So, today, with great excitement and hope, I went to a spine and brain specialist to finally get some answers, and pain management. I tried to see a rheumatologist, but oddly, they've stopped taking new patients with fibro, RA, and osteo arthritis. Uhhhhh... yeah. Anyway, the nurse practitioner I see got me the appointment with this specialist. I had visions of someone who'd take me seriously. Visions of MRI's and CAT scans danced in my heads, and answers to what is really wrong with me. And oh the pain medicine that would get me over the terrible pain I've endured for more than a month, only I get there to find this paperwork mix-up, so I had to wait about five hours to be seen, digging for change in the bottom of my purse for vending machine potato chips, and reading Mary Karr's Lit, thankful I had the presence of mind to bring my iPod. A ginormous flat screen television played sappy worship music, and scrolled scriptures across pastoral scenes. I laughed out loud at Karr's wicked sense of humor, and gasped, hand to my heart, at her startlingly beautiful, poetic prose. Despite the wait and the endless headache, hope filled me.
It struck me as odd that the paperwork asked so many questions about mental illness, especially more difficult diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. It asked if I had a history of depression. If I had ever attempted suicide. I began to get a sinking feeling. Why is a spine and neurology clinic asking these kind of questions?
When I FINALLY saw the nurse I had to take a psychological test, which apparently I did not pass to their satisfaction. Perhaps I should have taken it when I hadn't been in pain for weeks on end. But it wouldn't have really mattered. It was my history that was the problem. Once upon a time I was so depressed I tried to commit suicide. This is no secret. I bear visible scars. I don't bother to hide them, or the truth about my past. This doctor saw me for three minutes tops, and deemed me unfit for any kind of narcotic, including one I was prescribed three months ago for a foot injury. He recommended physical therapy. It doesn't matter that the last time I harmed myself was fourteen years ago. The scars happened when I was twenty-seven!
When I was in my thirties I went to seminary to study psychology. I wanted to understand human behavior, especially my own, and I had to take several of those blasted psychological tests. One in particular told me I'd most likely die by my own hand within ten years. May I just say, that one kinda sucked. But I have to admit, some of those ten years were rough. I counted them down, baby, and that's a heckuva long count down. But by grace and grit I learned to choose life. Some nights, in my dark and awful winters, I hugged my arms to myself and did not move until any hint of a dangerous impulse passed. And the years moved forward, some slowly, some quickly. I am here to testify. I'm gratefully alive.
I left the clinic a little stunned; a little angry--no, a lot angry--and profoundly disappointed. It wasn't about the medicine. It was about being dismissed, once again, for a past I've done a lot of work to overcome. And besides, don't treat me like I'm crazy. That ain't the name I answer to any more.
Heavy-hearted I trudged back into the waiting room as joyless as a deflated balloon. I Surrender All drifted from the television. I shook my aching, throbbing head, knowing who I was supposed to surrender to, but having no idea exactly what he was after.
How do you surrender all? Does it mean you don't go to the doctor anymore?
I have no idea.