I am in bed. It is Monday night. I have a bandage on my right shoulder from the tetanus shot. I see only the tiniest red speck on my forearm where they took my blood.
No one would know, truly, the size of this miracle. I think that is why I have come from feeling proud of my bravery today back around to sad and, ultimately, alone to a degree that I am not prepared for.
I did some meditation this morning, even if it was half-broken when I got the call for my ride. My father went with me. It’s funny these days when we have time together, he tells me these slivers of strange stories of his past. Like I’m being given them to safeguard. But they are always oddly perfect parables. They’re always meant to help me if I can just go slow enough to pay attention. When we went to the ballgame a few weeks ago and I told him how I panicked on the flyover bridge on the highway, he told me about how frightened he was in the St. Louis arch, how it swayed, how he wanted to get the hell out of there. He understood on some level. There was no judgment.
Today, the story of trying to shoot a bat with a bow and arrow long that had gotten in the house. Missing, and then, screwing up the courage to kill it with a hockey stick.
Horrible, weird, but somehow. He understood, on some level, that this was a hard thing that I had to do. So my father tells me this story and then he sits in the waiting room. It was our deal to go and out of the corps, he was the only one available. Once they called for me, the tech very perfunctorily had me march into the room, asked me if I was getting a physical. I said…maybe? She said well, we have to book it differently if it’s a physical. So, what is it? I had a moment of fear that all of my notes trying to mitigate what this appointment might be had been ignored. I thought there would be peeing and ballpeen hammers, and swabbing my earwax. I thought it would be invasive in some way – a step too far. They were lucky, I thought, to get me in the door even if the magic of the meditation was keeping me relatively calm. Still. I was there. I told the tech I was having a physical.
They put me on the scale. A number arose that was not shocking, but ought to have been had that been my focus. They took my blood pressure. It was high. I told the tech I was very nervous and she softened completely. She said the NP would be a good fit. She said there was no reason to worry.
The nurse practitioner looked like a slender Marie Osmond. A youthful, energetic, ex-beauty queen sort of face, but, somehow…perhaps because I decided to pull no punches in my appointment notes about how I felt going into this…she was precisely the right person for me to see. She said she was very proud of me for coming in.
She asked me if I scheduled worry time every day. To be able to save anxiety for this predetermined block of time and when things arose, I would know I could worry to my heart’s delight tomorrow, but the day’s worries had been accounted for. I thought it was a nice idea if I could begin to siphon even a drop of this madness, get one drop of control.
I said I wanted to lose weight – she didn’t bring it up. She thought I should do keto. I thought. Okay. Okay. I could do that. I understand that. I could get clear and do it and see a difference, just like what I wanted, just how I wanted this to go. I became as truthful as I dared. I trusted her. I didn’t feel like she put out any of the information callously or to frighten me. She had me breathe, and in the end said, I seemed much calmer. She took my blood pressure again and said it was way down. Normal. She said I should have a mammogram and for the first time, I didn’t feel like the word had a bullet in it. It wasn’t wreathed in flame. She’s scheduled one and there will be a gynecological exam. She said she could do it next time or the doctor she worked with was excellent, too. It isn’t a shock that she was 100% professional, but it was a shock that I didn’t feel some secret judgment, I couldn’t even invent the secret judgment I wanted her to have to make me feel defensive. I didn’t see her curl up her lip at me, see some dark stain, some obvious sign of physical…lessness. She just saw me as a very nervous patient, someone she wanted to help.
Finally, she asked if I needed a tetanus shot, if it had been more than five years. I considered – I was here. I could be brave within the bravery and get it now or try and find more bravery later. This seemed less likely so I went ahead and got it. The NP said her farewells and that I had to go downstairs to get my blood drawn for the lab work, but first the tetanus booster.
Another tech arrived, and I, now feeling comfortable telling the whole world that I was terrified of doctors and needles and the whole health care racket, told her I would look away to keep myself calm. She shrugged, unbothered, and rolled up my sleeve. I turned my head waiting for something. Finally, I looked back and she was applying the bandaid.
And I broke out laughing. I felt absolutely nothing. The whole thing was hilarious to me, so much anguish and terror in a teapot and even if I didn’t want to be amused by decades of pent-up anxiety unraveled in a single hour…I was.
Of course now, I ache to beat all holy hell on my arm, and now, there’s a lab report in my email and I hope I will make myself read it soon. Still. Even if there’s no one in the world who truly sees what this took, the mountain that got moved, the thoughts that are erupting and I will save words for tomorrow…it happened.