Monday, November 16, 2009


I wrote about the first time that I knew my body was messed up in my last entry, Getting the Grade, but I left out something important.

When my doctor was shinning the light in my eyes, and asking me to describe what had happened, I told her that I felt stupid. She pushed her lower eyelid closer to the upper lid, narrowing her focus, looked me square in the eyes and asked what that meant. If I could go back to the young me sitting on the examination table, I would whisper this in her ear:

Your ability to comprehend simple concepts, such as the different meanings of the word grave, as heard in a conversation, has suddenly and seriously slowed.

Instead, I kept repeating the word stupid, without conveying why it was a big deal. In my mind, telling her that I felt stupid was the same as telling her that I couldn’t think on my feet, and that it seemed to be connected to the vertigo.

That day, my stupidity was consuming and unshakable, but as the hours passed, my brain sped up enough to appear normal again. There were not many bad days like that. Most of the time, my disconnect came in starts and stops. Those days have been a mash up of senior moments, as the baby boomers say. Younger folks would just say, duh.

The moments were funny at first; harmless word mix-ups that could be contributed to fatigue or brain hiccups. Or a half-hearted attempt at humour. I might say: put your foot in your mittens, or: don’t look at me with those lips. Even washing my armpits with shampoo by mistake was funny.

Later, when my thoughts began to stutter, I was worried again. Worried again. Worried again. Worried. Worried. Sometimes, instead of just thinking the same few words over and over, I would imagine writing them out by hand. It was weird, but not something that fit perfectly into the symptoms of any disease that I could find online.

Every article I read about going to the doctor and finding a diagnosis mentioned listening to my gut. The advice was so obvious that I yelled, duh, every time. I had heard what my gut said and I had shared it with my doctor, but my illness wasn’t recognizable until it surfaced a bit more. I wish one of those articles had mentioned what a long, frustrating struggle the diagnostic process can be, and how convinced you might be that you’re a crazy freak before that process is over.


  1. First, dosent everyone shampoo thier armpits!!!! I have lived such a sheltered life......

    Haveing had some personal experience with medical disgnosis on a couple fronts. It is true we need to listen to our gut instincts when dealing with doctors. More importantly is finding a way to convince some doctors that gut instincts play a major part in diagnosis of both physical and mental conditions

  2. I thought I was the only one! Maybe I will cross soap off the shopping list and just use shampoo from now on. About convincing the doctors that intuition is important: I was lucky that my family doctor took my instincts about my body seriously, but the specialists did not seem to care about my gut. I think they were busy listening to their own.

  3.'re not the only one who has used the shampoo instead of soap. I did it last week.

    When you're ill you're under a lot of stress... body and mind... Stress itself comes with it's own symptoms which can mask/confuse the issue you started with.

  4. Good point about the stress having symptoms, Mom. That had a negative impact on my ability to get a diagnosis, because it was hard to sort out which symptoms came from stress, and which came from the illness. Stress also played a major role in my emotional state. I think this topic deserves an entire entry. I'll write about it soon.