Spring 2011 #6
They are building me a bus shelter! This is big news; but first to other things.
My Favourite Wife and I are blissfully rattling our way south to Melbourne, on a glorious afternoon finally hallmarked Spring after an icy, grey and protracted winter. Generous respite provision for our Little One allows us to make regular forays here and there; and the Southern Capital is slowly growing on us as a new favourite destination. A couple of nights together, some culture, some shopping, some dining out; and then Best Girl heads home while I stay on a few days to have my psychosis probed.
Every few months I seem to return in my weekly essay to a well worn topic: my presumed insanity. I’m compelled to follow that obsessive track once again today, and I ask your patience if my perspective seems a little … fixated.
Here is the current fodder for my paranoia, a regular nose-bag of angst:
- Eight full months of postponement and paper shuffling to achieve a respiratory assessment in a Melbourne Hospital.
- A year since I have seen a physiotherapist, despite requests.
- Four months on the waiting list to gain the much needed advice of an occupational therapist on how to build the ideal accessible bathroom.
- Another eight full months wait for an appointment with a new respiratory specialist an hour closer to our home; recently extended to ten months by the receipt of a new appointment advice card in the mail without a word of explanation.
- Four months of delays in the hospital admission I am about to attend; with three admission dates cancelled (including the ward clerk who rang our home one evening to see why I wasn’t there! She ought to have rung the admitting doctor who neglected to tell me…)
- And to round it all out my local Neurologit’s last words: “Come back in 9 months”. Six of the nine have passed, and it still stings when I recall his dismissive remarks.
Is there a pattern in this saga of medical disinterest? Is it the fault of the overstretched public health system? Am I too timid in my myriad exchanges? Is communication by email ineffective in grabbing people’s attention? (It is!)
Or … could it be that the label ‘Functional Illness’ or ‘Psychogenic Complaint’ or perhaps even ‘Hypochondriasis’ is stamped on my file, and no one takes me seriously anymore? Back when I had a ‘real’ medical problem I never waited more than a month, two at the most, to see anyone or be admitted anywhere. Specialist, hospital, therapist – you name it, I got it. There must be some form of triage in each of these settings to establish priority, and I suspect I no longer attract much notice.
I had sometimes wondered if my fear that the doctors think my problems are ‘all in my head’ was itself ‘all in my head’ until I received the admission letter for this week’s hospital stay. I am not, it seems, scheduled for the Neurology review that my GP requested. Instead I am travelling 300km by train to see a Neuropsychologist. Do they think I am mad? I don’t imagine I will ever know for sure because the medical system is rather impenetrable; there are few avenues of recourse and nowhere much to take your complaint except to the very same Doctors that one slowly begins to mistrust. I have tried this: and they bite!
At long last, work on The Coliseum (our grand, accessible bathroom) will commence at about the same moment as the neuropsycological exploration begins on Monday Morning. And, brilliantly, my bus shed will be under construction at the very same instant! More on the bus shelter next week perhaps; but surfice to say that on a day when my psyche is under attack and the bricks of our home are under the hammer; the council (ever the agent of Divine Providence) are expanding my world. They may not know it, but those diligent, energetic council labourers are preparing shade for hot summer days and shelter from driving rain – all for me! It will take more than a dissabled toilet, extra wide doorways, non-slip flooring or even psychoanalysis to keep me down!
Having almost finished my essay, I must apply the remainder of the rail journey to preparation for the awaiting medical horde. I once read the biography of a German Sergeant who had been a guard in the famous Colditz concentration camp during WWII. He described in detail the antics of the captured English officers who were ingenious beyond belief, and devastating in their attempts not only to escape, but to abrade the morale of the German guards. The Sergeant had found a single, powerful defence against the endless, diabolical humiliation he daily received from his enemies, who happened also to be his prisoners. A smile. Always smile. Never, he said, never, ever show anything else to your enemy.
I am preparing my smile right now. A relaxed, confident smile, befitting a man of forty nine and nine tenths. I must not smile too broadly, in case I appear to be enjoying life over much. A broad smile, for people with a disability, is a dangerous mistake around medicos. The expect one to sulk a little, to bear heavily the blows of life. Depression, I have been told by a learned Neurologist, is typical, and its absence is a sign of mental imbalance. I’m looking in the train window, smiling at my reflection, just to make sure I’m not mad. Oops! That was a maniacal leer, I must avoid that.