The walk from the waiting room felt treacherous, the floor shifting and swaying as I pressed a hand along the depressing gray wallpaper to steady myself. My vision had gone hazy and unfocused, like the entire world was a Monet painting. I’d never really been a fan of impressionism.
For weeks I’d been exhausted and dazed. Constant headaches. Mood swings. My acne worse than it had been in it’s heyday in my freshman year of high-school; which was fitting because I felt like a hormonal teenager with a near-constant contact high. I had no idea what was wrong with me, but I was terrified.
“You’re fine,” The doctor said. I didn’t feel fine. I felt the opposite of fine. I told him so.
“You’ve had a baby. You’re tired. It’s fine.” This was my third child. A baby who, miracle of miracles actually slept, all night, and then cooed and smiled when she wasn’t sleeping; in stark contrast to her older brothers who did nothing of the sort. I knew what new baby tired felt like. This wasn’t it. But nothing I said would convince the doctor of this. He was insistent. I was fine. And by the time I left the office my tired, addled mind had given up. I was fine.
My health continued to get worse in the following weeks and then months, and I didn’t understand why. I veered between thinking I was making it all up in my head, and being positive that I had a brain tumor and six weeks to live. The latter usually happened at two o’clock in the morning when I was suffering through one of my frequent bouts of insomnia. That was the worst part. Until the heart palpitations started.
My best friend called one afternoon to chat. She asked how I was doing. I told her that my heart had been racing since the night before. I wondered, blithely, if maybe I was having a panic attack.
“Go to the emergency room,” She begged me. I’m fine, I told her. Just a little tachycardia, no biggie. She refused to get off the phone until I went. I compromised and drove to the walk-in clinic next to the Harris Teeter instead.
“What did you primary physician say about this?” The haggard but kindly doctor asked me, after they had hooked me up to an EKG machine. He sort of reminded me of Mister Rogers.
My primary physician told me to drink some water when it happens, I informed him. I wish I had gotten a picture of this guy’s face. It was very your doctor is a massive dickwad but I can’t legally say that out loud. I left with a prescription for beta blockers and the realization that I needed a new doctor.
She was weird and a bit new-agey. She rang a tuning fork beside my ear and made a very concerned face. I still have no idea what that was about. But she also took gallons of my blood and ran a bunch of tests. This doctor listened to me.
When the results came back she seemed kind of excited. An autoimmune thyroid disorder. Actually two, I was both hyperthyroid, and hypothyroid. That accounted for the bipolar-like mood swings. Most people only have one, she said happily. Yay for me? I have always been one to try to see things from both sides. But no worries. I just needed some medication and I’d be back to normal. Normal-ish. Oh, and also I had markers for celiac’s disease. Boy, you are a mess, she seemed to be saying, with a grin and a clap of her hands, her dozens of bracelets and rings clanging cheerily. I was a little less excited, but glad to finally have some answers.
It wasn’t quite as simple as taking a pill and being all better. It took a while to get the dosage right and then even longer for my body to recover from being in such rough shape for so long. Eating has turned into a bit of a challenge, no gluten added to a lifelong dairy intolerance.
And I still can’t look back on my daughter’s first year without feeling sad and angry that I missed so much of it being miserable for no good reason. I’m still mad at myself for not telling the first doctor to bite me, but instead letting him dictate what was true or not about my own body.
But now, three years later, I can finally say: I am fine.