Friday, January 11, 2008

Fear of Drowning.

I had an appointment today at the U.T. student health whatever it's called. I wanted to get my hearing checked out. I have more and more difficulty understanding people when they speak, especially if there's any other sound nearby, which has only become an issue -- an issue for me anyway, I guess it's been an issue for a while now for all the people who have to repeat everything they say to me 3 or 4 times -- since I went back to school. There's so much audio content in college classes these days.

My allergy symptoms have been so severe this week that I wondered if a hearing test would even be accurate, but I went anyway since I've been putting it off for a long time. The hearing test showed that I do not have high frequency hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that factory workers and musicians get. That's what I assumed I had. Instead, I have loss of the low frequencies, which can be caused by fluid behind the eardrum from sinus congestion. I am, no doubt, congested. So, what I found out today was, not much. The doctor suggested a nasal spray decongestant. No thanks.

I had already decided that I was going to try a Neti pot. J used to have terrible sinus headaches until he started using one. And my sister's husband, who had years of sinus problems, infections, surgery and the whole thing, uses one now and swears by it. The only reason I didn't try it earlier is that the idea of pouring water into my nose scared the hell out of me, but the severity of this cedar pollen reaction convinced me I needed to just get over myself and do it. So I did. About twenty minutes ago. And it felt great. It was actually kind of soothing, warm salt water on my inflamed mucous membranes.

The clinic visit was not a total bust. They irrigated my ears to get the impacted wax out. I usually do that at home once every year or two, but the over-the-counter stuff takes a lot longer to work than whatever they used there.

The last few days I've been carrying a small Tibetan bag which is big enough for my wallet and a couple of handkerchiefs. It elicits a lot of comments from store clerks along the lines of "what a colorful bag!" which always sounds to me like "you're a big fag, aren't you?" but maybe I'm just defensive. The nurse who flushed my ears out said, "That's a colorful bag. Did it come from [some South American country, I can't remember which one she said]?" I told her I bought it from some Tibetan monks. She asked if I had been in the military. I was taking off my shirt at the moment she said it, so I thought she was asking because of my tattoos. I said, "No. Why?" And she said, "I thought maybe that was where you met the Tibetan monks." I told her I met them in Utah, and then I kind of trailed off, leaving her with a "hm" look on her face. I realized that to tell her how I and the monks ended up in Utah was too long a story for ear irrigation chit-chat.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cedar Fever II.

I can breathe through my nose again today, which is nice. I haven't done that for a couple of days. I try not to slip into a habitual state of whininess, but I get completely preoccupied with my discomfort. It becomes a ball of misery that gets more and more tightly wound. I look for some way to loosen it up, let air in. (I would say that I need some Sudafed for my mind, but the Sudafed hasn't been working, nor has the Claritin or the Benadryl.)

I'm trying to complain less. But I see that mostly what I've been doing is stopping myself from saying out loud things I think and feel, rather than trying to change how I respond to what's happening to me. Maybe it's an improvement for the people around me, but the core of the problem is unchanged.

Another mental game I play with myself is to try to ascertain whether my discomfort is minor (and I'm making a bigger deal of it than is appropriate) or truly exceptional (in which case I would feel justified in my complaining). Am I having a severe allergic reaction to the cedar pollen, or am I being a big baby? I do this by trying to make some distinction between physical and mental, between what my body is doing and how I feel about it. A false distinction. Since I was a teenager, I've had a strange sense that my body is not mine, that I don't understand what's going on with it, or in it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Health Care.

I went today to apply for an appointment to apply for a program administered by my county health department called MAP (Medical Assistance Program). They way it works is you get a card which says you're poor enough to be eligible for a range of clinics and services for low income people. I need this card before I can make an appointment at the dental clinic. I waited an hour to chat with a receptionist for 2 minutes and set an appointment for February 8, on which date I'll take various proofs of my identity and financial status and meet with a bureaucrat. Then there will be some period of waiting for them to determine my eligibility and issue and send the card. Then I can make the dental appointment, which I imagine will involve another period of waiting.

The office was nice enough, clean and cheerful and crowded, TV not too loud. I watched CNN and chatted with a young black guy and an older white man, cleared up a few myths about Iraq and 9/11 and surprised them both with the knowledge that most scientists believe that humans originated in Africa. (The white guy said, "I don't know -- them Chinese been around a long time," which made the black guy laugh really hard.)

All my experiences with county health services in Austin have been pleasant. I guess I had my trial by fire with low income health care in New York in the eighties when just about every encounter made me want to jump off a tall building or get a real job or something along those lines. The clinics here are luxury day spas compared to the clinics in New York.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cedar Fever Sucks.

I broke down and started taking Claritin every day. I'd gotten away from drugs for colds and allergies, a decision, like so many in my life, initially forced by poverty but having health, spiritual, political, or environmental benefits (recycling, simplifying my life, reducing consumption, cooking at home, etc.). But my resolve was no match for cedar fever. Even with Claritin, I feel like I have a mild flu. It's the price we pay for 75-degrees and sunny in January.