Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To trust or not to trust...again...

While I was sleeping…

Guess who left me a comment last night at 1.45 am? OMG, OMG, OMG!!! It was Mrs. G of the Derfwad Manor! I am never going to sleep again! Ok, maybe an occasional catnap. First, Suburban Correspondent, and now Mrs. G! I am becoming famous! If you have never visited that Manor, I highly recommend. A warning to my conservative friends: Mrs. G is unapologetically liberal, but she rarely talks about politics and is very, very funny! I particularly like her Secret Boyfriend entries.

But Mrs. G’s last night’s entry was of a different kind; it was a trip down the memory lane, about a friend’s betrayal. It brought me to thinking about my own experience with this subject. Unlike Mrs. G, no friend of mine ever stole my boyfriend; mine was betrayal of a different kind. Did it leave me less trusting? I would like to believe no. But this and other betrayals in life made me think about what was better: to trust less and have less fulfilling friendships or have real friends, but run the risk of another heartbreak?

So here’s the story of my first betrayal. Luda (let’s call her that) and I were 12 years old at the time. We became best friends pretty much the first day she came to my pre-K and were almost inseparable for 6 years. We shared all our secrets, mischief, dreams and crushes. I saved my treats to share with her the next day in school. We even discussed our kids playing together in the very distant future because we were supposed to be friends forever. Then one day we had a fight, one of many stupid meaningless fights girls of that age have. It was so insignificant, that I quickly forgot what we fought about and was sure that in no time we would be friends again.

But I was wrong. I don’t think I have ever spoken to her again, even though we were in the same class and physically in the same room for several hours each day. Maybe I did say a few things like “excuse me” and asked to return the money and the book that she borrowed, but it is also possible that I didn’t. Because the next day after the fight she passed me a note during a class, which said, “I told Maya (also not real name) everything.” I remember the note and the cold feeling in my stomach. Maya was the girl who was not particularly nice to me for some unknown reason. We never openly fought, but every now and then she would make snide remarks about or to me without any provocation on my part. I could never find what to say back to her because she was so pretty, so well dressed, so neat and organized - so much better than me… So I took my revenge once and only once by saying trash about her to my then best friend. I just didn’t know how else to express my frustration and regretted what I said almost immediately. What I said was supposed to stay between my friend, my true friend and I and be quickly forgotten like many stupid things we told each other.

And now all the dumb things I said in confidence were repeated to Maya. For no reason other than to hurt me, to win the fight. This was my first true betrayal. Before long, Maya’s mother got involved and fortunately didn’t blow things out of proportion. We had a short, but very unpleasant conversation, at the end of which this woman said, “Maybe you should pick your friends better.” If I remember correctly, I replied that I already knew that. I just hope I was polite saying that because looking back, this woman really couldn’t have handled the situation better.

But this was not the end of my woes. I refused to acknowledge Luda or have any dealings with her. I think she did not expect that. One night my father got a phone call from Luda’s mother, and in a 30-minute conversation got an earful about all the mischief I got into in the prior two years. (And before your imagination runs wild, my misdeeds were very timid, prank calling and smoking my first cigarette were among the more serious ones. But I am sure hearing about them, especially from another “concerned” parent and especially all at once was not particularly pleasant.) Needless to say, I experienced one of the worst nights of my teenage life. At the end of the very long conversation with my parents, I found out that they never particularly liked Luda, but never told me that. With all his outrage at my antics, I saw that Dad felt bad for me. He knew that I was betrayed. He knew that friends shouldn’t do what Luda did.

I think this whole episode happened in early spring. I quickly made friends with another girl in my class. Two days after classes resumed in the fall, Luda transferred to another school. I never saw her again. But some time in the winter I received a letter from her, saying that she was truly sorry for what happened. She never made any friends in her new school and regretted losing the only true friendship she had. She wanted us to be friends again, friends in the true meaning of that word. I quickly wrote a very long reply, where I recounted all the wrongs she had done to me, all the things I had to overlook during our 6 years of friendship, told her I couldn’t forgive her and the only reason for her very late apology was her loneliness. Had she made new friends, she wouldn’t be apologizing to me. I am proud to say I never mailed that response. I waited several months before writing another one. I simply didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to kick someone on the low, but I didn’t have anything to offer either. Then finally my new best friend shamed me about not responding, and I finally wrote another letter. It was much shorter, kinder, but still with the tact and straightforwardness of a young teen. I basically said that all was forgiven, but my trust was broken, and it would take a lot to become friends again. I wished Luda luck and expressed hope that she would find friends in her new school. She never replied. A few years later I heard a rumor that Luda’s family moved to Germany, but no one knew when and to where.

Many years have passed. I would occasionally remember about Luda and try to find her on, through Google or by other means. Then I think about what I would do if I actually found her, what I would say, come up with nothing worthy and abandon the search only to pick it up a few months later. I hope she is well and happy, and I guess I just want proof.

As for myself, I have answered the question of whether or not to trust someone again long time ago. The girl, who became my best friend shortly after our falling out with Luda, turned out to be one of the most trustworthy people I know. Our friendship was much deeper and healthier than my previous one. (And my parents approved. I think.) We still shared all our secrets and crushes; but we also shared ideas, discussed ideals, the meaning of life and love and pretty much everything we could think of for hours. We were still young and silly girls and had stupid fights, but we always made up. And we are still friends to this day, really, really good friends, best friends forever. Despite the distance, the time, the different religions, the not seeing each other for years and busy lives. And despite me losing her phone number every time I find it (thank G-d for email).

As I got older, I don’t necessarily think that sharing every single thought and feeling is necessary or even desirable. But I do know that if I need to share, there is a person across the ocean who would listen, understand and keep it to herself. That kind of friendship would have never happened had I clammed up and refused to trust anyone again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lowered Expectations

Dear Doc,

We need to talk. We have known each other for a while now. And even though we are still together, I feel that our relationship is taking a turn for the worse. Your constant lateness to our meetings and unclear excuses are deteriorating my trust, your insensitive remarks make me wonder if you even care about me, and your not returning my calls and inattentiveness are just ... are you seeing someone else? Why am I even asking? I KNOW you are seeing someone else; I have seen them in the waiting room, and yes, I know there's more than one. We never discussed being exclusive; heck, I don't even want us to be exclusive. So yeah, keep seeing other people, but when you are with me, could you please give me your at least half full and undivided? Please excuse this emotional detour, I realize that I must stay focused and away from hysterics and accusations.

I know you don't like talking about our relationship, but I really want us to stay together, if not for love and loyalty, then at least for mutual benefit and convenience. It’s time for you to realize that I do have needs, and if they are constantly not met, one day I might just walk out for good.

So to be fair to you and out of respect for the good times we shared, I have compiled the list of my expectations, the do's and the don’ts that might seem trivial to you, but are important to me. Before you complain that the list is too long or I am too demanding, let me tell you that like in any other relationship, my expectations have been significantly lowered since the time I picked up the phone to arrange our first meeting because a mutual acquaintance thought we might be right for each other... You probably don't even remember that first meeting; heck, I would be surprised if you remembered my name. How low have I sunk ... but I digress. Let's examine the document at hand, shall we? By the way, feel free to share this list with your friends; after all, there's a good chance I will start seeing them one day...

1. I don't expect you to gently hold my hand and whisper in soothing voice that my sneezing will not cause permanent brain damage and that awful pimple on my forehead will not leave a gaping hole. However, if I suffer from excessive morning sickness severe enough to medicate me for months, I do expect you to address the short and long term effects on my and my baby's health. (Why do you always wait for me to bring stuff up? This baby is your responsibility too, you know… )

2. I don't expect you to cry with me over blood spilled during routine testing, but I do think that if an ER consult shows me more empathy than you, something is amiss in our relationship. (Do you think he was trying to pick me up?)

3. I don't expect flowers upon my arrival at your office, but I do expect, with some rare exceptions, to be seen within half hour of our scheduled appointment. (I am sure all those other hussies in the waiting room agree. Just ask them...)

4. At this point of our relationship I do not expect a leisurely afternoon lunch or candle lit dinner, but if you are billing my insurance for a 15 minute quickie visit, I fully expect you to spend at least ten of those minutes with me (waiting time NOT included). I do not expect you to rush me through the examination or Q&A part of our visit. I do not expect you to rush me at all. Maybe your other patients don't mind this, but I am just not that kind of girl.

5. I don't expect to be treated with contempt simply because I am not familiar with some medical lingo (or for any other reason, really). I do expect the questions and answers to be clear to a person without intimate knowledge of medicine. And I expect them to be addressed verbatim, not by giving me out a badly photocopied handout.

6. I don't expect you to have genuine interest in me or my medical history, but I do expect you to fake it. Even a halfhearted attempt would do.

7. Like I've mentioned before, I don't expect to be your one and only, but I don't expect you to forget about me while I am in the emergency room either. It is simply humiliating to shoo away residents for hours telling them that this patient is taken and you will be here any minute. (I know they snickered behind my back telling each other jokes about my imaginary private practitioner.) However, if it does happen again, I expect an apology. Blaming ER nurses is just not cool. Or professional.

8. I don't expect you to love night shifts, but I also don't expect you to share that with me. I do expect you to remember that I like being in the hospital in the middle of the night just as much as you. So next time, let’s just make the best of it, okay?

9. I don't expect you to have all the answers and quick fixes. But I do expect you to share the answers that you do have with me. Don't let me make important discoveries, such as a likely hearing loss that you knew about, from Be a man and say it to my face.

10. I don't expect you to have G-d complex, but I do expect you to remember that I am human, not just a medical case. I have family, friends, job and life outside of your office. So don't just give me my diagnosis and send me home. Talk to me about lifestyle changes, coping techniques and preventive measures. Talk to me! Don’t just stare in my chart when I am trying to have a conversation!

Sincerely and still yours though not sure for how long, after all we ARE seeing other people ,

Subjugated Patient.

P.S. While rereading this and reliving all the pain, humiliation and contempt in our relationship, I am beginning to understand why some people just give up on traditional doctors and turn to alternative medicine. These traditional doctor-patient relationships are so hard to maintain, one begins to wonder if going over to the other side is worth investigating.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Be still my room

Well, Be Still My Bedroom would've been a more accurate title because that's where I spend the better half of last week, but then I could've been accused of false advertising techniques and undelivered promises of racy posts. And there's nothing racy about this post, so... I think I am already blabbing uncontrollably...

So what am I trying to say? I got vertigo again. On Yom Kippur, after particularly easy time fasting. So now I have good news and bad news. Good news is that I do not have Meniere's, as originally suggested by my ENT, but BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo). That means that I am not going to prematurely lose my hearing. That also means that I do not have to spell it to medical personnel in hospitals any more (I was once chided by a PA during an emergency room visit for misspelling Meniere's. All those ER doc's couldn't spell it either, and thus couldn't find it in their database and put it in my chart. Basically, her point was that their having advanced medical degrees doesn't absolve me of my responsibility to know how to spell my own diseases. It's your disease, you should own it.) Bad news? It changes little in my day to day life. I might still get dizzy out of the blue, and my life would have to be put on hold until this vertigo resolves itself. There are other measures, but all of it gets complicated due to time sensitivity of the treatments and rehab centers not returning calls promptly...

And I have a problem with the name of my new found malady. If that is "benign" then I don't know what malignant is. I was completely out of commission for three full days, had to walk with assistance for another one, couldn't keep anything down for 96 hours, water included, and only fully regained my balance 7 days after the whole thing started. Up until then, I couldn't walk in a straight line even if someone paid me. Heck, I would pay someone to make me do it!

The whole thing also brought me to thinking about switching to another ENT or neurologist. Even though this one came highly recommended with fancy titles to his names, he somehow misdiagnosed me two years ago. Not because he was lacking in knowledge; I think we are simply not communicating properly. Half the time I simply didn't understand his questions fully knowing the meaning of every single word in them. As it is, my case turned out to be quite simple, so I don't need a fancy specialist. But as a human being I require someone more, well, human. Because a fancy degree in medicine not only doesn't guarantee the knowledge of disease spelling, it doesn't require its bearer to have empathy and compassion towards his patients.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why was I there or Where was I when this happened, Part II

I thank all my three readers for suggestions on how to deal with DD's existential questions. I am sure your answers would've worked on any other toddler/preschooler (could someone please clarify to a non-native American what she is?), but you just don't know who you are dealing with. (Ok, some of you, especially those in possession of six kids, probably do.) DD is already a bit ticked off at the way she entered the world, so I must be particularly careful about introducing any new ideas. How so? At approximately the same time as we were viewing our wedding photos, DD saw pictures of herself right after being born. Among them were a few shots of the sonograms when I was pregnant with her.

DD: Mommy, what is this?
Me: These are your pictures when you were in mommy's tummy.
DD: I was in your tummy?
Me: Yes, when you were a very little baby.
DD: Why?
Me: Because you were very little. So G-d put you in mommy's tummy to protect you until you got bigger and stronger.
DD: I didn't like it.
Me: Huh?
DD: I didn't like it! Why did G-d put me in your tummy? I didn't want to go there! I didn't want to be in your tummy.
Me: But you are already out, so that doesn't really matter, does it?

Apparently, it does. She started crying and was inconsolable for quite some time. And I do have a sneaking suspicion that she might be right about not liking her in utero living arrangements because she made her appearance two weeks early. So that is why I will not introduce any new ideas into that four-year old head. She might just ask why she was stuck so long in Heaven when she desperately wanted to be with her Mommy. And I wouldn't know what to answer. Again. But once again, in all seriousness, your advice is very appreciated, and I will probably use it with DS, or someone a little less demanding and particular.

P.S. If she finds being stuck in the tummy distasteful, I wonder how she will take this whole sperm meeting egg and forming zygote thing.

P.P.S. I was starting to get a bit sympathetic to DD's plight of not being able to attend her parents' wedding, with time travel so far impossible and us being traditional and waiting to have kids until after getting married. And then she said, "Mommy, your white princess dress is too small for you, right? You grew out of it?" No sympathy any more. Go straight to bed, young lady. Not vindictive at all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Where was I when this happened?

DD and I were looking at our wedding pictures. Nothing foreshadowed trouble. DD got very cute and bubbly and said, "Mommy, you looked like a princess!" All of a sudden, I hear a question, "Mama, where were DB (dear brother) and I?"
Me: (sensing serious trouble ahead) Um, you weren't born yet.
DD: We were home?
Me: No, honey, you weren't here yet.
DD: Why did you leave us home? I want to go there (i.e. our wedding).
Me: (pondering on how to explain the impossibility of time travel to a toddler - or is she pre-schooler already? - and the fact that there was a time when she didn't exist.) I don't think it's possible.
DD: Why didn't you take us with you?
Me: (lightbulb moment). We didn't leave you home. (She is skeptically nodding and saying ya-ha!) If we did, who babysat you? Grandpa and grandma were also here! And so were your aunt and uncle! And you see, two of your cousins are not in pictures either! That's because they weren't born yet, just like you!

DD was stumbled and left me alone for a while. Then SubHub came home, and she decided to try him.

DD: Papa, why did you and Mommy get married?
DH: (stumbled. Really, why?) Ummm....
Me: (coming to the rescue) so that Papa and I could have you and your brother. (whispering from the corner of my mouth to SubHub) and I'll talk to YOU later... (Then I retell him the conversation we had yesterday and that DD finds it hard to believe that we got married (or anything existed) before she was born.)
DH: yes, mommy and I are married for five years, you just turned four, and DS is two and a half. So you see, first we got married, and then you were born.
DD: Why did you get married first?
DH: (a bit exasperated) because if we did it in the opposite order, Daddy's rabbi would be very, very upset...

Somehow that resolved the issue, but I am sure we haven't heard the last of it. How do you explain to a 4-yr old (did I mention she turned four?) that there was time when she didn't exist? I think I am still wrestling with the concept...