“Feeling seen”, with thanks to Linda for seeing me

I am sitting down to write this as fast as I can given that I need to go pick up Marlo in 20 minutes, and having not written anything longer than a couple of paragraphs here and there in the last few weeks might be contributing to the deterioration in my health. For almost 20 years I’ve used writing to help cope with stress, and my body seems to detect when it’s been a few weeks since I’ve desecrated anything holy. Today I might go after Mormons. Or anyone defending massive health insurance companies. Or Corgis. I can’t decide.

NOT A TANGENT AT ALL: My pharmacist noticed that I was limping the other day when I went to pick up a prescription unrelated to my feet. I told her what had happened and tried not to get too detailed when explaining the circular nature of what is going on—my gut is preventing adequate nutrient absorption which is in turn resulting in my feet taking far too long to heal which is in turn making it impossible to exercise the way I should be exercising which in turn contributes to my gut issues—when she asked abruptly, “What calcium supplement are you taking?” I looked at her like she had just asked to poke me in the butt.

No, I really did. I looked around as if I didn’t want anyone to hear what she was saying, but I only looked around like that because I didn’t understand the question. I told her I was not taking a calcium supplement because the hours of research I have done on my health have all been about my gut. I have not once researched stress fractures. Her eyes got HUGE, as if I had just answered, “Yes, you may poke me in the butt,” and she came around the counter to grab a bottle. She shoved it into my butt hands and said, “No one told you to… take calcium?!”


That goddamn podiatrist I saw didn’t mention calcium once. And guess what. I’ve been taking calcium for six days now (not too much, please don’t lecture me, I did the research) and the difference in my feet is astounding. And it’s not psychosomatic, either. I know this because when I stand at the bottom of a staircase I’m no longer conflicted between “do I risk peeing my britches or do I spend the next three minutes feeling like I’m dancing on shards of glass”.

Also—and this is probably the most telling part—I have started yelling at Coco about .02% less for getting underneath me and almost tripping me to death. I think my dog is starting to like me.

I called my pharmacist today to thank her.

Speaking of Coco. She was what I wanted to write about today, that whole ordeal with her eye surgery and how disappointed I am in the care she received from the normal veterinarian we take her to. How she almost died and I had to face some terrible scenarios in my head. But I am running to get Marlo and have decided to make this point instead:

First: All three gastroenterologists I have seen suggested no blood tests, no hormone tests, no baseline evaluations of things that at my age could have gone wrong. Not a single one of them has talked to me about stress. They each spent a nominal 20 minutes with me and eventually threw a medication in my direction to “fix it”. And it cost me thousands.

I talked to an integrated doctor (DO NOT LECURE ME ABOUT NATUROPATHS) for 15 minutes for a free consultation and she mentioned every single diagnosis I’ve researched. Unprompted. In those free 15 minutes.

This shit, pardon the pun, is ludicrous.

Second: I am in terrible pain on a day-to-day basis. Excruciating pain. I have no idea what’s going to happen within ten minutes of waking up in the morning, but it’s usually in that timeframe when I know if my day is going to be a battle straight uphill or if I’m going to be relatively okay. When I am not in pain the euphoria is so overwhelming that I feel like I am engaging in something illegal. (I am not engaging in anything illegal unless you count all the Big League Chew I keep stealing from the gas station. The meth addiction makes my mouth really dry.)

But I am experiencing the teeniest, tiniest smidgeon of what people with chronic pain experience every single day of their lives. For those of you enduring ongoing and never-ending pain, you are an absolute hero for making it from one hour to the next. What I am experiencing is nothing compared to what you have suffered and continue to suffer. And I think this is where my experience with mental health and chronic pain sort of intersect, at least in terms of a question that I got repeatedly on my book tour: What is the best thing to say to someone you love who is anxious or depressed?

We all know the wrong things to say:

“Snap out of it!”

“When I was your age we just got over it!”

“It’s just a phase! You smell like 10-day-old crusty panties!”

“Radiohead SUCKS”

But what do you say?

The first time someone asked me this question the one giant, blinking, neon string of words that entered my brain was, “Tell them, ‘I believe you.’”

I believe you.

If someone tells you they are in constant pain, believe them. No one wants to feel this way. No one wants to live like this. You may think that it is a charade to get out of the grind of daily life, and maybe you know someone who would use this kind of excuse in such an abhorrent way. Anyone who would fake this kind of pain is delegitimizing the agony of so many who would like a single ten minutes of relief.

But I’m wildly guessing that most would give anything to carry on with the “grind of daily life” much like anyone who suffers debilitating anxiety or depression. Being able to handle that grind is so affirming to the soul. It’s essential. It strengthens. It feeds us. It nourishes our relationships. It is a salve in and of itself.

And if you aren’t hearing it, then know this: I believe you.