The Eyes Have (Had) It

For anyone who isn’t comfortable reading about needles, go away. This is not the post for you. I wish I were lucky enough to have that kind of choice, but like many people in the world, I can’t curate a bloodless, needle-less environment for myself.

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Today, as it seems I am so much of the time (thanks to having both juvenile diabetes and multiple sclerosis), I am in mourning for a part of myself.

At the behest of my regular eye doctor, I visited a new opthalmologist who specializes in diabetic patients, and I got pretty crappy news. It appears that I am, like most diabetics of all ilk, especially ones who’ve been diabetic for more than 25 years like me, losing my eyes. It seems that–more than likely–I will have to have injections in both eyes every six weeks… indefinitely.

I’m not sure that was entirely clear: every six weeks, this doctor wants to PUT A NEEDLE INTO MY EYE, with no end in sight (ha ha, get it?). And I have to make separate appointments for each eye, so that’s twice every six weeks of someone sticking a NEEDLE into my EYE.

I am certainly not a wimpy kid about needles. I have been a Type I (juvenile) diabetic most of my life, which means putting a catheter in the skin of my stomach (using a needle every 2 days and pricking my finger to draw blood about 8 times a day. Before I wore the pump, I had to give myself subcutaneous injections of insulin about 5 times a day. I also have MS, which has meant giving myself an injection in the thigh muscle every week and undergoing 10 hours of an IV treatment every month.

When I got the news about having diabetes, I started getting tattoos as a way to deal with it. I figured if I had to regularly stab myself with needles, I was going to use needles to make something aesthetically-positive come out of the experience. Now both my arms and my decoletage/collar bone are covered in tattoos. I’ve stopped getting them because I’m running out of space. The tattoos also prevent me from being a complaining baby when some doctor or other inevitably wants their Nurse Feratu to draw my blood or inject dye or some other pointy-stick-related barrier violation of me–you don’t get to complain about a needle prick when you’ve got visible tattoos.

All this needling has caused some damage: my veins are small to begin with, and now they’re getting scarred up and tough to use. It usually takes a phlebotomist or the IV nurse an average of 2-3 tries to find a usable vein. (Today, for instance, my arm looks like a yellow, red and purple mess where the opthalmologic nurse injected me with contrast dye and the vein blew.) The skin of my stomach is also getting scarred up enough that I may not be able to use the insulin pump there much longer either.

All this is to say I have become, over the years, The Human Pincushion, and I’m awful tired.  Today I get the news that another person wants to start sticking needles into me–into my eyeballs, which is some of the only un-needled space left on me, and all I can think is how MORE tired I am.

I’m not using this space only to whinge, I promise. I’m just trying to figure out how to make sense of this, to make something of it that will do something in the world. I’m trying to figure out how to use this situation to make me a better person, more empathetic, stronger, braver. I remain well aware that many other folks suffer horribly much worse due to health or economics or politics or abuse or repression.  But at the moment, all I can do is cry, worry about a medical mishap that will make it impossible to do the work I do now, or more medical bills (this will be more than $1500 per injection, I’m told–that’s $3000 every 5-6 weeks, and it’s unclear how much my insurance will cover), or just more pain and fear.

I mean, they want to put a dang NEEDLE in my dang EYE on a regular basis.

Life, this is the asshole-est joke you have ever played. Seriously. Not funny.

 

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Not Dead, I Swear

I just this afternoon decided to post an update here, since it has been a while, and to my horror, I have discovered that my last post was made in October 2016.

Okay, I have excuses. Mainly that I moved from Brooklyn (my home city for more than twenty years) and my apartment there (in which my wife and I lived for 16 years) to a quieter, greener pasture (and a big house with no other tenants) about an hour and a half north of Brooklyn.

Also, I wrapped up my final semester of being a college professor, which has been my life for–also–more than twenty years. I taught my final semester this past fall. I miss it and don’t miss it at the same time. (I do miss having people listen raptly when I speak…I’m a middle-aged fat woman, so under which other circumstances is that likely to happen for me? It doesn’t help that I retired reluctantly and prematurely mostly because my extemporaneous abilities have declined significantly, due in large part to the nasty tricks of Multiple Sclerosis, which makes teaching–at least the way I’m able to do it–almost impossible. I miss my mind as much as I miss having people respect me for my mind.)

Point is, my life has changed radically–mostly for the better, though I still sometimes feel wistful for my grimy, inconvenient, congested, highly-peopled life in Brooklyn. I’m a city mouse at heart, so where I am now feels like the country (though most people would probably disagree…but my neighbor has a tractor and my other neighbor raises ducks, and as soon as there’s farm equipment or non-dog/cat animals involved, that’s the country to me). It feels far too easy a life–even getting to a grocery or hardware store in my new town requires far less planning, energy and effort than it did in Brooklyn. Which, I recognize, is a stupid sentiment–there’s no valor in hardship; anyone who’s suffered not by choice will tell you that. But I can’t help the little creep of guilt and disappointment in myself at how easy I have it now.

Anyway, as I am more wont to do out here without the constant and senseless pressures of the honking, smelly, angry city to which I’d grown accustomed, I’ve wandered from my point. My point in writing: I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of being stupidly busy with moving and then being stupidly tired from it, and have neglected what I really like to do (read and write). But I’ve got my new office mostly set up now, my books are all unpacked and in place, and I’ve figured out the proper way to make good tea with the water out here (it seems to require more tea leaves/bags than it did in Brooklyn… is this a thing with hard water?)

All this is to say that (1) I’m not dead as far as I know and (2) I will be back to posting book reviews and essays in this space right soonly. I’m happily making my way through Rachel Davidson Leigh’s novel Hold at the moment, which is a really lovely sci-fi (speculative fiction? alternate reality?) story about a guy who discovers he can freeze time, and I have a stack (okay, more of a virtual stack) of new novels waiting for me when I’ve finished that one.

Please don’t give up on me yet. I’ve got reviews and essays coming soon, I promise. It’s just that I find myself moving much slower, much closer to a reasonable speed of life, now that I don’t have the red amphetamine of NYC ramping me up into constant insomnia and fretting.

And that is a fact about which it’s clear how I should feel (relieved), but about which I’m not sure how I do feel (is it weird that I miss it a bit?). Not sleeping was bad for my already-teetering health, but made me much more productive.

We shall see, though: perhaps I am slower out here, but my thinking will be deeper and clearer. We’ll all find out soon enough.