The girl who cried hypochondriac

Monday, April 28, 2014 Permalink

Over a half a dozen years ago I slipped down my stairs. Hardly a world shattering event, however as I put my arm down to break my fall I did ‘something’ to my right shoulder. The bruise on my forearm (which is what connected with the stairs) hurt more at the time, but ever since then I’ve had rotator cuff issues. My pilates instructor suggested I talk to my doctor about a referral to a specialist but they commented that shoulder surgery was problematic and unless: the pain was unbearable; I was an elite athlete; or needed it to be 100% for work; I just leave it. So that’s what I did.


Since then I’ve just dealt with the pain as it comes and goes and adjusted my (former) exercise routines (particularly pilates and Body Pump / weights exercises) as required.

However… a week or so ago I did something. I have NFI what, but it exacerbated my shoulder. Initially it was just twinging. I’d grimace if I lifted my arm too high or reached too low. However, as the week passed it got worse. Of course I SHOULD have seen a physiotherapist when it first started hurting, but I assumed it’d just get better. By itself. And I suspected that by the time I saw the physio it’d be fine and they’d think I was a big wuss or a hypochondriac or something.

However, on Thursday afternoon (after a sleepless night) I finally contacted a physio but with a Friday public holiday I couldn’t get in to see anyone until Monday.

I took some painkillers and slept for 15 hours. When I woke on Friday I discovered I couldn’t move my arm. At all. I finally admitted defeat and accepted my mother’s offer to come and help. Thankfully she spent the next couple of days with me: helping me to wash my hair (and get dressed) as well as preparing my meals and cutting up my food!

As suspected, by the time I made it to the physio today my arm was much better. I mean… was actually able to lift my arm high enough to brush my hair but it still hurt enough that I didn’t feel like a complete fraud.

I’ve delayed seeing my doctor over the past few years for similar reasons. Long term readers may recall that when I was making my seachange I got very sick and it wasn’t until someone commented that I sounded like I was dying that I saw my doctor (who thought I had whooping cough). Then early last year I got the flu and was unwell for weeks and only saw the doctor 3-weeks in when a rash appeared all over my body.


I wrote ages ago about the problem I have asking for help and I assumed my aversion to doctors and other health professionals was part of that – an admission of weakness or fallibility… or (the dreaded) neediness. However, I’ve realised that I’m perhaps a bit too paranoid about them thinking I’m faking it. God only knows where the fuck that concern comes from?!

Indeed, most of my visits to my doctor are just for updated prescriptions – though I usually have a ‘by the way’ list.

My last visit (for new prescriptions) included, ‘Oh and by the way, I’m having these issues with my period and I’ve had chest pains at night over the past month or so.’

It occurs to me that when I finally believe I’m sick enough to seek help I’m actually too sick to seek help. I’m sure others must be the same. For every person who fronts up to their doctor with the slightest ailment there must be those of us who walk in with barely attached limbs grumbling about the pain!

Are you one or the other? Or somewhere in between?

PS. I’ve now been to the physio and had some dry needling and the friggin needle she put in my neck feels like it’s still there.

  • Lee-Anne
    April 28, 2014

    Oh your POOR thing with that shoulder, it sound genuine not hypochondria!

    I fell down the stairs while in slippers, on the phone, carrying a pile of stuff (and tea, not wine!) and was badly bruised but luckily had no lasting injuries.

    Surgery is so drastic. Have you tried acupuncture? My GP practises this as well as conventional medicine and it can work for pain (although the thought of a needle in a sore body part is daunting – at least to wimpy me).

    Good luck with it – living with pain is horrible 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 28, 2014

      Gah! I wrote a long response and then lost it. I did actually weigh up the surgery issue at the time but it really only was problematic when I did pilates or weights etc. It annoys me at night but it’s a reminder to work on my posture and move my shoulders down away from my ears!

      I’m relieved it’s getting better, although I was becoming more adept with my left arm!!!

  • Annaleis
    April 28, 2014

    Feeling your pain with the shoulder. They have told me its best to try everything else until you can’t put up with it ANY longer. But the steroid injection I had just seems to have made it worse – so I have stuck my head in the sand and I’m ignoring it. The test will be netball starting tonight!

    You should ask for help you know you deserve it as much as anyone. It’s bloody hard to do but much better than being unwell for any longer than necessary.

    • Debbish
      April 28, 2014

      Hi Annaleis and it’s funny as I was looking at a page I’m a part of in FB yesterday and there were 2 conversations about the surgery. (One positive and one negative!) Like I said MOSTLY it’s not an issue and it’s unlikely I’ll try and pay any sport in the near future…. and I can easily adapt my movements if I return to dance classes / gym etc. It was a good reminder of the importance of prevention as I had to confess that I no longer do any exercises for it and probably don’t think a lot about my posture when I sit at a desk for 12hrs/day.

      Good luck with netball!

  • Satu
    April 28, 2014

    Hi Deb! What did the physio say about your shoulder? Old issues can flare up long after the original one has subsided. Last spring I started getting low back pains when I did my strength training routine, now I’m ok when I do the same program!

    I don’t think that fear of appearing hypochondriac usually affects my doctor visits – I think more about whether I can actually afford to go to see the doc or not or whether it’s worth the hassle. On a couple of occasions my mom has taken me to see a doctor – in my 20’s I walked with a broken foot (I didn’t know it was broken, I just limped along!) for a few weeks and then a 1,5 years ago when my mom saw the eczema on my hands.

    I’ve noticed though that when I’m depressed I start worrying about my health deteriorating, but I don’t think it could be called hypochondria.

    BTW, according to my recent medical (blood and other) tests, I’m still fit as a fiddle..

    • Debbish
      April 28, 2014

      Good to hear you’re well Satu!!!

      I get a bit hypochondriac-like at night lying in bed, but I suspect I worry more about everything at night.

      My physio is going to give me some exercises for the rotator cuff injury. Really, it hasn’t bothered me much since I had the fall and I’m sure it will be fine again. There’s probably a lesson about seeking help sooner so the pain doesn’t get worse (I mentioned my whole arm became numb and was throbbing then kinda heavy and dead etc)!.

  • Neen
    April 28, 2014

    I use google doctor, freak myself out but then feel scared to see an actual medical doctor! So I hear you.

    But with your shoulder, have you tried acupuncture? I hurt my neck pretty badly a few years ago and it was the only thing that helped!

    • Debbish
      April 29, 2014

      The dry needling the physio did yesterday is like acupuncture I think Neen (though thinner needles etc apparently). I felt the muscle grab the needle on a couple of occasions so hopefully it helped.

  • Char
    April 29, 2014

    I do exactly the same thing. I put off seeing whatever medical professional I need to see for so long that I don’t want to go because I think they’ll be mad that I didn’t come in when the problem started. Plus it’s easy to put off going when you know that they’re just going to make you see a specialist because they’re too afraid or unknowledgeable to do anything themselves. More waiting in doctors offices and lots more $$$.

    • Debbish
      April 29, 2014

      The specialist bit is true. I know in the past that by the time I’ve waited to see the specialist whatever was bothering me is no longer a problem!

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