This little hospital gown that I’m made to wear is too small and it leaves my entire backside uncovered. Fat bulges from my sides and stretch marks cover my body like tiny scars.
The exam table creaks as I sit down on the white crinkly paper and I see the disgust on your face and in your cold blue eyes, though you don’t express it aloud.
I tell you my ailments, my feelings, and my concerns—things which I needed to tell you a month ago but you wouldn’t fit me into your schedule for. I wanted my life to be over back then, and yet that wasn’t urgent enough a reason to be seen.
Now I’m here asking for your help and you minimalize my concerns by making uninformed statements which tell me you didn’t even take the time to read my file.
If you had read my file, you would know that the last time I was seen in this office I weighed about 90 lbs. less than I do now.
If you had read my file, you would know that I’m recovering from postpartum depression while taking medication and going to therapy for it—instead you brush off my concerns and tell me I’m not on medication for my depression so I’ll be fine and postpartum depression doesn’t last this long. You seem surprised when I tell you that I am on medication. I want to tell you that this has been a process of recovery over a period of time, but instead I don’t say anything because you’re the doctor and you should know the facts about the illness.
Your first comment to me is to see a nutritionist about my weight.
The months of struggle, pain, tears, psychiatrist visits, therapist visits, and pure war within my mind minimalized to what you can see—my fatness.
And when I tell you my story, how I know what to do because I’ve done it before and the weight came back on as a result of depression, you tell me that it must be hard to eat right when I’m feeling moody.
That stings like an unexpected slap in the face.
Moody. This was far more than being moody.
I tell you how sometimes like the flip of a switch I begin to feel like I don’t want to live anymore—that life is just too hard and this lasts for weeks sometimes. You look at me like I’m crazy and tell me that I do not have a “profound” problem where my hormones are imbalanced—but this is just an issue that’s common in people of my size and BMI.
You don’t seem to hear me over the thunder in my thighs. While a sunshiny smile remains firmly planted on my face and I kindly thank you for your time, the dark cloud has begun to creep slowly over my soul and my eyes begin to feel heavy. When I am in the safety and solitude of my vehicle, the tears fall.
Please don’t disregard me and my feelings because of my weight. Don’t assume that because I am fat that I don’t care or that I don’t try to change.
Please consider that I have a history and that you don’t know my story. Don’t belittle me or treat me like I’m a series of numbers on a chart.
Please take me seriously. See beyond my ample curves and flabby arms and see that I am a person—not just a specimen or textbook fat person. I’m unique, as is every single patient you see—skinny, fat or in between.
I don’t want your sympathy. All I want is for you to understand that today, my weight and the snugness of my clothes, are just a part of where I am in this moment, and my life is made up of millions of moments—not just this one. I understand that my weight is unhealthy and I would give anything to get it under control—I worry about it every single day and I’m trying. Really, I am.
This isn’t the beginning of my story nor is this the end. It’s just a moment in time that is a result and accumulation of all of the prior moments that have affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m not just my fatness—I’m a struggling soul, someone continuing to fight to become better.
Remember that each patient has a history that you have no clue about. The fat may just be a symptom of a life that has become unbalanced for some reason or another. Beneath the excess fat is a human being with feelings who is fighting battles that you know nothing about.
Please wrap this around your finger and as you open the door to greet your patients, let it be a reminder that each one has a unique story of the road they’ve traveled so far—don’t make assumptions. Be informative, be professional, but most importantly—be kind.
Your Fat Patient