Friday, April 13, 2012

Fair Health

I'm sure I've written about it elsewhere, but my workplace has been making me sick.  The school building is from 1920 and there is known mold and asbestos in the building.  On top of that, construction is underway to renovate the school and the district made the decision to leave the students and teachers in the building while that goes on.  Not what I would have done but my protests and those of the parents and teachers have gone unheeded and ignored or brushed aside with "We are working within acceptable parameters".  I have asthma, which has gotten progressively worse as time has gone on.

My doctor wrote me a note because of recurring bronchitis.  Between September and today, I have had more or less constant bronchitis with three rounds of antibiotics and several shots in the butt.  I'm not even sure what was in the syringe.  Maybe it was just placebo but it helped each time.

They moved me out of the building and into a shipping-container sized portable building manufactured roughly three years after the stone age.  The air conditioner and heater work reasonably well if you either sit on a block of ice or build a fire while using them.  But it's better than being in the building.  I still have to go inside the building to access the never-updated, one-seater ladies room with no light, no hot water and a ten cent Kotex dispenser above the toilet that does not have a lid.  Every one of my meetings is in the building, as is the office and the copy machines.  Almost inevitably, when I enter the building the dust and mold and things flying through the air gives me an asthma attack.  The exposure has most certainly induced the six months of seven months of chronic asthma and bronchitis.

I have wakened in the night with attacks- something I never used to get.  I'll just be talking or drinking something and the liquid will hit the back of my throat and induce an instant throat-closing episode. It's frightening, to be honest.  The last time I went to my doctor, he was not pleased.  I saw the nurse, who took me to the scale.  I turn around and do not look at numbers.  I gauge my weight by my clothing and how I feel.  Long experience also tells me that if I know my weight I will get depressed and immediately try to lose ten pounds. The nurse didn't really understand this and told me in a hopeful voice that I had lost weight.  And the doctor gave me 7 prescriptions just for the illness.  Inhalers- two steroid and one albuteral- antibiotics, cough syrup and a round of prednisone.

And I have lost weight.  When you can't breathe and you are coughing all of the time, it's difficult to have an appetite.  Besides, I walk a lot.  I mean a lot.  Maybe 25 miles a week on a good week.  I haven't run much since I got sick.  It sucks to go from running half marathons to having to walk for exercise and health.  Nobody thinks I look good this way.  I felt haggard and took a picture where I was shocked to see the bones on the front of my chest coming through. I didn't show it to Grey. I don't like that at all. It's not healthy.  So I'm trying to put on healthy weight and keep moving.  It's scary to think of purposefully putting on a pound or two. Scary to think I will overdo it with only 6 weeks to go before my wedding.

No.  That's not right.  That's not the scary part.  That's the easy part.  What's scary is how satisfying it was to hear the nurse say I'd lost weight.  It felt like an accomplishment to put on my clothes and have them hang around the hips and thighs.  The ghastly image in the mirror delighted the sick part of my brain that has been inundated with cultural dictum that thinner is more beautiful and more desirable.  It scares me that I won't actually try to put that weight back on.  The only way I know to combat this is to be honest, to say it, to not push that away but to deal with it.  It's the best thing I know to do.

The medicine does seem to be working.  I am now just down to the inhalers and a daily antihistamine for the allergies. I simply must stay off of prednisone for as long as possible, though at some point in my life I will have to use them again.  I even went running the other day, though I made it only a mile and a half before I had to stop.  It feels good.  Next week I will try going to zumba once more with my friend VP, and I will keep walking and doing yoga for relaxation.  I go into the building only minimally and it's better since the workers have switched to a different part of the building than the centralized two-story auditorium.  And last week, Grey and I went to a health fair and climbed the rock wall, then rappelled down. I'm afraid of heights but since Grey was doing it, I did it too and felt an absolute absence of fear.  Just like I feel most of the time I am around him without having to think about it.
Me and a Giant Phallic Symbol

I need to write myself my own doctor's note since I'm a doctor now.  Shut up, a Ph.D. is a doctor.  And besides, this one will be a William Carlos Williams poem, a song, a reminder to be good to myself. To not run ragged, to eat and sing and play and sleep and work and care and know when to let go. And to accept my body as it is. To stay in fair health.

Now, where did I put those barbecue potato chips?

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