In the early months of my mystery illness, I must have been back and forth to the doctors more often than in the previous ten years, and in that time, I had never not worked for more than three weeks. I had these visions of being chased down the street by Daily Mail readers, brandishing said rag and yelling at me to get back to work, we don't pay our taxes for you to abuse the NHS and sit on your arse all day, you know.
I mean, why is it that whenever something shit happens, I always end up dogged by hypothetical consumers of the tabloid press and feel I have to justify my to them? I guess I’d say something like, I refused to rest properly at the beginning and worked for eight solid weeks before admitting enough was enough, I either had to recuperate or have an aneurism. And yeah I’ve seen the doctor a lot but for what it’s worth, I feel right guilty about that, even though just because there isn’t a name for what ails me I do sometimes wet myself and fall over. I wish I could spare your taxes being thrown at the likes of that but short asking my bladder to write a polite but glacial email to HMRC I fail to see what can be done.
When it came to GPs, my felt sense was that I was fast becoming a burdensome malade imaginaire; I was slipping into that nebulous category of post-viral chronic.
As two blood tests had come back *normal*, a friend of mine told me I should request that they complete the screening, and send off for the sexier, more expensive analyses, the likes of vitamins B12 and D, among others. There's nothing like a normal-range B12 result to give you peace of mind, apparently, although I couldn't help thinking an abnormal one would be better; it would be something to solve, at least, something that might portend recovery.
I knew I'd have to get the doctor on side in order to have my bloods completed; if he had to sell the idea to management, I'd have to convince him I was worth it. Not in a sexy way, though. Back then I had to really economise on energy, which meant having to jettison flirty banter in order to get through an episode of Judge Judy.
My doctor's surname was Fernandez, for his sins.
Fernandez, I said, upon entering. Is, is that a Spanish surname?
He replied: Great grandfather on my dad's side. You've got dark hair and eyes, are you Spanish?
I paused, then-
Fernandez asked, My family's from [insert Spanish town I’ll never remember here], how about yours?
Er just, just Madrid. Yeah.
Uhh non parlo … my Grandma never really spoke to me in … and I mean she never really mentioned her childhood. Too … too painful, you know, I mean they used to own a bakery and it burnt down, then a pigeon got in … made a nice home for himself. So about my iron levels …
I am not, nor have I ever been, Spanish. But somewhere between my clocking his name and my desire to get a vitamin B12 test, I did a fib. I suppose I reckoned that if he thought we were of a similar ilk, he might grant me the tests I wanted. Turns out he actually offered them before I even had to ask; my bullshit was unnecessary. And needless to say, the tests came back fine.
These are the random paths that chronic illness have led me down; expect silliness and deep reflection in equal measure. Impaired health can bring pain, despair, uncertainty and a bit of unexpected joy; seek solace here if you crave some light relief from campaigning/suffering.