Since I'm a motivational speaker (and am usually truly in a good mood) people ask, "Do you EVER have a bad day?" Of course I do. Today was a bad day. You're going to get to watch me motivate myself out of it.
It didn't start out as a bad day - it started out as a fine day. Even driving over to the hospital I admired the gorgeous fall leaves and the fact that it was finally getting cool. I LOVE fall weather.
I was going to the hospital for a nerve conduction test - I've been having some pain in my neck and this weird tingle that radiates down the nerves of my right arm. I also have some numbness in my right thumb. I thought it might be carpal tunnel (my Mom had it and I spend a ton of time at the computer.)
They started wearing me down at outpatient registration. They always ask for an emergency contact number. Well you know what? I don't have one. My Mom passed away, my Dad isn't coming, and I've asked a friend or two and they declined. I never really need this anyway. In most emergencies, I'll just have to dial 911. And if something happens to me at THE HOSPITAL, I hope they can handle it. They have no compassion when I say I don't have one. They just look at me like I'm an idiot, a freak. I feel a little blue. I try being nicer to the lady "helping" me. I cheer her up. She says are you self employed? (Like it's a bad thing.) I say yes. She says, "Then you got this insurance on your own?" (Like My Blue Cross policy is bad because I pay for it out of my own pocket.) She asks if I have met my deductible. I say not yet. I'm starting to feel like a criminal. I say I can pay whatever you want. She says - "They want us to get $100." (What the hell? Are we negotiating? What do other people pay?) I say fine and give her the money. She seems happy because I've been so nice - I feel diminished.
A nerve conduction test is not fun, by the way. They zap several areas (in this case my hand and arm) with electric current. It's like getting a lot of shocks along already tingly nerves. Not horrible, but nothing I want to do again if I can avoid it. But I'm cheerful and joking. The technician and I talk about how decrepit we are (she's only 35), she says she's going to paint flames on her wheelchair when she gets one. After the test, the technician tells me it's not carpal tunnel - I think this is good news and am happy.
Then the neurologist comes in. He is not festive at all. He doesn't return my smile. He mispronounces my name, calling me Denischia or something weird like that. I try to joke with him about the brain embroidered on his white coat. He doesn't even crack a smile. I get nothing. After a while I just quit joking. This part of the test involves sticking long thin needles into your muscles along the nerves. It hurts, especially in your hands. I have to get needles in both sides of my hand, my forearm, my triceps, my bicep, my deltoid, and three places in my neck. I still want to joke about Halloween and him being a voodoo doctor, but I don't have it in me anymore.
The results break my heart. I already have arthritis in my hip (which on the bad days is so painful it hurts to walk, sometimes I can't sleep), the Doctor says it's arthritis in my neck. The arthritis is wearing away the cartilage cushioning the disks and they are pressing on a nerve. I am 43 years old. What do you think this means for my future?
I'm scared now. I say to the Doctor - that's horrible news, can't it be carpal tunnel? He still doesn't laugh. He just agrees - and says there's nothing you can do about arthritis. (Something I already know.) He tells me to have my Doctor schedule an MRI so he can see if they might need to do some physical therapy or maybe operate if it's a bone spur. He says do it soon. Then he's gone.
I sit there thinking about the ramifications of this diagnosis. My entire life is built around my independence and I need a freakin' spine for that! I take a deep breath and race home to call my Doctor.
I get her nurse and explain the situation and ask if they will schedule the MRI for me. The nurse is irritated by the request - she unloads on me. I don't know why these Doctors always tell patients to have US call to set these tests up! Why don't they just call? She raves on. I say, "Are you saying I need to call the Doctor?" She says, "Yes!" I say, "But he's not my Doctor, I don't have his contact information, I just went over there because you all sent me to get the test. Can you give me his information?" She raves again - I don't have it, I don't understand why he couldn't just make a phone call! I say in a wavering voice - "Please tell me what to do - this is my SPINE - this is serious." (I'm scared, I want to tell her. It's my spine - it's everything!!!) She says she'll check with the Doctor and will call me back. Like it's an inconvenience. Like I'm doing this on purpose. Like I should know better. We hang up. For the first time, I burst into tears.
I am scared and I'm alone. It sucks. (Here's where you get to watch me motivate myself out of it.)
At first I don't want to be motivated out of it, I want to have a pity party. I want to feel sorry for myself. Then I want to beat myself up and tell myself how if I hadn't left my husband, been so picky about friends, about dates, that I would have someone and I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with this by myself. Then I want to feel sorry for myself again. Then I do what works.
1.) Accept it. It is what it is. I have that damn arthritis in my damn neck - I'll get the MRI and we'll do what we can. It is what it is. If it doesn't kill me, I'm going to be one strong woman before it's over. Damn it all - I'm one strong woman NOW.
2.) Reach out. I told my friend Kristina, who's a nurse, who's already calling a neurologist friend of hers. I feel better just because she cares. And I love her take action style - it inspires me. I'm also telling you - that makes me feel better.
3.) Learn about it. I already Goggled arthritis of the neck. Okay so I'm about 25 years younger than the average arthritis sufferer, but at least I'm not alone. Information is power. Information takes away fear.
4.) Get busy. I wanted to up upstairs and have a good cry. That would have been no help at all. I decided to get the mail, write this blog, and do some work instead. It is what it is, working myself into a deeper state of misery won't change a damn thing.
5.) Eat chocolate. I had two pieces of Dove Dark chocolate (can't those damn antioxidants kill that bastard arthritis?). I swear, if I develop a chocolate allergy, that's it, I'm ending it. But until then, chocolate tastes great and is a simple pleasure I deeply enjoy. This could be music, petting your cat, looking at your garden - it really is the simple things that bring us pleasure and ground us..
6.) Be grateful. It could be worse - MS, lupus, cancer. Do enough research of symptoms on the Internet and you'll be convinced you're dying. Arthritis is funny - it comes and goes. It might get worse, it might not. Right now, it's not so bad. I have a great life that I am very thankful for.
7.) Refuse fear and self-flagellation. I do not want to be with someone just because I'm worried about facing something scary alone. And I don't want anyone to be with me because they feel sorry for me. I have always said I would rather be alone than with the wrong people and I know in my heart that is the right path for me. Does it take great courage to walk that path sometimes? Hell yes! I will NEVER settle and if it's scary sometimes, so be it. An extraordinary life was never lived because someone was avoiding fear. Extraordinary lives are all about passing through the fear to get to the other side. The side where you can really be who you are, with the people you really want to be with, in the place you really want to be. Not the place you were too scared to leave or with the people you clung to for fear of being alone.
I feel soooo much better!!!! Sometimes I lose myself and I have to take a few minutes to find myself again. You can do the same thing when you have a bad day. It just means you lost yourself for a minute. Use the tips above to recall who you really are. Carpe diem! (And to hell with arthritis!)