It has been a long week, and has involved many views of myself I’d normally not see. First, I had an annual physical, and I guess that view involved an EKG, which is always weird, but was, luckily, fine. I am under 40, so I did not get the pleasure of another little test that won’t be discussed. I did get a bunch of blood tests done, so in a few days, I will get to see another view of myself, in the form of little numbers telling me the range of various chemicals in my blood, which is always a little more interesting than just a glance in the mirror. Nothing strange expected there, although I’m sure my cholestorol is high and that’s always a fun bridge to cross with any doctor, especially one who loves writing prescriptions.

On Friday morning, I woke up three hours early to Blizzard 05 (a couple of inches) and trudged my way to another doctor, this time to look at my eyes and see if I can get LASIK. I had a short battery of interesting tests, including a computerized photo-mapping of my eye, which is a new one for me. I got to see a big color digital picture of my ocular devices, which resembled a view of a sun-like star, but crossed with a couple of blood vessels of some sort. I also got some numbing drops, which are not exactly the fun party game you might expect, and the nurse stuck a very sharp, very tiny probe right into my eye to get a depth of my cornea. Unfortunately, after all of this fun, it turns out I can’t get LASIK, or the also-nifty LASEK or PRK surgeries, because my prescription is too high and my cornea is too thin for all of that slicing and dicing. When they do the correction, they carve down the cornea to get the right shape, and in my case, there’s just not enough to carve. There is a procedure that’s brand new where they implant a tiny sliver of a lens underneath there, and you have a permanent contact lens that never needs cleaning. But this is about twice as expensive, and it’s more of a pain in the ass (or eye, rather), and it’s all too many if if ifs.

So today I went to LensCrafters and ran through another set of tests, this time for plain old glasses. I got more pictures of myself in the form of eye shots, and did a bunch of “this or this.” The doctor, it turns out, is also a graduate of IU, and we roamed the Bloomington campus at the same time. Small world. Big prescription though, and even bigger bill by the time they got those high-index lenses all figured out. Hey, more views of myself, with new frames! I won’t get to see them for a few more weeks, while they hunt down the vintage Coke bottles on e-bay to make my lenses. And then I got a haircut, and I can see my ears!

And that’s about it. I need to go shop for a few more presents online, and spend the last few dollars I have on that. And I’m reading the new David Foster Wallace already, thanks to Marie, who was also thanked inside. So, off to that.


Ear infection

Yes, I’m alive. Well, mostly. I got back from Hawaii a week ago, but I flew back with a very tiny cold – minor enough that I barely even thought about it as I got on the plane. But I thought about it a lot as we descended and my head just about exploded like that dude on Scanners. I now have two horrible ear infections. Actually, the one in the left ear has been about 10% infected, and usually doesn’t bother me at all. But the right ear has been 95% infected, and feels like when your ear is full of water when you swim, but permanently.

I tried all the basics: yawn, shower, gum, sutafed, nasal spray, heating pad on throat: no dice. Sometimes I could get the stuff to slosh around a bit, but I was looking for a huge POP, a clearing of everything, like when your ears are clogged from swimming, and an hour later, BAM, you’ve got a clear ear and a bunch of shit on the shoulder of your t-shirt. Finally, I dipped into the stash of prescribed but never taken drugs, and started a regimen of Flagyl, thanks to my dentist and root canal. It didn’t do much, so I finally had to call in the last resort: the doctor.

I hate doctors. Doctors never solve anything, unless you show up at their office dead, and then they say “yeah, he’s dead” and sign the death certificate. Otherwise, a doctor usually can’t tell you anything you didn’t already know from google. And believe me, I read every damn entry about the inner ear last week. I could pretty much do surgery on someone’s inner ear if my hands weren’t so shaky from drinking Coke all the time. Anyway, doctors can only do one thing, other than cut people up legally, and that’s prescribe drugs. You’d think keeping the mighty power of dispensing medicines locked away in the hands of the few would be great, but it introduces the problem that drug companies turn these people into drug fiends. I don’t mean they will be shooting heroin into their eye (although the might.) What I mean is when I come in for a hangnail, the doctor’s going to suddenly say “hey, your cholesterol is a point high, and instead of telling you to get off your ass and run around the block a few times, I’m going to put you on Lipitor.” Why would he do that? Is it because he cares about my well-being? No. Is it because someone from Pfizer will take him on vacation in Aruba? Probably. Is it because he’s an enabler for a drug industry that will now collect a few hundred bucks a month from me for the rest of my life and possibly subject me to horrific side effects just in order for me to get at the bottom of their pyramid scheme? Dingdingdingding, we have a winner.

It was bad enough when I was in my twenties, and every therapist and shrink I talked to wanted me to take about 12 different mood enhancers, probably so Eli Lilly could take them on golf vacations. I didn’t need to be heavily medicated as much as I wanted the answers to some common questions about how my brain worked and how I reacted to others and how I perceived the world around me, and how I could change that. It was basic “teach a man to fish” stuff, and everyone wanted me to get addicted to fish pills for the rest of my life. And now that I’m about at my mid-30s and not in great shape, admittedly, every time I see a doctor, they want to lock me into a long-term contract for cholesterol-lowerers and blood-pressure lowerers, and sugar-lowerers, and everything else, and IT PISSES ME OFF.

I have an endocrinologist, who I might not have anymore as I stopped going to him, who pulls this drug freak shit on me every time I go there. I have a potential thyroid problem, or maybe I don’t. It seems enlarged, but it tests OK. They run another test to see if it’s some rare exotic autoimmune problem, and it tests OK, but they say the test doesn’t work 50% of the time. I, of course, use some Lewis Black logic that if I didn’t go to my job 50% of the time, I wouldn’t have one. But anyway. He says, well, take the thyroid medicine anyway. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’re just making your piss that much more expensive. I can almost live with this logic, but then he wants me to come see him constantly, and take blood tests constantly, and miss work constantly, and the most he can come up with is trying to get me on another prescription.

ALL OF THIS IS INSANE. I AM NOT 94. I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE 17 PRESCRIPTIONS THAT COST 25 DOLLARS A MONTH, EACH. That’s a fucking car payment. Not to mention that it’s a full-time job to get the fucking yo-yo down at Rite-Aid to actually fill the shit correctly, because they completely fuck up one in four prescriptions. You know what? I bought a fucking bike. It cost $300. My blood pressure as of Friday was 120/80. FUCK THESE DOCTORS. FUCK THEM ALL IN THE HEAD.

But I had to go to the doctor anyway. I went Friday and he gave me eardrops and a Z-pack antibiotic to nuke the thing from orbit. ($50. And that’s with insurance. Whoever raised our copay to $25 should be taken outside and hung from a streetsign by his dick.) I feel a little better, on day 3 of the new stuff, but still can’t hear.

So there’s that. I haven’t finished the Hawaii trip, although I’m sick of writing these things and I’m not even sure if people read them or if the hits are all spam-bots using my pages to up the hit counts on their stupid “discount Hawaii we don’t sell anything, we’re just a referral passthrough trying to up our pagerank” type of shit. I will eventually get to it. The photos are there, though.

It’s very nice outside, but humid. It looks like it could break into a rain at a moment’s notice. I want to go ride my bike, but the lack of hearing and lack of balance make it difficult. And walking is too boring.


Colitis, bipolar

It’s been a while. Two basic things have stopped me from writing, both with twisted, deep roots. Let me explain.

First, I’ve been having medical problems. My doctor now thinks I have colitis, which is no death sentence, but means I’ll have to radically change my already radically changed diet, and possibly go on some medication with some drastic side effects. All of this worries me – I want to change as a person, but I don’t want the limitations and stigma attached with a disease.

Example: In 1990, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – manic depression. This was after a year of a corny therapist in high school, and another year of Prozac and therapy during my freshman year of college. Prior to the diagnosis, I always thought my depression, my imbalance, would be something I could hide until it was all over. I ended therapy in high school, a few weeks before graduation, and thought it was just a chapter behind me, like when the inner ear infection goes away and you finish the bottle of antibiotics and you’re on your way.

In the first year of college, when the depression returned, I hid the therapy well. Prozac was not a household word, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. In 1989, everyone and their brother hadn’t been on an antidepressant – knowledge opf drugs for mental health was limited to memories of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest or something. I kept it inside, and seldom told anyone. No problem.

So I was diagnosed with manic depression, put on lithium, and got used to blood tests. I had more side effects and limitations, and I gained some weight. But I only let my inner circle of friends know about the medication, the doctors. I never “came out”, because I never felt a need to. I can understand how gays would want to come out and avoid telling lies about something as basic as their sexuality. But to me, the lithium and the therapy was something very personal, something I didn’t tell to the world. I didn’t want special attention or treatment – I wanted to define my own personality, and avoid mixing the diagnosis and the label with that.

I kept with this plan, and kept in the closet, so to speak. There were small limitations that bothered me – I would never be able to fly a plane. I would never be able to work for the CIA. Oh well, I would never get drafted, something that comforted me during Desert Storm. Prozac became a household name, and I saw many attention-hungry people who told every person in the world about their “problem” and how they were on Prozac. Lightweights.

[2020 update: I’m not bipolar as of a dozen or so years ago. I was misdiagnosed. Someone tell my mom this, because any time she hears the word ‘bipolar’ she has to call me and tell me about it.]

Anyway, I’ve kept in the closet for the most part, although I’ve told a few people. (and I guess this post tells a few more, although I’m lucky if 3 people read this thing). And now I’m faced with another sickness that might not be as closetable as the depression. I could have to take a steroid to calm down my large intestine, which could mean weight gain, insomnia, osteoperosis, etc etc. So I spent all weekend worrying about that. I guess my solution is just to take what comes to me and to keep on fighting for my health. I’m feeling somewhat better on the diet – it’s been almost 3 months, and I’ve lost 15 pounds. I don’t even remember what a quarter pounder tastes like. It’ll give me more inspiration to write more, and hopefully I will.

The other reason I haven’t been writing is the usual mix-up about why am I even writing a journal, and is all of this stereotypical and boring, and am I wasting my time, etc. I can’t answer that right now, but I felt compelled to write, and had a lot to talk about, so I’ll write today. Who knows about tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens.

I met the writer Kevin Canty on Saturday and saw him read at Elliott Bay Books. I loved his short story collection and wanted to check out his new book. It was a quiet reading, but he said a few things that I liked. I read all of his new book last night and loved it…

All out of steam now – time to think about work…