A few hours before my physician’s appointment, I read Dr. Rebecca Elon’s story on the Kaiser Health News. Living in the age of COVID, she lost her husband, experienced the death of a sister, and watched her mother battle dementia. The geriatrician and policy expert made a striking comment. “Reading about caregiving of this kind was one thing. Experiencing it was entirely different.” Elon’s statement struck so deep that I took the time to not her comment. Thinking Elon’s quote was a worthy citation in a future blog post, I never imagined referencing hours later, just after my doctor’s appointment.
My physician only has office hours only Tuesdays. I know. It seems strange, throughout my nine years with her, she’s been terrific. Tuesday must have been a terrible day. First, she was an hour late. (She’s never late). Second, after forty-five minutes, she sent in her Physician Assistant (PA) trainee to ‘fill’ time. PA trainees are the people doctors send to absorb time. In doing so, the patient focuses on questions from the PA rather than time spent waiting.
I have no problems with PAs (trainees or otherwise). Over time, most turn out better than physicians. They treat patients wonderfully, can laugh, and have a knack for explaining medical terminology in English. The part I hate is repeating my medical history. I mean, Which part of ‘I’m screwed’ must I explain? The tumor? Osteoarthritis? Ventricular hypertrophy? Multiple Sclerosis? Or the Parkinson’s? I gave the PA the whole enchilada, but a ‘clip notes version. I know this PA doesn’t care about me, and more than likely, I will die without ever seeing him again. An hour and five minutes past my appointment time, my physician enters.
Flustered, “Here for a follow-up?”
“Yes. We met before you arrived and provided a run-down.” I met the PA ten minutes prior, but now I cannot remember his name. “So. I am here for follow-up, so my medications do not get interrupted.” This is the part of the medical industry I despise. You have to visit your physician to continuing receiving medications. I feel like a drug addict hitting their’ dealer.’ But with a long-term illness knows, this is a ritual.
My physician performed several checks, arm movements, leg lifts, and listening to the heart. Seemingly frustrated, “You’re not doing enough.”
Stunned, “I what way?”
Irritated, she sifted through screens on her computer. “Well,” she said, “You gained 10 pounds in a year. You need to lose 10 pounds – more would be better.”
“Well shit,” I thought. “Almost everyone I know has gained weight during COVID.”
I will renew your medications and order some physical therapy.
Driving home, I kept thinking about her comment. “You’re not doing enough.” it kept striking like a dart from childhood. As a kid, “You’re not doing enough” was what I often heard. It did not matter what I did. Whatever it was, my performance rarely garnered rave reviews. Usually, I was compared to my brother.
“You know, your brother did it this way. And look at how beautiful it is? You need to do the same.” In sports, “Follow your brother. He plays (insert the sport) his position perfectly.” Whatever my brother did, it turned out pretty good. What I did always seemed acceptable.’ Other comments that followed a similar theme include, “Well, good enough government work,” “It’s ok. We’ll make due,” “Obviously, (insert your task) is not your forte’, but I will finish it,” and “Good job, but I’ve seen better.”
When telling my case manager of the day’s events, I reminded her where I thought I would end when I died (described in I Will Find You). “I found myself standing near the beach I’ve seen so many times, a beach I expected to stay for eons. The water was calm and was peaceful.” Then I admitted something I’ve never told her before, “I envision this beach because I always felt unworthy to be accepted by God for entry in Heaven. I never thought I would end up in ‘Hell,’ but I never felt worthy enough for Heaven.” This programming occurs over decades. And I lived it. Then my anger came through, “Why am I not good enough?”
Am I not good enough after working nearly 12 hours a day since COVID began to supply management with every damn COVID statistic across the county? Am i not good enough when I entered hospitals to fix equipment, so those with families did not have to expose themselves with undue risk? Was I not good enough in the military when I managed all those rescues? Am I not good enough when I helped my ex-wife fight depression? Why am I not good enough for planning my own death so no one has clean up my shit post-death? Why am I not good enough for secretly paying for my parent’s car? Or when my brother and I paid off their medical debt?
I then screamed at ‘life’ itself using a quote I remember from the film The Upside of Anger (2005), “I am so sick of being your bitch. I put up with your shit, because I know how much pain you’re in. But it’s enough! It’s a tall order for a patient motherfucker.” I ended the quote there because I want life to know I am done being patient. Done.
In my post I Will Find You, Ms. K., “You are welcome in my home.’ If you can’t find me, I will come and get you.” I think both her and God will find me. I am good enough. And so are you.