A Minor Complaint

Sorry I’m so irritable.  It’s just my back again—kind of twinges, you know—especially if I bend over or sometimes when I drink too much. Doctor sent me for a CT scan—nothing. Waste of time and money. What do they know about pain?

Sorry to go on like this.  It’s just nice to have you here, listening to me when I hurt.  It hasn’t been easy, what with this aching back and my anxiety disorder.  Oh, I know, I shouldn’t worry so much.  But how would you feel?  Prescriptions, painkillers—but that’s no panacea. But still, sorry to obsess like this—you’re a real martyr to put up with me!

Anyway, as I was saying, it hasn’t been easy.  On top of all this, the usual sinus outbreak. Even now, this minute, I feel dizzy–sort of clogged-up, you know.  My ears: I can barely hear you—what’s that? Allergy pills?  Don’t ask—I don’t know how many times I’ve tried them. And the side-effects?  Forget about it.

Sorry—what was that?  I know, I know, it’s no bother and you’re happy to lend a sympathetic ear, but I must seem a real pain-in-the-rump and you probably can’t stand listening to all this!  On a brighter note, the doctor said I may not (yet) have GERD—you know, the acid-stomach I had after we went to that Chinese restaurant last week.  He said my esophagus looks OK (for now), but I can’t help thinking that, once your esophagus is acidified, you’re got a serious chronic condition with no cure.

Where was I?  Oh yes, did I tell you that back surgery is an option? But, I don’t know, I’m worried that it might make it worse. I don’t need to tell you that this past year has been hard. What with your cancer scare on top of all this, I don’t know how I coped.  What would I do if I lost you?  Probably become an alcoholic, get cirrhosis of the liver, and die a painful, unquiet death.

I know, I know, I’m obsessing—but what can I do?  Guess I’m just getting old—all these aches-and-pains and feeling-out-of-sorts—and you can’t turn the clock back.  One gets decrepit, debilitated, and then dies.  God, that’s depressing!

Sorry, I must be boring you to death.  I don’t know how you put up with it.  I wish I could be different; it’s not easy being me.  Guess it was poor genes, a roll of the dice, but come to think of it, an aunt of mine was a terrible worrier.  Did I ever tell you about how she once…

Hey, where are you going?  It’s hard being here, all by myself, with nothing to think about except my ailments.  Sorry—guess I’ve been talking your ear off, as usual, and if you don’t come back, it’ll serve me right!  But wait!  I forgot to tell you about something urgent, really a matter of life-and-death…!

• In appreciation of Ivan Illich and Nortin Hadler, MD, two outstanding critics of “medicalization” and “iatrogenesis.”

William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.