Sometimes the messages are subtle and I am hard of hearing. I’m distracted and busy. I also don’t put myself first. I have spent my entire life taking care of other people. As a child in a privately unhappy household that spent great energy projecting and broadcasting a “happy family” image, I spent my formative years hustling. I hustled for parents and teachers and coaches and boys to earn their attention and affirmation. This usually meant caretaking on some level, anticipating their needs and making them pleased. The perfect grades, the achievement awards, the great transcripts, the scholarships, competing in Junior Olympics all part of the hustle to please them. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a braggart or showman. I do what I do cuz it needs to be done. When I tote my latest quilt in to show my friends at work, the comments about how pretty and how is it that I can do so much and so well, roll off me like Teflon. None of it sticks. I am deaf and mute. The criticism…that I hear. Like a Jumbotron screen resides in the back of my head with Howard Cosell announcing. So, I hustle harder. The next thing will be enough. The next thing will please.
And now I might have a better explanation as to my exhaustion than my screwy psychological tango. When you start itching you blame the allergies. This is of course Gainesville. When you don’t get hives or wheals, its kinda curious. Being in medicine, you think of all the long and absurd reasons one might itch – globally itch – from scalp to feet and every where in between. I itch in my sleep, waking myself. Benadryl at double doses on top of Zyrtec and my Klonopin (usually reserved for my shrieking phobia of the dentist that are crumbled and ancient) also don’t assist. I just itch. And now, other sensory over rides are failing. pressure, heat, cold just make the itching amplify. Then new things show up like the swollen joints, the vertigo, the strange miscues when muscle groups and limbs simply don’t do what they are being signaled to do. And I feel like something is wrong. My gut, my intuition says something is wrong. And the itching makes me just shy of hysteria at times so I accuse myself of melodrama.
Until lab work comes back abnormal and you stare at it and can’t make no sense. If that were really true, how is it I am not sicker? Catching things from patients? And….no wonder I am so profoundly tired. It’s not stress. My body has decided to make auto-antibodies to its own DNA, churning out attack forces targeting my own cellular nucleus. On a microscopic, cellular level I am waging war against my self. The dark humor voice in my head says, “Wow, you really do hate yourself!” That critic is always dependable for an uplifting pat of the back before shoving me down the stairs.
Isn’t that a perfect example of irony? I’m tired and I am itching like a tweaker with a bad intrathecal spinal anesthetic. Itching like ants and cobwebs and sunburn have colluded into simultaneous efforts to wreak havoc. And yet, my skin looks essentially now but my blood indexes wage their wars and I have to get oriented to work and go take care of other people.