Plowing Through

This morning, I was taking a little walk in the early pre-dawn hours. There were hints of the sun’s upcoming appearance, as whispers of lighter sky peppered the darkness along the eastern horizon, but it was still what I’d consider to be “pitch dark.” I noticed a strange moving object about a block in front of me heading in my direction. At first, it appeared to be a remote-control car, though I’m not sure why I would have thought someone was outside playing on a January morning at 6:00am with a toy car. As the distance between us collapsed, the outline of the moving object became clearer. I saw it was a creature, and I assumed it was a raccoon, based on its body size and movement. Then, the smell kicked in, alerting me that it was, irrefutably, a skunk. He or she was much larger than skunks I’ve previously seen, so I can only surmise that this individual has been quite successful at foraging!

By this time, we were mere paces apart. I turned and started running. A quick glance back over my shoulder informed me that he was now running too, trailing me but still heading for me, as if my heels were skunk delicacies! I kept running until I was confident that I’d put a good distance between us. By the time I slowed to a walk, his beady eyes were way behind me down the road. I was safe.

Although I would have asserted with conviction that he’d be more scared of me than I’d be of him, his near sprint towards me and continuation of my pursuit would be strong evidence of the contrary! I’m also easily frightened, so the bar is set pretty low. Thankfully, the stinky disaster was averted, and I got quite a good laugh in before the sun even crept over the horizon. I think it’s going to be a fun day.

I spent much of yesterday trying to schedule medical appointments. I had called my primary care doctor on Monday, just as I had tasked myself to do, for a referral to a new gastroenterologist. I haven’t seen a good one in the area since moving, and I don’t want to have yet another provider that I need to travel to Connecticut to see. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with the GI doctor I had there anyway. The PCP’s office assured me that they would work on setting up an appointment with a gastroenterologist that would be a good match, and they’d call me back in a few days with the details. I verified that there was nothing else for me to do and she confirmed that I was “just to hang tight a few days.”

I heard nothing, so I decided to call back yesterday, Friday. I spoke to the same woman (it’s one of those names you can’t forget), yet she had “no recollection of my request” and “no documentation of the call.” Back to square one with five days in stomach pain elapsed in the meantime. I politely relayed my frustration and restated all the necessary information for the referral request. When she assured me, again, that I’d receive a call back in a few days, I felt myself passively agreeing. In my head, I was wary that the same thing would happen. This made me peeved because digestive issues can be pretty serious and time-sensitive for me in terms of their detrimental health impact. As I was about to hang up obligingly, my meek assertiveness was coaxed out of its usual place of hiding. “How do I know this will actually be taken care of this time, since there was apparently no record of my request Monday. I hate to be a bother, but this is really important. I don’t feel well.” Even in the privacy of my own home, I flushed with embarrassment and felt prickly with heat. She reassured me that all would be addressed and not to worry. Unsurprisingly, I found this hard to believe.

I decided to capitalize on the momentum and pent up frustration from the first call (which tends to translate to a more willful spirit), and plow through a list of other calls necessary to schedule other appointments I need. In fact, I called five other specialists, which must be some sort of record for my phone-phobia self! As usual, most of the soonest available appointments are not for nearly two months, but at least they are on the calendar. That gives me plenty of time to push them out of my mind and then dread them when they do finally arrive. On the one hand, I obviously want to go so that I get the treatment to feel better, but I hate the rigmarole of actually going and I struggle so much to communicate in most appointments that the benefit of their purpose is completely overshadowed.

Honestly, I have fears of doctors and being touched and examined by them as well. The recent news about the ruling for the despicable former U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team doctor, Nassar, definitely grows my seed of doubt and worry. Logically, although I know his disdainful behavior is an exception and not the norm, the truth is, it’s a lot more common than we think because it’s not always such high-profile physicians (so we don’t hear about it) and many patients are afraid to speak up and speak out. I’m fortunate enough to not have experienced any sort of abuse from a doctor, so there’s no direct reason why I should be concerned. That said, my trauma history and post-attack appointments were so uncomfortable and scary that I’ve developed undue anxiety. Hopefully, it’ll subside with time and positive medical encounters. Right now, the scorecard of friendly to unfriendly doctors is heavily weighted to the latter. All of the appointments I set yesterday are with providers I have never seen, so hopefully a more favorable balance in this tally will be achieved. The best doctor I ever had is a former employer of mine, and not only a fabulous orthopedic surgeon, but one of the kindest humans I’ve known to this day. His score should work to cancel out at least a few of the unsatisfactory providers!

Anyway, I’m glad I was brave enough to pick up the phone and handle making all the calls. For most adults, this is likely not an achievement. Someday, maybe I’ll get there. I find it nerve-wracking to answer all the questions posed by the receptionist. It seems they often can’t hear me and repeatedly ask me to restate my answers. I hate when I’m not heard or understood; I start to get flustered and overwhelmed. Many times, I give up and abandon the call. If this happens after they’ve already collected my phone number and they call me back (thinking the call was lost rather than deliberately dropped), I hit ignore. Ah, I’m such a baby. But not yesterday. I did quite well and made five appointments. I guess it’ll be a busy couple of months; I pray the outcome will be an improved quality of life.

Today is sunny and unseasonably warm for late January. The daylight continues to perceptibly increase, and it’s Saturday, so Ben is home. We have several chores and obligations to address (like getting our vehicles inspected and the dog’s town registration renewed), and I have work for my job to do, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be a pleasant day together. I’m still in so much pain, but I’m proud to report that I’ve been succeeding (with honors, if I do so say myself!) in my goal to not let my physical pain pollute my mood. I’ve been in a flare up for over two weeks and while I’ve had some low moods and irritability, they’ve been ephemeral. Overall, I’ve been much sunnier and pleasant than normal, even when not in a significant disease exacerbation. I credit much of this to my daily practice of writing, which keeps me mindful of my emotional goals and more accountable for my behavior. I’m trying hard with all of this stuff and I’m happy that it seems to be paying off.


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