Friday, August 13th, 2004 • 2 Comments on In Sickness and in Health
When it comes to my health, I tend to be of the opinion that as long as I can talk, I can breathe and if I can breathe, I’ll live. I have a high tolerance for pain and discomfort and I hate hospitals and doctors, so I managed to almost entirely avoid contact with the medical community until about ten years ago. When I was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma in my mid-20s, I was very resistant to the idea that I had something wrong with me—something that couldn’t be cured with Tylenol or a good night’s sleep. Something I would always have and always need to monitor. The doctors could believe what they wanted, as far as I was concerned I was healthy, I just had a little trouble breathing sometimes.
I often didn’t take my medications because I felt fine. I figured I knew better than the medical professionals how to manage my illness. I didn’t need to be reminded every day that I had asthma—if it got bad, I would treat it. Otherwise, I ignored it. I refused to let some disease define who I was. I refused to be “the sick girl.”
I found myself in the ER on several occasions because I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs and waited too long to take my meds. Not being able to breathe is a very, very frightening thing so you’d think I’d learn, right? But no, it took me awhile to get over my denial. I finally came to the conclusion that it was easier to medicate myself as prevention than wind up in the hospital being treated for a full-blown asthma attack. I still have times when I foolishly let my prescriptions run out and put off making doctor’s appointments. Then I wake up wheezing one morning and remember how quickly I can deteriorate. That’s enough to make me take better care of myself.
The most frustrating part of being relatively healthy through childhood and into my mid-20s and then developing health problems as an adult is that I can’t take my health for granted any more. In addition to asthma and nonspecific tachycardia (which is just plain fun to say, so it almost makes up for the irksome lack of specificity), I also have hypothyroidism. In the great scheme of things, when faced with the periodic inability to breathe and a heart that sometimes races at 180 bpm for no particular reason, having a sluggish thyroid gland is not a big deal. Which is why, when my prescription started running low a couple months ago, I didn’t rush to make a doctor’s appointment. Then my prescription ran out entirely, but Jay was on his way home and I was busy with work and homecoming preparations. Then I was just plain busy. For six weeks.
What is essentially an easily treatable condition is suddenly plaguing me once again because of my own stupidity. I’m cold all the time, I’m gaining weight, I’m exhausted… and it’s all because I let my prescription run out and didn’t make my health a priority. Two other symptoms of hypothyroidism are irritability and depression, so now I’m wondering whether my inability to deal with people lately is because I’ve over-extended myself and need some down time or because of the condition I haven’t been treating properly. As for depression… do I really need another catalyst for that particular nightmare? I’m prone enough to depression thanks to genetics and my own delightful personality, I don’t need to willfully contribute to my own misery. And yet, I am.
I guess the moral of my little tale is that I need to take better care of myself, mentally and physically. I still refuse to let my illnesses become my identity, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take them seriously and treat them properly.
On the other hand, until my metabolism is under control again, I have an excuse to be difficult and yell at people. I guess it’s not all bad being “the sick girl.”