>The Health Ostrich

>Is it just me? Or is everything we have to say or write about health embarrassing?

It seems wrong to be constantly complaining about how one aches, or does or doesn’t digest food, or feels dizzy or slow.

Maybe it is this: I have begun to assume that any malady effecting me, after 50 or after 55, is just me getting old. That’s the sum of the sickness and I just have to suck it up and get used to it.

Lately, this has turned out to be a terribly dangerous path.

I am chastened to say this, so here goes: For the last few months, really since November, I have been dizzy, really dizzy. The kind of wobbly where when I get up, I have to hold the wall. I have to take my Pilates classes and position myself near the wall. I have had to sit up in bed and focus on a point in the distance before getting up to go pee. And also embarrassing, I have been getting up wobbly every ninety minutes for the same three months.

I attributed ALL OF THIS to getting old or older. “Get used to it girl, and get on with it,” I counseled coldly. “OK so you will no longer have uninterrupted sleep. You did it with babies — you can do it now.”

Dizzy, NO you CANNOT STOP EXERCISING. You have to push yourself. DO more, not less. There goes that horrible Puritan part of me, not my mother’s Italian heritage, that says, YOU ARE LAZY, just do more!!!

And so I did. I cooked for 36 at Thanksgiving and kept up a frantic pace through Christmas and the New Year. I loaded wood and wrote and edited for a friend who had a stroke. I kept riding my bike uptown and downtown and I just got more unstable and tippy.

I went to the doctor for a check up and she did blood work that indicated I had an infection somewhere in my system. But I didn’t want to take antibiotics on a whim. I’ll beat this on my own I crowed. And two weeks later it was no better, really: IT WAS WORSE. And my doctor said, after the urine culture came back positive for infection, “OK, NOW YOU GO ON CIPRO! No more fooling around. What is the matter with you anyway? ”

I know the answer, but my doctor is 12 and I don’t think she’ll get it. I was trying to be tough, to make my body heal itself. That is one part of the answer, the other piece, and this is so sad: I thought this was who I had become with age and this was who I was going to be from now on. Another side effect of aging, like the white hair I color, or the less than vigorous body, which I attempt to tone up with exercise and occasional good eating. But the frequent visits to the loo, as the Brits say, well I was going to get used to that.

My doctor screamed at me, “Having to pee every ninety minutes is not frequent, that is insane. Having to stabilize yourself using a wall is crazy and not what it means to be middle aged. It is a sign you are ill, that you have an infection!”

And so I sheepishly rode my bike home from the doctor, went and filled my prescription and prepared to go back to work. WHAT? Well they are firing lots of people at work and it scares me that I may lose my job with the economy on the skids and a kid still in college. So I went back in until the February issue was sent to the printer. Then I went home and cooked dinner and today I rode my bike, not bundled well enough, to Pilates and now I am home writing in a big fluffy blanket feeling a little better. Thank You.

Tomorrow I am going to write, cull through magazines and eschew exercise, cooking, maybe even worrying and just give myself a well-deserved DAY OFF.

I need to recognize sooner when I am in trouble. health wise. I once shared with a close friend the sensation that I often couldn’t tell if I was upside down or upright. It was my way of conveying how confused I get with all aspects of life. When she moved last year from NYC to SF she gave me a small artwork done by a friend. It is a faux packing tag that reads, “This end up “ with an arrow that points down.

I have to move the tag to where I can see it and allow it to remind me that I can be just fine if I allow for the fact that middle-aged people do get sick and wobble and they recover. They return to stand up right with no grasping at walls. That is not my fate for the next 30 years or whatever I get.

I know too many people who are hypochondriacs, but the opposite is just as dangerous. I think I may be just old enough to take a moment to check out how I feel without it being about my failing middle aged health, but rather just a moment in time where I don’t feel too swift and I am going to get some well deserved help.

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