Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Body Is Not Willing

For those of you living in metro DC, wasn't the weather absolutely gorgeous yesterday. Even when the rain came down in unrelenting sheets, the air remained warm and I kept my patio door open until the temperature outdoors dropped to 56 degrees, and it became apparent that a chill was replacing the cozy warmth in my home.

My son is having the predictable freshman end-of-the-semester-melt-down. I offered him some strategies for how to cope and complete his classes successfully. Hopefully, he will listen and implement some of the strategies I recommended. But it's time for me to put together that care package full of protein, some homemade cookies, and other necessities to keep him going until the semester break.

I tell my students that their stress level equals the stress levels of their professors at the end of the semester. Well, at least those professors who are engaged and invested in their students' educational success. My breakdown came last weekend when I awakened in a hotel room at 4:00 a.m. in New Haven, Connecticut with the worse case of vertigo in 10 years. I know the technique to try to alleviate or at least wait out the vertigo: keep your eyes closed, don't move, and try to relax. But nothing was working and the symptoms were getting worse: so much so that I was completely immobilized. Just turning my head from one side to the other, with my eyes closed, resulted in extreme nausea and the ultimate result of nausea (I will spare you some of the gory details). But it was the pain in my right shoulder and the realization that the women of my family die of heart failure (damn we live by our hearts, this is something that I'm trying to change, but to no avail), when I finally called the hotel front desk and asked them to call EMS. When the desk clerk asked, "would you rather have a taxi"? I had to spend two minutes explaining to her that I was immobilized with pain in my shoulder, that unless someone could carry me downstairs, ride with me to the local hospital, and hold a bag under my mouth while I deposited bile into it, I think it best that they call EMS. The hotel manager did call back, brought me some water (for I knew that I was extremely dehydrated), and assured me that EMS was on its way. The EMS technicians were so jovial and polite, that I couldn't help but find someway to laugh at their silliness, that is, once they ruled out that I was not in any imminent danger, but I did look a "little pale." I mustered up enough humor to ask them, "how can you tell that a black woman looks pale"? We got a good laugh out of that one. Of course, as they wheeled me on a gurney to the EMS vehicle, we talked about Obama and the change hopefully this country will undergo. They transported me to a Catholic hospital (the only one my health insurance will cover: the hell with these PPOs), and the nurses at the hospital were equally jovial and teased me because I managed to be fully dressed when I arrived at the hospital. Yes, I did muster up the wherewithal to clothe myself despite the vertigo, but doing so seemed to take the better part of an hour.

I write this because it became very apparent to me how vulnerable persons are who are alone. It dawned on me as I was lying across the bed in the hotel room waiting for the EMS to arrive and hoping for the symptoms to subside that perhaps my son will remember that I was in New Haven for a conference. I processed how easily it can be for a person who spends most of his or her time alone, to become ill and perhaps die unnoticed for days. I realized how important it is to remain connected even when remaining connected often works against my nature. I believe that I have always been a very solitary and alone person, and being connected to others has always required a lot of effort on my part. When I tell people that I prefer books to people, they often think that I am joking. However, if my mother were alive, she would validate my perception of who I am. But as I age, and as I realize that I have only one child who will be responsible for me as I become less capacitated, I must come out of my shell and force myself to interact with others more. It is not healthy to spend so much time alone.

My body is signaling that it too is tired. That it needs human stimuli. That my brain is just one part of my body, and I can't do a mind/body split anymore, for when I do this, the price is severe vertigo that often occurs when I am alone because I spend so much time alone. So it's time to bring my head out of a book, my eyes off the computer screen, my pen out of the journal, and look up and see and interact with the people around me. Wish me luck!


Judy said...

Michele, what a frightening experience! It happened to me once when Andrew was a toddler. I had no idea what was happening....just that I was dizzy and could not stand or sit up without extreme nausea. I called an ambulance and at the hospital was diagnosed with some type of inner ear infection. I also can relate to the whole book thing.Every week I interact with people less, it seems to me, and read books more!

M. L. Simms said...

Yes, Judy, which is why I'm going to start attending your Saturday evening salons again. Let me know if you are still having them, and I will be there.


E. said...

I had vertigo in Africa. It is no fun.

I think that we live in an amazing world...that one can be so "alone" and yet....

so an instant...

even if its local strangers.

Still, I feel always said that humans are social beings. (smile)

M. L. Simms said...

Yes, E, we are social beings. And Judy, I keep hoping for an inner ear infection then I'd have a reason for the vertigo, but the ENT can't find a thing. I'm concluding that the vertigo has to be associated with the doggone paper mites in the books because it almost always occurs when I am very tired and I have spent a lot of time in the stacks at large libraries. Judy, we have to go out for coffee as soon as my semester is over.