The Canadian Club

{November 19, 2009}   I’m not crazy, you’re the one who’s crazy!

Speaking of bringing the awesome sauce, Russ, thanks for that last post.  So if we can all agree that Facebook is like a high school cafeteria, when do you think senioritis will set in?  Or has it started already?  The thrill of finding all our elementary school friends is over; snowball fights and the like have disappeared; the Great Top 5 Mania of Early ’09 has passed and even Mafia Wars/Farmville/Whatever seem to have quieted down.  So is the experience going to be reinvented again, or has everybody moved over to Twitter — which I still don’t get, even though I have an account and all?  Is there someplace entirely different where the kids are now congregating, which we Olds are only going to find out about as it is on its way to becoming utterly passé?  I know there have been tons of articles about how people are closing down their accounts, but I think we can all agree that the New York Times Magazine isn’t the most reliable source for trend-spotting.  If Facebook is on the wane, though, please tell me that it will revive itself in some way.  Housebound weirdo that I am, I need the company.

You know what hasn’t died down?  The allure of trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with you through internet symptom searches.  How can this possibly be anything but useful and beneficial, I ask you?  Here’s my trouble.  Remember that weird chest-wall muscle pain I had a while back?  Well, I’ve been beset with these vague, crazy-lady symptoms ever since:  muscle aches, skin pain/hypersensitivity (feels like a sunburn but no redness or rash), a couple of low-grade fevers, occasional headaches and, yesterday and today, slight dizziness.

I know.  Victorian neurotic territory, right?  I figure it’s gotta be either stress plus over-work, or just the remnants of some weird but relatively harmless virus.  The fact that the discomfort is mild and so, so vague  (I’m totally able to function) makes me hesitant to go to the doctor.  I mean, that is such a dubious set of complaints.  Who wants to acknowledge to his doctor that he is a loon when he could just stew in internet-saturated bewilderment and then post about it on his blog?

This is why I’ve decided to hold off on making a doctor’s appointment until I come down with hysterical blindness.  I figure I am this close anyway, so why not wait until I can present with the full nutjob monty?  Plus, what can my doctor tell me that I can’t find on the internet?  There are zillions of forums full of people posting about their skin pain and they are all totally sane and helpful and not at all filled with people who are self-diagnosed with every single crazy problem in existence — or not in existence.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?  Ooooh, tell me more!*

*[An addendum:  yes, I’m sure someone has this.  I am equally sure that not everyone who thinks he or she has this actually has this.]


Anna says:

Ooh, I once broke down in hysterics during an annual exam and was diagnosed as needing a shrink! Two days later, I got a call from a sheepish doc reporting that my standard, never-shows-anything thyroid check showed levels in the stratosphere. It really explained all the weird wintertime sweating, among other things. While various diagnostic procedures were underway, I stumbled onto the world of thyroid problem webpages, and let me tell you, those people have never so much as smelled critical thinking. So if you never get a diagnosis and your thyroid levels are right as rain, rest assured that there are a legion of overweight, sluggish women with bad hair who are willing to swear to you that you still have a thyroid problem, because a woman “knows” when her T4 levels don’t suit her. Final tie-in to Dave’s post: the thyroid thing turned out to be a random virus and completely resolved itself on its own within a few (food filled) months.

Also, do you think that L Cardellini spent the final ER season thinking about the great acting she did on F&G and then weeping silently into her big piles of ER money?

Dave says:

Your story is so perfect in its illustration of both how quick doctors are to assume women are just being crazies, AND why they often have very good cause to do so. I’m sure that if I were a doctor I’d also have a hard time distinguishing between people with real problems and people who just needed to get out for a brisk walk, but I’d like to think that there are SOME helpful clues to be found in, say, a few minutes spent looking at the patient’s file. Or something.

Funny that your strange malady turned out to be a virus. I do think that’s probably what’s been going on with me — mostly because right before all this started, I was walking around saying, “I feel all weird and achy like you do when you’re coming down with a virus.”

BTW, I know someone who wrote for ER — do you want me to ask her if she ever caught LC weeping into her wallet?

Anna says:

And yet what an annoying virus, to be plaguing you for so long–I hope it gives up soon. A friend of mine had a brain lesion that was diagnosed as early MS, but then it went away and so was retroactively declared to have been caused by a virus. Viruses are such busy creatures.

This thread seems to be about my slamming medical professionals for mistakes, but I’m not. I’m completely fascinated by the process by which they make sense of all the weird symptoms and complicated machinery involved in a sick person; mistakes are unavoidable.

I am filled with shame to have attacked the creative output of your hard-working friend. Especially if she has Polaroids (do they still exist?) of the LC-wallet-tears trinity.

clovis says:

so, you all think i’m crazy when i bring this stupid, west coast shit up, but: really? do you not understand the meaning of the word neuroimmunological? (yes, i just called you all stupid for not recognizing that a doctor’s practice is as much a matter of faith as it is of the material world). a doctor who cannot inspire faith in their patient cannot heal their patient. a doctor can make as many mistakes as they like, as long as they inspire faith, but a doctor cannot heal a person who does not believe in medicine beyond band-aids, sutures and broken bones.

Dave says:

“[A] doctor can make as many mistakes as they like, as long as they inspire faith…” Yup, Clovis, that is some stupid, West Coast shit.

Not that I’m not down with mind/body connection stuff. I’ve occasionally broken out in anxiety-provoked hives. I LOST MY SENSE OF SMELL FOR A WEEK shortly right my dad died. In that case, my doctor told me that 1) I had a secondary bacterial infection and needed antibiotics and 2) I was crazy and needed just to let myself be crazy for a while — and expect that I’d be getting sick and having lots of weird physical problems because that was how my body seemed to be responding to grief and stress. Which seems to me like just what you want. One part Big Pharma and one part hocus pocus. (She is the best PCP I have ever had as an adult.)

I actually think that it’s sort of a shame that we no longer allow for vague, Victorian diagnoses that allow people to take to their beds periodically without shame. I think if we had that outlet, people wouldn’t feel compelled to blame everything on their T4 levels. And they might be more amenable to treatments involving “trips to the sea” (i.e., fresh air, lots of rest and a little exercise).

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