When We Medically Gaslight Ourselves

We're used to others medically gaslighting us – but what about when we do it to ourselves?

In a previous article, I shared my eagerness for medical testing to identify the cause and any possible treatment options for my unexplained chronic vomiting that has been occurring since July 2022. The ability to obtain answers and effective treatment options continues to evade me as we near closer and closer to a year of this issue being unresolved.

Do you not believe me?

I've completed test after test that came back with unremarkable results as to why I'm vomiting. At almost every doctor's appointment – and even with others in my own personal life – I get the same question: "Why aren't you losing weight if you're vomiting?"

On the surface, this can be a valid question for a perplexing situation. But I can't help but pause and ask what is the intention behind this question...do you not believe me?

Medical gaslighting and rare disease patients

Rare disease patients and chronic illness patients are often medically gaslit by medical providers and even those in their personal lives. And this is an experience that is even higher among female patients and patients of color.1,2

The longer a diagnosis takes, the more we seem to be exposed to medical gaslighting. It's not uncommon to feel dismissed, unheard, ignored; over time, it can affect one's mental health.

Will my new doctor believe me?

Every time I have a new provider, I'm filled with anxiety that my new medical provider won't believe me and that I will have to prove my illnesses to them before I'll be believed. It has become such a strong anxiety for me at times that I've had medical providers stop me during my symptom explanation to tell me, "I believe you."

I've even had one provider ask me, "Why wouldn't I believe you?" after I profusely thanked him for taking my concerns seriously. I haven't had any provider tell me that they don't believe me about the vomiting or accuse me of causing myself to do so.

But sometimes I question myself

Yet, when I'm asked why I am not losing weight despite chronic vomiting, I begin to doubt myself. Maybe I'm not actually having any type of issue and I'm just causing these episodes to occur. Maybe it would be like this for everyone. It also doesn't help when others in the outskirts of my personal life continuously tell me that I'm experiencing symptoms because I am knowledgeable about my medical conditions.

I begin to question myself so much that I repeatedly ask others who I trust – if you do X, does that make you vomit? And the answer every single time is, "No, that's not normal."

Self-gaslighting...even with concrete medical results

I recently underwent an esophageal manometry test to determine any issues with my esophagus' motility and the results came back abnormal. I have documented proof that there is something wrong with my esophagus now – something that I've suspected from the very beginning.

And yet I still can't help but ask others for reassurance: if you do X, Y, even Z, do you vomit? And the answer remains "No."

Each time I start to second guess myself and my lived experiences with chronic vomiting, I remind myself about my concrete medical results and how irrational my doubt is.

Can you relate to Jenny's feelings of self-gaslighting? Share your experience in the comments below.

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