For most people, having a doctor tell you that your test results were normal would be a good thing. That usually means nothing is wrong, and that’s good right? But when your body is telling you something is wrong, and has been for a number of years, being told you’re “normal” can cause some mixed feelings.

It’s something that I think many people, doctors included, who haven’t experienced it have difficulty understanding. I’ve had doctors tell me “you don’t want to have this” (…obviously?) or variations on “good news — all your tests were normal.” That usually concludes in being told to go back to physical therapy (again), or questioning the attentiveness of past physical therapists, or to try exercising (seriously?). Or just no further suggestions, referrals, or anything. I’ve had family members and close friends say similar things. I was preparing to have a colonoscopy done in order to investigate the source of recurrent lower GI bleeding, and someone told me “I’ll pray they don’t find anything!” Of course they meant well by this, but not finding anything (which is actually what ended up happening) meant that I was still experiencing symptoms but we still weren’t sure of the cause.

When something is definitely wrong, there is a piece of bad news that accompanies every “good news — test was normal!” That bad news is that we still don’t have an answer. Of course it’s good to not have something very serious — who does want that? But that still means the answer is unknown. Which means the best treatment methods likely aren’t known. It means there is no answer to give friends, family, and even strangers when they ask what’s wrong. It can mean constantly questioning yourself and your own experiences, wondering if maybe there really is nothing wrong.

If you are experiencing chronic symptoms, there is something wrong, and it probably isn’t in your head. You know your body, better than anyone else, and you’re the one who has to live with it.