I had my appointment with the endocrinologist today.
I got a call a few days ago that there was an earlier appointment open and, thanks be to Avitable, I was able to take the morning off work and take advantage of the Friday morning time slot.
I felt at ease the moment I walked into the office. The waiting room was clean and well decorated – something that should say nothing about the medical treatment given in the back rooms, but that appeals to my sense of vanity anyway. I handed the receptionist the completed information packet I had received in the mail. She made a copy of my ID and insurance card and asked me to take a seat with the promise that someone would be with me shortly.
I didn’t even have time to update my Twitter before my name was called.
A nurse weighed me and took my blood pressure and went over my medical history with me again. She looked at the copy of the labs I had brought with me, and managed to call me “Sweetie” a few times. She also complimented me on my dress.
She left me alone in the exam room and I prepared myself for the inevitable wait. I pulled out my iPhone and quickly shoved it back into my purse when the doctor walked in almost immediately.
“What are you doing here? You’re too healthy to be here.”
And then I began trying to convince the man in the white coat with the gray hair that I was not, in fact, healthy. Few things in this world make you feel more like a crazed hypochondriac than trying to make a doctor believe you when you say “something is not right”.
“What do you mean when you say fatigue?” he asked.
I told him about waking up tired and the four hour naps and the inability to make it through 8 hours of work without crashing.
“Millions of people in Europe take siestas everyday,” he said.
I hung my head and concentrated on the piece of skin that I was desperately trying to tear off my thumb.
“Your symptoms are so general, it could be any one of thousands of things,” he explained.
The corner of my thumbnail started to bleed.
“It doesn’t sound like a hormone issue.”
I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry.
“Let’s have a look at you and see what we can figure out.”
He sat me in a padded chair and listened to my heart and lungs. I gripped his fingers and he banged on my knees. He felt my throat and my ankles and I silently cursed myself for being so stupid. Of course there’s nothing wrong with me. What the hell was I doing here? I was fertile, I didn’t have diabetes. I had absolutely no business taking up the time of an endocrinologist.
“OK, we’re going to run a bunch of tests to see what we can find.”
And then one of us started talking about my depression and the medicine I was taking for it. I told him about the Cymbalta I’d been taking for over a year and about the script for Lexapro I was carrying in my purse. I asked him if changing it would cause any problems if there did happen to be something else wrong with me. He shook his head as he continued to make notes in my chart.
“I would actually agree with whoever made the suggestion to you to switch,” the back of his said to me.
He stopped and turned around in his chair so that he was facing me. He looked at me. And he started to talk to me, and not to my charts.
He explained the differences in the types of medications and the side effects that no one had ever told me about. For the first time, I heard about the part of my brain I was trying to fix and all the other things that that part of the brain is responsible for handling. He explained to me how to make the switch from one medication to another, and where to go next if that didn’t work.
“OK, let’s get you out of here.”
He walked me to the receptionist who would order my labs and schedule my next appointment. As he walked down the hall a few steps ahead of me, I couldn’t help but try to defend myself one last time.
“I know I sound crazy. But I’m a 29 year old woman and I know when my body is not doing what it was doing before. I know what it feels like to be tired and -”
He stopped, turned again, and waited for me to catch up to him.
“You are not crazy. This is not something you’re making up in your head. There is something, we just don’t know what. We don’t know if it’s hormone based, but we’re going to find out.”
I wanted to hug him and cry and hug him again. I just smiled, silently, instead.
“This is real.”
And then maybe I did cry just a little in the hallway in front of the receptionist’s window.
I scheduled my next appointment for the first part of June and went across the hall to the in-house lab, where a very pleasant woman proceeded to suck 18 vials of blood from my arm. (No, really. 18 freaking vials. That is a lot of my blood going out of my body.) She printed off a copy of all of the tests that were ordered so that I could discuss them later with my mom. And she called me Sweetie, too.
I walked out of that doctor’s office knowing nothing more than I did when I walked in. I mean, not really.
I still don’t know why I’m tired and why my arms and legs keep going all tingly at random times during the day. I don’t know why my last two periods were two months apart. I have no idea why I went four days without getting out of bed.
But I know that someone else knows and I know that they know that it is not nothing. It is something.
It is real.
And that makes me just a hair less crazy today than I was yesterday.