Women get diseases, not hysterics

In the olden days, women were diagnosed with hysteria. Various disorders were explained by the belief that women were weaker and more sensitive than men. Today, I am at the hospital with a massive stomachache. My doctor asks me if I am stressed and if I feel good in my soul.

The question is not completely irrelevant. One of the biggest issues among young women today is stress. The “good girl” who pushes herself to the breaking point in order to be perfect and reach others expectations is rather common. However, that does not mean that every girl with a health problem is just stressed out and should relax a while to get well.

At first it did not strike me as odd. Naturally it was frustrating not to be taken seriously, and I felt convinced that, had I been a man, my doctor would have been more hesitant to connect my problems with stress issues. But it was not that big of a deal. Doctors probably meet countless of people who have no idea that stress is unhealthy.

What had me thinking was an article in a Swedish newspaper, a debate article written by a woman with cardiac arrhythmia. She had started a Facebook group for people with the same kind of heart disease since she had met big problems in getting the right health care. Cardiac arrhythmia is when your heartbeats are not as rhythmic, or regular as they should be. My own heart, for example, tends to beat faster when I inhale.

My arrhythmia is harmless, but the woman I read about had strong palpitations on random occasions, causing her to get dizzy and lightheaded. She dreaded to climb stairs or drive the car alone. Trying to explain this to her medic she was given the advice to relax more. When she finally got the care she needed her health state was life threatening and by running the group on Facebook she meets many other women who have had similar experiences.

Suddenly, my visit at the hospital is not an isolated event, but part of a bigger, more severe issue. Why is it okay to assume that a woman is pushing herself to hard if her body is not working as it should? I have never heard of a man experiencing the same thing. Somehow, people still seem to think that women are weaker, and dismiss their problems as a consequence of that.

I admit: I am a good girl. I want to be the best, do the best, and look the best. I study full time and have several jobs on the side. Nevertheless, to know this is not to know who I am. The only one who knows what is going on inside me is myself.

It so happens that I love my life right now. I feel great about my studies, live with a fantastic boyfriend, and have finally started to work out regularly. I sleep eight hours a night and eat three meals a day. If my doctor had asked about those things it would have been quite clear that I am not a nervous wreck.

The cause of my stomachache is yet to be discovered. It is possible that I am keeping a higher pace than my body can handle. But before that conclusion is drawn, I want it proven that no part of my gut is diseased by anything else than pressure. Otherwise I might have a highly developed colon cancer in two years that no one discovered because a woman with stomachache is more likely to be stressed than diseased.

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