The year I went as Quasimodo for Christmas

I’ve always had a crappy immune system, ever since I was a kid, even before I came down with Lyme.  And I’ve always been prone to psychosomatic illness, so that I’d end up with the cold or a flu after finals or a really big paper (and one, spectacular year, during finals, boy that was fun) or after I was done with a trial.  My body has really grotesque ways of expressing its displeasure at the ways I mismanage my stress, from GI disorders to, well, I’ll get to the rest.  I blew it out of the water this weekend, reminding myself again that I hate this time of year.  Next year?  I’m rereading this post, so I can look at ways to opt out, early.

One of my many autoimmune ailments (all low level, more or less, for all that I’m crazy, I’m pretty damned healthy and as long as I watch my gluten I keep off the weight that has been a bane for so long) is rosacea, because, yanno, half-Scotch-Irish, half-Norwegian, all pasty.  (SPF everything, what?)  And that rosacea manifests itself in a fabulous way– my right eye swells shut.

The rosacea itself isn’t so bad, and again, as long as I watch my carbs/sugar/gluten and don’t drink too much, the fact that I discontinued the meds for it a few years ago when I left my husband because I couldn’t afford that + health insurance + car insurance too hasn’t meant all that much. Except, you know, when my eye swells shut and my lid oozes stuff and it hurts like a sonofabitch and then I have to go to the Mass. Eye & Ear to get a prescription and go through the whole song & dance of the diagnosis again, because it happens infrequently enough that I fall out of the electronic medical records.  Blargh.

Stressors include: Not having a car to run errands with since August and getting a shitty payout because my car was old when it was totalled and deciding to save my money for something better but still, errands on foot are a pain in the ass when your Dad FREAKS about the idea of anyone else driving his car, even though he’s never seen me drive a stick so how would he know?.  Being the HR person to two stores because I’m awesome like that but it’s a lot of work, damn.  A long run of family bullshit starting with my mom’s visit and my brother’s inaction.  My Dad’s hospital visit and subsequent bitching about his new low sodium diet because really, that’s all that matters about congestive heart failure, not the fact that you can’t have split pea soup or ice cream anymore.  And then there’s the mundane and yet gratifying stress at work of Annual Enrollment and chasing people around to get them signed up and navigated through what they needed to know between MassHealth and our plan and the ACA Marketplace.  There’s the associated eldercare crap of living with a stubborn, controlling sonofabitch who freaks out when I ride the T or do any of another million things he projects his own shit onto and who is increasingly anxious and about whom I’m corresponding with his physicians about an antidepressant, but I still have to get him to consent?  Culmination? Quasimodo eye the weekend of his birthday, because of course I do it on purpose.  (Did I mention it hurts?)  We had a screaming fight right before I walked out of the house and went to the ER.  On the bus.  In the rain.  Because I wanted to be the fuck alone, and not have him all up in my space.  At some point, I am going to have to get a social worker involved about respecting my space and taking care of himself and paying attention to his own fucking care or letting someone else who’s not me in to do it, but it’s not there yet.  I did bookmark the local resources, though, and I did call our Employee Assistance Program to get myself back in touch with potential therapists for after New Year’s.  Something’s got to give.  I don’t want it to be me, again.

While I sat in the relative peace and quiet of the E.R. (Despicable Me playing on the TV, and nobody bugging me to listen to them rant again about Republican budget stonewalling, even though the budget has passed), I decided I’d book a vacation.  The car’s a little further off now, but– three days to myself in Western Mass. at  B & B with art, yoga, and affordable food all within walking distance?  It’s worth it.

And when I got home with my eye drops and antibiotic prescription, $123.54 poorer (thank you, insurance deductible) for my troubles but anesthestized in the eyeball by that first precious drop, he at least had the grace to shut the hell up for 10 minutes as he nosily poked around in my discharge instructions and then WebMD’d my diagnosis.  Because, you know, I make this shit up.

When I got to work this morning, it was a whole other world.  There were some silent double-takes from people who know me less well (but still, they noticed, unlike my Dad, who didn’t pay any goddamned attention until I was almost all the way out of the house, because he doesn’t look anyone in the face, not even me), but of the 150 on staff over the course of my shift, I think maybe a full half of them either asked “Oh, what’s wrong with your eye?” or some variant thereon, including the indelicate but well-meaning “Wow, what’s the other guy look like?” and a few well-meaning inquiries as to whether the official store care-giver needed some closed-door counseling in case I wasn’t feeling safe in some relationship somewhere.  I assured everyone that thanks, I was fine, it was just a weird rosacea thing I got sometimes, and everyone said they hoped I felt better soon.  I also got cc’d on a lovely email from a colleague to my much-higher-ups saying thank you for all the work that I’d done on Annual Enrollment, and that she’d gotten lots of comments from our team members who we both do a lot of one-on-one work with saying that it was basically the first time they understood how their insurance worked.

I’ll take looking like Quasimodo at Christmas any year (I’m usually the one with the camera in any event, so who cares what I look like) if that’s the result.  A workplace full of people who look at you, see you, and notice if you don’t seem okay, and who notice that you want them to be okay as well?  A little unsightly unsightliness is a small price to pay.



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