Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Faceless People

I think that anyone with an income who works in a large city has seen them. Or "not" seen them on purpose. The homeless. They sit on the sidewalks in varying states of decay. Addicts of one sort or another. The mentally ill. The down-on-their-luck. I've done it too. Walked right on by, purposly averting my eyes while feeling bad, pretending they don't exist.

After all, what can I do about it? I'm barely in a home myself. Having been saddled with medical issue upon medical issue upon medical issue, and the bills that just won't quit, I live in quiet despair. Trying to pay my own way and not making it without help. Incapable of putting in a full day's work, or even a partial day enough of the time to generate a sustainable income. I'm on to something with my creative endeavours, but don't have the health and energy to make anything out of them. I'm trying...

Yesterday was "Injection Day." The medication that I have been taking for the past eight weeks is weighing heavier and heavier upon me. Almost from the beginning, I noticed changes. Unpleasant changes. Not only in my physical state, but my emotional and intellectual ones too. I reported them to my doctors, but they never take the side effects that I report seriously. Hence the great Cyclosporine indicent of 2000.

The effects of the medication are cumulative, meaning that each time I give myself an injection, the side effects get worse and worse. The problem being, of course that it's working well on the base illness. It's the rest of it that I can't handle. And again, nobody takes it seriously, no matter what I say or do. "It's that pain-in-the-ass patient again, complaining."

I'm at a point of intertia where a good part of the day, I'm not functioning anywhere near a normal capacity. I've tried to maintain a normal routine... doctor's appointments, classes, exercise class. But making myself go and interact with people is something akin to pushing a toy that operates on a flywheel. I rev myself up and take off. I go and go and go, blurting out the most inanine comments at the most inopportune times. Irritating people. Offending people. Driving them crazy. And then crashing. Barely able to interact. Barely able to move. Making them feel bad.

Most people can't stand to be anywhere near me anymore. I can't say I blame them. I can't stand to be around myself either. I dread any activity that requires personal interaction. Or physical exertion. Or worst of all, both.

I injected myself early in the morning. Getting up at around 6 am, I dragged myself to the refrigerator where the Humira is stored. Pulled a syringe and alcohol wipe. (I tried to use the pen; this medication is unbelievablly painful to inject and I wasn't able to stand not being able to control the speed at which it went in, so syringe & needle it is.) Carried it to my bedroom where the dogs were still sleeping. And, over the course of the next two minutes, slowly dispensed the medication into my right thigh. And waited.

Within the hour, the first signs were well in progress. Shortness of breath. Chest pains. A fluttering feeling something akin to an electrical charge running down my limbs. I remembered Dr V's instructions... I was probably having a slight allergic reaction. "Take a Claritin." So I did. For what good it did. Which was none.
By 10:30, I knew I had to get up and moving. I abhor laying around all day if it's possible not to, so although I was dizzy and had a headache as well as the other issues, I forced myself into the shower, got dressed and made up, and by 11:30, headed out to my Weight Maintenance class. Where they could immediately tell that I was not myself. I was starting to crash emotionally as well as physically by the time I had arrived.
This particular group is not terribly demanding on my emotions, though. They study food with Lucy on a more intellectual level, and have the good sense not to bother with the emotional aspect. so although I wasn't a full participant, I could still keep up. I just wasn't terribly enthusiastic.

Getting home took almost 90 minutes thanks to I-have-no-idea-what-caused-the-traffic-jam on the 405 freeway. And I debated whether or not I should attend exercise class. Ultimately deciding that maintaining my normal routine was important, I got changed and headed out to Slimmons.

Richard is unbelievably accessable. He arrives 30 minutes before class every Tuesday to talk to his students individually, privately, in his office. I know that these sessions have helped many of us in ways that is hard to describe. They've definately helped me. But I also know that at this point, I am persona non-gratis, so instead of waiting in the lobby for a chance to talk to him, I hid out in the dressing room until class began. And wondered if I had made the right decision in coming at all.

It didn't take long to figure it out. It had been a mistake. I knew it when I started to flush and turn red. I knew it more as my chest got tight and I had trouble breathing. And I really knew it when, all of a sudden, I got a new pain. Intense pain in both of my kidneys. I stumbled out of the classroom and into the bathroom, where I sat for quite a while until it subsided from excruciating to severe. Then I moved out of the bathroom and sat on one of the dressing room benches for a few minutes.

S- came breezing in. I know that she is tired of my ever-present medical issues. Looking at me quickly, she said "I know that you would tell me if you needed help." with disapproval in her eyes, and ran back out before I could respond. (I can't blame her for her attitude. I almost never want help. And I can't say that I would have asked for it last night either.) I muttered "I need to get out of here." to myself, and dizzily made my way to my purse and bag, purposely averting my eyes so that I didn't have to look at anyone. After all, I don't trust them to do what I need. Just help me to my car so that I can go home. No. They over-react and call the Paramedics. That's expensive and the net result of the last Paramedic visit was about $25000 in bills between the call and a bazillion follow up doctor's appointments and tests. And we still have no idea what causes the fainting spells. I just don't have the financial where-with-all to bear any more bills like that.

So I made my way out of the studio as the class continued, and out the front door before it happened. My head suddenly pounded so hard that I became momentarily disoriented. I remember bouncing against the locked left door of Slimmons and sliding to the ground. They hadn't seen that, thank goodness, and I knew I was glad I was out of there so that they couldn't call the medics. And I sat and waited for the moment to pass. But it didn't.

I tried to get up, but when I would try to bear any weight on my limbs, they felt like an electrical charge was going through them - intensely painful - and I got even more dizzy. I realized that I did need help, and tried to crawl my way back into the studio. And couldn't make it, so I lay on the sidewalk hoping that somebody would see me and assist.

The problem with these issues is that although I can't communicate coherently, I am acutely aware of what's going on around me. I remember the two people walking by on the sidewalk, strangers. I couldn't reach out or say anything and they pretended they couldn't see me. So did the joggers; one coming from my right, and the other from my left. The first one moved into the street and then back onto the sidewalk to avoid me; the other actually jumped over me. And as I lay there, I realized that this was exactly what the homeless experience. Purposeful neglect.

I wish I could say that somebody eventually came and helped me, but they didn't. I lay there, the music from class blasting out of the door, and slowly recovered. I was finally able to sit up, and then stand up - barely - as the class was fetching their weights for toning exercises. I stumbled to my car, vomited in the street, and then sat in the back seat of my car for a while before transferring to the front where I sat for maybe another ten minutes. Then, recovered enough to operate my vehicle, turned on the ignition and drove home with no issue. I did think about going to the emergency room for a couple of minutes. But to what end? I'd be there for hours and hours and then they wouldn't help me. They never do.

I also wish I could say that I got some kind of revelation from this experience. That I am more empathetic to the homeless and down-and-out now, but I know that's not true either. I still can't do anything to help them. If I look at them as I pass, then I take on some personal responsibility for their plight, and I just can't. Can't. I don't have the reserves in any way, shape, or form to do so.

And I sit here wondering if there is some higher purpose for my experience. Believing that there is would imply that I believe in a higher power, which I don't. If I did, then I would have to be mighty angry and I just don't have the strength for that. And I would also be required to believe that there is hope for my situation, which there isn't. My doctors avert their eyes as I plead for them to find something in their bag of tricks to heal me.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails