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[personal profile] ladyfalcon
So. I am used to being alone. I spend most of my time alone, and I enjoy it that way. Most of the people I know are also in some sense loners.

That being said, there is a particular and very nasty type of loneliness that you feel when you're sitting in a cafe in a foreign country and you start experiencing health problems. And you realize that you can't talk to anyone around you, you don't have anyone to call, and you don't know what to do.

This is what I experienced today, when my heart kept valiantly trying to enter an arrhythmia when all I wanted to do was enjoy a latte. For about a minute, every time I exhaled, I would feel it 'skip a beat'. That's what it feels like in my chest, but if it lasts often enough that I can actually put my hand to my neck and feel my pulse, I can feel that that's also what literally happens - it goes like -beat- -beat- -nothing- -beat- -beat- -beat- -nothing-. It was also totally tied to my breathing; if I altered my breath or tried to keep from exhaling, the skipped beat held off until I did.

So I did the only thing that I could think of and called my boss Tana and asked her if she knew a cardiologist. By this time it was over, but I figured, shit was going down not half a minute ago, this probably calls for some sort of medical attention. Luckily, she said she knew just the person, and she and her husband would be there to pick me up in two minutes. So far, so good. Tana's husband drives like a madman, but that's pretty par for the course in Prague, where everybody seems to think they're in bumper cars. It was irritating to me when Tana wants to spend time talking about a meeting I'm supposed attend next Friday, because at the moment I was concerned with exactly one thing, and that wasn't it. Frankly, she could take her meeting and snort it off a hooker's ass for all I cared right then. But whatever, she's doing me a solid, so I can put up with it.

THEN, oh then, Tana tells me, "This doctor, he is great. Fantastic. He could be the head of a hospital. He would probably be very famous in Europe... Except he has a drinking problem." Just. What? But okay. We're halfway there already, both my boss and her husband took time out of their day. The reason they're taking me to the alcoholic doctor is because I don't have a Visa or Czech insurance yet, and this guy is willing to see me and charge it to Tana's insurance. Fine. Whatever.

We get there, and I'm sure it will surprise you to learn that this is a Ghettofabulous doctor. Like, he takes my temperature with an under-the-tongue thermometer... but has me put it under my arm because those little disposable plastic sleeves that you put on under-tongue thermometers in the states are too expensive. The EKG, when we got to that part, looked a bit like the pain machine in the Princess Bride movie, all suction cups, because the one-use EKG track pads that stick on and peel off (and that I'm always finding in the shower weeks after any EKG), are too expensive.

So. We do the EKG. It seemed short to me, but they always seem short to me, because they never catch what happens to me while it's happening, because it's sporadic and always over by the time I get to the doctor. My frustrations with the EKG process are mounting and have nothing to do with this doctor. Also I had to take my shirt and bra off in front of my boss, but I'm not even going to dwell on that in my own head.

But this doctor. My god. Another thing that's not his fault is that he doesn't speak a word of English ("So-so Czech," said my boss. "Very good Russian.") So everything he says I hear through my boss' translation. He looks at my EKG. "It is normal," he says. I knew this, as I could feel for myself that everything was fine now. "It is probably just because you are young, your hormones are doing things. It will probably stop once you have a few children."

I mean. What. WHAT? I very nearly said to my boss, "Jak se řekne shut the fuck up?" I wasn't even mad, just appalled, frankly. I MEAN WHAT WHO SAYS THAT.

Then he said it could also be an excess of negative emotions and I decided that if he was seriously suggesting that I was hysterical I was going to stab him in the face right there and see how hysterical he found that.

Anyway, I was very quiet about my deeply seething anger. I mean, my boss was there, both she and her husband took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to take me to this man. It would probably be bad form to call him a quack and a chauvanist pig right there in front of them.

So I decide the heart thing is a loss, so I might as well try to get something out of this visit. I've had swollen lymph nodes for more than a month now. The Very Expensive Private Cardiologist I went to once noticed them, and said that if they were still there by my next appointment, we would look more seriously into them. And then I didn't go back to the VEPC because he was Very Expensive and also they changed my schedule at work. So I figured I would toss that problem at my alcoholic chauvanist doctor and see what he made of it. He looked down my throat with a flashlight, saw nothing, and gave me some medicine to gargle. No matter how many times I suggested he actually touch them, he didn't.

Let me just point out that your lymph nodes are in your neck, not down your throat. They are filled with white blood cells. If they are swollen, it means that your white blood cells are fighting something, that is, that you have an infection. Or cancer! I don't have cancer, but an infection seems likely. I am not exactly sure what gargling solution is going to do about that.

As soon as I got home I made an appointment with the Very Expensive Private Cardiologist. He speaks English, he actually talks to me about what's going on, he has never to date told me that my goddamned emotions are causing my health problems. God. If you only knew how many people have called me 'cold,' 'heartless,' or 'unfeeling' because of my general lack of excessive emotions and the control I keep them under, you would understand why this "diagnosis" is extra-laughable. I mean, I have about the standard factory-issue human set of emotions, and I get what I think is a fairly average amount of use out of them. I really, really don't like when people call me heartless because I'm an atheist or don't want children or whatever. In balance, I would, however, prefer this to being told that I have so many emotions they're causing my heart to momentarily stop beating. I mean, jesus fucking christ. I would have had more confidence in his diagnosis if he'd told me to tie goat's testicles to my forehead by the light of a full moon while chanting.

My boss was no help, either, as she is a believer in and practicioner of homeopathic remedies such as acupuncture and relfexology. "I say," she said, "you can never really trust doctors. You are responsible for your own health." The problem, of course, being that in the case of your own health, in 90% of serious situations, you have no idea what the fuck is going on. For example, I have slightly more knowledge about medicine than the average layperson, and I still cannot test my own blood to see if I have high cholesterol or a sodium-potassium imbalance, or do my own ultrasound to see if my mitral valve prolapse is doing something weird, or run a catheter up my own leg to see if the extra electrical pathway that I got obliterated years ago is somehow starting shit. I have a suspicion that one of these things is involved, but I have no way to prove it or, more importantly, treat it. And there's also a huge chance I could be completely wrong.



And while I'm ranting, let's take a moment to talk about children. I do not want children. Ever. In fact, I don't even LIKE children. I teach about 30 different children every week, from a wide range of ages. There are TWO out of that number that I would not mind having around for something more than an hour a week. The others I am more or less totally indifferent to. There are even a few that I would dearly love to never have to deal with in class again. And no matter how I feel about them, I am always, always happy when I can send them back to the people who HAVE to deal with them. And I never, ever want to be one of those people.

And I won't say that no one in Czech Republic understands this. I had one really good steam-venting conversation on this topic (ironically, with the mother of two of the children I teach, who has a total of FOUR children although she admits that she didn't want any for ages and wouldn't have done it at all if she hadn't had parents to deal with them day-to-day so that she could keep working).

But then there are also people like my school's secretary, who say things like "Never say never," or, "I didn't know anything about anything until I had my Maria," or "EVERY woman should have at least one." I mean, what? EVERY woman? Surely not. For one thing, we'd all be up to our necks in infants. For another, surely everyone can think of at least one woman they know who really should not be a mother, or at least someone they know who clearly had a mother who fucked them up beyond all recognition.

It's enough so that I almost, almost, wish I could just say, "You know, I CAN'T have children." I don't know. Tragic childhood accident, or whatever. I really don't want to co-opt other people's legitimate and probably terrifying and heartbreaking experiences, but just once I wish when someone is extolling the virtues of motherhood I could just be like, "Yeah, well that may be great, but I LITERALLY CAN'T DO IT, so I guess by your measure I'll never be a real woman, or a real human being, or whatever. Now kindly STFU." I'd like to think it would make them feel awkward enough that they'd stop tossing their womb-centric worldview around in public, but the reality is it'd probably lead to huge amounts of unwelcome and uncomfortable womb-centric commisseration.

Did I tell you guys yet about my beautiful and brilliant PhD student who wants to quit being a microbiologist to get married and have kids? Have I told you that her life's work up to this point has been fighting the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill tons of people in European hospitals every year? And that she'd rather give that up to make her life's work raising some rugrats? Have I told you this makes me CRY TEARS OF HOPELESS RAGE?.
 
And then I got home and found out that, because my boss is afraid that Irish Roommate is going to leave and go home, he got a TWO THOUSAND CROWN "traveling bonus" to try to induce him to stay. I was like, OH HI you know what my schedule looks like on Tuesdays alone? I go from our house in Vltavska all the way down to Flora, then all the way over to Kacerov, then all the way out to fucking Hloubetin in the ass-end of nowhere, then ALL THE WAY BACK TO BUDOVICKA. ALL IN ONE DAY. And YOU are the one who gets the $100 extra dollars? How about a nice punch in the face to round out my day? Seriously, I want everybody reading this to pull up a Prague subway map, track my hellish schedule. I spend literally 70% of my life on the goddamned metro, and that's not even counting the 45-minute-one-way trip to Dobris I make three times a week.

ADVISE ME: Should I call my boss out on giving perks to my undeserving roommate, or what? Keep quiet (she gave it to him in confidence, I don't want to get him in trouble, etc.) I don't want to beg for handouts, but on the other hand I pay all my own expenses and he gets rent money from home so he can drink his paycheck every weekend. This is the reader-input portion of the journal: WHAT DO I DO?

Okay. I'm done. Enough ranting for today. God knows I might become hysterical and just, like, die or something.

Erin

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ladyfalcon

October 2011

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