Recently, a close friend/relative was diagnosed with a chronic disease. He’s pretty miserable.
It’s a hard thing to accept, that diagnosis. To find out that you have something nasty that you don’t want, and it’ll always be with you. Gee Willikers, who the hell do you thank for that?
Still, having had a chronic disease for forty years, I’ve learned a thing or two that I can pass along.
I’ve learned that basically, it’s a frog’s life. Yup. A while ago I figured out that living life with a chronic disease simply means you’re a frog.
You see, most of the time, life is normal. You hang out in the pond with your family and friends. You eat bugs which is gross, of course. But still, life is good most of the time.
But naturally, life isn’t quite that easy. It isn’t quite that easy if you don’t have health problems. But if you do, well, you have to pay attention to what happens to you. The Devil is in the details. Actually, the devil is in the damn symptoms you probably think aren’t worth bothering with.
You have to watch out for pot. Pots. You have to watch out for pots.
Oh surely you’ve heard about frogs and pots!
No? Let me rekindle that image.
Rumor has it* that sometimes someone (an asshole no doubt) puts a poor, unsuspecting frog into a pot of boiling water. The frog (being smarter than the average bear) immediately jumps out. Of course s/he does! It’s painful! If s/he doesn’t, well, we won’t need to worry about that frog’s gender much longer.
Sometimes with a chronic illness, you get really sick. It’s dramatic, debilitating. It sucks. And generally, the reaction is to JUMP!
Jump! To the phone to call the doctor. Jump! To call the nurse. Jump! To call my husband. Jump! To scream to heaven for my mother (because, in spite of the fact that she is in another realm, when something hurts, I want Mooooooooooooooom!). Jump! To call my sympathetic friends.
Hell, I’ll call whoever will come and help me. Because the water in that pot is too damn hot; I must react. Whatever it takes. I then follow the advice I’m given, and feel better. Much better.
Sadly, it’s not always easy being green. Or having a chronic disease.
You see, sometimes, the frog ends up in a pot of cool, refreshing water. And then, dammit, that same asshole turns on the heat. The results ain’t pretty.
Twice in the past few years, I’ve found myself hanging out in that stupid damn pot after someone turned on the gas (sometimes literally). In retrospect, it seems idiotic of me.. Me! The expert patient, with 40 years of practice! It seems so obvious. But day to day, really, it is not at all clear that the water I’m in has heated up so much that, well, getting out just doesn’t seem worth the effort.
Because, you see, when you have a chronic illness, there are little things that creep up, little pains that are really nothing. Nothing at all. Certainly nothing to complain about. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to mention to that person on the other side of the bed.
Just as surely, it’s nothing worth calling the doctor about. Nothing even worth remembering during those routine visits. Nope, it’s all good.
But then suddenly, unexpectedly, you realize that that little ache, that pain that started off so mild, that has stayed with you and built up. Day by day. Suddenly it becomes unbearable.
So, I thought of what advice I should give to my poor depressed friend.
Pay attention to your symptoms. If you have an acute problem, jump out of the pot. Call your doctor. Duh!
Pay attention to your symptoms. If something little seems hardly worth mentioning – JUMP ANYWAY!!! JUMP OUT OF THE DAMN POT!
More specifically, call your doctor. Let him or her know what is happening. SQUEAK! I know that’s what mice do, but I’m sure frogs squeak too,when they have to, too. It may be nothing, in fact, it probably is. But mention it anyway. And if it is something, there may be help closer to hand than you think.
The two times I stayed in the pot?
The first time I didn’t want to go on a medicine my doctor thought would help me; I read too much. The day after my first dose of that medication I was nearly pain free. Gradually, I had been barely able to walk, sit or stand. I have a good doctor but I didn’t want to follow her advice.
The second time, I was somewhat less stupid. I was away, and developed a painful skin condition, that started up slowly. It was no big deal. NBD at all. Until, after a couple of weeks, it was. When I talked to my doctor, she made a simple recommendation. I followed it and the pain went away.
I’ve lived with Crohn’s for 40+ years. And you know what I’ve learned? Find a good doctor, and listen to him or her. Then just float along as best you can.
Because except for eating bugs, a frog’s life is pretty damn good.
* When I was looking this up on my bible, Wikipedia, I learned that this whole “frog in the pot” thing may not be precisely true. It may not be that a frog will just hang out until it dies while the water heats up. Fuck you Wikipedia. Way to ruin a good metaphor. Go eat bugs, Wikipedia.
All images are from Google. I leap in your general direction, Google images!