We are all clear on the fact that on the great spectrum of mental health, I do lean just a bit to the side with the padded room. The voices in my head tell me that it’s rather endearing, so shut up. Normally I am able to keep myself well-regulated with medication and copious amounts of chocolate, but even so, sometimes things get away from me.
For example: I am the queen of psychosomatic illnesses. Many people think psychosomatic means FAKE, when it fact it means ABSOLUTELY REAL PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS BROUGHT ON OR AGGRAVATED BY YOUR LEVEL OF CRAZY. I suffer from migraines. I struggle with insomnia. Probably there’s other stuff I’m not thinking of at this very moment. Real problems, fueled by my angst-ridden mind!
So when I started feeling kinda crummy I figured I had a cold or something. And then when it didn’t go away I figured I was just stressed out. And when it got a little worse I figured maybe I was a little depressed or something in addition to being stressed. And then when it started scaring the crap out of me I went to the doctor and said, “Hi! I am a hypochondriac, I think! Or possibly dying! Perhaps you could take my $15 and let me know which one! Thanks!”
Much to my horror, my doctor did not follow the script I had envisioned.
What SHOULD have happened was that I tell her about my symptoms and she nods and “mm-hmmm”s and tells me that it’s nothing. That’s what I’m paying her to do. That’s her job!
What DID happen is that I mentioned a few things and she asked me about a few things and it became clear that she was taking me seriously as if there was actually something wrong with me.
Me: So, yeah, my hands hurt and my knees hurt and my neck hurts and I dunno, I just feel crappy. Probably I’m just imagining there’s something wrong.
Doctor: That’s quite a lot of swelling, there. Let me see the other one. How long has this been going on?
Me: Here. Um… I dunno… a few weeks?
Doctor: I see. Hmmm. Does it hurt when I do this?
Doctor: Sorry. How about this?
Me: Owwwwww. Hey! I have an idea! Let’s assume it all hurts!
Doctor: Sorry. Let’s see. Have you been tired?
Me: I’m always tired.
Doctor: How about sore throat? Has your throat been sore at all?
Me: Sure, yeah. I have small children with many school germs. Of course my throat hurts.
Doctor: Have you had any vision problems? Double vision, blurred vision?
Me: Nope. That I don’t have. HEY! Why would I have vision problems? Do I have a brain tumor??
Doctor: Heh, well, I doubt that you do. How about skin rashes. Any of those?
Me: No. Do tumors cause rashes?
Doctor: Any connective tissue disorders in your family?
Me: My mom has lupus. OH MY GOD I HAVE LUPUS!
Doctor: Well we don’t know WHAT you have, yet. Let’s take some blood.
Me: Maybe I have a brain tumor AND lupus. Maybe it’s tumorous lupus!
And then the doctor started LAUGHING AT ME which I think was not very professional.
Anyway, I let her take about four gallons of blood from my arm. She assured me that the tests would be back by Monday, and that there were “plenty of viruses” going around that could be causing my symptoms.
Monday came and went, and the doctor’s office didn’t call. Great! No news is good news! I must be perfectly fine!
Tuesday rolled around and by the afternoon I thought, hmmm, perhaps I should call them. So I did. And I was told that my doctor had ordered an additional test (hence the delay) and that she would call me Wednesday (today).
I went to bed last night convinced that I was dying of something very rare and horrible. Like, perhaps, tumorous lupus!
This afternoon I STILL hadn’t heard anything, so I called again. I explained to the secretary that I was waiting on test results and probably didn’t have long to live. She was so deeply moved by my story that she put me on hold for about half an hour.
The good news is that I am not a hypochondriac! And I don’t have tumorous lupus! Or leukemia! Or ebola! Or bird flu!
The bad news is that the delay was because one of my tests came back positive, and that prompted my doctor to order something called a Western Blot, which is a very complicated immunological assay difficult for a layperson to understand, so I will give you the simplified version: The Western Blot is the test you order when you’ve discovered your patient has Lyme disease, and rather than calling and telling her that RIGHT AWAY so that she will stop imagining all sorts of other horrible diseases, you decide to leave her stewing while you get some more information so that you can then get on the phone with her and say “Guess what! You absolutely for sure have Lyme disease!”
Which, seriously? Lyme disease?? Must’ve been all that frolicking in the tall grass while I was having that little mental breakdown this summer!
So hey, no biggie. One month of antibiotics and I should be fixed right up. I hope. Because I feel like ass, assuming that the ass in question has severe fatigue and moderate arthritis.
On the other hand, I’m feeling gypped. Where’s my tick bite? My bullseye rash? How the hell did I get this? It sort of feels like a chapter is missing, you know? Plus, this whole month I’ve been working and going and doing and feeling horrible but assuming I had no choice but to soldier on. I’m going to have to do a lot of excuse-making just to catch up, now.
“No, I can’t make it… I’ve got Lyme disease.”
“Make your own lunch! Can’t you see I’ve got Lyme disease?”
“Well, I would have made the deadline… but… I’ve got Lyme disease.”
Anyway. Just thought you’d like to know. Now go get me some more Advil, dammit.