One of my doctors this week instructed me to change my name to “Bizarre.”
That was not the first time I’ve heard that.
I’ve spent the majority of my life puzzling medical professionals. Remember, I was the four-year-old tot complaining of throbbing headaches that turned out to be migraines. I’ve had a weak-ass immune system for the last decade because I was a dummy and didn’t feed my body what it needed. And just this week, I have two brother ophthalmologists bringing their sibling rivalry with then to work and arguing over what to do about the apparent contact-resistance my eyes have developed, as well as a father/daughter dermatological team trying and failing to figure out what these tiny flesh-colored bumps I have on my hands are. Frankly, it would be funny is it weren’t so fucking frustrating.
Seriously, seriously, I think I’ve had enough funky health crises to last a lifetime:
When I was in kindergarten, my class was going to perform 3 short plays for our parents on Open House night or something. I don’t remember what all three plays were; what I do remember is one of them was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, which was my FAVORITE, and that I was the only kid in the whole class who had a role in all three plays. I was beyond proud and excited for my on-stage debut, but I never saw showtime because I came down with scarlet fever, of all things. I just remember lying on the couch the night of our performance, feeling like the dead, the lights in the house just agony for my eyes, and begging my mom to let me go to school to do the plays: “I’m OK! I feel fine! Who’s going to wear all the hats?” Even in my fever delirium, I was devastated.
The summer before 9th grade I attended a Catholic church volunteer work camp. A couple days into the trip I started feeling really awful: headache, feverish, weak, nauseated, WEAK. The third night, after singing “American Pie” in the common area and making friends with these great kids from around the country, when they announced it was time to head to our dorms, my legs wouldn’t work. I tried, but I couldn’t stand for even a second. I got a piggy-back ride up to my room from one of the nice boys I had just met, and the girls from my youth group called me a slut for the rest of the trip. The next two days I was completely out of commission: a 104 degree fever that had me hallucinating, no strength, throwing up, blinding head pain. No one thought to take me to the hospital; no, instead, they thought it appropriate to pray over me when they thought I was asleep. (Guess what guys? I was awake! And nothing scares a girl suffering from an unknown illness like strange people laying hands on her while she tries to recuperate and asking god to make her well. Pray for lepers; you should have gotten me medical attention.) It wasn’t until returning home and already being on the mend that a nurse friend of my mom’s said, “Oh, honey, you had West Nile Virus.” Hubba what? West Nile Virus?! Are you fucking serious?
Then there was the lovely time freshman year of college when I was falling ill every other month or so, heading to the clinic on campus, and being unceremoniously prescribed antibiotics for one arbitrary thing or another–strep throat, tonsillitis, you name it–without them even, say, swabbing my throat or trying to determine what I actually had. They misdiagnosed me 5 times. When I returned home for the summer, a capable doctor found out that I had an advanced case of mono, equipped with anemia and a spleen-on-the-brink, and demanded I sit inert on the couch for the remainder of the summer.
These health freak-outs have given me a shit-ton of interesting stories to tell, but living life like it’s one long TV medical drama can be exhausting. I keep waiting for my own personal Dr. House to come sweeping in one day and find the underlying cause, the obscure disease that ties all these seemingly unconnected illnesses together and either he can heal me, or he’ll tell me I have 4 days to live. Either way, at least I would know. I would know what the hell is wrong with my body that I seem to contract every bizarre disease in the book. I would know why I have spent as much of my life sick in bed (or worse, sick and out in the world trying to pretend I’m not sick) than I have healthy and spry. And I would know, for certain, that I’d never have to see another doctor look at me with their big dumb eyes and say, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you.”
YOU ARE A DOCTOR. IT IS YOUR JOB TO KNOW WHAT TO TELL ME. THAT’S WHAT I’M FUCKING DOING HERE!!!!!!!!!
Sorry about that. It’s just that, I get through my day to day ignoring the little aches and pains, bumps and bruises, sneezes and sniffles that come my way. Feeling less than stellar is a part of life, and I am not above taking an extra Vitamin C tablet and drinking some hot chicken broth, or wrapping my own strained ankle and icing it every few hours. But when there arises a health problem that I can’t handle on my own (like not being able to see, or painful welts growing out of nowhere on my fingers), and I decide to fork over my hard-earned money so a medically-trained fellow or lady can help me get back to healthy and they say, “Well, sorry, you’re a mystery” it makes me want to terrorize their waiting room, tearing up back-issues of People magazine and upending Ikea coffee tables. It’s. Just. Not. Fair. I am actively on two different eye drops and three different lotions because I have 4 doctors working hard to make me better but simply FAILING. They are failing miserably.
I JUST WANT TO BE WELL. Ugh.
I really thought recently that because I haven’t had a cold in a few months that beating my iron deficiency and going paleo might really be the keys to immune success, but my body is just as wonky as ever. So I’m not plagued with sore throats and stuffy noses; now I’m being plagued with useless eyeballs and stupid skin. (I know that sounds juvenile, but I’ve been struggling with this my whole life: I think I’m allowed to pout a little.)
Maybe I’ll call up Hugh Laurie. He probably would have as good a shot of healing me as my real doctors.