I still remember the first time I noticed ringing in my ears: I was 15-years-old and had just gotten home from a concert. My friends and I were sitting around the kitchen table in my parents’ house, rehashing the evening’s events, when I suddenly heard a clear, high-pitched tone, sort of like the noise you hear coming from a television if you listen hard enough. I didn’t think much of it, and by the next morning, the noise was gone. I continued going to shows, pushing my way through crowds to get to the front of the stage — often next to the big stacks of speakers. But it’s a concert, and you want to hear it, and it should be loud, right?
Fast-forward 16 years to just a few nights ago. It’s 2:30 a.m. and I haven’t been able to fall asleep, despite taking a dose of trazodone (an antidepressant that’s also used as a sleep aid) three hours beforehand. The noise in my head — a high-pitched squeal that’s not unlike the sound of a tea kettle — is getting worse the more I worry over not sleeping. The fan and iPhone app that I use for white noise aren’t masking the screech. And this is the second night in a row that I’ve spent hours tossing and turning. As I check my iPhone for the millionth time, hoping that something — reading an article or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook — will help me finally fall asleep, all I can think about is how my stupid brain has ruined my life.
This is what life with tinnitus is like. Keep reading »
I had my first yeast infection at the age of 17. I’d been to a summer music festival in my kicky “boho” jeans and home-made Beastie Boys tank, sweat a lot in the pit, and awoke the next morning to find a discharge the consistency of cottage cheese tumbling from within my vagina.
My reaction was a mixture of mild concern (“I guess that’s the ‘cottage cheese discharge’ I’ve read about in Everywoman, huh …”) and, perhaps more alarmingly, a sense of abject fascination at the Cronenbergian nature of the human body (“…COOL!!”).
My mother’s reaction was altogether a more reasonable one, which was to whisk me off to the chemist to pick up what was then the best defense: six days’ worth of Clotrimazole antifungal vaginal pessaries (weird squishy single-dose egg-shaped things/creams/applicators/wipes/tablets). I would spend the next week with the telltale “sand in the pants” sensation that anyone who has run a course of six-day pessaries will be intimately familiar with.
That was in 2001, and it was my first step on a tortuous journey towards self-acceptance: acceptance, that is, of the fact I am one of those members of the population doomed to a lifetime shared with a colony of angry yeasts. Keep reading »
Not only is Hillary Clinton creating a frenzy of 2016 election speculation and my favorite internet memes, but she’s also brought blood clots into the media spotlight. While the buzz has gone down, and you rarely hear commentators on CNN analyzing deep leg thrombosis anymore, the incident stuck with me. I, too, have blood clots.
In April of 2012, an unusual set of symptoms put my dear Bubbe, a retired oncology nurse, into a strange panic. She demanded daily, “Go see a doctor!”, as she was increasingly worried about my high fever, swollen glands and other symptoms that were unbeknownst to me as signs of lymphoma.
I, of course, remained completely ignorant of what my illness could be, only calling the doctor to avoid incessant nudging that had now spread to my mother. You’ll do anything promptly at the urging of two Jewish women.
It was only when my doctor told my grandmother it was not what she feared that I finally realized what all the fuss was about. I burst into tears and exhaled a sigh of relief all in the span of about five minutes in the waiting room, before I was strapped in for a series of precautionary blood tests. Keep reading »
It will never get worse than this.
I’m thinking that to myself as I rock back and forth on a toilet in a noisy bar. It’s Saturday night, a table full of my friends is wondering where I ran off to, and I have a potential date/booty call in a couple of hours. I’m sweating, I’m shaking and I’m trying to figure out what did it this time.
It, of course, is another horrific bout of diarrhea, one of the charming effects of irritable bowel syndrome. I felt it coming on as we walked to the bar, and made a beeline to the gas station across the street. I had to wait while the cashier bullshitted with a cabbie, shifting weight from one foot to another while cramps amped their way up my abdomen. Keep reading »
Given the Gawker mandate to be glib and ruthless, whether or not they know what they’re talking about, I won’t pretend to be shocked by a dashed-off remark in Monday’s post on Kate Middleton’s pregnancy:
The Palace also reported that Kate was admitted to the hospital today with “hyperemesis gravidarum,” which is what they call regular old morning sickness when you are a princess.
Nor, for more or less the same reasons, was it surprising to watch the ladies of “The View” dismiss the duchess’s condition with a flurry of bubbly interruptions, ignoring a nurse’s earnest response to Barbara Walters’ half-hearted question about whether HG is serious: “It can be,” the nurse said sheepishly. (In an open letter to the duchess, HG sufferer Betsy Shaw gives Kate “permission to slap” Walters.)
I have no idea whether Kate has HG or not. But the fact remains that it can be a brutal, crippling condition that goes largely ignored and untreated, partly due to its overlap with ordinary pregnancy sickness and partly to our attitude toward suffering and the suffering of pregnant women in particular. As Atul Gawande noted in an indispensable 1999 New Yorker piece on nausea and vomiting, “A surprising number of doctors still believe in the discredited Freudian theory that hyperemesis is due to an unconscious rejection of pregnancy.” Little seems to have changed since the last century — or the one before, for that matter. Keep reading »
At first I thought there were pimples on my vagina. That was when they were only hard, tiny lumps. I noticed them when I was in the ladies room at work. The next time I went in the bathroom, they were much, much bigger, and I started to get worried. And was it just me, or were they really starting to hurt? By the time I went home they were so painful I couldn’t sit down. I started to think that somehow, this meant I was going to die. This had never happened before but I, ever the optimist, went to bed sure my vagina would be back to its old, sexy self when I awoke the next morn.
It wasn’t. The bumps were larger and even more painful, and examining my naked body that morning, I was sure that, for the first time, I was seeing what a really pissed-off vagina looked like. She was screaming at me, she was aching and tired and red and troubled. When I discovered I couldn’t even wear pants, I called the doctor and they told me they could squeeze me in two days later. (Here is the part of the story when you learn an unfortunate character trait of mine that will come up several times in this story — I am a truth avoider/denier.) I didn’t want to be pushy or impose, either (I am from Ohio, if that explains anything). So, I accepted my appointment and lived the next two days enduring an increasingly excruciating pain in my crotch. Keep reading »