So You Think You’re a Chair

At age 28, I was experiencing multiple distressing physical symptoms. Just a couple of months after I turned 29, I would be diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I tried to figure what was exactly was happening to my body. Just a few months prior to developing these distressing symptoms, I had been running several miles per day. I was in excellent shape. I took just one prescription medication, for depression.

Now, debilitating fatigue was becoming an everyday part of my life. I was also experiencing very distressing periods of complete numbness in my body. I remember trying to describe my symptoms to one of my physicians at the time. I told her that it felt like it was impossible to determine where my body ended, and the chair began, when I was sitting.

Of course, I was simply trying to express that I had developed a severe loss of sensation in my lower extremities. Upon hearing my comment, this specialist actually remarked, “So, you think you’re a chair?”

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. I have countless other examples of colorful comments that physicians have made to me over the years.

One psychiatrist heavily criticized me for using such precise language in describing my symptoms, as though that were a psychiatric disorder in and of itself. He also claimed that I had an “obsessive need to know” what was happening to my health, during those months between my 28th and 29th birthdays.

Yes, I was consumed with discovering the etiology of my multiple, distressing symptoms. These symptoms were disturbing absolutely every aspect of my life. More than once, I’ve been tempted to remind my physicians of the vow they once took: “First, do no harm.”

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