Recovery," wrote my excessively sensible daughter last year, "doesn't happen overnight." The note sits on the fridge, where I can't help but see it, but it's not like I need much of a reminder: every day I have to grab something every fourth or fifth step is a day I haven't quite recovered. There's no indication this is going to change any time soon. However, the issues of day-to-day living do vary a bit, suggesting that things may change, if not necessarily for the better.

The least-welcome change is a deterioration in bladder timing: things aren't completely out of control, and I'm not wetting the bed or anything like that, but once the alarm goes off, I haven't much time to get myself across the house, or to the far side of the workplace, to position myself in front of the bowl. Worse, making the effort to rush the trip seems also to rush the beginning of the flow, which can be bad for trousers, for floor tile, or both. So I have to pretend nothing's happening while maintaining a relatively swift pace. I backed off the two drugs I was taking for the issue, one to stave off benign prostatic hyperphasia, one to regulate urgency, with no discernible effect. This latter concoction is a pricey brand-name drug; its copay is greater than all my other copays combined. "Retail" price for 90 days' worth is around $1200. If I thought it was doing much good, I'd grit my teeth and write the check and live with it.

On the upside, driving has become a bit easier. The one issue affecting me — inability to get from the gas pedal to the brake with the speed I'd prefer — has subsided a bit, and incidents of being on the wrong pedal at the wrong time have diminished markedly. Weirdly, one of the contributing factors seems to be the repairs to the steering system: with the wheel too easy to turn, it was also easier to jerk a bit from nervous impulses, which messes with the leg motions needed to work the pedals. Proper steering weighting reduces this tendency. However, there are still a few locations on the daily commute where I get antsy. Perhaps there will be an improvement in confidence in months to come.

A third issue isn't an issue, I contend, unless I allow it to be, but my mental-health provider (sounds better than "shrink") continues to bring it up. "Are you seeing anyone?" she asks, and it's not a reference to my vision. I shake my head and don't quite say "What, are you nuts?" She persists, and suggests that while I shouldn't do so for ethical reasons, I could probably shave several years off my age. I hand over my glasses: "You need these worse than I do." She laughs, and eventually the subject is changed. For a moment I see myself as Tony Soprano, and I try to persuade myself that Dr Melfi has issues of her own.

Dr Norman Doidge, a psychoanalyst, writer, and psychiatric researcher at the University of Toronto and Columbia University's Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, has offered this explanation:

[S]elf-examination, if it's done seriously, is actually the opposite of self-indulgence, and analysis actually an anti-narcissistic treatment, or at least a treatment that helps transform more primitive manifestations of narcissism into less self-involved ways of supporting oneself, because the most narcissistic people among us are usually those who know least about themselves. 'Narcissists fall in love with an image of themselves that is highly idealized, cartoonish, and bears no relation to who they are and their real insecurities. What they most want not to know about is themselves. In general, I find that the people who are my patients are the ones who are trying to resist the culture of narcissism that we are all having to take a bath in; after all, they are owning that they have difficulties, and are the source of them in some way, and they want to improve themselves, and are willing to put in the hard work to do so."

I have never thought of myself as narcissistic. Then again, I am forced to concede that my own self-image is at least somewhat cartoonish and not necesarily a reflection of what anyone else sees. And the idea of having to drag myself away from that image — well, Tony, you old son of a bitch, I see some of what you were going through. If I have a lick of sense, I won't make some of the mistakes you did. But then again, someone's going to have to persuade me that I have a lick of sense, because I'll never believe it on my own.

The Vent

  1 October 2017

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