I recently posted on Facebook about the ways my self care has evolved since developing a chronic illness. Many layers of privilege have played a role in my diagnosis and treatment, which isn’t the case for everyone. This is unacceptable.
Being sick is hard enough when you have good, affordable health insurance that covers doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and medications, and a work schedule that can accommodate doctor’s appointments and getting to the pharmacy while it’s open. But many people with chronic illnesses struggle to get a diagnosis, let alone care and treatment, because healthcare without good health insurance (and sometimes even with it) is disturbingly expensive. Taking time off of work to see a doctor can also put their employment and financial wellbeing at risk.
Doctors are less likely to take women’s pain seriously, which can mean delayed or withheld treatment, gaslighting, and prolonged suffering. People of color, especially women of color, and trans folks, are at a much higher risk of having their pain and other symptoms doubted or dismissed by their doctors. They suffer worse health outcomes because their health conditions aren’t diagnosed promptly and their pain is less likely to be treated. People in larger bodies face medical weight bias which can mean providers prescribe weight loss for everything from pneumonia to migraines instead of investigating their actual symptoms.
Patients who feel disrespected and marginalized in healthcare settings are understandably more likely to delay seeing their provider. The color of my skin, my access to a weight-inclusive healthcare provider who listens and treats me with respect (shout out to Mosaic Comprehensive Care!), and my education help protect me from a lot of medical negligence.
This, of course, only brushes the surface of the healthcare side of managing a chronic illness and self care. There are a lot of other daily challenges that folks who have to work hourly jobs and/or multiple jobs, those who cannot work, people with caregiving responsibilities, and people who live with multiple illnesses and disabilities face. Healthcare is a right that many people are denied in this country.
Keep in mind that healthcare privilege doesn’t make your pain any less real and worthy of care and compassion. It is, however, an opportunity to practice deeper compassion for everyone in your thoughts, intentions, and actions.
I’ve added some links below if you’d like a list of local free and sliding scale clinics, resources for self advocacy, and a little more reading.
If advocating for more accessible healthcare interests you, how can you practice compassion/non-harming/ahimsa-in-actionwith the energy, time, and space you have availabletoday?
If it’s contacting your representatives, 5calls.org has some great scripts to ask your reps to defend the ACA or support Medicare for All, and it can be adapted if you’re in NC where Medicaid expansion is finally on the table in our general assembly. Maybe it’s sharing some resources with your doctor about weight-inclusive healthcare. If you’re a healthcare provider, maybe it’s discussing with your team how you can identify and undo internalized bias to take the best possible care of patients.
In the meantime, you might place a hand over your heart and feel compassion for yourself for how challenging it can be for you to navigate the medical system and care for your own health. Then send compassion to others who are running into barriers or completely shut out of healthcare, too. We are all worthy of quality and affordable healthcare, self care, and compassion.
Here are some self advocacy resources:
Mosaic Comprehensive Care is a Chapel Hill medical practice that is non-judgmental and affirming to people of all genders and sizes.