My doctor told me I need to stop giving parts of myself away to people. I thought that was a pretty insightful observation from a man who was checking out my tonsils for infection. The appointment had been made several weeks earlier for a time after work, but as it turned out, I came down sick the day before so the timing of my visit was apt.
So while he looked inside my ears, and felt my glands, he asked about my mood. It was a standard question for us. I have been seeing him for almost five years now. It was a couple of months after the infertility diagnosis before I got help for my depression. He’d been my doctor while I’ve lived in the area ever since.
“Are you currently in a relationship?” he asked me.
“I’m in multiple relationships,” I answered.
He may have shaken his head just slightly before realising it was the wrong thing to do.
“I just want you to be careful,” he told me.
I immediately anticipated questions about STIs and was prepared with my answer when he said instead “every time you enter a relationship with someone, you give part of yourself to them. If you are seeing multiple people, you’re separating yourself into lots of parts and it can be hard to regain all those parts once you’ve given them away”.
My retort about condoms died on my lips.
“People with depression can’t afford to give themselves away. I know you think you can keep them out with your walls but you probably give more of yourself away than you realise.”
I held in my quip about walls like a nuclear bunker. I had just watched Chernobyl and that shit wasn’t funny. Not funny and not true, it turns out. I mean, my doctor knows me well, really fucking well.
The week I went cold turkey off my medication, he knew the moment I sat down in his examination room. He knew about my coke habit, my divorce, how stupid I thought my last psychologist was. He’d offered to call a former bullying boss who accused me of faking my depression to get out of work. He knew I couldn’t handle being bored, that I wouldn’t stay in a job I didn’t like and hadn’t seen Star Wars nearly as much as he had. The lolly dispensing R2D2 I bought him one Christmas was still among his most prized possessions. He’d told me at my last appointment.
But this? This was new insight and I was frankly, stunned. And quiet. And maybe thinking he’d stolen the concept of horcruxes from Harry Potter. Did that make me Voldemort?
My head in my hands on his desk, he didn’t say anything to me as he typed up notes about my current ailment – a sinus infection that had developed into a nasty cough, blocked ears and a throat caching razor blades.
“How’s your mood?” he asked again.
“I feel like death so it’s probably not the best time to ask me.”
He nodded, conceding the point.
“I imagine you haven’t been sleeping either,” he said.
“No, not for weeks.”
He nodded again. We both knew it was a side effect of my meds.
“Was it the biopsy that upset you do you think?”. He was trying to pin down the reason behind my current episode.
“No, the biopsy was fine. The outcome was expected.”
Chronic ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) not that they’d told him. They were supposed to write to him but hadn’t. He was frustrated at the failure in the health system.
“Are you OK with that?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Don’t fall off ladders. Don’t take aspirin. Tell them if I need surgery or get pregnant.”
We exchanged sad smiles at that.
“We’ll probably need to increase your dose again but let’s see how you feel after this infection clears up. I’m going to leave you on 50 for now.”
My assent wasn’t required. It was my decision to go back on them after all. I knew I needed them.
“Think about what I said, OK? About your relationships. Your feelings are not indestructible.”
“You know me. I don’t do feelings.”
He sighed knowing better than to argue with me and signed my medical certificate and prescriptions. I rose to leave.
“I’ve seen you at your lowest. I know you feel.” He almost whispered it, scared to enrage the no fucks given inside me.
I almost stumbled over my feet as I left.
Powerful and truthful in it all.