The wonder of being taken seriously when  you suffer from chronic pain

So today was a big day for me, I finally got to see a rheumatology specialist for the first time in life about my chronic pain. 

A little bit of background: I’m 23 years old, Autistic and clinically depressed. When I was younger I was superactive and engaged in sports to a terrifying degree. As I got older however, my joints began to stiffen and muscles ache more and more. For the last nine years I have been in constant pain that I’ve had barely any doctor or GP take notice of. I’ve had the standard, “you need to exercise more” statements, the “you’re overweight, that’s why your joints hurt” deflections and the ever fantastic, “there’s nothing in the tests so you’re fine”. Each of these responses has enraged and depressed me further, making my pain even worse because no one will take me seriously about it. 

Joint pains can be a sign of numerous things, not only types of arthritis, and can also be caused by a variety of things, including inflammation, wear and tear, and injury

This year my GP finally listened to me. I registered at a new doctors after returning home from university and had to find another GP surgery after my original one had no space for another patient. Ironically, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My GP did the standard blood tests, telling me that they were negative and “I can’t find anything” but when I requested it, she agreed to send me to a specialist: the first GP to agree to my request ever

And today was the big day. This rheumatologist went through my family history, my conditions, my pain—where it was, what caused it, did things make it worse, etc—and then he did a physical examination that checked me for mobility, hypermobility, joint and muscle pain, and my general level of flexibility. 

In one, half-hour appointment with him, he came to a conclusion that I have hypermobility in my joints—a genetic, potentially hereditary condition that should have been picked up years ago in a simple physical—as well as inflammation in my hands and other joints and, possibly, fibromyalgia. 

All that from half an hour when I’ve had hours worth of appointments with GPs in the past who have given me nothing more than, “well we don’t know what’s wrong” and “there’s nothing wrong from what I can see.”

It’s frustrating in a way, frustrating that it takes so long for someone to finally listen to me when I talk about my problems, and to not invalidate them with the standard ‘overweight,’ ‘depressed,’ or other deflections that get tossed at patients who dare try to get treated for their health. 

I’m five foot three with a heavy skeletal structure, it is literally stocky, and because I weigh more than the 9 stone I’m supposed to at my height (and really? I’d be anorexic at that weight with my skeletal and musculature structure, wow) it’s almost as if this is reason enough to write off my problems as my own fault and not really a problem. 

Joint pain can vary from person to person, but it can be so extreme in some cases that moving is all-but impossible from the pain. Mobility issues, fatigue and sleep problems can all be caused by joint pain, especially when left untreated

Hell no. I will be taken seriously for my chronic pain and the impact it has on me, both positive and negative. To hell with the tripe spouted about exercise and healthy eating habits: I have both thanks, I just can’t exercise as much as I would like because I’m in constant pain and constantly exhausted. 

I feel so relieved that this specialist has bothered to listen to me and pay attention to my pain and actually gone, “hey no, you’re not making this up, it’s really and I’m going to help as best I can”. I feel vindicated; after nine years of pain and being ignored I finally have someone listening to me and I feel like I could cry from the relief of it all.

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