Yesterday I went to Leicester for psychoanalysis... unfortunately started to feel a bit off while getting to the train; suggesting IBS, or something very like it. By the time I arrived, three hours later...
My analyst is fortunately a psychiatrist, so can write prescriptions; he kindly wrote a prescription and drove me around until we found a pharmacy (more difficult than expected – I told him he was now operating under my curse – mostly jokingly), and then he found me a nearby hotel where I could stay the night, rather than taking the long train ride home.
We talked around and on the problem of mind and body – are we ill because we are under psychic stress, are we under psychic stress because we are ill?... fortunately B. is reasonable about this, and was actually hilarious about the extreme Kleinians in London who interpret any illness in an analysand as some kind of 'aggression' toward the analyst. (Such vanity!) But I finally reached a point where I couldn't even talk to him any more: just needed to get to that hotel, and lie down (in private, unbuttoning the damned waistband).
A train back, this morning... somewhat miserable, though not in acute pain. And the exasperation of changing trains three times, getting on the wrong one – such a mess of details, when we are least able to deal with them.
Misery... cramps, pain, difficulty sitting up, or lying down – it is the endless pain of it that is hard to stand. I realize it's not a significant/dangerous illness – although I would suggest it's as much linked to my deteriorating liver as it may be to stress; it seems we're reaching a point with the HCV where I will really need successful treatment in the next couple of years.
Good thing I don't drink, for the most part... well, none at all now, I guess. Fortunately not something I particularly value, or would miss.
Something about the different parts of the body, and the ways that we respond to problems in each of them – I remember surprisingly painful swimmer's ear (a fungal ear infection) when I was in my teens, and still swimming – something about that focused pain fusing all the nerve centers of the skull –
As opposed to legs, or arms: which, even at their worst, seem somewhat detached – a sort of external pain.
Breathing problems are of course notoriously frightening: think of something like asthma, people who have those frightening experiences of choking, as though to death – frequently – and of course, as with so many of these problems, the tension of fear/panic actually makes the illness worse.
I've always found broad, complex digestive problems, especially the ones that cause all the multiple mechanisms to grind against each other (practically the definition of IBS) especially maddening – such an experience at one's physical core: impossible to distance yourself from it, impossible to detach from it at all.
Then there are those dense, sharp pains that attack people with serious problems in the more complex processing organs – spleen, kidneys, liver... the sadness of Susan's friend, the lively, talkative woman who took care of people dying of cancer, who ended up with very painful pancreatic cancer herself.
She's gone, of course....
I am not, in any case, acutely ill – although it feels as though I am at times, and unpredictably; and of course the liver problems can gradually increase to be very serious. But illness, and pain, distract me, make me uncertain of nearby and distant plans – should I cancel Zürich, the Rome conference, the Cambridge conference? I couldn't stand to be that miserable on a train again, unable to get away, unable to go lie down, for minutes that don't pass but seem to stall, that stretch to hours.
For years, when we give our HIV presentations to medical students, I have often said that it seems really difficult for anyone to have any qualified attitude towards their own death. People are convinced they are not going to die, people are convinced they are going to die – one or the other, but not both.
And it remains true that I still can't think of myself in any 'statistical' manner – forty per cent chance, sixty per cent, whatever –
but, at the moment, I do seem to have simultaneous overlapping views of the future – living and active, ill and dying. Like shadows on each other, like several transparent versions of the future, overlaid, interpenetrating like veils, like smoke.
(Of course, the thing that is hardest to envision – and what would be the real curse: not dying quickly – but living for a time in constant, or frequent pain... something that, despite all my attempts to understanding death in the abstract, I doubt I could handle, at all.)