Monday, February 25, 2008


I have lately been experiencing weird sensations about the chest. I am pretty sure this is because I have pulled a chest muscle lifting weights. My acupuncturist has hypothesized that it could be, at least in part, from a problem I have had with my back for several weeks (a slipping rib or disk). A pinched nerve kind of thing, she suggested, because my arm feels a lot like I've bumped my elbow.

But because of the location of the pain, and because the commercials on TV are always advocating various illnesses in the pharmaceutical industry's efforts to sell more drugs, I immediately think I am having a heart attack when it hurts.

This makes me very nervous which makes my heart race, which makes me even more nervous.

I know I am stressed because I have been working hard. I have written 62 articles since January 1; this is the 56th day of the year. That is more than one article a day, or at least 1,000 words a day every day, including weekends.

That's difficult to sustain without some kind of burnout.

So I think I'm in a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of thing. I was exercising to relieve the stress of working too much; the boo-boo from exercising is adding to the stress.

I am 90 percent sure the pain isn't my heart; it's the other 10 percent of me that I am unable to convince.

It is no wonder many people race to the doctor when any little thing goes wrong. We are told to do this with every bottle of aspirin, with every bottle of vitamins, with every exercise video. Do nothing without your doctor's OK. As if this person with the MD is some god who can ordain how we live our life, a being who knows better than ourselves what our body can and cannot do or withstand.

My mother hauled me to the doctor for every little thing. I am not so sure she wasn't one of those mothers who create hysteria and illnesses in their children in order to see the doctor for whatever reason, because I certainly spent a lot of time in the doctor's office. I was given every new drug to come along, or so it seemed.

My body was filled with antibiotics and steroids before the age of 10. I had terrible allergies and problems with my left knee that required cortisone shots. Prednisone was the drug for my poison oak and poison ivy. Keflex was the antibiotic of choice for me for a long time; Benedryl was a constant friend.

I once made for my acupuncturist a list of drugs I could remember having taken at some point in my life. There were 44 different drugs on it. I did not take them all at once, mind you, but at some point all of these poisons (and that is what they are, I now know), were put in my system.

I continued the pattern of doctor visits well until my 30s. It took me that long to realize I was in charge of my body and my health care. I was 40 before I really took control. By that time the damage was tremendous.

Now I try desperately *not* to go to the doctor unless I really must. Doctors scare me with their pill-pushing, invasive X-rays, low-fat diets that don't take my food allergies into consideration, inconsistencies, and their inability to deal with wellness instead of illness.

My husband, who is seldom sick, does not understand my change of mind about the health care system. He blames it on my mother's death, the problems we had with her care, the fact that nothing they did saved her but instead made things worse as terminal cancer slowly ate away at her.

Perhaps that has something to do with it. But I prefer to think I am smarter, more savvy, more interested in being well than in being sick. Less sucked into the system.

I have been healthier in the last three years than at any time in my life. Is it because I see the doctor less? Eat better? Exercise? See an acupuncturist? All of the above?

When I watch TV and the ads come on for various drugs - Ask your Doctor about Liptor, Prilosec, Prevacid, the purple pill, the one for bladder control and the other for restless leg syndrome - I cringe at the list of side effects. May cause bleeding, ulcers, black tongue, dry eyes, confusion, dizziness, irritability, swelling in the hands, and death. Among other things.

And we're supposed to go ask our doctors about this?

There will come a time as I age that I will be on more drugs. I will have no choice but to enter the system again, against my will, while they prop me up with drugs for whatever is ailing me at that time. They will feed me poorly prepared processed food which will slowly kill me, along with the poisonous drugs.

All in the name of saving me, amen.

Until then, I hope I can stand firm against my own fears, against the desires of the very sick health care system that is ruining the citizens of this wonderful country, and against the concerns of my husband who wants me to see a doctor because he's worried.

It is a very hard thing to do.


  1. I understand the writing burnout, even though I don't write nearly as much as you. I'm in a lull now and loving it because the fast and furious pace could not be kept up.

    There are several things that feel like heart attack but aren't. Acid reflux is one. As one of nine kids we rarely went to a doctor growing up, but we all still don't trust the medical system. It's very unempowering and one drug often leads to another. I think your instinct about the pulled muscle is likely right. Time to tread water.

  2. My husband experienced what he thought was heartburn when we were taking our walk every day. Somebody suggested I'd better have him get checked out. He was put in the hospital for a 4-way heart bypass so fast it would make your head spin. I ignore a lot of symptoms, and I hate taking pills as much as the next person; but that taught me to NEVER ignore something that might possibly be a heart problem. But that's just me.

  3. A darn, DARN great post.

    My husband is from Europe and apalled at all the commercials he sees for drugs. Seriously, it's terrible.

    I saw one the other day for a medication for yeaast infections in infants. "Just ask your doctor!!"

    I'm supportive of seeing your doctor, but some of our health has to be our responsibility. I've felt an amazing load of better since I eat fresh and exercise often. Anxiety I used to feel is much more in check with exercising at least 5 times a week.

    Putting work and life in perspective also helps. I can be a worrier- - - and this just snowballs. Keeping it all in check helps me enjoy life more.

    I think much of how we feel about health care is heavily influenced by marketing- - -I think it's important to realize that to a certain extent.


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