It's funny -- since I retired I decided to work on my health matters - like avoiding the doctor and the dentist. It's been a way of life for me. When I was young I didn't go to the doctor. I think I went once or twice...I remember going and getting my temperature checked and having been told I had chicken pox. At five, I had my tonsils out at the City of Angels Hospital but not much else. I think the medical stuff went to deal with my mom's cancer. I certainly remember going and getting polio vaccinations by going to the school and getting a sugar cube with the vaccine on it. When I moved to Texas I remember going once to the doctor's for my first and only physical. So I didn't have a large background in going to see the doctor.
As an adult I never had health insurance nor enough money to warrant going to the doctor regularly. I did go to the free clinic for birth control pills in the '70's but even that was erratic because of money. With very few problems I was healthy and never really missed going. We had a friend who had been a surgeon until she had a stroke who saw to our limited needs. She and her best friend, and EMS tech managed to solve any problem when they occurred.
once I had insurance and after a few bad doctors (one yelled at me and told me I was going to die because I had an infection I had come in for treatment) I just stayed away from them. Everyone tried kindly to encourage me but things would happen. A friend would develop cancer and I helped with his chemo; my boyfriend developed a heart condition and I spent a lot of time being in the hospital with him and them helping him drive. I did fix my bad leg but in doing so drove a few close friends absolutely nuts because of my high level anxiety.
So retiring meant it was time to deal with it all. I found a regular GP who I really like and she sent me to the gynecologist. It was this doctor who started me thinking when she asked me why I hadn't been doing things for my health. Of course I said I didn't grow up with it, didn't have the money, etc. Later that night though I realized it's not quite the truth. The truth is somewhere in growing up, I had been taught that I just wasn't worth it - keeping track of my health. Other people were more important. I wasn't of value so therefore it didn't matter. It was more important to take care of others than me.
It was an upsetting thought and one I'm still dealing with... I mean how did I learn this pattern of thinking about myself? Do other women think the same way? In talking to several female friends about their health several of them said the same thing or similar things that make me think somehow they got that message....you aren't good enough.
Women are put in caring roles often to care about others until they are too sick to take care of themselves. I remember movies and stories about the mother who sacrifices herself through some great sickness to nurse her family. Of midwives who went out in the cold and rain to care for others only to fall sick themselves. Put this tradition of the caring mother with low self esteem or low self worth and it seems to be a natural condition. It definitely is something I am thinking more about as I deal with my health issues.