People like to be perceived as strong: When we do cry, we cry Chuck Norris style shooting round after round of bullets from our machine gun eye sockets. What enables us to keep up with this show? We have a select few - whether they be family, friends, counselors - that see the real tears, and we go back to those few when we can’t be Chuck Norris. Those people are the support structure that keeps us tall.
Over the last few months, I have ended my employment with one company, had a surgery, hiked half dome and climbed six pitches of trad in Yosemite Valley a week later, got my skydiving license, moved to Texas, started a new job, moved to San Diego, developed double vision, moved to Santa Clara, flew to LA every other weekend, and established care with all new doctors (eye specialist, endocrinologist, primary care) in Santa Clara. “Establishing care” can be defined by the following story/script/dialog:
Phone call 1 (for the sake of the length of this blog we’ll just say it was call number 1).
Endocrinologist in LA
Me: Hello, I’d like to talk to Dr. Endocrinologist about getting a referral to Dr. New Endo.
Desk: Ok, I will send Dr. Endocrinologist a message.
Me: In the past, sending a message hasn’t been effective in getting a response from Dr. Endocrinologist. What else can I do?
Desk: I will send Dr. Endocrinologist an urgent message.
Knowing I would not get a response from Dr. Endocrinologist, I had my primary care physician in New Hampshire, who I have not seen in years, send in a referral to Dr. New Endo. My doctor in New Hampshire - in case s/he is reading this - rocks.
Phone call 2
Endocrinologist in LA
Me: Hi, I am a patient of Dr. Endocrinologist, and the lab slip s/he gave me - which is required to get my prescription for Synthroid - is only valid at your specific location. I just relocated to Santa Clara and need a lab slip good for any lab.
Desk: I will send Dr. Endocrinologist a message.
Me: I have less than ten days’ worth of Synthroid left, which is not enough to get me to my first appointment with Dr. New Endo. Without Synthroid, I will eventually decline into a comatose state and die.
Desk: … I can send Dr. Endocrinologist an urgent message?
Phone call 3
Endocrinologist in San Francisco
Me: Hi, I am a new patient with Dr. New Endo and don’t have enough Synthroid to get me to my first appointment with him. Can I move my appointment ahead a few weeks?
Desk: Dr. New Endo doesn’t have any room for new patients until your current appointment time.
Me: I am having a lot of symptoms, if there are any cancellations, can I be notified?
Desk: If you are having symptoms, you need to see your primary care physician.
Long story short: I vented to my boyfriend who listened patiently like always and promised me a hug when I flew in that weekend, and my mom offered to help out by finding me a primary care physician, because apparently I don’t have enough to keep track of. I flew to LA early and busted into Dr. Endocrinologist’s office threatening complaints to the medical board and got enough Synthroid to get me to my first appointment with Dr. New Endo.
Oh, and if I ever hear the words “I will send an urgent message to Dr. X” again, I will probably punch the person who said it.
The point of this story is that with illnesses like Graves’ Disease, support structure is key. I’m tired after a day of work and the last thing I want to do is the logistics of getting records transferred and prescriptions filled. Things would be completely different for me if my mom were in my kitchen preparing my lunches for work and making dinner for when I got home and driving me around from place to place so I didn’t have to worry about hitting someone’s bumper on account of no depth perception because of my eye patch for double vision (which may or may not have happened today). It would be so completely different if I could see my boyfriend and not have to wait until Friday to get that hug that gives me energy to do something other than lay on the couch. The thing I have learned after traveling so much this year is that I need someone - someone who passes the tear test - to be physicially close to me, especially during the hard times.
What is the tear test? The tear test - for me - tells me two different things: Who am I comfortable to be at my worst around, and who is comfortable being around me at my worst? The people that I consistently work through problems with - whether they are my own problems or theirs - have seen me cry. I don’t mean a little tear running down the cheek; I mean full on, oh-my-god-did-someone-just-die, eyes puffy the next day, blacked out Graves’ rage meltdown. I don’t have many people that pass the tear test, but that is what makes them so important in my life.
If I’ve learned one lesson over the last year, it is the importance of the loved ones in my life. You can have a career that pays you in pounds of gold, it doesn’t mean a thing if you have no one to share it with. It’s a redundant and overused expression, and I could really use some cash to pay off my student loans [and accumulating skydiving expenses], but there’s something to be said about the impact of keeping cool people around for the long term. And in mostly because, in my case, it will take me years to pay them back for the amount of energy they’ve spent on me over the last six months!
On the note of family and loved ones, my cousin, a lupus patient, and her mother are spear-heading a team formation for the LA Walk for Lupus…They are some of the strongest women I know… So support them if you can :)