The History of a Phobia;or, Physician, Heal Thyself and Leave Me the Hell Alone

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.

Image taken from (w/o permission):

The Dying Swan; or, “That Ain’t Ebola is It?”

(This short post  was started March 31, then set aside , only to be finished today. Besides, I could not bear to not finish it when I liked the title so much).

Once upon a time (like yesterday),  I took a look in the bathroom mirror and my eyes were red, particularly my right eye. Not like  bloodshot-been-opening-my-eyes-too-long-underwater-someone-been-on-a-drunk-red,  much weirder.  A horizontal line seemed to divide my eye in half in the middle,  reddish at the bottom half and normal white on top.

I looked into the eyes of death.

Or something…

My mind began to conjure up what symptom of my imminent death was this.

I had mostly given up my of several years’ obsession with the idea of contracting  AIDS by bizarre means not pertaining to intercourse or needles, so scratch that one for now.

Cancer?  Maybe that’s it, I thought. I always swam in outdoor pools without goggles  due to my high tolerance for chlorine, and I loved looking at the sun’s rays dancing on the pool’s bottom.

So I ask my mother, a retired nurse, what dread disease is this one?

What malady is about to dispatch me, to nail the lid of my coffin, strike me down in the prime of my life?

“Pollen,” said Mother.




I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

As the title suggests, I can’t say no even when I would very much like to say hell no. I am sitting at the library, minding my own business, when a woman approaches me. She is short, skinny, wears a long skirt, has a scarf on her head, has a look between a fundamentalist Christian and a hippie, and just generally has that look of a poor soul.

“Excuse me, do you have a library card?” she asks. It doesn’t occur to me to lie to her as I warily say yes. “Can I use it to get on the computer and finish a letter I was writing?”

No way.

“Well yes sure,” I answer, scanning the room for my mom in hope of her guidance.

I envision all the illegal things she could do with my account.

What if she’s a predator and I get blamed for it?

What if she’s committing credit card fraud and I get blamed for it?

What if she’s a hacker and I get blamed for it?

What if she’s threatening people and I get blamed for it?

What if she’s about to take over the world and I get blamed for it?

What if?

What if?

What if my head explodes from worry?

But I hate to offend others or not help them, especially when asked. Later she comes back and I have to use my card again to print out her work.  I really want to cop a look as it prints,  but I am mindful that that would be rude, so I will never know. I think I stole 35 cents from her, though, which is now on my library card (and conscience) because she inserted a dollar in there and I think her copies only cost 65 cents. I guess the only ethical  thing to do is hope I see her again sometime when I have change.  Boy, I annoy the shit out of  myself. Lucky most of this sort of stuff I can hide in my head. It isn’t even that I fear punishment for short-changing someone, it’s just that nervy feeling that I’ve done someone or something wrong.

I think since I’m writing about library cards and offending people I will tell two incidents from when I was back in college earning the Fries-with-That degree.  Now Downtown, where the community college is, is Homeless Central and the bum population all knew I was good for a dollar or two (I just sorta look like the kind of person who will not tell someone to get a job or to f off). I always was of the mind you shouldn’t be mean to them, that most of them are mentally ill, what if no one would help you out, and that if they ask for it? It would be unkind to say no even if all they were going to do is get drunk or weren’t even homeless.  Yes, I am a sucker.

Anyway, a man I hadn’t seen before approached me, said he just got out of jail, and talked me out of a couple of dollars. He wanted me to shake his hand. No problem except his hand had many cuts, not scratches, big ass open wounds.  Blood of the human variety is perfectly horrifying to me and hurting someone’s feelings is perfectly horrifying to me, so I was totally at a loss. Quick decision made and fast as lightning  I tap the tip of my fingers at the part of his  palm that seemed the least bloody for one second tops, but was certain I had HIV for the next few years. Being an avoidant sort more than a hypochondriac, in I worry I have a dread  disease but really, really don’t want to know for fear I couldn’t take the news. My best friend, however, says if I had anything, it would have showed up several years later in my blood cell count the last time I consented to a general blood test 4 years ago (I have only been to gynecologists twice in my life….the first time I screamed, the second time I was only silently horrified….I will go again if I ever become sexually active and the way that is going I’ll probably be 50).

As for library cards, there was the time I nearly didn’t graduate due to my college library card. It was 2003. Time for math, time for math. I think I was about 26, old enough to know better.  Seriously, when God handed out common  sense, yours truly was absent. My therapist is kinder. She says I have common sense, I’m just naïve.  Truth told, I’m a naïve dumbass, albeit a well-meaning naïve dumbass.

I was in the school library and as I was about to check out, a girl I didn’t know approached me. She didn’t have a library card, had a paper due the very next day, and begged me to check out a book for her.

It only gets worse from here. Dumbass.

I told her sure with only the slightest apprehension. She said she could show me her driver’s license.

Now what did I say? It’s pure Dumbassian. Someone please cut down these trees so I can get a good view of the forest dumb.

“Oh, don’t worry about it.  I trust you.”  I imagine this is where that girl probably heard the rattling inside my head, pretty hollow in there. Did I tell you I was a DUMBASS?  I will reiterate it now, lest you forget:


So the weeks rolled by and I got a letter from the school library. It would seem that girl hadn’t returned the life-or-death-necessary book and with fines I owed my institution of higher learning $50.00 I sure as hell didn’t have. I had to pay up or they wouldn’t graduate me. Fuck an A!

May this be a lesson to you, Lisa Ann B. Just because you wouldn’t do something like that doesn’t mean everyone wouldn’t do it. Noted.

A few months went by and my brain filed the incident under “experience,” the 50 bucks and diploma under “Things to Do When I Can Afford It,” and the state of my intellectual prowess under “Dumbass.” I went and got the mail, and voilà, there’s my diploma. Apparently the girl brought the book back a few months late and either paid the overdues or my favorite professor got them to  forgive the fines because he had tried before to get me forgiven altogether. Perhaps I am the first person to graduate college and not even know it.  Life is funny that way.

Black as Night

In Which Nervous Nelly is Allowed to Leave the Guilty Party for a Bit

Funny how things happen as though they are answers to your life’s questions. If you are actually reading this and also read my last post, you might be so good as to remember my last post trying to accuse myself of letting bad things happen without stepping in to somehow help. Tonight I got a glimpse to what I actually would do. While I can’t say I actually made any difference, I can at least say I did do something and I’m not as big a douche as I feared.  But let me tell you the story.

Earlier this evening, i had another one of my fits of conscience, allowing my social anxiety to override what I wanted to do. I was in a restaurant restroom  and as I was about to leave, one of the waitresses came in and she seemed to be on a crying jag. I was too afraid to look more than a second for fear of being thought of as staring. Hopefully she just had allergies or a cold. I wanted so bad to ask her if she was ok and if I could do something for her. I at least wanted to say hi, an acknowledgement that I saw her somehow, and I couldn’t move my mouth. Instead I hurried outside.

Later, I am sitting in the living room with my mother just a livin’ when I hear Woman-Across-the-Hall screaming, “HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

Up from the couch and I spring out the door. There is Woman and she says her son’s having a seizure. I ask if she called 911 and she says she had tried but couldn’t get them, so I say I’ll call. So back into the apartment go I and cry out to my mom that Dude is having a seizure, she hadn’t heard Woman screaming, probably asleep in the recliner. So Mom goes over and I call from our phone. It rings 5 or 6 times before I fear I haven’t dialed the number right, so I hang up and call again. That old Public Enemy song is going through my head, “911 is a Joke.” Finally, someone answers (I guess holiday Friday nights are busy nights). I tell her about Dude having a seizure and the apartment number, at first forgetting to tell more of the address. She asks me if he’s conscious and if he’s ever had a seizure before, so I tell her to please hold on. It’s hard to get answers from Woman because she is in a state of total panic, bless her, but after asking loudly everyone I got that he was still seizing, and yes, he had a seizure before. Sure enough, there he was seizing to beat the band next to an overturned chair. My mom was a nurse for 30 something years and had the presence of mind to turn Dude on his side and fend off someone’s old-fashioned remedy of sticking a pen in his mouth.

 Back I go, and then the dispatcher tells me to tell them to just move stuff out of his way, not to force anything into his mouth, and make sure he can breathe. She said I could call back on my cell if I wanted over there but I tell her I will just wait for the ambulance.

By now many of the neighbors have come over to see why Woman is jumping up and down and screaming for help.  A young woman is calling 911 too. I tell everyone the paramedics are on the way.  Now I see he’s up and sitting in a chair. The seizing is over, let the spewing all over the carpet begin. Woman is still in hysterics, but is wiping her son off with a towel. He is disoriented and no doubt frightened from his vomiting, his mother’s ministrations and wailing, and the many eyes looking at him. Woman’s cell phone rings and I ask if I should answer it. Not really getting an answer, I take the initiative. Someone asks for Woman and I ask if she might call him back. So the guy asks if she was able to get 911, that he had called. I tell him yes, that the paramedics are on the way.

After I hang up, I see Dude has got up and is repeating for people to leave him alone. He shakes his mom loose from him, my mom tries to gently take his arm and he shakes her loose too.  “Mom,” I venture as if I know anything, “Let him go.  He’ll be fine in here.” My reasoning is that he’s better off in his home than wandering outside at night addled, plus I fear he will fight my mom if confused.

He locks himself in the bathroom, not the ideal place for a dude apt to seize, but what can ya do? Besides, his mama is still in something like a fit herself, still repeatedly crying out for help and asking, “Oh, why won’t they come?” over and  over, still jumping up and down to the point I almost expect her to begin clucking for good measure.

Then Woman’s other son, the one who looks a bit off, shows up and heads back toward the bathroom.  Woman has eased down to  the hall floor outside the apartment. If it were me I’d have left her sitting there due to her hysterics, hoping she would calm down, but some Samaritan helps her up. Now we hear the sirens and Mom suggests I go out and meet them so they go to the right place. Out I go, fat girl running,  and a fire truck rolls up. I’m about to show the men where to go when I see the would-be patient coming outside, his mom tailing him. “It’s that gentleman there,” I say, pointing. Somehow they wrangle in the wobbly patient and everyone goes inside the building. At the door to the apartment, once the principal characters and paramedics are inside and we are looking in, A-Bit-Off comes to the door, says “We got it from here, thanks,” and closes all of us outside.


All of us neighbors head for our prospective apartments. Once my mom and I are in our home I head to the sink. While in Woman’s apartment I accidently touched a wet  wash rag hanging on a chair at the dining room table. I fear that it was used in cleaning up Dude’s chunks, though Mother assures me it was only used to wipe the poor soul’s forehead.  But I imagine spew particles clinging to that wash cloth. What if that spew has a disease like HIV hid in it? I think. Though I remembered reading vomit doesn’t  have the disease  in significant amounts unless there is visible blood, I decide to take no chances. I wash my hands altogether 4 times, alternating between soap and dishwashing liquid.

Out damn spot! Out I say! Mom stops me though as I look for the Clorox spray because I imagine it’s worth the sting on my hands to be certain of not getting a puke-born pathogen, but Mom assures me I’m ok. Guess I’m pretty “off” too in my way, huh? I’m usually not that much of a germ phobe, though. Usually. 

At least I can reassure myself I won’t let something bad happen to someone if I can help it. Bravo and bully for me, but I am relieved.

(Post started Good Friday….finished Mediocre Monday.)