This weekend I spent about 3 hours alone in a doctor's office pondering my own mortality. Well, really, most of that 3 hours was spent pondering the unspeakable horror that is my skin tone in the cruel pall of flourescent lighting. But, my mortality, it was pondered.
See, I have been having this weird not-quite-dizzy-but-definitely-not-normal malaise for the past few weeks. A normal person would probably have done one of two things if confronted by this feeling: 1) beat feet to the doctor in order to rule out anything serious or 2) waved it off as just one of those things and gone about her business. I did neither. Work has been relentless for the last few weeks, so finding a way to accommodate the incomprehensible schedule my doctor keeps was out. And, because I am an inveterate hypochondriac, just waiving off this feeling—which is something akin to the feeling you get when you drop from a great height—was also decidedly out of the question. So, as is my habit, I chose the path of greatest resistance: persistent worry, with no hope for a logical, practical resolution. For two weeks, I called my situation "vertigo" and told everyone around me to chill out, while I silently contemplated my living will.
Finally, on Saturday, after no small amount of prodding, I dragged myself to the doctor (not my regular doctor, but a very nice urgent care place that takes my insurance). I hoped for something simple, like a clogged ear, but I feared something serious, like, say Ebola. Well, I didn't really fear Ebola, but the things I did fear all sound too embarrassing to admit now. Ebola is a lot less hysterical than what I had in mind.
The doctor was honest about the difficulty of pinning down the cause of my ailment. He wanted, instead, to rule out the really dangerous possibilities. So I peed in a cup. I had blood drawn. I had an EKG, a CT-scan, a carotid artery ultrasound. At some point, I authorized a bank draft in the amount of "First Born Child" to pay for all of these tests.
It was in between the CT-scan of my head and the ultrasound that I started to really freak out. On account of a slightly wonky central nervous system, I have spent a fair amount of time as an adult being poked and prodded. But there was something about that particular CT-scan that unharnessed the darkest recesses of my imagination. I could see the pictures of my brain on the computer in the nearest room. They did not look good to me. I know this will come as a shock to no one but me, but I am actually not qualified to determine whether pictures of my or any other brain "look good." And yet. My mind raced: I thought of my little boy. Of my husband. Of my clients. Of my fabric collections. Of my students.
When no one came racing down the hall after my CT-scan to whisk me to an oncologist, I started to calm down a bit. But my anxieties were quickly back at attention when, during the ultrasound of my carotid artery, the ultrasound tech kept making disapproving grunts and frowns each time she tried to find the pulse points in my neck. Clearly, I was minutes from a massive stroke. No? That wouldn't be your first assumption? Fine.
Once the prodding was through, the doctor bounded in to announce that I had the body of a 21-year-old. I would like to mount that statement as the caption underneath a framed photo of my maternal stretch marks, but I don't think that's what he was getting at. He said several incomprehensible sentences with "cochlear" as the key word and then confirmed the diagnosis I'd given myself 2 weeks ago: vertigo. He gave me a prescription for what is, apparently, just an over-the-top antihistamine that goes by the name Anti-Vert. With a name like Anti-Vert, I half expected it to come in an ACME box addressed to Wile E. Coyote. And while it's packaging was more pedestrian, it had a very Warner-Brothers-esque effect of dropping me off a cliff of dizzy exhaustion into 10 hours of sleep.
So here I am, a day later, still vaguely drowsy and vaguely dizzy. But it wasn't until I looked at my calendar and saw my 35th birthday looming at me in two weeks that I realized that this has all been just a baroque setup for my mid-life crisis. No fast cars, no bad dye jobs, no plastic surgery. Just a few hours in a hospital robe contemplating my mortality while reading US Weekly.
So, now, on the other side of my mini-mid-life crisis, I'm happy to say that I have never been more fond of my mortal coil. My life is totally nuts. In any given day, I may shuttle from dissertations on proper Lego construction at home; to shocking stories of poverty and violence at work; to teaching the proper format for citing Law Review articles at school; to drawing sea monsters and pirate ships for my fabric designs; to planning what to make for dinner from two withered carrots, a box of israeli couscous, and an old carton of yogurt; to writing stories for this blog. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
So...what did you do this weekend?