked about my migraines. She prescribed me some painkillers and didn’t refer me to a rheumatologist or anyone specialized in muscular pain. After I insisted, she said, “Maybe the pains will go away with the migraines.” She sent me home.

A couple of days earlier, a stranger belittled me over the phone.

I had called the department in charge of issuing a repeat prescription for the progesterone I take regularly. The pharmacist gave me a lower dosage by mistake, meaning I ran out of my medication sooner than expected. The person answering the phone kept putting me on hold, repeatedly speaking over me. They accused me of shouting when I remained calm and polite. It didn’t matter that my voice was breaking, that I pleaded to be listened to, or that the fault lied somewhere between their department and the pharmacy dispensing my progesterone incorrectly. 

The fruitless phone interaction triggered a panic attack right after I hung up. My heart felt like it was about to explode, an immense pain in my chest that prevented me from breathing properly. I believed I was going to die. 

After seeing my doctor, I felt frustrated. After the upsetting phone call, I felt gagged. Yet it all seemed so familiar.

The hysteria myth is very much alive.

Many health professionals still have a tendency to attribute the cause of women’s illnesses to their state of mind. They quickly dismiss physical symptoms, telling us “it’s just stress,” and send us home confident that our problems will vanish once we “calm down” or take things easy. 

Many times, doctors are limited not only by their knowledge but also by budgets and time constraints. In the U.K., the public health sector is under extreme pressure, and the current political climate is doing nothing to preserve it. In places like the U.S., the care a patient receives is the one they can afford to pay.

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Jarvis, diffusing my panic attacks since 2014. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

Patients can be frustrating to deal with, yet patients are also human beings that require care. Those of us with chronic disease live in a permanent state of stress. It’s not surprising how someone unsympathetic and, critically, holding all of the power, can turn us into an emotional mess.

As a patient, I can do my research, write everything down, and stay cool. I can know everything published about my disease and more. Yet the treatment I receive is decided by the professionals I’m assigned. 

We are living with an illness that currently has no cure.

Hysterectomies don’t guarantee a pain-free existence, and pregnancies do not help manage the disease. The hormonal medication we are given can wreak havoc on our mental health. We are only allowed a few minutes to explain ourselves, during which our symptoms must make sense to each individual doctor who sees us, whether they are a specialist in the disease or someone who has absolutely no clue. 

In particular, endometriosis patients continue to lose blood by the gallon, popping pills to manage pain levels that are akin to heart attacks. We struggle to keep our eyes open, hold down our jobs, and take care of our loved ones — all while fighting a system built to question us and label us as emotional. It’s no surprise that it sounds like hysteria. When it comes to women’s health, we are still fighting myths established centuries ago.

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessie Madrigal BNS Writer
My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.
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Jessie Madrigal BNS Writer
My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.

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