Friday, January 27, 2006

When It All Breaks Down

I went to the doctor again yesterday, this time to PP. For the last six months, I’ve been suffering from what I thought were recurring yeast infections. If you’ve had these or had a partner who’s had these, you know that they make walking uncomfortable, kill most of your sex drive, and make sex uncomfortable anyway.

Two weeks before, I visited another doctor after suffering from a persistent hacking cough. I’d been choking on my own phlegm for nearly two weeks. The coughing fits were so bad that during one of the worst bouts I pulled a muscle on my right side. I had to alter my morning weights routine so I put less strain on it. Getting out of bed in the morning was painful.

The doctor sounded me out and said she had no idea what was wrong with me. She gave me some antibiotics and cough syrup and sent me home.

A few months before that, I got taken out by a major case of the flu that kept me in bed for two weeks. I lived on chicken broth and juice. That’s when all the weight started coming off. I’ve dropped two sizes in 6 months.

When the clinician at PP weighed me in, she looked over my chart and said, “You’ve lost a lot of weight!”

“Yea,” I said, “I have. What am I at?”

“188,” she said.

I was 180 at Clarion. I’ve never in my life wanted to be below 175. I didn’t ask my starting weight, but I’d guess I was 215-220 6 months ago.

The clinician asked me the long list of questions you get about yeast infections: are you using scented soap? Bubble bath? Do you wear a thong? You wear cotton underwear? Cut down on sugar? Alcohol? Change out your clothes after the gym?

I’ve been trying to handle this discomfort for six months. If I hadn’t done some google homework on the issue and tried everything else, I wouldn’t be here.

I told her I’d been taking massive amounts of acidophilus, using creams, and doing or avoiding all of the above things she indicated. Mostly, I felt like I was in a constant state of remission – I noticed some discomfort, but it didn’t really spike except once or twice a month. It was like living in a constant state of tension, with occasional outbursts.

She looked genuinely perplexed.

She checked out my IUD and said there may be a couple of things going on:

1) my IUD may be irritating my uterus, which is why I feel better during my period, because everything’s getting flushed out.

2) I overdid it with the acidophilus (and, I think, if she knew how much I took – every day – she’d likely have gone pale), and too much of a good thing can cause a lesser irritation, which is what I’d been experiencing.

So I got another dose of antibiotics to flush the extra acidophilus from my system and clear up any kind of irritated infection that the IUD may have caused.

Seventy-five dollars poorer, I headed out of PP and went home . The whole right side of my face was throbbing, and I kept a tissue handy for my dripping nose. That morning, I’d discovered I had another of my twice-yearly sinus infections. I needed to take some Sudafed.

I’ve been sick for the last six months. I asked my clinician when I’d first come in about a yeast infection. She said it was in July. Getting on and off the pill will do that. I had one getting on the pill, one getting off. Made sense.

But it started recurring again six weeks later – and kept recurring. Not long after that, I got the flu. Not long after that, the bronchitis-like infection in my lungs. Now the sinus infection. My sicknesses are accumulating more quickly now. And I’m dropping a staggering amount of weight.

None of the doctors I’ve gone to can pinpoint what exactly is wrong with me. They’ve got theories, but nothing concrete. They threw some drugs at me and told me to drink more juice.

At home, my room looks like a war zone. Everything’s been torn off the walls. The angry ripping left behind brown patches where the paint’s been stripped. I have a box of crap sitting by my bed, ready to be moved out.

Six months ago, K moved in with Jenn and me.

For six months, we’ve been trying to make our living situation work.

We’ve all been trying very hard.

Things were not good when we moved in. Things went from bad to worse. There were screaming fights. We had a long list of “house rules” that needed to be followed. No labels on things. Close the shower curtain and medicine cabinet. Keep your stuff out of public areas. Jenn and I did all the dishes. Wipe down the counters every morning. Keep to a strict cleaning schedule. Make sure you wipe down the door handle in the bathroom.

I began to believe that I had to rigidly stick by all of these rules to the letter. If I didn’t, I thought, then K would be upset., and if K was upset, Jenn and K would fight.

All I wanted was to live in a happy house where everyone loved each other.

Now I know what it is to be a child of parents who are constantly fighting.

You keep thinking that if you just do this one thing, everything will be all right. If you pick up the slack – if you do more dishes, give up the TV more often, try harder to have a “relationship” with K, spend more time in your room, maybe, if you were just around the house less often, then everything would be all right.

But, of course, it’s not.

I started to dread coming home at night. I didn’t know what state the house would be in. Would it be a happy night? Or would there be closed doors and angry words?

We all wanted things to get better. Yet no matter how many talks we all had, no matter how many times we said, “This isn’t right, we need to fix it” – it never got better. It never got fixed.

It got worse.

“It’s so strange,” my clinician at PP said, “I had this eight-month time period where I was getting yeast infections all the time. I did everything I could think of, and they kept coming back. Then one day they just stopped.”

After months of talking about breaking off the relationship, about different living arrangements, after a week of K sleeping at other people’s houses, of everyone being “unsure,” after six months of sickness and tension on my part, after surviving more and more on credit cards, after my second computer in two years died, my printer went down, after having my fantasy novel rejected again, after getting stalled on my latest novel because of my dead computer and tangled plotline, after increasing stress at work, after another discussion about all of the things my partner and I were unhappy with in our own relationship, I lost it last week. I completely broke down into a screaming, sobbing mess and told Jenn I was moving out March first.

I tore everything off my walls and started packing. I returned all of the library books Jenn had loaned me. I started moving out.

When I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

I hated my house. I hated how we lived. I hated coming home at night. This was hurting me.

My body had been saying no to this situation for some time. I tried to move out as early as October, but it wasn’t financially feasible. This time around, I was getting a big check for my writing contract work at the end of February, and it would give me my freedom. I’d get a shitty, cockroach infested studio apartment until I moved to NY. I’d done it before.

For months my body was telling me to get the hell out. I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen because every time I ran into something I thought was a problem, I’d try to rationalize it. I told myself things would get better. I told myself that stress wasn’t something that affected you physically. Stress was something you just ignored or “got over.” It was a weak, emotional thing. There had to be some other explanation for all of my sicknesses.

But as the third wheel in a house where two people live who are in a relationship, I had no control over that relationship. Nothing I could say or do would change any of it.

Jenn and K spoke, and K said she would move out. She’s gone to spend time at friends’ places until March 1st. She’ll come in to get her stuff piecemeal, and head out.

On the one hand, I was upset about this. I was sad. I wanted it all to work. And if somebody was going to move out, I wanted it to be me. I didn’t want K feeling like she’d been shit on. I was willing to take the hit. But Jenn and K came to their own decision about that issue, and K decided to go.

I am sad. I’m not as bad off as Jenn, of course. There’s a long grieving process.

I tried hard. I tried to wish everything better.

But it wasn’t my place.

In the end, all I could do was leave. Fight or flight. I needed to protect myself, because my whole life was falling apart.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out. I don’t even know if me and my own partner will make it through this.

I reached the end of my rope with everyone in my life. I was so angry at one point that I never wanted to speak to Jenn again. We’ve known each other for nearly six years. We’re Clarion buddies. For me to get to that point says a lot about how emotionally exhausted I am.

I don’t know that anything can help me at this point.

“Drink this,” the clinician told me.

I stared dubiously into a cup of fizzing water.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The antibiotic.”

I’d never taken a drink-based antibiotic before.

It tasted all right going down, but the aftertaste was bitter.

“That will flush everything out,” she said.

I hope she's right.

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Patrick said...

Hang in there, Kam. 

Posted by Patrick

Rajan said...

I hope that things work out for everyone involved. And I hope that things improve for you soon.  

Posted by Rajan

ScottM said...

Sounds like a bad time, but you're on the path to making it better. I didn't come away with an answer though-- who's moving out in the end? K, you, or both of you? 

Posted by ScottM

Natalie said...

Sounds like a rough situation. I've been in a similar situation, and it's not fun. It sounds like you're doing your best to take care of yourself, and that's all anyone can really do.  

Posted by Natalie

VJ said...

Here's wishing you brighter moments Kameron. And yes, serious stress can and does have serious medical consequences. It can be more than unpleasant as you
describe it, it can shorten lives. [For the short version of this, see Sir Michael Marmot's recent 2004 book 'The Status Syndrome'.]

But yeah, something's got to give, and it should not and need not be your health. Jenn should understand, but sometimes it comes to this. But a better short
description of a dysfunctional relationship and it's lasting effects would be hard to find. Pretty basic stuff. You may have to suffer for your art, but you should not suffer as gladly over household arrangements that are mostly wholly voluntary. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ' 

Posted by VJ

kate.d. said...

i just wanted to say that this was a great post. i've been trying to make connections between stress and sickness for myself, and this was a really interesting read. i'm sorry you're having such a hard time, but i hope you're in the process of coming out on the other side. 

Posted by kate.d.