of mountains and mole hills

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I was on the phone in my car and on the verge of tears because I couldn’t figure out where my new endocrinologist’s office was. I could hear my voice cracking each time I talked. The receptionist asked if I was on the side by the hospital and I told her, “No. I’m looking at a parking garage and there are buildings that say ‘Doctor Offices’ labeled 1230 and 1240 next to me.”

Even though I know I steered away from the signs pointing to the hospital, she tells me, “You’re on the side where the hospital is. You need to come across the street.”

I don’t know what she finally said that made me realize I was supposed to be at 1243 Cedar Crest, not 1234 Cedar Crest that I had entered into my GPS, and I was indeed in the entirely wrong complex of buildings and needed to cross the actual street…not the road in the parking lot which I thought she had been referencing. But as soon as I figured out where I had gone wrong and how I could easily correct it, I was fine.

Prior to that, I was an intelligent and successful 52 year old woman with all the blessings in the world ready to cry in frustration because I couldn’t figure out how to get to my doctor’s office.

***

Doctor visits have been like that for me. I keep trying to prioritize my health, but I have had too many doctors in too many places in too short a time. A doctor asks me when I last had a thyroid ultrasound or bloodwork or a mammogram, or they ask where I’ve had work done, or they ask for the name of my prior doctor or where my medical records are. And every single question feels overwhelming and reminds me that I have lost track of things. I’m a person who enjoys trivia games, who performs well on standardized tests, who organizes and manages and streamlines. And I sit in front of each doctor and flounder.

***

Often when I write, I imagine readers. Right now, I’m imagining readers thinking, “Why don’t you take a few minutes before an appointment to review what you might need to know?” or “I track all my medical information using this app. Here, this will help you” while writing down the name of the app and sliding it over to me or “How many doctors does this woman have that she can’t keep track??”

Readers, it’s not just the doctor. It’s all that comes from moving multiple times in a short span–the doctors and hairdressers and tailors and grocery stores. The new roads, the new routines. Every single thing taking more brain power because it’s all new.

And, for me, at the same time, the divorce and the kids growing up and my mom dying and new job, new job, new job.

I’m doing what I can. Can I do more to make my doctor visits go better? Sure. But right now my resources are going towards other things, and I’m rocking a good percentage of it, so doctor visits are both a high point (“Good job, Laurie. You’re taking care of yourself!”) and a low point (“Why the fuck don’t you know what’s going on, Laurie?”). Readers, it’s okay. I know why I’ve lost track. It’s because of a lot of change in a short span of time and I only have so many resources, only so much energy.

So I am gentle with myself and do some self-soothing right after the moment of cursing myself out.

***

Yesterday, I had a rough day. It was mole hills that felt like mountains. I’m now up in the middle of the night writing it out. Monday was the day I was lost in the parking lot while trying to find my endocrinologist. (I’m laughing as I write that sentence!) Tuesday, yesterday, was the day I tried to be productive during my lunch hour because the weather looked damp and yucky and not great for walking.

I called to schedule a colonoscopy. My new primary care physician (PCP), near my workplace in Kutztown, had advised me to schedule it when I saw her in March. I tried to make an appointment in April or May in the Scranton area where I lived at the time, but it was somehow a LOT of extra trouble to have a PCP in one health network and get a colonoscopy in a different health network, so I gave up and decided I would do it after I moved closer to work.

That moved happened in late June, and the next months were pretty busy–you know, moving itself, plus my mom dying and my son’s high school graduation party and both kids going to college.

That brings us to yesterday. Tuesday. My lunch hour. I called to schedule a colonoscopy. I was on hold for a half hour. (Don’t worry. I did some productive research writing while on hold. That’s my new habit, writing during lunch in addition to walking, and it’s been great. But, still. On hold. Thirty minutes.) Once someone picked up, she took down all my info, and then she said if it had been longer than six months since I had seen my PCP, I would need to have an appointment with their office prior to scheduling the colonoscopy because they needed to do a health check.

You know what? I completely respect that they need to do certain things to take care of patients and prevent Bad Things from happening.

You know what else? I told her I would just wait and have the colonoscopy in the spring of 2022 after my next annual physical.

You know what else? Just scheduling the colonoscopy appointment is a big deal for me because it strikes a chord of vulnerability. No, not because of the yucky prep and the going under and the having my insides checked out, but thanks for reminding me of all that. No, the colonoscopy appointment reminds me of my vulnerability because I don’t have anyone to take me. I was thinking I might uber, but I just had a colleague take the afternoon off to take care of her partner who had a colonoscopy, a plan that the doctor advised, and I’m thinking I might need more than uber. I talked to my sister Janet about my angst yesterday, and I cried on the phone, and I said, “I don’t have anyone to take care of me.” If those aren’t the words of someone whose mom has recently died, well…

Janet, of course, volunteered to drive from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania to take care of me when I eventually schedule my colonoscopy. And I told her I actually would ask someone closer when it came down to it, and I knew I was exaggerating when I said I have no one to take care of me. I have lots of people. Lots and lots.

(If you’re reading this and your instinct is to volunteer to be my colonoscopy chauffeur, please know that I appreciate it, but I’m not writing to problem solve. I’ll go ahead and ask for the help when the time comes. I’m writing more to work my way through my angst.)

Anyhow. Janet heard what I was saying. I was saying that I’m living alone for the first time in my life, and it’s a new experience to not have a go-to person to be there when you need a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy may be a metaphor for a whole lot of things, right?

***

There was more yesterday. I called my PCP because I picked at a skin tag and now it’s infected, and I was on hold again (but only for 13 minutes that time!), and there are no openings at her office this week, and I just said never mind. Another mole hill. Another mountain. I’ll visit an urgent care place if it gets worse, I guess. And avoid picking at skin in the future. (Again, I’m making myself laugh as I write. Did I mention that I’m a grown-ass adult?)

So yesterday was a weepy day. And now I’m awake in the middle of the night. And I think my internet is down. And that really sucks here because I have no cell reception so I feel cut off from the world and can’t even do a hot spot thing to get myself connected. Another metaphor? Whatever.

But even though I’m indulging my very real feelings of angst and validating them as reasonable given the circumstances, I’m also not stuck in them. Yes, I’m sometimes overwhelmed. And I’m also figuring it out. Yes, I’ve had too much change in too short a span of time. And a lot of that change has been good and healthy, and I’ve been working to minimize change so I can put my energy into things other than figuring out new thing after new thing. Yes, I may not have an internet connection right now. And I will eventually, and there’s really no rush. Yes, I may be a bit more alone than what I was used to and might need to make a bit more effort to ask others for help when I need it. And I have a lot of people I can turn to.

Yes, sometimes mole hills feel like mountains. And mountains can be fucking beautiful.

view from the Sneem Hotel in County Kerry, Ireland

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