Dustan Stokes

The One Where Dusty Goes To The Doctor

There were two times in my life in which I had a very hard time handling my shit. Once was the time after the marathon bombing in Boston. That might have been a little too close to home. And once was after the hurricane, meaning right now.

I went to the doctor today and had a terrible experience. I started having heartburn a few weeks ago. I also have a problem with my left arm. I injured a nerve in the elbow at one point and it makes my forearm and half of my hand numb when I do idiotic things like lean on my elbow or drive. But then I also was having heartburn. When you have chest pain and a left arm issue, you’re supposed to talk to someone. I fucking hate the doctor but I made an appointment. It didn’t feel urgent and the appointment was in a week, so fuck it.

Then the power was out the day of my appointment. It does that sometimes. It just goes out for a while and then your appointments get canceled and no one calls you. So I walked back a couple more times to find that, though my power had come back, their’s hadn’t. But they were taking walk-ins. But no more today. Then I came back a day that they weren’t doing walk-ins. Then today I went in and I got in the queue. I sat in a dark waiting room in a medical center with a bunch of normal looking people. I say normal-looking because maybe they were all crazy–I mean they were certainly all well dressed and well put-together and spoke fluent Spanish and carried themselves with self respect and grace–so probably they were crazy, because they were waiting in a random doctor’s office for first-come-first-served doctor treatment, get in before eleven or come back tomorrow, on a work day.

So I chilled for a couple of hours, waiting for my turn. I’m not the biggest fan of doctors, and it didn’t help that Sam’s dad had a heart attack last Christmas. So I was feeling a little anxious. Like just this side of panic attack anxious. I had the pleasure of having my first full blown panic attack a few months after the hurricane, shortly after Bob’s heart attack, in a restaurant in Philadelphia. It was great. My heart was beating uncontrollably and half of my face was numb. I wasn’t sure if I was having a heart attack or a stroke.

Turns out your face can go numb when you are just having a hard time handling your shit. This didn’t happen after the marathon. I was just a little volatile and depressed and was having trouble being around large groups of people because they had just blown up the place I had been waiting for the bus for the last few years on a day when I didn’t happen to be there but a large group of people did.

So I was chilling in the doctor’s office, in the dark, wondering if I should take a picture of the receptionist, who was operating by flashlight, as though that was a normal thing to do for a few weeks in a doctor’s office, six and a half months after a hurricane. Probably you could sell a photo like that to a news agency, if news agencies know that things are still a little ridiculous in PR. Honestly, I don’t know if they cover it or not, I assume that they don’t because of attention spans and stuff, but I don’t watch the news because it seems to be doing more for wolf blitzer and future bad presidents than it does for me. I don’t think staying informed has done much for me, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

I started having this panicky feeling. No full-face-numbness, just elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, losing a non-zero percentage of control over the vehicle feeling. And then I sat there for a few hours just kind of stewing in it. I probably should have left, but I didn’t.

Eventually, it was my turn. They took my blood pressure. It was high. No shit! I was one ball-bearing filled pressure cooker and a breakfast in Philadelphia away from completely losing my shit and my blood pressure was elevated.

I met the doctor for the first time. Nice, fat, old man. He says, your blood pressure is high, you need medication for this. I say, dude, you might be right, but let me tell you this, I’m kinda freaking out right now. Is it normal for me to have high blood pressure when I’m freaking out? Normally I’m not freaking out, and I know that I definitely need to work on the whole freaking-out-at-inopportune-times thing–but I’m not sure that number you just wrote down is telling you the whole story here.

And he’s like, my son started taking blood pressure medication when he was 35. You take the medicine and you come back and we see if it worked, and if it didn’t, we’ll do a cardiogram. This was because I was like dude, I’m nervous about my heart. I’m coming in here with chest pain and a sore left arm and the first thing you tell me is my blood pressure is high–so I’m like let’s maybe delve a little deeper. And he’s like, have a beta blocker.

I read that beta blockers help with anxiety, so maybe I’m in for a treat.

But that’s just it. That’s what’s wrong with Puerto Rico when you’re rich. It’s way worse for other people, but this is my experience.

Your appointments get jerked around and your day gets fucked pretty regularly. You will sit in dark places and people will sigh a lot. Then you’ll go into a doctor and he’ll treat you like it’s 1996 and he just read a journal article about ADHD recommended to him by a Ritalin rep.

You will sit in a dark room and think about having children. You will say, one cannot have children in a dark room like this. But then many people around you have children. You will remember the few weeks after the storm when power and water were a hope for the distant future and emergency services were effectively non-existent. You will think, what if I had a kid? What if I had a heart attack? What if I lost my mind? You know how sometimes kids get fevers and probably it’s fine but maybe they’re going to die? And then there’s this fact of childbirth. Are you going to do that in a dark room? And then the hurricane wasn’t really the hurricane. The hurricane didn’t obliterate my house. It obliterated all margin for error. And so childbirth is a roll of the dice. But then after the hurricane you have no margin for error. Now you need a pediatrician. Now a high percentage of high-paid professionals are leaving the island. This fucking painting on the wall it’s always the same. Everygoddamndoctors office. Pastels and shit. Pastels under fluorescent lighting. But we don’t have the fluorescent lighting–small favors. Just “Table in the Sun” by whomever the fuck in a nice Ikea frame and then some local artist’s rendition of “Easter Lilies In a Very Dark Room” which is either paint or pastel over what is either gray or blue. I can only imagine that it is blue but it is quite dark in here. And you notice you are breathing kind of obnoxiously, like you’re having a conversation with someone, and supremely unimpressed with their behavior and you’relike just stop. Just breathe and stop because this is not helpful. And your heart is like kuthuhkuthuh I could fuck your day up right now if I wanted and you’re like I am not in control of this vehicle the car is driving itself we did it google the car drives itself Okay Google get me the fuck out of here. Your bp is 152/83 and you’re like is that good and they’re like nope and you’re like good because I’m feeling kinda cardiac already and I was really hoping for you to freak me out just a little more but in a categorically unhelpful let’s just medicate you and forget this happened kinda way.

And then you’ll come home and lie on the floor and listen to Drake because that’s the person you’ve become and you’ll be like “started from the bottom / now I’m here / started from the bottom / now my whole crew fucking here.”

And then Sam will come home and see you on the floor and she’ll tell you about some stuff and then she’ll tell you about work and then she’ll listen to how you freaked out but you read all about it on the internet so you’re just going to live a healthier life because honestly why not and you’re focused on what’s important and you love her and you love writing and you’re glad at least you’re not doing science anymore because fuck science and who wants to be called doctor anyway, they’re all fucking assholes. And she’ll be so unimaginably supportive like it’s very easy for her to know what to say and to be helpful even when you feel like there’s not a lot that can be said and she just proves you wrong over and over and I read online that one way to get past a panic attack is to have someone with you just telling you it’s all going to be okay and she did that the first time like she just knew it even without the internet.

So I’m going to be doing more cardio and eating better and not drinking and fuck coffee for a while because the coffee down here is garbage anyway. Sorry, poorly supported rumor that Puerto Rican coffee is good, it’s not. And then I’m going to go back to that doctor and have him test my blood pressure and he’ll be like wow that’s low, the drugs must be working and I’ll be like no it’s the self control and he’ll be like SELFCONTROLISAMYTH. And I’ll be like I appreciate all you’ve done for me but I’m going to a fancier hospital next time because this was not a five star yelp experience and if the next one is bad I’m going to try again and if the next one is bad I’m fucking out of here because you can’t have kids in a dark room in 2020 just because the US Attorney is too fucking lazy or broken to prosecute corruption here. And I won’t feel bad because that’s how capitalism works. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

I hope it doesn’t come to that. This is a ramble-piece but you can’t even imagine what it would look like if it was “things i’ll really miss about pr if I leave.” But you can’t just be saying, you know what makes sense, I’m going to tell Sam to go off birth control and then we’re going to have unprotected sex, knowing that in nine months or so there is an extremely high likelihood that the person I love the most, who was there telling me it was all going to be okay when it clearly was for everyone but me because I was freaking out for no reason, will be giving birth in a dark room full of doctors from 1996 trying to get my kid on Adderall before s/he starts preschool, assuming there are any preschools and assuming s/he doesn’t die in childbirth and bring Sam with him/her like happened during a lot of no electric light childbirths of yesteryear. And I’m supposed to be in that dark room saying it’s all going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay, most childbirths in the middle ages went really well. Fuck that shit.