Has Fear Of Being Judged Kept You From Seeking Help For Your Physical And Mental Health?

December 14, 2015  |  

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After a few months of fighting it, I finally took an overdue trip to the doctor for a persistent skin condition. It started off as something small and itchy, so I went to the drug store, picked up some over-the-counter cortisol and applied as directed. After a week, it was still there and taking up slightly larger real estate than before. I was worried about it spreading, but convinced myself that it was probably allergies or my new detergent. I returned to my tried and true detergent and did an elimination diet in hopes of vanishing this awful unwanted little situation on my body. Nothing worked. I asked a few family members if they knew of any home remedies and they pointed me in the direction of what I hoped would be a cure-all. Still, nothing was working.

You see, I was doing everything in my power to avoid going to the doctor. I had become scared of being judged for letting the situation get out of control. For not taking better care of myself. I didn’t want to hear what any doctor had to say, let alone be scolded about what I did with my own body.

Weeks passed, and it was getting too hot to wear long sleeves to cover up my malady. My desire to be cured of the rash grew bigger than my fear of being judged, so I caved.  I made an appointment and braced myself for a dressing down from my doctor for not telling her as soon as possible. I arrived at her office in a mild panic of anxiety. It was like being called to the principal’s office–but for your health.

I explained the situation and told her how embarrassed I was to show her the problem; how I didn’t want anyone to see it. And she scoffed, “I’m a doctor. You can’t imagine the things I’ve seen. Let me see.”

I showed it to her and braced myself. “That’s all?” she replied. She grabbed her medicine pad and prescribed me an ointment for the rash. “It’ll clear up in no time. Now listen to me.” She looked me in the eye sternly. She told me how she had a patient who she’d been treating. He made an urgent appointment to see her after falling off her radar for a couple of years. When he arrived in her office, she immediately noticed he had a significant limp. He never addressed the situation so she asked and he dismissed her. Her intuition told her to press on. She urged him to take off his shoe, and he finally relented. When he did, my doctor discovered that he an ulcer on his foot that was in desperate need of surgery. He went from her office to the ER, and they operated on his foot. My doctor said how the man was so fearful of being judged, he kept his foot hidden and made a bad situation much worse.

“If he had not taken off that shoe in this office, he would have lost that leg,” the doctor said. “Let that be a lesson to you in the future. We can’t help you if we don’t know you have a problem.”

I took that lesson to heart. So whether it be a skin rash, feet issues, or even matters of mental health, we should never be afraid to reach out to medical professionals who have the skills and resources to aid in our mental and physical well-being. There’s a major stigma attached to going to a therapist, but the stigma is borne of ignorance and shame. There is nothing wrong with getting therapy to help deal with stress or deeper issues. Or going to the doctor when you know you’re dealing with something you can’t handle on your own. It’s all a part of looking out for yourself. Try as you might, you cannot work everything out on your own. It’s okay to ask for help.

Most medical doctors have seen things you couldn’t imagine, situations that medical school has prepared them for alongside their real-life experiences with patients of all kinds. My rash is gone, (thankfully), but I think to myself, what if it had been linked to a major condition that could have been life threatening and I decided to let my fear get in the way of seeking help? Would it have been worth it then? I have since vowed to never let my fear of being judged get in the way of me leading the best and healthiest life possible, and I urge you to do the same.

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