Experience in the 1950s with a UK Doctor

First asthma attack happens at 4. At 7 years old - another asthma attack - parents take her to the doctors and was told by the doctor that there’s nothing they can do for her. At the same time, a nurse is showing her photos of disabled children, various deformities including a pigeon-chested child and is told that this is like her. She believes this truly and begins to hate her body and herself as a result. She is extremely sensitive and decides not to burden her parents with the sadness and hatred she feels about herself.

The next 14 year period is filled with total self-loathing but with no one with who she is able to share her feelings. Between 7-14 years old, she continues untreated with severe asthma, told that although other children have been given inhalers, that she is too severe to try. Her father has to carry her up and downstairs as she is too weak to move.

Speaking with her parents

At around age 13, she talks to her parents about the deformity she is developing in her upper spine - kyphosis - consciously as a way to combat the perceived pigeon chest she was told about as a child. She does not discuss her self perception, simply the poor posture that she has. Her parents have her sent alone to see a physio. Mid puberty and feeling extremely embarrassed, particularly as her mother had not felt it necessary to help her purchase some bras and so she had to save up and buy one bra that she had to wash and reuse.

She visited the physio by herself. This appointment involved a review of her symptoms and must have involved taking off her outer clothes. She just felt acutely embarrassed at this as she had only that one reused bra to wear. Strangely, both parents had not felt it necessary to attend with her. The physio had not helped or provided any longer-term suggestions, and without parents to support her in the situation things were left.

Ballet helped her posture

Ballet had been helpful in training her posture, but after her sister had decided to stop going, she decided that she didn’t want to walk alone down the cinder path near the railway tracks to the class, and stopped going too. At around age 13-14, someone finally asked if she’d tried an inhaler, which she was then prescribed and describes it as astonishing. Her lungs opening up wide. She stayed on this inhaler until it was banned during her twenties - but it worked really well with her up until then.

Lifelong effects from her initial diagnosis

She believes the things that the nurse told her when she was 7 years old have ruined her life. She has held a false perception of her own body throughout her life and this has, she believes, had a completely devastating effect on her whole life. She believes that she has achieved nothing with her life and regrets the course her life took. When asked about her future, and the possibility that it could be lived differently, without being overshadowed by this same resentment and bitterness, she pulls a face, doesn’t see it possible. She is so steeped in the past, she can’t imagine it not being intertwined with her life. When asked to consider that others might also have experienced similar situations within the same generation, she can’t imagine it possible. She sees herself as having been a particularly sensitive, empathetic child, having experienced a unique set of events and symptoms that she can’t imagine being replicated in others.

Would love to know if others of the same generation experienced anything even remotely similar? It would help me, and could maybe go some way to helping my mother believe others may have felt the same but been unable to share.

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