As a nurse, part of the job was to get a history on our patients when they were admitted to the hospital. This consisted of pulling up a stool next to their bed and asking them a structured series of questions – previous hospitalizations, allergies and medications -- that sort of thing.
Many of my older patients would bring all their medications with them – usually dragged along behind them by patient and broad backed significant others. Many times I got shopping bags full of pills to inventory as a part of the process.
Shopping bags full of pills…
I remember thinking – how did they get to this? Regimented dosage schedules with pill cutters and alarm clocks; Medications to counteract medications; Temporary single shot therapies cloudy with age, but kept for, I guess, superstition, or a possible unimagined relapse when every minute counted.
I thought it was probably a slow process -- aggregation over time. It never occurred to me that it could begin on a single day that could be pointed to, in retrospect, as the omega of being old.
I have been going along, minding my own business, when I developed back pain. A quick trip to the doctor pointed out multiple maladies that all needed treatment. The treatments all revolve around changes to my body that I used to slough off as a day well spent, but know find that not treating them with pills and potions will involve an actual change in my lifestyle.
And, unusually, it’s either or
I’m fat – 250 pounds. I’ve been this weight before and knocked down things in my way and gave it a thought only when people said fat jokes around me.It didn't slow me, and people got out of my way, quickly.
But now, it’s making me diabetic, have a fatty liver, damaging my pancreatic thingy and making me short of breath.
And the funny part is – a big part of the problem is the medication I take for my depression has a side effect of weight gain. I’ve only consistently been on an anti-depression med for the past year, because, now that I’m older, I can’t handle the ravages of a depressed and tortured artist.I guess fat and happy isn't a choice either.
I smoke and need to stop – nothing more needs to be said, really, like a Phillip Roth book – no words need to be added to explain my love of the drug and the anti-socialism of the habit.
I’ve arthritic hips – mild at this point, but I’m only 54 and god knows I might need to walk again come the revolution.
All of my problems and all of the medical solutions (pills, tests etc.) revolve around habits that got me here – eating for relief, couch potatoing for sloth, free-basing nicotine for sport.
So – mark the date, it’s a slippery slide to the shopping bag of pills, or a gradual change of youthful extravagance into something different and unknown to me.