Transcript EP 249 (Throwback) – Dr. Taz’s Take on Medical Gaslighting
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where I am determined to bring you back to your superpower itself. And today, we’re doing Dr. Taz’s take. That’s right. It’s me, solo me, talking about the issues that matter to you. You guys know I’ve been on a health journey and now I’m on a mission to change medicine as we know it, and to bring us all the answers that we deserve. Here’s what’s getting in our way. How many of you have heard of the term medical gaslighting? Well, it’s been a little bit more in vogue recently with more and more people talking about it, but essentially it’s that feeling of being dismissed. You go and you present your symptoms, your conditions, and they’re either ignored, dismissed, or labeled as a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. Has that ever happened to you? Raise your hand.
Dr. Taz: I can’t see you guys, but I’m guessing that there are a ton of you out there who’ve experienced something similar. Well, I began this journey because of gaslighting. So in some ways, maybe I should be grateful, but I was only 28. And those of you who know the story, I hope I’m not boring you to tears, but I was in my twenties finishing residency, starting an ER job, ready to conquer the world, but slowly getting sicker and sicker and not really wanting to admit it. And I don’t know if any of you have felt this way, but the shame and guilt with not being yourself or not being the best version of yourself is real. I see that in your faces often when I’m sitting in our exam rooms at CentreSpringMD, whether it’s you’ve gained 20 pounds, or you don’t feel good, or your joints are swelling, or you’re just not the person you used to be. It changes your mindset. It changes what you think you can and cannot do. And it alters your life path.
Dr. Taz: Well, this happened to me in my twenties. And looking back now, over 20 years ago, it was a gift, not a curse. Of course, I couldn’t see it that way at the time. But as I tried to get answers to my health issues, which were thinning hair, gaining weight, joint pain, and joint swelling as well, irregular periods, lots of acne that I tried to cover with makeup and spent so much money on expensive procedures. As I ran down that journey and as I ran that race, I found very quickly that I wasn’t getting the answers that worked for me. I had one doctor that wanted me to take a pill, another doctor that wanted to shut my hormones down. Another one that just thought I was stressed. And the last one who really talked about the fact that I would more than likely be bald by the age of 28 or 30, if I didn’t take this particular medication.
Dr. Taz: So like many of us, we listen and we take medication and we don’t think. And the reason we don’t think is we’re already riddled with shame and guilt. And in my not thinking, I took this medication, which lowers your blood pressure even further and in turn crashed my car because I worked out, didn’t hydrate really well, took this medicine, dropped my blood pressure even more dramatically, and I passed out at the wheel.
Dr. Taz: Think about the damage that I could have done to anybody out there or to myself, because I didn’t pursue the answers to my own health. I don’t blame anybody else. I blame myself. Why didn’t I dig deeper? Why didn’t I get answers? Why didn’t I look up the side effects of the medication? So I ultimately blame myself. But I also blame a medical system that works against us all. It’s one that’s prescription driven, transaction driven, meant for a five to 10 minute encounter. It’s all about volume. It’s all about procedures and the relationship, the sacred relationship between a doctor and a patient has been thrown to the wayside.
Dr. Taz: How many of you have felt like this in the exam room that you’re not heard or that you’re not seen, or that your concerns are simply swept under the rug? This was not the way medicine was ever in the past. It’s only in the 1900s that this change took place. Medicine was always considered very tied to a relationship to spirituality. Your medicine men were the healers in the priest of a tribe or a group of people. People that did medicine and Indian culture were right up there close to either spiritual leaders, because there was such a connection between body, mind, and spirit.
Dr. Taz: So what happens when you take the relationship out of this equation? Well, you get computerized, machine driven, healthcare that treats you like a robot and gives you answers like a robot. Well, we all deserve so much more than this. So gaslighting is something that we need to be aware of because the system, I promise I’m going somewhere with this, the system is set up for gaslighting. It’s quick answers, quick solutions, get you out of the room, who’s next? So of course you’re going to be gaslit. It’s a system that doesn’t work. So what do you do? Well, here’s what you can do as a patient. And here are the conditions. And if you have one of these conditions, I strongly strongly advise you to get multiple opinions and multiple perspectives so you know what your full range of options may be.
Dr. Taz: All right. Number one. When you’re going into an encounter with your doctor, always be prepared. Know your symptoms, know what’s going on with you, be able to communicate those symptoms, make sure on the other side of that communication, there is eye contact, there’s understanding, there’s some sort of acknowledgement of what’s happening. So that would be number one. Number two, ask questions. When you’re offered a solution, ask questions. Not 20 questions that tie up the room for the next hour, but ask maybe three pointed questions so that you can fully understand what you are or are not doing.
Dr. Taz: Number three is to also look at your encounter. Does it feel rushed? Does it feel hurried? Does it feel like the doctor’s trying to just get out of the room? Is there again, eye contact, communication, collaboration? Or is it more, this is the way it is, this is the way it’ll always be, and there’s no other way? That, my friends, is simply not true. So those are my three rules to prepare you to go into your encounter, into your exam room, without feeling like you haven’t done your work, right? Because we’re not trying to play a blame game here. We’re trying to all just understand how to communicate better.
Dr. Taz: So once you’ve done your work, it’s up to you to decide how that interaction went. Were your needs heard? Were you paid attention to? Were you treated like an individual or the sum of averages? Were you poo poo to think that’s all in your head or you’re going crazy? Or is there something else that really is going on that needs further investigation? Now, as someone who’s had the fortune to work with so many different conditions, many of them related to us, to women’s health, here are the conditions that I see being gaslit over and over again, PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. That essentially was my diagnosis. And that’s what led me down this road of holistic integrative and functional medicine. Endometriosis. So hard to diagnose, so often missed in our patients. Abdominal pain, pelvic pain, trouble getting pregnant. All of these symptoms are often missed until multiple tests, and finally a surgery is done.
Dr. Taz: I think that in addition to that, many autoimmune diseases are missed. Patients will come in not complaining always of joint pain or rashes, sometimes it’s fatigue or brain fog or memory loss. And those are autoimmune symptoms as well. So many autoimmune… And we see so many. There’s so many different autoimmune diseases that we see. But many of them get gaslit and dismissed as headaches or migraines or stress or anxiety or depression or the ultimate gaslit diagnosis, which I think is chronic fatigue.
Dr. Taz: Chronic fatigue is a bucket dump. That’s really what it is. In essence, if someone has chronic fatigue, there’s a root, there’s a reason and we need to dig and we need to find it. Again, these are some of the most commonly gaslit conditions that I see. But of course there’s more. They’re all the people that come in with anything from IBS or what’s been labeled as IBS, but actually turns out to be Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. There are folks that come in with hair loss and acne, and they’re treated with RhoGAM or some of these super strong medications, but it’s actually an androgen overdrive, not a stress issue.
Dr. Taz: So again, there are many, and it’s hard to name them all, but they all need an approach that really embraces and endorses communication, collaboration, collegiality, and the desire to find answers. Every doctor is not going to have every answer. I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I have that desire to learn, to heal, to see people thrive and come into their own. And that’s what drives me to go find answers for you even when I may not have them right at my fingertips. Every doctor should be that way. It should be driven that way. And you will feel it.
Dr. Taz: It’s not always a head game. So many times people come to me and they’re like, “Well, my doctor went to this university and this fellowship and this certification.” All that’s amazing. They’re really hard workers. They’re brilliant intellectually. But if they don’t have your heart, if they can’t communicate with you, if they can’t listen, then all those certifications, just like a relationship, they’re worthless, because at the end of the day, it’s the doctor-patient interaction, it’s that collaboration, it’s that collegiality that’s going to make a difference.
Dr. Taz: So please join me in getting rid of medical gaslighting, helping me change medicine in the way we deliver it, and restoring the doctor patient relationship. If you’ve been gaslit, share your story, email me to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you know someone who is being gaslit, maybe share this episode, it might encourage them to take a stand for their own health. Because remember, shame and guilt are real. I felt it. I experienced it. I know what it’s like. And I know how debilitating it is to not feel like your most super-powered self.
Dr. Taz: So go out there, be super-powered, let’s get this message right, let’s change medicine, let’s make sure gaslighting comes to an end, and I’ll stay on it. Thank you guys. Thank you for watching and listening to this episode of Super Women Wellness. Remember to rate and review it and share it with your friends. That’s my take on gaslighting.