Five years ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table in the same run-down apartment that I live in now, and I realized that my feet were burning. Careful inspection revealed no burn, and no home remedy seemed to help. My skin simply burned in weird waves like a sunburn. It didn’t take long for the sensation to move to my legs, arms, face and back. The burning would float around, coming and going like the tides. I was stumped as to why it happened or why some days it was like the plague was upon me and others it was hardly noticeable.
I finally went to my primary doctor when I was in an unbearable flare. I remember telling him, “It’s like I’m being dipped in acid! I can’t stand it“. Sometimes I would touch things with my arm or leg and feel a burning sensation in its wake. Sometimes I would touch something and itch in that spot. My doctor said it was Neuropathy and referred me to a neurologist.
I waited for 3 months to get in to that specialist. On appointment day, I arrived 5 minutes early with a list in hand. I didn’t want a single thing to get missed. I waited for 45 minutes in the exam room for the doctor to come in. I remember it all so clearly. I remember his suit that didn’t fit, his white hair and his indifferent gaze. I remember starting to tell him about my symptoms, but he cut me off and started a few physical tests on me. I remember one of them was running a paperclip down my leg. He asked me if I could feel it, and I said yes and added that it left a wake of fire behind it. He raised his eyebrows and nodded as if I were telling tales. Then he said, “Well, it’s not M.S.” in a dismissive tone.
He wrote me a prescription and quickly left. The whole appointment was less than 10 minutes long. I remember getting up and watching him walk away down the hallway. I stared down at my list and realized that I had only touched on 1/4 of it. I was so angry.
An older, wiser self wishes that she could go back in time and tell Mr. Big-Shot Specialist a thing or two. I wish that I could say I never said anything about M.S., you twat. I wish I could remind him that the only way to diagnose M.S. anyway is with a series of tests like MRI and spinal tap, and he hadn’t ordered those. I wish I could tell him that when he dismissed me as being a liar it deterred me from getting help for nearly three years and encouraged me to self medicate with alcohol. Prick.
Today, I am no closer to getting answers or relief. In fact, new symptoms were one of the things that increased my drinking and brought things to a tipping point. The doctors are very quick to offer medications, but not so quick to get to the bottom of why it’s happening.
Using alcohol to self medicate was a dumb decision, but it seemed necessary when prescription medication had failed. I tried the medication the Big-Shot Specialist gave me, but it didn’t help my symptoms and had a lot of side effects. Other medications that I tried before that induced panic attacks. It didn’t seem worth it to feel worse in an effort to feel better, even if it was temporary.
After many negative experiences with doctors, the very idea of going again makes me instantly angry and defensive. And yet, I know that I am writing this because I am opening myself up to the idea of going again. I know that I don’t really have a choice if I want to stay sober. I have a neurology appointment coming up this month, and I’m not feeling very open to whatever treatment they will recommend. I don’t know what other options I have, though.
Sometimes, giving up alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is afterwards, when you’re thrown into the UFC octagon ring called Life with nothing but your wits and you’re opponent is a decade’s worth of problems. All you can do is hope to come out alive.
Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but still fitting. The best reassurance that I have received lately was from my boyfriend, who said: “Well, you’ve made it this long with your health issues and you didn’t die, so… you will probably be okay”. Not dying is always promising. I’ll take it.