Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'aint So T'is Too

Jackie Spinks

Chapter 9                                        
My Life as a Hypochondriac

           When I was in my forties I practically made a career out of my ailments—felt lousy all the time.  I had bursitis, a hernia, cramps, chest pains, and what one doc said was arthritis in my ribs.  So what’s up when I’m on the downward slope  and don’t have any of the aches or pains attributed to old age, when I had so many when I was young.

Take backaches for instance.  I’d go through the medical books reading about the anatomy of the spine—did I have sciatica, osteoporosis or some vertebrae out of whack and I’d need surgery?  Finally went to a doctor and he told me that I’d have to wear a plaster caste for a couple of years to straighten my spine.  Amazingly, a week later my pain disappeared, never to return. 

Luckily the media hadn’t yet taken up the task of medicalizing society, so I wasn’t exposed to all the multitude of maladies that could go wrong. If they’d had more stuff on the TV and in magazines that could go physically wrong with us I’m sure I’d have them all and undoubtedly be in, at least, a nursing home, if not institutionalized by now.

I do remember well,  in my forties having bursitis in my shoulder.  It was so painful I read the book “Final Exit” on the best ways to commit suicide.  One doc told me to put warm packs on my shoulder, the pain increased.  I read a book that infections respond to cold.  Put ice on my shoulder and that worked.        

And was I ever a pushover for pills.  I took every newly invented one on the market.  One pill, Sinequan for my depression was paramount.  I complained to the doc, the pills didn’t seem to be doing me any good; they only made me tired.  He doubled the dosage.  Doubly tired. So I quit them, when someone talked turkey to me—told me that I’d been angry enough years over a legal matter and get over it.  I got over it and my depression to boot.

But in spite of all that so-called wisdom that’s supposed to come in old age, I can still be taken in. Once a doc told me I had pneumonia (X- rays came back, I didn’t) but the media had told me pneumonia was the killer of old timers , so I forked over $140.00 for a bottle of prescription pills, all the time having renegade thoughts like-- am I paying for a bottle of sugar pills--- or am I being bamboozled again—finally decided paranoia and suspicious are an old age hazard, so keeping my mind open, I told myself to take the pills, after all we  have to do some trusting.  Right? But these powerful antibiotics made me feel awful and didn’t even stop the coughing the doc thought was pneumonia—that wasn’t pneumonia. 

The pharmacology companies are making some nice moola off  pigeons like me.
On the other hand, to make matters worse, according to the American Pain Foundation, a majority of cancer patients don’t get adequate pain medication. Docs, fearing accusations of drug trafficking and getting the patient hooked,  hesitate to give any pill that is really effective.  My brother’s cancer pain upholds that conclusion as every telephone conversation consisted of talk of his pain.  Don’t like to think our healers are being chintzy with the pain eliminators—but then remember he, too, has to make a living. 

I hate to be so negative, but capitalism has turned us into a nation of hypochondriacs in order to make money off of, easy marks like yours truly. One example of what I’m talking about—midwives were doing a good job, but the medical profession said, birthing had to take place in a hospital, where the docs said they could do better.

Now animals have no trouble giving birth—and women in Third World countries have their babies at home in the morning and are back in the field, by afternoon, often with the baby on their backs. 
But painful birthing has become a culturally instilled phenomenon.  Girls are told all their lives by older women how painful childbirth will be—they see it on TV with every depictions of birth, a painful, clutching, screaming experience.

Sometimes I wonder if many of us, old timers go to the doctor’s so often because we’ve developed into health fanatics and are in love with the doc’s white lab coat. Maybe that’s one reason for so many aches and pains—we like docs patting, poking and even puncturing us here and there, reassuring us, “You’ll be fine, you don’t have cancer.”  Sigh of relief. But old age needn’t be a time of aches and pains.  Sez who?”  Me.  Okay, you’re  not that impressed.  Well, just try my way and see.
And here’s one to cogitate over.  Heard on TV that because of the country’s financial problems, people aren’t going to the doctor’s like they used to and the medics are sending out invitations and notices.  We’re not being very good devotees.

Stress is a big factor in my one-time ill-health, which I had a hard time acknowledging.  I could be stressed out—and not even know it, until I’d have an epiphany and it would come over me—that’s it—that was what was bothering me—well, I’ll be… Stress is gone, ditto headaches, leg cramps,  and chest pain. 

Men have a worse time with health than women, although women grouse about it more and visit doctors more.  But as age creeps up men are more inclined to visit doctors.  Men have a whole host of problems—high blood pressure, acid reflux, diabetes, etc., etc., and probably the worst of all—although it would take a hoist and tackle to get an admission out of them—stress and depression. 

Before, the biological causes of both physical and mental illness took over I read and I quote from a psychology book, “Certain personality characteristics, certain interpersonal conflicts were the causative factors in the origin of asthma, ulcers, colitis, arthritis, hypertension and diabetes. 

As for Alzheimer—a big bugaboo for the elderly, studies were shown that people who kept their brains functioning at full throttle, didn’t get Alzheimer.  And that tangled stuff in the brain of Alzheimer patients—well, normal people have those tangles too.     So what’s going on here?  If I believe the theory of behavioral psychology that everything we do have some kind of pay-off, what’s the Alzheimer person’s pay-off?  For instance, why would anyone want Alzheimer? 

And here I’m shooting in the dark but thinking is intellectual and emotional work—just put in a few hours of hard study and see how exhausted you are.  So a good rest from thinking is rewarding and not disciplining the brain can become addictive.  And I have to add, the other day I lost my car keys—searched everywhere for an hour and finally sat down and realized a few more frustrations like that one and I’d be a discombobulated candidate for Alzheimer too. Anyhow, it wouldn’t hurt to do a little self-analysis on what’s eating us—are we the cranky type, do we get angry easily, are we butting heads with someone close to us or is it merely frustration—as I can see where that could do it?

I may be full of it and keel over tomorrow—but more and more scientist are conceding that psychology has a big part in our aches and pains.  Maybe all we need to do is grease our interactions with others.  But it’s hard to quit obsessing, as about a third of the stuff on media  and about half of the advertisements are for some ailment and the pills that will rectify it. Just think if we were all healthy, no one would buy health insurance (unless the government made us) and think of all the money we could save. 

But to give credit, where credit is due.  While we may castigate the medical establishment for taking advantage of all us soft touches, we have to acknowledge all the lives scientists have saved with the discovery of antibiotics, vaccines, and the need for sanitation.  

So why don’t I feel low-rent now when I’m twice as old as I was when I had all those afflictions. Well, luckily I’m a reader, and one of the things I read, was I wasn’t getting enough liquids. 
In fact, I was proud of myself for not needing to guzzle water all the time like my friends.  Anyway after reading this, for an experiment as I’d tried everything else, I started drinking the suggested 3 quarts of liquid a day and what do you know, lo and behold, bye-bye physical ailments.  Of course that could also be psychological—the desire to find a cure-all.  But for the last twenty-five years, no aches and pains. 

So that, my friends,  was my antidote for my aches and pains—plus skipping all the medical stuff being broadcast on the news,  TV, radio, Internet, and in magazines and advertisements.
And so those allies of chemicals for a happier and healthier life—well yo’all I’m telling you T’aint So.




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