A strange time... that seems to fuse and clarify memories of other, earlier strange times.
Including the past six months. Or the past three.
The Jung-Institut weeks were – not fun, but somehow necessary. Several more turns of the wheel in understanding where/who I am.
And my annoyance with myself over the past year – that, although my own psychoanalysis has been intensely transformative, my habits remain all inert – which is purely my fault (and will justify any CBT practitioners who would like to chime in here) – keeps coming back to bite me in the ass....
Illness? Sort of, and also not really. Let's say that, from midwinter, I was more tired and anxious over too many demands in too many directions – and of course my liver damage remains around 30% (and you can't tell me that doesn't affect how I feel, physically and mentally).
But lately life is calmer... so what the heck is going on?
Turns out that, at least in the physical world, it's entirely my own rather silly fault (at least: our current hypothesis says that it is). About eight to ten weeks ago, my stomach was bothering me, so I decided to use the oldest and simplest of panaceas – charcoal, in capsule form. Absorbs stomach acids, indigestibles, etc.
Unfortunately – yes, I can hear snickering from the back, as some of you realize what happened here –
Including HIV medications, post-stroke medications, levothyroxine, anti-IBS medications, and vitamins.
And so we reached the odd crisis of the past weeks: blood in the urine (on the night of my arrival in Zürich, unpacking at 1 am so that I could be on a 7:30 am train to Eranos – faced with a disturbingly dark ruby color – thinking: do I travel in five hours or not? Do I tell anyone here in Zürich or not? Do I get on a plane and go home, and refuse to discuss it with...?)...
During the Eranos weekend in the most beautiful, indulgent part of Italian Switzerland, in an old house with old books everywhere and the lake beneath, the other students and Robert are cheerful and talkative: only I am grim and a bit strange, asking why they don't want to talk about existence, the purpose of analysis: what are we here for, with death so near?
That Monday, supervision with Verena – which becomes, unmysteriously, analysis: though we occasionally refer to my patients over the two hours, it is mostly about illness, death, fear, existence. She tells me about a patient of hers who said, I was so worried about dying, but you're so much older, and you're still here! – with an exquisitely ironical detachment, a hint of amusement: and that sense that, as analysts, we are not only holding the pain of our analysands, we are perpetually also holding our own.
I don't entirely understand what happened in our session (it was my first analyst, Mitch, who said so long ago: the most important parts of your analysis will be opaque to you – that is their nature); but at its end I am calmer – I feel as though I've been heard; and even if I'm panicking over nothing, that is okay.
You'll never believe this, but the doctor's office in the Zürich train station (the train station! I hear you exclaim) is excellent, sophisticated, whitely clean. As Melissa waits for/with me – she understands these feelings – a doctor calmly takes my history, runs through tests, discusses possibilities – finally she gives me letters and test results in German to take home: there is really nothing odd in my blood or urine – except perhaps that one shows up in the other...
Then, in the ensuing weeks in Zürich, on the flight home, in the following weeks, other odd symptoms and pains and discomforts skewing off in different directions; and suddenly an HIV viral load of 78,000... which, four days later, becomes 400,000...
Which is kind of a lot, as these things go. (I know people whose viral loads neared a million – but that was in the bad old 1990s; or, occasionally, such a thing still happens when we meet someone previously undiagnosed who needs to be dragged into the HIV clinic immediately, to start taking medications...).
So: perhaps delusions of illness aren't quite so delusional?
My doctor in Newcastle was on vacation; others at the clinic were calling each other, emailing me. Many blood tests (my arms got a bit pin-cushion-y) – Allen the phlebotomist gave in to my pressure to wrap my elbow with a thick bandage each time (too damned many shirts getting stained – my blood doesn't seem to clot very permanently after tests these days).
And the increasingly important (to me at least) HCV treatment, which we'd been planning for six months – or, really, three years – suddenly cancelled as we all run about like headless chickens...
It is last Friday morning: my doctor has gotten back, has me in to his office first thing, with two medical students and Allen. I sat down, we were all cheerful, but – when my doctor asked how I was doing, I said: Angry and scared. And disoriented. What the hell is going on?... do you think?...
Nobody knows. Everyone then quizzes me about my life...
(Yes, oddly enough, the first question was about what sex I'd had, or whether I'd suddenly decided that intravenous heroin sounded like it would be fun... I responded with some ruffled feathers. I haven't had sex with another person for years... damn it.)
Detailed discussion of habits, diets, medications, compliance. I'm told to bring all medications in to check them – and we discuss vitamins and supplements – which my doctor, as it happens, despises...
(My doctor mentions that the emails he's been getting from hepatology are kind of frantic/accusing/irritable – apparently they're very pissed off that my medications were delayed – almost more than I am, because I'm on one of their medical studies...)
I run through the list as it comes to me, pulling out the little plastic bag of my pills for the morning, trying to identify them by color (the pink and blue are the recent HIV meds, but who the heck can tell one beige caplet from another? they're all some kind of vitamin thingies).
And one of the students has the answer – after we've mentioned the charcoal twice, my doctor has asked why I'm taking it – he points out that the charcoal has absorbed everything...
I apologized to everyone for my carelessness/foolishness, of course. But it is a sunny day, it is just after 9 am, and everyone is laughing at the triviality of the problem. I am forgiven....
So, more blood tests. Assuming charcoal is indeed our culprit, more blood tests again in two weeks, and an anticipated return to normal in four weeks – and if that happens, HCV medications are on the books again... hopefully soon after.
A lightening of the spirit.
Errands, lunch. Home – I pluck all the charcoal capsules from many plastic bags and toss them.
That night: real pain while urinating. (You don't really want to hear this, I suppose.) The urine is yellow, not red – but there are three small pieces of what look like reddish gravel in the bowl... after dithering for a bit, I scoop them out with a (stainless steel) spoon. (No, I'm not throwing the spoon away, don't be ridiculous – dish soap will handle it.) And put them in a plastic bag to bring to the clinic: I definitely want to know what the heck these things are.
Over the weekend, there are about two days of being mildly groggy – going back to these medications is bound to make anyone a bit woozy.
And yet at the same time, a more settled stomach, more settled energy – no pain at all in urinating! – illusion or reality? Response or projection? Pill or placebo?...
By Monday, more energy, clarity, calmness.
The body relaxes a bit – things don't hurt –
perhaps that is all that it was!...
perhaps things are easy, really....