Monday, November 10, 2008

Redefining Normal

"Where do we go from here?  It seems so all too near.  Just as far beyond as I can see, I still don't know what this all means to me.  I don't know where to go.  I don't know what to do.  And I don't even know the time of day.  I guess it doesn't matter anyway.  Life is so strange.  Destination unknown."  Lyrics from "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons

I feel detached from everything lately.  I had a dream last night that I was in a small wooden boat out on a lake that was attached to a dock with a rope.  I just sat in the boat looking at the foggy shore where people were wandering around aimlessly, and they didn't take note of me out on the water.  I didn't yell to them, and I felt no need to leave the boat.  I was content to sit there breathing and watching and floating aimlessly.  I felt strangely at peace while the people on shore were in complete chaos.  I remember wanting to sever the rope that attached the boat to the shore, and then I woke up.  

It was the strangest dream that I've had since the one where I had a conversation about my daily life with John Lennon.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a dream that I was walking arm-in-arm with Bobby Sherman (a teen idol from the '70s), down the street singing "Easy Come, Easy Go" and everyone was wearing lime green socks.  I am the Queen of Weird Dreams.  A title of which I am very proud.  

I think some of the weirdness has been brought on by the neverending illness I've experienced over the last month.  First the head cold from Hell.  Then I got this horrible rash/blisters/hives wonderfulness which made it impossible to leave the house without a veil.  Now, I have a hacking cough which gives me headaches.  Not even my go-to remedy of apple cider vinegar, lemon, honey and water will get rid of it.  I've taken to using my son's Albuterol nebs so I can get some sleep at night.  

The second day of the rash/blisters/hives, I made an appointment to see a doctor.  I couldn't see my doctor, or, probably she didn't want to see me because she and I do not get along.  I stick with her because she was the one who finally got to the bottom of my hypothyroidism and the binding antibody problem with my blood tests.  She is extremely bright, competent and professional.  She doesn't like me because I do not take her advice in certain matters, and she told me that she finds my mindset completely irrational which is bothersome to her.  I told her to take a number because everyone finds me irrational and bothersome.  I thrive on it.  She has not "recused" herself as my physician, so I think she must like a challenge.  

The day of my appointment, the clinic was busier than I've ever seen it.  I figured it was just because I looked like a leper and didn't want to be seen by anyone.  The women at the reception desk became very quiet and looked down or at their keyboards when I announced myself and produced my insurance card.  The huge waiting area was packed with people.  I sat down across from an older woman who was there with her daughter and two young grandchildren.  The old woman stared at me for a few minutes while I flipped through a magazine.  She finally leaned down and stared up at me and said, "What happened to your face?  Did a man do that?"  I had absolutely no response to that, and just sat there looking at her.  "My man beat me so bad once that my face looked like hamburger."  I started to feel woozy.  I looked at the woman, and I could see a deep scar above one of her eyes, and her nose looked odd.  I told her "no", and she crossed her arms in front of her, twisted her mouth to one side and said, "Hmmph."  Like she didn't believe me.  I couldn't look at her anymore because my mind just couldn't process her.  

Just then a young man came in, went to the reception desk, and took the only empty seat which was right next to me.  He was male model beautiful.  I am talking magazine cologne ad beautiful.  I squirmed in my seat trying to be invisible.  The old woman kept staring at me.  Somewhere, somehow, I had crossed the threshhold into Purgatory and was being punished for all my previous sins in life.  

I had to wait for what seemed like forever.  It was hot in there, and I wondered when exactly this clinic that I'd been coming to for over nine years had taken on the look and feel of a free clinic.  I looked around and remembered the first time I had ever come here.  It was to confirm my positive home pregnancy test back in 1999.  I drove up in my two-door car and was wearing a Liz Claiborne steel blue pantsuit.  It seems like forever ago.  And now here I was wearing sensible shoes with "Mom" jeans and a faded yellow sweater that had been washed too many times.  I was itchy, feverish and miserable.  

I was finally called by a nurse who stood a head taller than me and was very large.  Her name was Heather, and she had bright bleached blonde hair and a sunburn at this time of year - ?!  When she was going over my medications and medical history, she burped.  I decided to find it charming.  Then the doctor came in.  She was an older Chinese woman with white hair pulled straight back off her face in a bun.  Her eyes were so black, you couldn't see the pupils.  She was very serene.  She did the usual poking, prodding, ear and throat checking.  She stood back and said, "I don't know what's wrong with you."  I begged her to give me something to clear up my skin.  I told her, "I can't go on looking like this."  This was the complete truth of the matter.  I could handle feeling lousy.  But I could not stand looking like this.  She looked at me and tilted her head and said in her broken English, "You look like yourself, just not as good.  You see?"  I felt like sobbing and started biting the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming.  She said she needed to consult with another doctor, and she would be right back.  

She came back with my doctor who seemed very taken aback to see me sitting there in all my miserable glory.  She said, "Wow, you look awful."  I resisted the urge to slap her.  They took a throat culture, they stared at me, and they came to the conclusion that I either had an allergic reaction to a component in my flu shot because I had a low-grade fever when I got the shot; or I had been run down and got a viral infection because my body had been fighting the cold and the flu vaccine, and I somehow came into contact with a virus.  They had to leave and get the results of the throat culture.  None of this made sense to me, but I really didn't care.  I asked them if they could tell me exactly when I would look better.  My doctor smiled an evil smile and nodded her head.  I now officially hate her.  Or maybe I just hate the fact that I have been exposed as the vain, silly and superficial person that I really am.  

The Chinese doctor returned.  I didn't have strep throat, so she couldn't give me any antibiotics.  I could expect to feel and look better in 7 to 10 days.  Other than that, she couldn't help me.  I thanked her for her time and left.  

Since then, I've felt a little bit better every day, though the coughing and headaches have made me a bit tired.  I often wonder why this was part of God's plan for me right now.  Each day has been a struggle just to keep up with the laundry and dishes and basic things around the house.  I am very crabby around the kids who seem to find every way they can to irritate me.  

I looked in the mirror this morning.  I can still see pink spots on my face from the blisters, but you can't see them at all when I put on makeup.  I can pass for completely normal again when you can't see the scars.  

I think of the woman in the waiting room who had been so badly physically abused in the past.  I wonder if she had ever sought out help.  She looked completely normal unless you looked at her close enough to see her scars.  Sometimes there is no explanation for the predicaments in which we find ourselves.  There is no quick fix for some things.  Time passes, our wounds heal, we hide the scars.  Life goes on.  

That's the lesson that I've taken from this predicament.  I realize that this illness isn't worth complaining about anymore.  No matter how bad I feel, there are people who have much bigger problems.  We're all just trying to find "normalcy" and make our way through life as best we can.  

"Physical ills are the taxes laid upon this wretched life; some are taxed higher, and some lower, but all pay something."  Lord Chesterfield  

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