the chronic ills

Shoes Dropping

It’s late at night. A man is undressing before bed. He takes off his shoe and drops it on the floor. It makes a loud clunking noise. He realizes that this might disturb the woman who lives in the apartment below him so when he takes his other shoe off he puts it down quietly on the floor and gets into bed. Shortly after he hears a voice from the room below saying, “For God’s sake, drop the other shoe”.

When I was little I was enthralled with shoes, especially my grandmother’s. I eagerly awaited her arrival because I loved her and because I couldn’t wait to set my eyes on her matching shoes and hand bag. They were usually two-toned and often patent leather. She was very matchy- match which I know is not in fashion these days but it was in those days and I loved it. When I was older my grandmother loved to tell the story of the time she arrived at the airport so happy to see me. I ran up to her and the first thing I said to her was “Grandma, why don’t your shoes match your purse?” I still remember my disappointment. Another time I recall getting a pair of shoes and sleeping with them because I loved them so much. I didn’t wear them to bed. I slept with them next to me. I was a little older when I started waiting for the other shoe to drop but that has been with me almost as long as my love of shoes. Somewhere along the way in my life bad things started happening and somewhere along the way I started expecting more bad things to happen. More bad things happened, and the cycle continued. I know some of you will want to give me a copy of The Secret right away or explain to me about The Law of Attraction. I’ll save you the trouble and tell you I don’t believe in any of that.  I do believe we can make things worse by what we tell ourselves about what happens but I don’t really believe we have that much control over what actually happens.

I know that shoes will continue to drop on the floor above me and I know that I don’t have much say about that. But I’m trying to learn how to stop waiting for it. For some reason I have decided that it’s better to be prepared for the loud clunk on the floor. That some how that will make it easier to bear. The thing is you can’t really be prepared for bad things. Bad things are always bad, whether you know that they are coming or not.

Silver Linings

 I try to be the kind of person who finds the good in a bad situation, the silver lining in every cloud.  For instance the other day I got the frustrating news from my doctor that my immune system is not doing it’s job.  It’s just sitting there which I find very annoying.  And nothing I do seems to get it up off it’s lazy ass and get busy.  Immune systems today…  Anyway I happened to be watching Oprah, which I happen to do almost every day.  The show was about the latest flu epidemic.  The expert explained that when (not if) this flu takes hold, life as we know it will end.  And lots of people will die.  Well, I have enough problems without having to worry about a killer flu, but I did start to worry what with my weak immune system and all.  I figured if this really does take hold I’ll be one of the first to go.  But here’s the funny part, the silver lining I mentioned earlier.  The people with the healthiest immune systems are the most susceptible to this flu.  Now I don’t want to gloat, but it looks like I won’t be getting the flu this year.

Recently I had another opportunity to use my “silver lining” philosophy when I found myself at my local Doctors Without Manners, or as it’s commonly known, Doctors on Duty.  I had been having some disturbing symptoms.  I won’t bore you with all the details but I was feeling lightheaded, having difficulty breathing, and swallowing and my head was pulsating.  You get the picture. Not pleasant.  Now, I am no stranger to bizarre and unexplained symptoms, but it was Friday and I didn’t want to spend the weekend in a state of anxiety about these new bizarre symptoms.  And since I have a tendency to panic when I can’t breath or swallow I did what I only do when I’m desperate.  I exposed myself to a complete stranger.  I say this because whenever I see a doctor, I am inevitably put in the position of defending my illness and the treatment I have chosen. Most doctors are extremely skeptical of a lyme disease diagnoses and they are all too eager to tell you so.

He introduced himself as Dr. D.  presumably because he had a last name that was long, difficult to pronounce and started with a “d”.  He was tall and young.  He wore big black clogs and superman socks with his blue scrubs.  When he crossed his legs I noticed that his legs were shaved.  I decided he was swimmer, or maybe a cyclist.  His appearance did not immediately put me at ease but I tried to ignore the socks and focus instead on the European foot wear.  Surely this was a good sign.

As soon as he opened his mouth I realized I had put too much weight on the shoes.  He was just like the other doctors I had been to.  The ones who wore button down shirts and white coats and regular shoes.  He couldn’t believe I’d been taking antibiotics for over a year.  He had never heard of any one being on antibiotics that long. I interrupted him, “a year is nothing” I said “I know people who have been on them for 4 years”. “What kind of doctor are you seeing?”, he was getting a little hostile.  I started to explain and felt my voice crack.  I was under attack.  He asked me if I had any symptoms from the lyme disease.  I wanted to tell him “no, I feel great, I just thought it would be fun to take massive amounts of antibiotics for a few years”, but all I could say was “yes.”  He explained to me that lyme disease is just a bacteria and that the bacteria is easily killed with a short course of antibiotics. “That’s not true” I blurted out. Oh my God, I thought, I just told this doctor that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  I rock!  I should be wearing Wonder Woman socks.   “Look”, I continued, “I know that there is lot of controversy about lyme and how to treat it but I really don’t want to get into to that with you, that’s not why I’m here.” So we got back to the reason for my visit.

In the end he confirmed what I had suspected. My symptoms were most likely side effects from the anti-depressant that I’d been taking for a little over a month.  He recommended that I stop the medication but assured me that there were lots of other anti-depressants that I could try.” Anti-depressants are like underwear” he told me.  “You have to get just the right fit”.  I hoped he would leave it at that but unfortunately Dr. D wasn’t done with me.  He had a few more words of wisdom to impart.  To help with my depression he recommended limiting my intake of negative information, stay away from the news. Don’t watch shows like Survivor, too much stress.  I asked him if Desperate Housewives would be okay, he said yes but that I should probably balance it with a nice walk in the park.

I don’t mean to be cruel.  I know he was only trying to help. I forgive him for the superman socks. And to be fair I felt better after I left his office.  I would have to stop the medication which had been working wonders for my depression, but I would be able to breath and swallow once again.  I had held my own with a super hero, and found out that happiness is as easy as changing your underwear.  This is what I mean when I talk about the silver lining.


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