All things considered, I'd make a passably good hypochondriac: whatever condition has befallen me, however temporary it might prove to be, I tend to assume that it's going to last the rest of my life, a period which will be a hell of a lot shorter than I'd been thinking. I would fall short of being a really good hypochondriac, though, due to my general unwillingness to drag the medical profession into the proceedings, a reticence born partly of recent penury and partly of having once spent two hours in the emergency room out of desperation over recurrent insomnia, at somewhere around $400 an hour, the sort of number you expect to see from Donald Trump's lawyers, which, handily enough, served as a precursor to that penury.

I assume that my not-exactly-vestigial pessimism is a major factor here: I can't see a winter weather forecast without seeing myself high-centered on a snowdrift and then crushed to death by some nimrod in a Suburban who thought that four-wheel drive would make him unstoppable. (And he would be, the very moment he hit the brakes.) And that's if I can get out of the house at all, which sometimes I can't. Any new "enhancements" at work, I view with the grim solemnity of a man facing the guillotine: I don't expect them to result in my being made redundant, necessarily, but I know better than to assume that they will do anything to reduce my workload. A staff programmer once came up with something that actually knocked 30 to 45 minutes off said workload every single day; needless to say, he is no longer there. And if the dreaded "SERVICE ENGINE SOON" message appears in brimstone orange on the dashboard, I know I'm going to have to have codes pulled — you down with OBD? — and I can expect a bill on the wrong side of $500 to repair whatever those codes suggest.

Still, I'm at my very worst on medical matters. Every time I push myself away from the desk and very slowly assume the vertical, I wonder how many more times I'm going to be able to do that, how long it's going to be before I have to spend the rest of my life in a chair. If my head aches, I assume it's always going to ache, no matter which of several painkillers I bring to bear. And if something gets caught in my throat, I go into paroxysms worthy of a David Lynch film; this is scary enough that I started buying about 50 percent more bread than I can possibly eat, on the dubious basis that a couple of slices of soft stuff like this will work loose anything stuck down there. There are, of course, consequences for eating that extra bread, none of them particularly desirable.

Viewed objectively, and by "objectively" I mean "by anyone other than myself," most of these worries perhaps come off as preposterous, if not pathological: the most obvious cause of that recurrent insomnia is, you guessed it, worrying about whether I'm getting enough sleep. (If I took the ten hours a day the body seems to act like it wants, there'd be no time during the week for filling up this space.) I bought a cane about a decade ago, in anticipation of eventual lameness; it helps with getting out of bed, but I haven't needed it much otherwise, and when I do, well, it's usually at the wrong end of the house. (I have an umbrella tucked into the pocket on the inside of the car door, and usually it stays there because I never remember to take it with me when I leave the car.) And while I fight off colds and stuff acceptably well for someone of this age, the infection that does get through makes me so miserable I might as well be that Pathetic Male who's cast in seemingly every domestic sitcom of the last twenty years, the one who's utterly dependent on his Much Smarter wife, the one who couldn't change a twenty if you spotted him two fives and a pocket calculator.

An example of expecting the worst:

Well, I suppose I can start circling the drain now. The creeping neuropathy in both feet has stopped creeping and started increasing: a month and a half ago, it was barely noticeable, but now it's becoming almost alarming.

There is, of course, no cure; treatments are palliative at best. Not that it matters, since I'm old and decrepit and our new healthcare overlords will throw me under the bus at the first opportunity anyway.

I retain my distrust of those overlords, but "becoming almost alarming" is a slower process than I'd anticipated: that piece was written in 2009, many moons and forty-five pounds ago, and the condition is indeed worse, but not much worse. And I am most definitely older, but the focus of my decrepitude has moved upwards, to my knees, which can do winter weather forecasts entirely too well. An orthopedic surgeon once told me I'd need both of them replaced by age 60, and perhaps he was right, but I have a well-established phobia about writing large checks for such things.

For now, I'm hoping that I inherited a questionable sense of timing from my old man, who, circa 1999, was told that he had six months to live, tops. Six years later, he was still with us. I can deal with that.

The Vent

  17 January 2016

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