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  • Writer's pictureMeg

Dear Doctor, I'm Sorry You Have to Touch My Body

Warning: This contains egregious fat hate from some of my therapist peers. Feel free to take a pass if you are not in a space to read about that.

In 2019 I was at a gathering of 4 or 5 therapist friends and their partners. It was a fun day, we were playing board games, chatting, and bonding. We worked for a semi-evil therapy factory which usually dominated our thoughts and conversations but that day we’d put a glorious moratorium on work talk. The morning was spent mostly teasing one of their boyfriends (now fiancé) about how much he looks like Joe Jonas. So the morning was lovely. The afternoon was rough.

I was in the kitchen and most of the group was in the living room. I heard them shift into a discussion of former jobs. The conversation was led by one woman but participated in by several of them. Most of them had worked as health aids in group homes or hospitals and they were discussing it. They universally hated it and thought the patients were gross and demanding and terrible. The worst patients were the hideous, horrifying, fat ones. The discussion included details about specific ways they had had to touch or otherwise engage with fat patients and how disgusting it was.

I was frozen.

As a fat person medical care is very complicated. I always worry about judgement. Much of that judgement happens in the exam room. I see it in a look or an offhanded comment. I see it in the kind of tests they order (or don’t order) or how they laugh at me when I wear my “Fat Bodies Are Sacred” t-shirt. They tell me to address a lump under my armpit by swimming in cold water or attribute a bad medication reaction (that would eventually land me in the hospital) to the fact that I must not chew my food enough.

I always have a fear that even my good medical providers are secretly talking or thinking negative things about my body and telling their friends and love ones about my rolls and bulges and creases. I worry that wonderful Dr. M, my GI doctor who I look forward to seeing (who is psyched to see the doctor who does their colonoscopies? This girl) goes home and tells his wife about how my disgusting fat body made the colonoscopy harder or how he was horrified to touch my “obese” flesh. Dr. M, if you are reading things, I don’t genuinely believe you think or do those things, but I am still always, always afraid.

There is always a voice in the back of my head saying, about every doctor, “this doctor is appalled by your body, this doctor wishes you weren’t their patient, this doctor uses you as the butt of their jokes.”

Standing there hearing my friends, most of whom were very very skinny, was devastating. It validated my worst fears. It changed not only the tenor of my relationships with those women but also all of the medical professionals in my life (ones I see, and ones I know).

These were kind caring women. I thought we were close friends. These were fucking therapists. And on their day off, they had a drink and trashed their fat former patients.

Over the next week I had a series of extremely awkward, often extremely unsatisfying conversations with each of them individually. I used all my very best therapist skills. There were lots of tears and apologies, some of which I believed some of which I didn’t. I can’t, to this day, find grace in my heart for the worst of the group. We haven’t spoken since she offered an insincere apology and a pat on my hand and I am more than okay with that. There were some repairs (one of them is still a close friend) but there are some ruptures that can’t be mended. We have all since left the agency and I wish them well.

This incident, that I would wager none of them remember, haunts me. It appears in my head before every medical interaction. It appears in my head at random moments on random days. I’m currently doing a deep dive on fatness and reading all the books I can find, and so it is on my mind a lot. Maybe someday I will be able to release the fear this caused, it feels like I probably won’t. Medical care is complicated enough without validation of your worst fear.

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