Suffering For Art

 


Yesterday I posted this article on my Facebook page, indicating there are certain entertainers I won’t support even on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon because they still receive royalties. I won’t even check out their movies from the library.

I was subjected to “Annie Hall” my freshman year in college. Woody Allen is a whiny fuckhead criminal, and I don’t understand why people, especially women, keep clamoring to work with him. Who does he remind me of? The abusive guy who doesn’t live downstairs anymore. I have paid attention to the trailers of Woody’s subsequent films, and quite frankly, they have nothing to offer beyond what we have already seen. Who keeps saying he’s a genius? Other men who want to bang underage girls.

One of my friends agonized over the fact that “great artists” might be shitty people. And by “shitty people,” he means that they probably rape and molest women and/or girls and/or boys. But, by god, look at their art! What would we miss out on if they didn’t do all of those things to other people! So the conclusion that this friend came to is that we should still support and admire the art – works by Salinger, Brando, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Mailer, Eliot, the list goes on.

My answer is no. I’ve never seen any of The Godfather movies. I’ve never lingered on a Pollack painting. Never read Salinger. When I find out that someone is a douchebag, I drop them like a hot mess. I will never again laugh or relate to a Cosby joke. He drugged women to fuck them, and then, you know, blamed them or tried to gaslight them.

Another friend who jumped in on the conversation jokingly said that he would support the art if he could pirate the material rather than outright buy it. But he would still miss the art too much if he had to give it up because he loved it too much; he was a huge John Lennon fan, and that outweighed any bad behavior.

What is especially disturbing is that the second friend wrote up a little speech during the first wave of #MeToo posts, saying he became aware of how unsafe women feel after a female friend asked, “But is it safe for me to go there by myself?” He expected and received a lot of accolades. But he and the other guy were pissed at me for this post about not supporting assholes and criminals. I mean, they both apologized for offending me, but only after speeches about why I shouldn’t be mad. Don’t be mad, brah. We’re just flawed and we don’t want to stop bad behavior if it results in good art.

We all attended the arts high school together. I’m always surprised and then disappointed when I think that we’ve all evolved at the same rate, because we had this really great experience, and I’m proven wrong. I’m a harpy now. Why can’t I be all cool about loving the art and understand that men will be men and suffer and need salvation – but know until then, they are going to beat and rape women and children?

I’m just wondering when I stopped deserving to be safe. Is it because I’m an artist and I should expect violence from other artists for the sake of art? Is it because I’m disabled and I should be thankful for whatever comes my way? Where is the motherfucking disconnect?

I’d much rather throw my money and my spirit at artists who aren’t shitty people. For instance, I like Sara Bareillas. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be reading any shockers about her. I also like X Ambassadors. Have you heard about their partnership with No Barriers for the Renegade Scholarship Fund? “The organization helps people embark on a quest to contribute their absolute best to the world. From middle and high school students, to adults with disabilities including wounded veterans, the organization serves people of all backgrounds and abilities united by a common desire to live purposefully despite the barriers in our way.” And since I live across the street from the art gallery my sister manages, there is an endless stream of local visual artists I get to talk to and take pictures of their goods to post online for social media.

There are so many opportunities to support positive artists, both living and dead, that I don’t feel the need to give my attention or money to those who destroy others. I don’t accept the status quo. I don’t go along with the idea that I should like them or their art just because they are “classic” or “geniuses.” Now that we have the internet, we have access to so much more material. Besides, last time I checked, The Doors aren’t putting out any new songs.

Advertisements

Can You Repeat That?

The last couple of weeks of December were a revelation.

I spent 20 years away from my family over the holidays, and I learned very early not to make a big deal out of the days we had off in November and December. When I’ve had serious boyfriends and we’ve lived close to their parents or grandparents, I’ve ended up at their houses, but if not, I’ve stayed at home and cooked whatever I’ve wanted to eat and overloaded on movies. A few times I’ve gone to friends’ houses – and one time that I did that, bringing my most recent ex with me, is a story still told today. My friend’s mom introduced us as, “Hi everybody, this is Chelsea, and this is ______, and they used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and now they’re not, so I don’t know.” This was about 18 years ago, and when I reminded my friend, she started reminding her mother, and her mother finished the story, so yeah, it’s still fresh in her memory.

This holiday season really felt like a roller coaster. I received the results from the upright MRI. Just a few days after that, I received some medical records from a doctor I had seen one time for 20 minutes in August of 2015 when I was trying to find a primary care doctor who would take me on as a patient. I remember this one visit because the doctor had been so friendly, but I knew she was struggling with understanding the complexity of my conditions, and I had to repeat some information. I carried my previous records with me but she wasn’t interested in looking at them, she just wanted me to tell her again.

I was relieved at the end of the visit because it seemed like she was willing to take on the basic care like ordering my thyroid and cholesterol labs for my Hashimoto’s stuff. But then a week later I received a call stating that I had to find a new primary care doctor because she left the practice – she received notification that she passed an exam for a different field. I was floored. If you’re anticipating leaving, why take on new patients??

But the real kicker is getting her notes from that 20-minute visit now. Because I had to repeat myself, she wrote that I was “bragging” about my surgeries, and that I had Munchausen’s.

It’s really hard to read that in the same week that I received results saying that my brain has literally collapsed and I have tissue growing like a tumor and doing damage to my memory and speech. (Today I couldn’t remember why I called the county regarding picking out a vendor for medical assistance.) I still have a hard time talking about what’s going on, to get the words out. It’s serious. What’s happening is that the pressure in my cranium keeps rising, and it’s going to keep rising until it’s the same pressure as my blood pressure and I have a massive stroke and die. The two methods they have of treating it don’t work for me. First, the medication to reduce the CSF production has been proven not to make any difference for me. It’s been tried multiple times. Second, implanting another shunt isn’t going to work; I’m allergic to them all. I’m now at the point where I clog them and strangle them within days. I simply don’t have options at this point.

I also just got notes from a neurosurgeon from the University of Minnesota that I saw a year ago, from one of the guys I have nicknamed the Three Stooges. He was one of the three doctors who saw my MRI from July 2015 that had the beginnings of the slit ventricle syndrome and a smaller version of the tumor, and observed my fatigue, vertigo, facial droop, unsteady gait, and resolution of some of the symptoms when I tilted my head to move the fluid around. In my file he wrote that I “walk with a cane and can’t perform a tandem walk” but that I’m “fine.” He also stated that if anything changed, they would welcome me back to the neurosurgery department.

Fuck that. He’s not going anywhere near my brain when I’m unconscious. He obviously can’t handle it.

But the one bright light in all of this swamp of shit was that on December 27th, I received a voice mail from a case worker with the State of Minnesota. She simply stated her name and said that she approved my case for disability. As soon as I heard it, I immediately burst into tears. Being approved by the state doesn’t mean that I receive any kind of financial compensation, but it does assist me when I’m applying for housing – I can officially state that I’m disabled – and I also qualify for medical assistance as a disabled person instead of just a person living at or below poverty. It will also help to make my case stronger when it comes time for my hearing with the federal case, which I still don’t have a date for yet. My attorney thinks it’s still “some months” away.

Pay The Toll To The Troll. The Price? Your Soul.

I don’t have any idea how often this happens, or who determines it, but supposedly, Mercury was in retrograde as of Thursday this week. Why don’t frogs just rain down from the skies and we can all just be done with it? No, the psychic attack is much more stealthy, I think. The back of my neck aches. My gums and mouth burns and everything tastes metallic. I fervently wish that Facebook incorporated a disgusted eye roll emoji in their current six options, up from the original singular thumbs-up option. My inner dialog changes: Get out of my way. Stop kicking my goddamn cane. Your perfume smells like cat piss. I’m not waiting 45 minutes this time before calling in to see if they forgot me again, I’m only waiting 30. I am going to scrub my fucking toilet until it fucking sparkles.

Even before Thursday hit I could feel the earth boiling, and my mood was cooking right along with it. I encountered my first troll on Tuesday night. A friend created a private Facebook group so that (mostly) she and the rest of us could say things that couldn’t be said unfiltered in front of a wider Facebook audience. The creator also uses the page to talk about her new grandchild, so obviously it’s not as restrictive as she originally intended. Anyway, a mutual friend was going through a rough patch with her boyfriend and had already talked about it at a coffee shop reunion the week prior, so when she posted in the group, she was just looking for further confirmation that she wasn’t being too harsh in her judgment; after all, when you are the one in the situation, it’s difficult to be objective. This jackass dude pipes in and starts criticizing her and tells her that she’s probably not communicating correctly or enough with the guy she’s in the relationship with – not at all helpful.

Knowing what I know of my friend, and knowing what I know of the guy she’s dating, I don’t hold back on the troll. First I tell him that she DOES and HAS communicated clearly what her boundaries are and that they have been violated repeatedly. Every point the poster or I bring up, the troll says we’re wrong. Then the troll starts talking about how this always happens to him, that he’s always attacked for having a “different viewpoint from most everyone else.” I told him then that it’s because he’s condescending and he has contradicted everything that the original poster and I have said. He said “No, I haven’t. Tell me where I have. I genuinely want to know.” So instead of turning the post into everything about him, I tell him to go back and read. His reaction is to laugh. Obviously there isn’t anything “genuine” about this jackass. The final straw is when the troll claims that we shouldn’t be “defensive, that he is only being inquisitive.” My response was, “You’re not inquisitive, you’re correcting both ___ and I, so that does not constitute a “different” perspective as if it somehow elevates you, it just makes you repulsive.

But then the owner of the group starts posting paragraphs about how we’re supposed to play nice. Then there’s more posts about how disappointed she is about our behavior and how she wants to shut the group down…but she doesn’t, because other people chime in that despite the fact that I’m a bad apple, the group is a “good idea” and some people claim it’s so great that she should “go global” with it – as if talking behind backs is a new concept. If that’s the case, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell to them. Lots of sand.

Troll #2 happens the next day, when I talk about this conversation. He listens for a few minutes, then bursts in with, “I HATE MEN!” As if I, Chelsea, hate men. I don’t. I do, however, hate men who: Lie, cheat, steal, are alcoholics/addicts, are abusive, are lazy, are filthy, are racist, are bigots, pollute, smoke, chew, are narcissists, and hate animals. I’m sure there’s more to the list, but that covers it for now. By the way, Troll #2 fits into quite a few of these categories. Hey, does someone smell butt hurt?

Troll #3 is on Thursday, the big retrograde day. I am pulled into a discussion about racism and white privilege. The person who tagged me is Native American, and the other person is white (and just happens to be an editor for Bloomberg and fancies himself to be an expert on the world and all experiences, like all white guys). The Native American wanted the privileged white dude to know that every other white person didn’t share his smugness. What it boils down to is that the white guy claims that no matter what, all people suffer, so racism, sexism and bigotry don’t actually exist, and we should just get over it. The examples I gave him – white men kick my cane when I’m in public, but women and just generally people of color don’t kick my cane; or white men shoulder check me – probably doesn’t happen, or if they do, they happen because people are just being shitty to me and it doesn’t have anything to do with privilege. He told me I needed to be friendlier (as in, “You are a woman, so you owe it to me, a privileged white male, to smile at me”), so I told him he needed to stop being a dick.

I’m not sure what the cure is. I don’t know how long this shit storm Mercury started lasts. Mercury is an asshole.

Would You Like Some Abject Poverty With That?

I left a message yesterday with my apartment manager regarding my lease, which is ending on May 31st. I had signed a notice and turned it in on March 17th indicating that I wished to stay another year when my lease expired, but I haven’t heard anything since then, and we don’t have many days left until the end of this month. I have a certain amount of money in my bank account from the sale of my car that I have been using for living expenses but I figured that if I was going to sign another lease, the apartment manager wanted to see proof of income or a certain amount of reserves in the bank, so I decided to call the administrators of my 401k to pull all of the funds and close it out.

The simple act of getting on the phone causes me anxiety. In all of the jobs I’ve held over the years, I used to field anywhere between 50-100 calls a day, so just know that that’s highly unusual for me to dread picking up the phone and try to figure out what to say without fumbling.

It’s also unusual for me to not have one or two or three jobs simultaneously. The 401k is my last lifeline and the only thing standing between me and homelessness. Right now I have to operate under the assumption that I will never have any money coming in ever again because I have no idea what the outcome of my disability hearing will be in 2017.

The call to the 401k plan administrators only took a few minutes. The first representative couldn’t confirm or deny which penalties I would be subject to, even though my CPA said that I could probably avoid a 25% and 10% early withdrawal penalties because of my indefinite disability status. A second rep – presumably the guy who did the calculations and released the funds – advised me that he had to take out a minimum of 20% for taxes and that I should set aside an additional 10% for penalties, all in a blaring and bored voice, as if he heard this stuff all the time, as if it wasn’t a big deal for me to have no other choice.
I have a few big purchases coming up. First, I have to take care of a crown and root canal completely out of pocket because medical assistance won’t pay for any of it. Second, I need a new bed; this one started to sag about five months after I purchased it last year because I spent so much time in it, but the store wouldn’t cover it under warranty because I moved out of state and the manufacturer would only cover a small percentage (this time around I’m going for the bargain Sleep Number C2 – no inner springs and it costs the same as a traditional inner spring bed). Third, I want to buy a different a/c window unit because the one that was provided with the apartment is gross and inefficient.

After those purchases, I will have to live off of the same amount of money slightly more than what workers make at minimum wage in the U.S. I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. It’s not like I can go out and get more jobs, or a better job.

This is the song of our people. Poverty. Desperation as our bodies shut down, especially in my case (and others out there) when I don’t have a name to attach to it or a prognosis to go by. My counselor has told me not to think a year ahead and allow myself to be swallowed up by the fear of what comes after the money runs out, but how can I not think about that? My life is already so different than it was even just a year ago; I can’t even whisper the words, “How much more can I lose?” That’s like setting up a new dare to the universe.

Hanging up with the Merrill Lynch rep, he wrapped up the call with the requisite, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” The old, working me would have awarded him 10 points for asking the question. The new, disabled me wanted to tell him to suck my ass.

Digging for Gold

This morning, when I retrieved my mail while I was waiting for my sister and her husband to arrive, I received a notice from the Social Security Administration regarding my disability appeal. They said:

*You have the ability to stand and walk without assistance. (That’s a blatant lie – I use my cane for everything.)
*You have the ability to use your hands and arms to perform tasks. (Apparently it’s not a requirement for me to see what I’m doing.)
*You are able to get along with other people for short periods of time. (It’s called Minnesota Nice, bitches.)

“We do not have sufficient vocational information to determine whether you can perform any of your past relevant work. However, based on the evidence in the file, we have determined that you can adjust to other work.”

What would be really helpful is if they included a list of employers who had job offers for me and would not require me to be upright at any time. I can’t see well enough to travel to a location outside of my home, and most employers at least want an interview. So their insistence that I work “somewhere” is pretty weak, considering they don’t have an prospects lined up for me. (I don’t want to hear, “That’s how they do it.” I know they’re assholes.)

The next step is for my attorney to file a request for a hearing, which I understand takes 12-15 months to occur. In the meantime I’ll continue to go to doctor visits and try to find someone who can put a name on this disease and tell me what to expect.

This morning I went to the surgeon’s office at the U of MN to have my wound checked. When he put a fair amount of pressure on it, I started yelping, which led him to believe that there is still some pockets of pus hanging out back there.

Rather than going through the process of shooting me up with Lidocaine and slicing down deeper and purging out more junk, the surgeon took the stick end of a swab and used that to dig around in my wound – think of it as a meat tenderizer, he just kinda made hamburger out of my flesh – without any topical numbing whatsoever. I broke out in a sweat and I had tears rolling down my face. I knew I had to lay still but I was also fighting to get away from him and just make the PAIN STOP.

He said he was stepping out for a few minutes to allow the bleeding to die down; about 10 minutes and a good, sobbing cry later, his nurse came in to re-dress the wound. I’m glad I had that time to myself.

 

 

That Girl Is Poison

Recognize this phrase? I have a station set up on my Pandora titled “New Edition,” and since some of the members of the singing group New Edition split off and formed Bel Biv Devoe, the song “Poison” comes up on my play list. Bel Biv Devoe sang about the dangers of getting tangled up with a woman who was bad news; however, it’s not just romantic relationships that suffer when someone is nasty or devious – friends can be poisonous too.

I am eternally grateful to the friends I have made over the years who tolerate my weirdness and bluntness. Without a doubt, I am humbled by the friends who have mopped and sanitized my house when I have returned from the hospital. I am indebted to the people who have shuttled me around to doctor appointments and grocery store runs, and who have replenished my stock of food and supplies. I have tried to be a good friend in return when I have been able to, which admittedly has been very infrequent for the past 5.5 years because I can’t seem to stay well enough to be out of bed for any length of time.

Unfortunately, because I have the reputation of being a good listener and the voice of reason, my bedridden status has trapped me into being something of a therapist for some. One friend helped me get to a doctor’s appointment about five years ago. This woman and I had become friends back in 2006 when I was working a couple of jobs to pay for my second trip to Europe. That one ride of eight miles nearly cost me my sanity.

Because she found out that I was stuck in bed when I called her to help me get to the appointment, I believe she saw it as an opportunity to unload all that was bothering her – after all, I didn’t have anything better to do, right? This friend was going through a nasty divorce. She would call me at all hours nearly every day, crying and asking me what she should do in certain situations. She would never actually take my advice.

Our interactions became more strained. I finally resorted to telling her, “I don’t know what you should do” every time she called with a new crisis. She switched to texting me instead of calling me. I’m not sure if she thought my answer would somehow be different. Just for the record, it wasn’t.

This woman had a good heart, and I did get a ride from her when I needed it most. I just did not think that I was forever obligated to take on the stress of her failing marriage. For that reason, I cut her off completely. Subtlety wasn’t working, and telling her I was exhausted and stressed from fighting to be heard in doctor visits had absolutely no effect. I feel a twinge of sadness when her birthday shows up on my calendar, but I know that if I pick up the phone and wish her a happy birthday, the cycle starts again.

Another woman I became friends with was introduced by a mutual friend. We became acquainted after we spent a holiday together; I brought a movie that she had watched many times in her native country as a young girl, and she translated the film for us as it did not have any subtitles. I’m going to christen her Ms. Lederhosen.

I met Ms. Lederhosen as she was going through a nasty divorce with her second husband. I had suggested we get together for movies or nights out because it seemed like she needed to do things that would distract her from all of the emotionally draining stuff she was going through. Unfortunately, it was all she would talk about. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I could say something like, “This tomato soup is good.” Ms. Lederhosen would reply by saying, “Oh, R. (her ex) likes soup too. You know, when we were married, he used to make me take care of his daughters, but they were lazy and did not like me. I would tell them to do something and they would go to their dad and he would tell them they didn’t need to do it.” It’s how every conversation would go. Everything tied back to her ex, no matter what I said, no matter what I tried to talk about.

I remember one time we made plans to see a movie. When we picked our seats out and got settled with our beverages and snacks, she started talking about the ex. The lights dimmed and the movie started; Ms. Lederhosen was not letting that stop her. Other patrons in the theater started saying “Shhhh!” loudly, turning towards us. She wouldn’t shut her trap. I told her that we should wait to chat until the movie was done. She kept talking in a loud voice because she had to finish that story. Well, she finally did…and then throughout the movie, she ran a commentary on what was happening on the screen. At that point I made a mental note to never see another movie in the theater with Ms. Lederhosen.

The ex was dragging out the divorce, filing extensions and demanding spousal support. Ms. Lederhosen was constantly calling and texting to rehash what he had done. At one point she asked me to proofread letters and documents for her because they were going to be used in her case. I would always set aside what I was working on and comb through her submissions because I knew how picky judges could be.

Ms. Lederhosen finally decided to pursue her U.S. citizenship. She didn’t have many friends, so she asked me to prepare a letter of good character for her attorney. Again, I set everything aside and whipped together a professional piece to convince the Court that she was a productive member of society.

She didn’t care for her job or boss, so Ms. Lederhosen sent me her resume so I could send it out to my contacts and enter it in my employer’s database. She wanted to respond directly to her ex’s demands through family court but didn’t want to pay her attorney to do it, so I arranged for a friend who was a paralegal in family law to assist her.

Ms. Lederhosen met a man through a woman who facilitated a social group for foreign-language speakers. I had hoped that meeting someone new would calm her down regarding the ex and encourage her to discuss other items of interest, but no. She even told me that her new man was complaining that she was too focused on the ex.

I was able to meet the new boyfriend when Ms. Lederhosen brought him and her little sister over to my house to visit; it was her sister’s first time in the U.S., so I made an effort to speak slowly – her English was good, but there is always a huge adjustment period when anyone is suddenly immersed in a country where the language is not their native tongue. Often Ms. Lederhosen would interrupt to talk about her ex. At one point, her current boyfriend grabbed her face, squeezed her cheeks and said “Stop talking.” She didn’t, of course. Her sister got completely put off and eventually just fell asleep on my couch while the boor hijacked the conversation.

A few months later, I had reached the point of blinding pain with my shunt – I had developed an uncontrollable leak. Ms. Lederhosen had indicated that she was at her boyfriend’s house but that if I needed a ride to the ER, she was more than willing. I took her up on the offer. They didn’t end up keeping me to bring me into surgery as I had hoped, because at that point they wanted to figure out which parts of the shunt I was allergic to, which would take months. They sent me home with big bad painkillers instead.

Facebook can make or break friendships, and in our case, it broke ours. Actually, for me it was the last straw. I had posted a story about a product that was being given to girls in sub-Saharan Africa to allow them to continue safely attending school during the bleeding days of their menstrual cycles. This charity was distributing silicone cups that could be used to collect the fluid for up to 12 hours and then be emptied and washed in private. Well, Ms. Lederhosen did not like that at all.

She hijacked the post by first saying that she would never want to use a product like that and that she was perfectly happy with her birth control pills. I explained that birth control pills were not an option in this region, and that it was a much safer alternative for the girls instead of their normal methods, which included stuffing their bodies with dirty rags, newspapers or mud. Ms. Lederhosen said she asked her boyfriend’s mom, and she agreed that she wouldn’t use a product like that either, and they were stupid for not using birth control pills. I explained that in this region, pills were not readily available or transported easily, and not everyone could or should be on hormones, and that the girls just really wanted to attend school and the cups were a viable option. Then Ms. Lederhosen posted a huge paragraph about how American women are stupid, fat and lazy, and she was able to lose weight by eating organic foods and exercising (which had nothing to do with what was being discussed).

I blocked her on Facebook. It’s no wonder she has few friends! Unfortunately, my phone at the time was not able to block calls or texts, so for two days she sent me all kinds of nasty messages about how she was prettier, smarter, more successful and thinner than me. Ms. Lederhosen told me how I was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, and how my college degree was the equivalent of elementary school in her home country. I sent back one message saying I was not interested in competing with her, and her messages just got nastier. She told me how she was a much better friend than me because she drove me to the ER that one time; of course, she conveniently forgot about all of the ways that I tried to help her when she needed it. Finally she stopped and went radio silent.

Two months later I got a card without a return address. I opened it to discover it was a note from Ms. Lederhosen, telling me she missed me as a friend and that we should be friends again. I didn’t have a return address for her and so couldn’t send anything back, and her info had been deleted from my phone long before that. A week later I got a text message from her saying that she didn’t hate me anymore and that we should be friends. I again told her that I did not want to compete with her, and that she said horrible things that made it difficult for me to want to be friends with her. Well, that just set her off again – 16 messages of vile, nasty words.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, I received another text from her. Ms. Lederhosen said that she missed me and that I probably still had some bad feelings, but she was there for me if I needed her. The response that I didn’t send but really wanted to? No fucking way.

It’s That Time Again

I’m not talking about Daylight Savings Time (I really think that should be done away with). I’m not talking about burning a yule log and sipping a hot toddy. I’m talking about putting on the most ridiculous paper “gown” and having my girl parts checked.

Five years ago this month I made the best decision I ever could have made and that was to push for a hysterectomy. I had had many, many problems since the age of 19, including some fast-growing fibroids that had taken over my uterus and prompted a quickie biopsy (without any anesthesia or numbing). I remember the doctor coaching me through the pain of that biopsy and at one point saying, “You’re doing good, we’re halfway done.” And like Satan’s wife, a deep, hideous voice came out of my mouth that said, “Only HALFWAY??” By the end of 2010, if I was lucky I had a whole week off every month from bleeding, rather than the reverse being true. So at age 36, I kissed my uterus goodbye – or rather, I gave it a good shove and told it to kiss my ass.

Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about birth control or how to control a flow. But I still worry about diseases, so I requested a full workup from my doctor – peeing in a cup, scraping the “pouch” that was left behind where the cervix used to be, and a couple of vials of blood took care of all of the testing. The person I saw today was new to me, so it was kind of odd that I had to convince her to check me for everything, as if she was thinking I was too old, too disabled or too nice to have had multiple partners – or all of the above. What I didn’t say was, “Yes, I’m still sexually active even though I look like Quasimodo right now. You’d be surprised what guys will overlook with the promise of getting a piece of ass.” A couple of times she paused as if she was waiting for a number. I finally said, “Look, I’ve never been married, and I’ve been single a lot, so yeah, test for everything.” I don’t like to leave anything to chance.

Then we had a conversation about the hair “down there.” She wants all ladies to go back to the ’80’s, when porn didn’t dictate the majority of women under a certain age shaving. She was singing the praises of how the hair kept pollutants out when women weren’t punishing themselves for being adults rather than little girls. I reminded her that I really didn’t grow hair ANYWHERE, and she said that she didn’t want me to get rid of anything – that I should try to keep whatever I could get. I snicker now because the next logical progression if I made that choice would be explaining crop circles in my kitty hair when I’m naked with my next partner. Alopecia makes hair fall out in perfectly round circles; when you have universalis, most or all of the circles have melded into one universal loss of hair everywhere, but I sometimes have some patches. If you have ever thought to yourself, “That dude should just give up trying to grow a beard because it ain’t happening,” that would apply to my situation too.

Today I remembered a doctor’s visit a few months ago when I was waiting in line to check out. There was a kid in his early 20’s who didn’t have much experience with going to the doctor or the intricacies of dealing with insurance. He was bounced back and forth between the front desk and the back one because he really just wanted an appointment for STD testing, but it wasn’t included in his “free” yearly exam as he had hoped; he finally left the office without getting anything done. I could tell he was worried about paying his co-pay and co-insurance. I wanted to step up and offer to pay for it, but I would have violated what little privacy he tried to keep – I didn’t want him to know I heard everything, but I also didn’t want him to walk away without getting tested. In the end I had to let him go. I sure hope he was able to take care of it sooner rather than later.

Today is World AIDS Day. The prognosis has changed greatly since the early ’80s thanks to advancements in medicine, but I’m more than happy to get tested regularly so I don’t end up being part of that demographic. I’ve got enough going on as is.

Not Sick Enough?

September often signals everyone buckling down to business again in Minnesota because summer vacations have wrapped up and everyone is back to school. My mailbox has been stuffed every day with paperwork too – mostly having to do with filing for medical assistance and getting all of my records sent to me by various facilities. I’m not even trying to get housing or food assistance. I braced myself for a challenging week.

It started out nice enough. My uncle helped me to connect with a stylist who has a lot of experience cutting wigs (both synthetic and human hair), so I finally got some really pretty pieces to go incognito when I feel up to it. Monday night to Tuesday afternoon a friend visited from another state, so you know I had to scrub my toilet for that. Today I was supposed to be wheeled around the state fair, but that outing was canceled due to rain. It’s probably good that I stayed home anyway.

My first call of the morning was from the Maryland office for Social Security benefits, notifying me that my request for disability was rejected. I know, I know, 80% of cases are rejected the first time, and I’ve been telling friends the same thing when they have asked about filing. I still wasn’t prepared to hear it about my case. I used to never cry, but now that I get anxiety because my brain is being crushed, I cry over everything – the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials, the dogs greeting their vets coming home from war, the fact that I have to get another new mattress after only 4 months because I’ve worn this one out already…well, you get the idea. The lady who called me was not unsympathetic and probably gets upset people on the phone all of the time, but I’m guessing it’s not how she wanted to start her day either. She told me to file the request for reconsideration within 60 days of the date of the letter being sent to me and that the next person might view my 300+ pages of documentation differently. I was so choked up that I could hardly speak. You know when you hang up and you think of all of the things you could have articulated or asked? Yeah, that.

After I pulled myself together again, I called legal aid for my county and the attorney I spoke to confirmed that I should file the request for reconsideration. After that if I had to request a hearing, I would have to secure my own attorney – and no one wants these cases because the attorney doesn’t get paid if I don’t win my case. It’s discouraging to hear things like this because I’m having a hard enough time trying to be my own advocate with the health care professionals who are supposed to be helping me to find out what it is that’s going on. I envy the people who live in countries that don’t demonize their citizens for becoming sick and needing assistance.

I’ll see my new neurosurgeon tomorrow to talk about the possibility of another surgery now that I have jumped through all of his hoops, and I’ll meet a new neurologist on the 15th of September. Who needs a job when you have to coordinate everything for your very own Carousel of Crap?