Young and Hurting: Trusting My Own Gut
Three years ago on Pesach I felt this terrible pain. A throbbing in my lower stomach and back area. The pain was so bad I couldn’t sleep. We alerted an EMT who lives next door, and they thought perhaps it was appendicitis. An ambulance was called to take me to the hospital and after many hours in the ER, the doctors said it was nothing. They said I probably just didn’t want to go to school, and so I invented this pain and sent me home.
A couple of days later, I was back in the ER in the same terrible pain. Again, they didn’t see anything but they admitted me into the hospital for pain management. The doctors kept going back and forth while looking further; was the source of my pain gastrointestinal or gynecological? An endoscopy was done to see what was happening in my stomach. It revealed a bacteria that didn’t belong, and I was given antibiotics and sent home.
I was getting better. For a few months, I felt ok, until I wasn’t any longer. The pain was back and worse and so we went back to the hospital. The doctors were at a loss. For months I underwent hundreds of blood tests, dozens of ultrasounds, two MRIs, a CT scan, two endoscopies, a colonoscopy, a few x-rays, and a barium x-ray. My life became a series of doctors and tests. I was a young teenager, barely able to go to school or live my life.
Through the whole process, doctors asked me if I was pregnant. My stomach had become quite swollen and I looked to be at least 7 months pregnant. My lifestyle guaranteed that I was not pregnant, and I would emphatically tell them it was impossible. But they didn’t believe me and would ask if I was sure. I said I was sure, and unless all the other doctors somehow missed a baby during an MRI and multiple ultrasounds, they should move on to actually diagnosing my medical issue.
When they couldn’t figure out what was happening to me, they said the pain was in my head. That I was just depressed and looking for attention. At this point, I was indeed a bit depressed because no one would listen or help me. Every doctor brushed off my complaints. Eventually, I started to wonder if it was in my head. Was I insane? What kind of person is in a kind of pain that doesn’t seem to have an explanation?
I started to lose hope. I had no life, no friends and a lot of pain. Moreover, after all the doubt from the doctors, I started to doubt myself. Eventually, I lost faith in the doctors. I felt isolated and crazy. I spent a lot of time crying. I didn’t understand why this was happening and why no one seemed to want or be able to help me. I felt so lost, that I wanted to die.
The doctors said there was one last test we could do, but it was a surgical intervention, and they didn’t want to put me through that. I was given birth control pills and other medication in hopes that the pills would help my symptoms. Slowly, I was able to “kind of” get my life back. The pain became more of a background noise and I learned to push through the noise to live.
After I turned 19, 3 years after this all started, I went to my doctor and pushed for the surgery. As an adult, I was taken more seriously and the surgery was scheduled. I had the surgery and they found Endometriosis in my body.
I had been right. I wasn’t crazy. The pain was very real. I felt relaxed for the first time in years. People believed me and my pain. My swelling went down and I stopped looking pregnant.
I’m angry that it took so long to figure it out. I’m angry that the people who were supposed to help me just dismissed and belittled my pain. I’m angry that because of my age I was treated like I was lying to get out of school. I feel that for these reasons and more I suffered alone and suffering thinking that I had lost my mind for those 3 years.
I am now three months after the surgery. It’s still something I struggle with but now I’m older, wiser and know how to advocate for myself. I found peace in being able to trust myself and my abilities to know what’s happening in my body. I now am hoping to become a doctor, so I can try and change the way doctors interact with and treat patients.
Batsheva is doing Sheirut Leumi at Hadassah Hospital, in Jerusalem. She lives with her dog and cat and her mind doesn’t work like everyone else’s.