This week, I had an experience with a pharmacist who was not going to fill my prescription for some hardcore painkillers – a script I had literally just taken out of the hand of the treating Doctor in the Emergency Department.

Before they filled my script, they said they had to get that same ED Doc on the telephone to verify I could have the medication.

As we stood there for up to 15 (agonising) minutes  – they suggested I go do some shopping, but I’d just left hospital and could barely walk three steps without yelping in pain – I felt an overwhelming, all-consuming emotion:

Guilt.

I was ashamed.

I watched myself falling into ‘proof’ mode – something many people with chronic illness may be familiar with.

I was double checking in my mind I looked ‘deserving’:

Yes, I was wearing makeup.

Yes, I had on expensive shoes.

Yes, I wasn’t ‘acting’ like a painkiller addict.

Ridiculous, as none of these things should matter, but I was standing there, worrying about them. 

And that made me even more ashamed of myself.

Because this is internalised ableism. 

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At the same time I was catching myself modifying my behaviour to present well to the pharmacists, I was panicking:

What if that ED Doctor had gone home for the day? It has been hours since I’d been discharged and in between I’d gritted my teeth through an hour-long ultrasound and had stopped to finally eat for the first time that day.

If they couldn’t reach him, what would I do?

Would I stand my ground and insist they fill the script? Or was I going to walk out without the painkillers the Doctor obviously thought I’d need over the next couple of days?

I’d already decided on the latter to avoid feeling any more judgement when the pharmacist informed me they would be filling my script.

And although the necessity of the painkillers didn’t even have anything to do with my ongoing chronic illness, I was there because I’d had a (hopefully) once-off ovulation rupture any woman could have at any time, I still felt as if I needed to behave, or present, in a certain way for them to deem me ‘worthy’ of medication a professional had already decided I needed.

I am a well-presented, well-spoken white woman with the privilege of a decent education and the capacity and experience to advocate for myself… and I was ready to run away with my tail between my legs.

For some good, long moments, I found myself realising what a legacy of having to ask medicos for their help has done to me

Guilt, shame, judgement, walking away without getting what I may need, putting on a pleasant, trustworthy, non-combative ‘face’, not making too much fuss, not appearing agressive – these were all the things I found myself trying to be while doing something that was within my right as a patient to expect – delivery of care.

I posted this story on my Instagram the following day, along with an invitation to DM me if folk had similar experiences. I basically spent the rest of the day responding to similar stories.

Kylie, a Melbourne based artist, businesswoman, and Mother, found herself booking with a new Doctor when her usual was fully booked. It was a Sister Clinic, so all her details were easily available, and even though her files clearly stated she was a sufferer of chronic pain and couldn’t take any other alternatives because of allergies,

would only prescribe her one codeine tablet.

One.

Think about that, think about carefully managing your life so considerately to keep all the balls in the air – business, life, children, Kylie also has a child with Down Syndrome – and relying on regularly taking medication each day to get through.

And getting a script for one tablet.

Which would have meant she would have had to make another appointment pretty soon after to be able to have access to the medication she needed just to manage. What a waste of her time and energy, and the time of her regular Doctor.

Bree, also a small business owner, netball enthusiast, and brilliant sport coach, passed out in the Emergency Department from endometriosis pain and was aggressively questioned about her use of painkillers, suggesting she was a recreational drug user “looking for a fix”.

As she said, “it’s just such bullshit how they treat women.”`

And it makes you wonder: if men had to live with endometriosis, how fast would we, as a society, be finding better diagnosis and treatment?

Lisa is a coach for autistic and neurodiverse people. She said “Autistic people are so often ignored. Our life expectancy is lower than average, all because it’s hard to advocate and easy to gaslight. So sorry you experienced this…” 

Amy is a wedding cake artist and mother of three, she has PCOS and told me over Instagram some doctors don’t even believe it’s a valid complaint. She’s experienced something similar to what I did this week, only multiple times over her years. One doctor told her she should “take up running and all her symptoms would disappear” because PCOS is cured by losing weight. 

On one hand, I adored every single message that came through on the evening I posted about my situation on social media.

On the other hand,

I was appalled so many women, just in my circle alone, have experienced a similar situation.

There’s no clean wrap up to this blog piece. None.

I had a moment I’m still trying to figure out my own feelings about. And I’m not alone, it seems. 

And it’s not OK. 

 

 

I’m Jay Crisp Crow

and I started a life-revolution with a need to write things, $0 in the bank, a borrowed laptop, and a disability – all driven by a desire for the amplification of women’s voices

Now, I teach women all over the world to write what they mean, sell all their things, and know that balance is absolute and utter balderdash

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