Great, Lisa. You thought everyone needed a background history of your fear of doctors. Thought it would be a paragraph or two didn’t you? Then you could tell the ever so fascinating, graphic story of your kidney infection. But no, before you were done there were over 1000 words of something that could be daintily told in one sentence: I’m scared doctors will tell me I’m about to kick the can, so I don’t go to doctors. Amen.

So dearest readers, please enjoy if possible, and soon enough I will talk about blood in urine and other pleasantries.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to the doctor for every sniffle and I had a cold at least once a month. This didn’t bother me much because I hadn’t yet come up with the idea of croaking from several different diseases. This isn’t to say I didn’t think I was weaker than other children, because I did, and actually was in a way.  I think the hyper-reflexia wore me out easier since my muscles never completely relaxed, and maybe in those days I hung on to a cold longer than other children (but then, I also was eager to stay out of school as long as possible). Also, it isn’t to say I thought I’d live to see adulthood. In fact, by the time I was 8, I convinced myself I would die by my 10th birthday. It was 1987 and the war on drugs was in full swing.  I became obsessed with it, convinced by all those public service ads that I would soon die. It was almost like a catching disease, and I began to imagine that years ago someone gave me drugs, which I couldn’t remember, and by delayed reaction I would die years later. Ten seemed like an evil age because it was double digits and by all those drug ads, I thought that once you got that old an almost irresistible force came and you got strung out on coke.

My Brain, Age 8

By the time I was 12, however, I had for the most part given up my “catch-a- drug- addiction-obsession” and focused it more on “the-police-and everyone-will-think-I’m-on-drugs-and-arrest-me-obsession.” (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I either A) was an insane kid not in touch with reality, or B) I was just really, really dumb to believe such things as old as I was). It was about this time I stopped going to doctors. By my teens, I seldom had colds and Mom figured out that if I did have one, it wasn’t necessary to put me on antibiotics for a viral infection.  As I grew older a blanket of  uncertainty regarding my health seemed to be thrown over me. I saw signs in everything of impending doom, of thinking the normal discharge from my you-know-and-if-you-don’t-i-ain’t-telling-you-what was a sign of cancer or something nice and fatal.

Fast forward some more and at age 19 I went for my first prodding. I only went because my shrink at that time refused to believe me that Paxil, the antidepressant I was on, was stopping my monthly curse, which it was (apparently I’m that 1 in 10,000 whose period stops on certain SSRI antidepressants. Who can beat those odds?). We’ll just say it wasn’t smooth sailing and I screamed. Not gasped. Screamed. The good doctor told me she’d done the procedure on a 4 year-old once, which was fine, but you hadn’t done it on me. Give my fat, yet surprisingly tight ass a break considering I had not even used a tampon in those days. When I got a notice for another exam a year later, my mother was like, “Eh, you’re fine.”

Down the road a little more and I’m around 21. I got off my medicine for about a year then and I began to bleed again like a normal person and that delightful fat which helped in vouchsafing my purity started melting away. It was crazy. I went from 250 lb. to 180 in a year, and probably would have lost much more if The Cold didn’t happen.  The year I stopped taking my medicine was manageable, though about every 15 minutes or so I’d feel small surges of anxiety that came and went, plus at various times a terrible guilt plagued me so that I had to figure what I had done to cause it. That was the year I kept thinking I contracted HIV everyday by unique, creative ways.  All that I could sort of manage, but then The Cold sent me haywire.

Anyway. one afternoon at school I felt so sick I might faint and was ever so grateful when my mother picked me up. At the time I had no idea that faintness would set off something  and I got better. That part of my brain that hides and waits to pounce on something suddenly exploded to the worst sort of panic I ever felt, and it was a panic that would not subside. My mind felt tightly wound, my skin felt as though it was crawling, and all I could do was remain terrified. Out of my mother’s presence, I felt sure I’d fall down dead or that I had diabetes and ready to slip into a coma. What I ate tasted different, like I imagine  death tastes, and I had no appetite. Worst anxiety I ever had I think and I almost dropped out of college before I got back  on medicine. Still no doctors except my psychiatrist though I was certain I was in my death throes. It subsided eventually when I returned to my fat, medicated self, but dropping dead still likes to hang out in the back of my head on the rare occasions I go far from home alone. “Enjoy that stroke, Fatso,” etc.

Fast forward once more, age 27, my second and last prodding. I just got Medicaid and the doctor’s office my social worker suggested thought it proper I be prodded and I acquiesced. May I say something here on doctor’s clinics who depend almost solely on Medicaid for their bread? In a word, they SUCK. My first inclination this was a sub-par place was the fact they wanted me to update my records twice, once without ever seeing me. The second was the nurse couldn’t find my vein to save her life. “Do your veins roll?” she asked. To which my reply was, “What?” I was a docile cow as the young woman stuck me at least 3 times without finding a mark, but my mother, a retired nurse, got cross. She asked for another nurse who got my blood the first try. Mama said later that people my age don’t have rolling veins and that after the second try on someone she always got another nurse to try. It didn’t particularly hurt, but I was feeling a bit annoyed.

The nurse practitioner was nice and I gladly report I didn’t scream, though I had to ask her for a breast exam. Um third inclination. Fourth inclination was when I returned to be told I was fine except my good cholesterol was too low, I had to wait 2 hours in the waiting room and I thought for certain that meant I had bad results. Fifth inclination was that if I didn’t make another appointment by phone, I could lose my Medicaid, which I knew was a lie. I never returned again, but no big loss because shortly after the clinic shut down for fraud. Big surprise there.

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