So when writer and artist Aubrey Hirsch was finally diagnosed Grave’s disease, after five years of debilitating symptoms, she decided to take a stand using her art.
The 34-year-old had suffered with symptoms such as extreme weight loss, nausea, fatigue and irregular periods, and had even spent four days in hospital due to a heart problem, but it hadn’t stopped her being repeatedly misdiagnosed by different doctors.
First Hirsch was thought to be stressed, then she was suspected of having anxiety or eating disorder, but it wasn’t until she visited a sleep therapist who referred her to an endocrinologist, that she was finally diagnosed with Grave’s disease.
Grave’s disease is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid, making it overactive. While the cause of Graves’ disease is unknown, it mostly affects young or middle-aged women and is hereditary.
This half a decade of debilitating symptoms may seem like ‘bad luck’, but research has shown that women’s health is issues aren’t taken as seriously as men’s.
“Reading about the very real gender bias in medical diagnosis helped me process what had happened to me,” she told HuffPost UK. “I really did think of myself as a ‘problem patient’, when really I was a patient with a problem.”
Hirsch, who is a writer and artist, created a comic, which was originally shared on The Nib, to raise awareness around the treatment of women.
“I thought drawing it as a comic would allow me to inject a little humour and levity into an otherwise heavy topic,” she explained.
Since many women have reached out to Hirsch to share their own stories of misdiagnosis, mostly on this Twitter thread. Hirsch said the response has been “both affirming and heartbreaking”.
“It’s awful to hear about so many instances of women’s pain being ignored, but I think it’s also creating space where women are finally being heard.
“So many people are chiming in to say, ‘me too’, ‘me too’, and it helps you realise that YOU aren’t the problem. The system is the problem.”