I’ve spent the last decade or more arguing with myself. The disagreement is over the pain in my muscles and the tremor that knocks against my spine. I ask, “What is wrong with my body?” I respond, “You’re a hypochondriac.”
It has kept me from writing this week—the pain, that is. This week it appeared as a spasm in my chest and back muscles; my ribs felt bruised. Sitting in a chair, holding myself upright, is like a weightlifting exercise—”good mornings,” I think they’re called. And then my usual brisk, 20-minute walk took 30-minutes and I started noticing how much harder it was to move my left leg.
But I still walk. I sit, upright, in my chair. I tell myself, “Stop whining. There are others who are far worse off than you.” I have no sympathy for the hypochondriac. I rub my forefinger against my thumb to mimic a tiny violin.
I’ve been to neurologists, movement disorder specialists, physical therapists. I’ve had MRIs, CAT scans, EMGs, spinal taps. I’ve been told at various times that I might have multiple sclerosis, primary lateral sclerosis, hereditary spastic paraplegia (let me look at your feet—does anyone in your family have flat feet?), and stiff-person syndrome. The last time I saw a neurologist, she decided I had one of many forms of mitochondrial myopathy— but the only way to know which one is through a biopsy and it really isn’t worth it since they can’t do anything about it. The movement disorder specialist said I have an orthostatic tremor. The physical therapist said there was nothing she could do to stop the tremor or treat my ever-spastic muscles. It’s in my brain. Or all in my head, I tell myself.
I take some of the same drugs as an MS patient does for symptoms: baclofen for spasticity, provigil for fatigue. I used to fence competitively but quit because I couldn’t keep up and I hated to lose all the time. So now I walk and lift weights a couple of days a week. I spend too much time on the couch with a heating pad. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last two years, and feeling portly triggers that argument all over again.
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Yes, there is. I can’t move my neck.”
“Bite on a bullet.”
“I’m so tired.”
“Life is short.”
“I’m not faking this.”
“Oh, blah, blah, blah.”
It occurs to me that the battle in my head is more tiresome than any muscle fatigue. The geraniums in my kitchen window, which by all reason should be dead, are blossoming this morning. Blood red petals against a woolly gray sky.