These Strange Feelings I’ve Been Having
It first happened a few months ago. I woke up on a Friday morning, and something just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just felt different, somehow, and the feeling lasted most of the day. Next day I felt fine, though, so I just forgot about it. A few days later it happened again, and I began to worry. As I ascend (or perhaps it’s descend) into my 70s, I’ve learned to watch for anything out of the ordinary; it could mark the onset of something serious, such as my impending demise.
I have always avoided doctors as much as possible. Doctors will kill you. They may not mean to leave that instrument inside, then sew you back up, but it happens. There was a news report earlier last year saying that about 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. It’s the third leading cause of death in this country, only after cancer and heart disease! Besides that, clinics and hospitals are disease factories, some of them the flesh-eating kind, or other antibiotic-resistant death squads.
[Note: for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume that I am not one of the 25 million or so Americans who can’t afford any health care at all.] I couldn’t seem to stop worrying about it, so I made an appointment with my doctor. On the way, I stopped to buy one of those white dust masks, the kind you see people in China wearing all the time because of the pollution. I got the works: heart rate, blood pressure, urine & blood tests.. He looked into my eyes, ears, nose & throat, and listened to my breathing. He had my eyes follow his hand back and forth. He asked me about my medical history and that of my family. At last, he stood back and sighed, “Well, you seem relatively healthy for a man of your age, healthier than you should for a smoker. Your blood pressure is a little elevated, but that could be apprehension at visiting a doctor; that’s pretty common. What’s with the breathing mask?”
“Flesh-eating bacteria,” I replied.
He laughed, and said, “Well, we don’t do surgery here.”
“Maybe not,” I said, “but most people see a doctor because they’re already sick. These places are bacteria traps.”
He smiled at me, that patronizing smile that says you’re crazy. “I can’t find anything wrong with you, but if it’ll make you more at ease I can refer you to a psychiatrist.”
“You think I’m crazy?” I said, looking up at him.
“Certainly not, but the sensations you’re describing could be psychosomatic. You seem to want to get to the root of it, isn’t that right?”
I had to agree with him, so an appointment was made, and soon I was on the way to see my first psychiatrist. I left the breathing mask home. Dr. Jennifer Murray greeted me warmly, had an easy manner, and wasn’t difficult to look at, either. She beckoned me to a seat.
“What, no couch?” I joked, lamely.
“Would a couch make you more comfortable?” she asked. “I could call a furniture store.”
“No, I’m fine.” I was starting to like her.
“Why don’t you start by telling me about the strange episodes you say you’ve been having. Strange in what way?”
“Well, I start feeling light-headed, almost dizzy,” I said. “I thought maybe I was having a stroke, or something.”
She began writing on a notepad. “You’re retired, is that right?” I nodded. “Tell me about your typical day.”
I told her I was a politics junkie, that I can’t help it. “If you watch the news at all,” I said, “you have to admit it’s been a pretty insane year, if you’ll pardon the expression.”
“How does following all these political stories make you feel?”
“Angry,” I said. “I mean, the middle class is being decimated, Congress is bought and paid for, the planet is being turned into a smoking ball of shit, and our only choices for president are a corrupt corporatist and a psychotic 10-year-old. So I’m pretty pissed off most of the time. Good news seems to be a rare commodity.”
She looked at me. “You’re kind of cynical, aren’t you?”
“Oh, I’m the poster boy for cynicism. I don’t want to be, but there it is.”
“I see.” She made some notes. “And on this first time you experienced these strange feelings, do you recall any news stories you might have heard?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. There was a report about an old videotape where Trump was bragging about how he could molest any woman he wanted, because he was rich and famous.” I thought it would be the end of his campaign.”
“Okay, and the other time you had those feelings. Any news you can remember that day?”
I thought for a moment. “Yes, it was when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he’d no longer support Trump, but concentrate on the down ticket. And Trump went off on him and the whole Republican establishment was in chaos.”
“And that made you feel really good; I can hear it in your voice.”
She quit writing and looked at me. “I think I know what’s going on. These so-called strange feelings you’ve described are an elevated mood and disposition.. I don’t know if there’s a clinical name for it, but in layman’s language you were experiencing what I would call a good mood.”
“Good Lord,” I gasped. “Is there anything you can do about it?”
She laughed again. “No, I’m afraid we still don’t have a cure for that. But a few more of those moods would be healthier for you, psychologically and physically. Being angry all the time isn’t healthy for anyone.”
“I can’t help it, doc. There’s just too much that’s worthy of righteous anger.”
“I agree,” she said, “but if you have to be angry, you might want to try and put it to some constructive use.”
“I write a weekly blog, and I try to channel my anger into humor, when I can.”
“You’re not that Coyote guy, are you?” she asked.
“Guilty as charged.” I answered.
“It’s good that you have a healthy outlet for your emotions,” she said. “But I’d like you to try something. Don’t let the little hassles of life get you so upset. It’s not worth the energy. When you feel yourself getting angry about some insignificant thing, just let it go. Channel that energy into creativity. If you’re going to be angry, save it for the things that count. That’s about all I can do for you.”
“You could let me take you out for coffee.”
She smiled. “That would be a violation of professional ethics, but I appreciate the offer.”
I thanked her and left, feeling a little confused. A few weeks later, though, Donald Trump won the election. I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about those strange feelings for quite awhile.