LET’S BE CLEAR folks: in the world of MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENTS, ‘Mr. Sensational’ Gino Vega is a patting-himself-on-the-back-for-putting-on-his-shoes-and-walking-down-the-street-without-crumpling-into-a-heap-of-fear-and-loathing kind of guy.
For background, over the last few weeks Mr. Sensational has found himself slipping deeper into that place where even the act of putting on shoes and walking down the street becomes an impossibility. It’s a place not so familiar to Mr. Sensational that it’s a danger to life or limb, but a place familiar enough to be unacceptably debilitating.
In the past when Mr. Sensational has plumbed these depths his response has been to bodyslam and piledrive his demons until he’s able to resurface. It’s a method that’s worked to varied success over the years, but one that too often leaves Mr. Sensational stretched out awkwardly, one foot planted firmly in the abyss while one hand reaches stubbornly for the light, and as the years go by and each consecutive battle royal takes its toll, it’s a balance that’s become less and less viable to maintain.
Which is why today, at 35 years of age, a broken down Mr. Sensational has decided to retire gracefully from the arena of fear and loathing, and move toward a sunnier realm of even-keelness…or at least that’s the plan.
At the heart of this plan is a list of simple lifestyle changes Mr. Sensational hopes will lead to a quieter, more peaceful state of mind.
Some of these are daily changes, like fixed sleeping and waking times during the week, a regimented approach to formerly scattershot household duties, predetermined reasons to get outside at least a few times a day, and so on.
Others are more general and long-term, most of these having to do with establishing a base-line level of physical and mental health, and among the proposed changes of this latter variety is a desire to get “back on the grid” of institutional medicine, a grid Mr. Sensational hasn’t been on for the better part of 20 years.
Since it seemed that scheduling a physical examination might be an easy place to start, and since Mr. Sensational had already promised himself he’d get such an examination before the end of his 35th year (regardless of other circumstances), he went ahead and called Kaiser to schedule an appointment. Mr. Sensational smiled as he waited for his call to be answered, thinking of the inevitable weeks between the day of the scheduling and the date of the appointment itself, weeks during which he could properly steel his reserves and prepare for the subtle horrors ahead.
For further clarity, when one approaches the world through a Gino Vegan lens–even when the Gino Vega in question is trying his best to quiet some of his mind’s more turbulent tendencies–the astute practitioner of Gino Veganism can and will find horrors lurking in the most unforeboding of places and at the most unassuming times, and an institutional setting, particularly one that gatekeeps the very doors of life and death, is an automatic trigger for horrors great and small, or, more precisely, small horrors that are great.
Along those labyrinthine fluorescent hallways where the normal person sees a promise of wellness, the Gino Vegan thinker can only see disease: a million deadly prognoses ready to be announced from beneath the impersonal muffle of surgical masks, lurking on the other side of a million disinfected, industrial doors. And worse than these prognoses themselves are the invasive means through which they might be determined.
Digital rectal exam anyone?
Yes, for the 20 years leading up to Mr. Sensational’s first physical examination since he was 15, he’s silently dreaded the inevitability of the DRE. And the inescapable discovery of strange growths on his testicles. And the pronouncement that his heart is about to fail and needs to be replaced immediately. And all gradations of fantasies and self-diagnoses in between.
But, with the weeks that must surely be necessary to schedule a physical examination, Mr. Sensational figured he’d be able to beat his neuroses, as he’d have plenty of time to calm himself down and put the fantastical nature of his fears in perspective. And that’s when the receptionist on the other end of the line cheerfully informed him that there were appointments available that same afternoon.
A few hours later Mr. Sensational was sitting in a Kaiser waiting area, drenched in sweat, his heart beating out of his chest. At least, he thought, he’d be able to sort himself out during the long wait before his appointment.
Instead, it was less than a minute after sitting down that his name was read off of a clipboard, after which Mr. Sensational found himself walking gingerly into the much-speculated-about unknown. An unknown that ended up being decidedly unremarkable.
On the other side of the portal between the waiting area and the medical facilities a medical assistant weighed Mr. Sensational and took his blood pressure. Mr. Sensational’s heart had already been pounding at Tell-Tale levels due to the aftermath of a recent psychological meltdown (the same meltdown that led to his scheduling a physical exam in the first place), and was now exacerbated by the “fight or flight” feelings inspired by his surroundings.
It was no surprise then that his blood pressure was reported as high.
Following the weigh-in and blood pressure check, Mr. Sensational was then led to an examination room where he was asked to strip down to his boxer shorts and wait for a doctor. Mr. Sensational complied, and while he waited he was startled by the sight of a middle-aged man looking back at him from the reflection of a framed print hanging on the wall. The man sat on an exam table in his boxer shorts, an ink-and-Exacto-knife tattoo on his right shoulder being the only thing that stood out from an otherwise innocuous appearance. Who was he? Where had he come from? Where was he going?
Soon the doctor arrived, and although there was some momentary confusion regarding Mr. Sensational’s lack of a medical history, the exam began. Mr. Sensational first answered questions about his parents’ health. Next, he breathed in and out while the doctor listened to his chest and back. Finally, the dreaded moment came when Mr. Sensational was asked to lower his boxer shorts, but after a barely perceptible testicular examination, the horror was over. And not the slightest mention of a DRE!
Mr. Sensational was then sent to a different area of the facility to receive a tetanus shot he’d been due to get since 1987, after which he returned to the site of his initial examination and was booked for a follow-up blood pressure test two weeks later.
And that was it. No real prognoses good or bad, just incredibly mundane, routine business. But it did leave Mr. Sensational feeling better. Sure, disease and death are inevitable, and oftentimes sooner than we think, but one doesn’t fend them off any more effectively through anxiety and distorted thought, while simultaneously keeping themselves ignorant of their actual physical status, than they do by facing the reality of that status for better or worse. In fact, the former approach leads to a lot of unnecessary angst and wasted time, time that’s already in incredibly short supply on account of death’s inevitability.
And so, in the weeks following his exam, Mr. Sensational’s shoes are both back on and laced, and he’s taking a few steps down the sidewalk. Not many, but some. And that’s enough for now. We’ll see where it leads as time goes on.
ADDENDUM – Mr. Sensational has since attended his followup blood pressure exam, and all is normal. Though it was again wondered why he doesn’t have a medical history.