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  • lucia

You Are Dismissed

Updated: Nov 10, 2023



In my recent blog, I've shared my journey of embracing my anger and courageously expressing my truths as I strive for improved interpersonal interactions in both my career and personal life. Reflecting back to last year, I found myself deeply engrossed in "The Handmaid's Tale," drawn in by its compelling narrative. The series masterfully highlights society's emphasis on the value placed upon women of childbearing age, underscoring their ability to bear children. This narrative struck a chord with me, as it brought to mind my own path a few years ago when I entered perimenopause, and began to realize my worth as a woman had decreased. In the following pages, I present a one-act play that vividly portrays the initial stages of this challenging journey.


I've chosen to title this one-act play "Pauline." It's a name that will forever be etched in my memory. I firmly believe that it's crucial to remember the names of those who have mistreated us, serving as a reminder to never allow such mistreatment to happen again.


PAULINE:

Me: You probably don’t remember me but the day we met had a profound affect upon my life. You are not at fault for the mental breakdown that occurred, but you certainly played your part in shaming me. The day we met I was looking to you for help. I was looking for a compassionate, kind, and talented practitioner. I sat in your office after I had waited nearly a year to come in to see Dr. A’s, to discuss possible “hormone imbalance.” I didn’t know what was happening with my body, but something was off. I had ignored it as long as I could.

You walked into the room like you were walking on stage. Truly it felt like a grand entrance of some kind. Your body was full of large gestures and a voice that reminded me of Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Blvd.”. That’s the image I have of you, Gloria Swanson. Charming and grand, but very dark and disturbing underneath, rageful, so insincere, and so insecure about herself that she is overcome by mental instability. As a former actor and lifelong practitioner of morphing into what other’s want of me in any moment, I met you where you were at and played into your scene.

Oooh that’s the other thing that comes to mind as I write about it. It was your scene, not mine. Our meeting was clearly not about me and it was never going to be, it was your scene, your show, the Pauline show must go on no matter who you might hurt. So I met you in your scene supporting your ridiculous persona.

Pauline: “What can I help you with today dear?”

Me: “Well I’m having some symptoms of hormone imbalance. It started after my daughter was born and I’d like to find out if there actually is anything going on. Maybe some testing of my hormones? I am 41 now, perhaps it’s pre menopause? There’s nausea, cramping, periods that are all over the place and unpredictable, irritability, difficulty sleeping, headaches. I have two small children, I want to be able to be there for them,not irritated and annoyed all the time.

Pauline: “Oh darling, you’re probably not even ovulating. This kind of thing started for me at exactly your age. I had cysts on my ovaries so large they were the size of an orange. Very painful. I know exactly what you need. A low dose combination birth control pill will regulate you, I promise you a few weeks after you start taking it you will feel like a new woman. Your skin will glow! Though you do already have beautiful skin.

You will get back to being the cool hip chick that you are. And your kiddos will get a new happy mommy. Oh I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have two small children, I can barely stand it when I come home from work and my dogs are all over me. They are so needy, honestly, even when I’m going to the bathroom, pawing at the door and whining. I can’t even imagine having two little human beings, needing all my time and attention.

Me: “Well I haven’t taken birth control in about 5 years now and I’m not sure it’s right for me. Shouldn’t we do some blood work or some panels just to make sure there is some imbalance going on?” I mean I did have a cyst on my ovary when I was pregnant with my daughter. Not that I’m a fan of them, but maybe I should have an exam?. I just want to make sure before I start taking something.

Pauline: “Well dear we can check your thyroid and your FSH levels to make sure they are in normal range but that is really all we need to do. You just need a little more estrogen.

“Kelly please get Ms Lucia a prescription for Alessa!” Lovely seeing you dear, now you let me know if you have any issues, call anytime.

Me: I filled the prescription that day but didn’t take them. There was something about you that was just “off” for me. I should have honored that, I wish I had. That was November. By January I couldn’t take the symptoms anymore, I wanted relief, I started that pack on your advice and your promises that I would feel like a new woman with even more gorgeous illuminated skin. Three weeks after starting that pack I couldn’t have a bowel movement. When I say couldn’t like using the force of pushing out a child from my body wasn’t doing it. I called the office, I asked for advice, no call back. So I quit, I just stopped taking it, and oh man it was like an explosion of my gut. GI symptoms that wouldn’t stop, diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, body weakness. I couldn’t eat, I shed 10 pounds in a month. Something wasn’t right. You said “call anytime” right?

Me: I begged. I had to beg Dr. A’s assistant Kelly to get me into the office to be seen.

Kelly: “Well Dr. A prefers you go to your primary care physician for GI issues we can’t doing anything for you.

Me: I know that KElly but these GI issues seem to be the direct result of this pill. can I please, please be tested for hormonal imbalance and or get an exam? Please I need help, I don’t know what to do.”

Kelly: “Okay, I’ll put you in with Pauline again, Dr. A isn’t available.” “Tomorrow work?”

Me: Um yes, I’ll have my kids with me but yes anytime tomorrow yes!”

Me: I was scared. Is that silly Pauline that I was scared? I’m curious, should I have been less freaked out by what was happening? Didn’t I have a right to be alarmed? I still question that. Should I have just ignored it and moved on? I mean I have two small children and a husband that I really love and it occurred to me that perhaps something was so wrong that I was in danger of losing that. Maybe I was dying. I couldn’t bare that possibility. So I came to you.

I wrote down all my questions in a tiny notebook so I wouldn’t forget and slid it into my purse. I woke up early and got my 2 and 5 year old ready to drive across town with me to your office. I hated doing it, but they were young enough, they would forget having to be witness to the exam. I was shaking, my body had developed a trembling which also scared me. I didn’t know what it meant. I just didn’t know what was going on? And honestly...you didn’t have to know either. The only thing necessary from you that day was your compassion and kindness.

Kelly quickly shuffled me into one of those stale white rooms that Dr. Arrigo has done nothing with to make it a welcoming place. The place looks like some make shift clinic, cold and sterile, not even a picture on the walls. She sat me down and told me how high my blood pressure was

Kelly: “wow that’s unusual for you. “

Me: “Yeah Kelly, I don’t know what’s going on.” Juliet honey it’s okay we’re here for mama, the doctor isn’t going to touch you okay, this is just for mama. Here watch pj mask with Van okay.

Again you made your grand entrance, but this time very frigid. No big flowing gestures, just stern and still. And that voice: Cold as ice.

Pauline: “What can I do for you today dear?”

Me: “Well I started taking that birth control pill you prescribed and I had a really bad reaction. I couldn’t have a bowel movement for three weeks and now I am having terrible GI symptoms because I stopped taking it and...

Pauline: “Ah Ah ah that is a very unusual reaction to a birth control pill. That’s not normal. Have you gotten a period since you stopped taking it?

Me: “Yes actually I got my period two days after I stopped and then didn’t get another one until something like 35 days later”

Pauline: “So your periods have returned?”

Me: “Yes”

Pauline: “Well then looks like everything is back to normal.”

Me: “But it’s not, I’m having all these symptoms and I want to find out if there’s something hormonally going on, can we just do a hormone panel, maybe check my progesterone and estrogen levels?”

Pauline: “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do for you here”. We are a basic bare bones practice, we see pregnant women and women in menopause”. You’ll need to speak to your General Practitioner, let them know what’s going on. You could have a very serious disorder perhaps an autoimmune disorder, Crohn’s disease, maybe something even more serious. They’ll be able to do full blood panels and check for everything.”

Me: “So I can’t get any testing.”

Pauline: “No dear. Your thyroid and FSH levels were checked in November and were normal. You know I have the name of a very nice counselor, her name is Kim, I can get you her card today if you’re interested.

Me: “No that’s okay, actually I am a psychotherapist.”

Pauline: “Well I know honey but you need to take care of you too.” She’s fabulous. And what will you all be doing today. Are you going to the park to get some vitamin D it’s such a beautiful day.” “What’s your name? Van, well Van you make sure you take of your mommy okay? Anything else I can help you with?”

Me: “No thank you.

That was one of the most humiliating moments of my life. Dr. A’s office was always a place I looked forward to. Of course, maybe that was because I was on that narrow list of people you actually serve. I was either pregnant with my son or my daughter or planning to get pregnant on each visit so it always had this feel of excitement for me. I walked out of there holding my kids hands and getting out of the way of the next pregnant woman being called back in for her appointment.

It felt to me like you took some pleasure in that moment Pauline. From my perspective that’s what stays with me. Your smirk, your subtle laughing under your breath with each of my responses to you. I wonder if you had known what happened to me after that, if you would have had the same response. You were so vicious, it was like I was standing with my back to a bridge and you looked right at me, took your foot, and shoved me over. What are you doing treating women? Tell me, what on earth are you doing? Because what happened to me can’t just be in isolation. People have patterns, so this is a pattern for you. There are a lot of names I’d like to address you as Pauline, but Nurse Practitioner isn’t one that aligns with the experience I had of you.

Coward is the best title I have for you. Fear leads to the kind of viscous ness and violence you had towards me that day. You’re not a helper, and you’re not a healer, you’re an insecure bully. You and I will never share a scene again.



A Message for Women:

We continue to exist within a framework that values and associates our worth and beauty primarily with our ability to reproduce. Once that ability diminishes, society often dismisses our value. This unfortunate reality persists.


Though progress has been made, women are still mistreated by medical professionals, and it's especially disheartening when this comes from female practitioners lacking empathy. The excuse that doctors aren't taught basic psychology and empathy in school should never be an acceptable excuse. That is one of the most inane excuses I have come across. Compassion and understanding are not optional; they are fundamental to healthcare. Telling women that they are too emotional and should stop complaining is also a violation and a nail in the coffin to women continuing to be treated with abuse by society. As a healthcare professional, you have a unique opportunity to challenge these stereotypes and provide compassionate care to all women, regardless of their life stage or reproductive status.


If you choose a career in medicine, then commit to treating all patients with respect and empathy, regardless of their gender or age. If your focus is on pregnant women, build your practice around that specialization. Don’t punish those of us who have chosen not to have children or who are entering menopause to your lack of interest or understanding. If you choose to work with perimenopausal women, understand the importance of empathy during this challenging phase of life.


Remember, if you are a woman healthcare provider, your actions reflect not only on you but on all of us. By showing empathy and providing proper care, you contribute to the advancement and empowerment of women. Conversely, mistreatment and dismissiveness only perpetuate the problem. Let's hold medical professionals accountable and demand the empathy and respect we deserve as patients and as women.


Remember, doctors are not above you; they are supposed to be your partners in healthcare. Many of them need that reminder. It can be challenging to assert yourself during medical appointments, especially when faced with dismissiveness. The subtle eye rolls, the cold demeanors. However, don’t hesitate to bring your bravery into those exam rooms. Ask your questions, every single one of them. Challenge your healthcare providers when necessary.


This isn’t about being difficult; it’s about advocating for your health, just as you would for a child who depends on you. Your voice matters, and your concerns deserve attention. Stand up for yourself, and don’t accept their invitation to be “dismissed.”


You exist, your feelings are real, your symptoms are real. You Are Real.

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