When Sooner becomes Later


So Dr. Tucker asked, “Would you be willing to go see the immunologists at the Cleveland Clinic?”  I said yes and he said he would arrange a hospital-to-hospital transfer.

When he came back a day or two later, Dr. Tucker quietly told me that Cleveland would not take me.  He said that he had spent three hours on the phone with them and—a trace of bitterness here—apparently you had to be bleeding out to get a hospital-to-hospital transfer.

My only hope was gone; I sat on the bed and wept.  Dr. Tucker let me.  He didn’t mouth meaningless words about how it didn’t matter.  He didn’t push on to talk about other medical issues.  He didn’t leave the room.  Dr. Tucker knew the news was devastating and he stuck with me while I absorbed it; he did offer Kleenex.

Then he discharged me with an indwelling catheter.  I began to sleep and I began to feel enormously better.  I had been dying from lack of sleep and now I was recovering.

Then it hit:  my glucose level began to soar out of control.  It had been 250 but now it was 350.  I went on a vegan diet but after about eight months my glucose was 423, so I gave it up.  Now, here I am with a glucose average of 345 and spiking over 600.  And I would like to say something to all the people who are writing in telling me what diet I should be on and what natural treatments I should use:  shut up!

To tell a stranger how to treat is the worst form of rudeness.  First, it assumes the patient is a complete idiot who hasn’t had the brains or initiative to take care of herself.  Second, it ignores complicating factors, which the speaker can and the patient can’t.  Third, just like doctors, everybody wants to talk and nobody wants to listen.  There is some complete moron on line who calls herself “a mouse” and has been insisting that I take thiamine or some damn thing.  I particularly would like her to shut up.

If you want to help somebody and think you can then ask.  Have you tried this?  Yes?  Oh, okay, I’ll keep quiet.  No?  May I tell you about it?  Not interested?  Okay.  That’s how you have a polite conversation.

Twenty-five million Americans have diabetes mellitus.  That’s a hell of a lot of people.  I got it from antidepressants.  Who knew?  Well, psychiatrists knew that antidepressants cause weight gain but they never told me.  Now the research says that people who take antidepressants are more likely to develop diabetes than people who don’t take antidepressants.  So my problem began with antidepressants, which caused weight gain, which led to diabetes.  And I didn’t really understand that I was getting fat.  It’s a sort of reverse anorexia where your perception gets so screwed up that you don’t see yourself the way everybody else does. 

Also there is the matter of critical thinking.  Constant use of antidepressants leads to something Dr. Peter Breggin calls “spell binding,” i.e., your thinking becomes complacent.  You cease to question, challenge or doubt; you accept.  Take that all together and you get a row of fat people sitting on a couch stuffing their faces without thinking.

Eight percent of adult Americans have diabetes; eleven percent of Americans are taking antidepressants.  The study I’d like to see is the one where every fat person is asked if they’re taking antidepressants. What if America’s obesity problem is a drug problem?

So, okay, I quit taking antidepressants and discovered that I was fat and had diabetes.  What did I do about it?  I went to an endocrinologist—that’s a physician who deals with hormones and treats diabetes—and when my blood sugar was dropping into the 50’s every day, he told me to eat more complex carbohydrates.  Then he said, “Oh, you have celiac disease.  I don’t know what to tell you.”  Physicians are trained to be idiots.

Hippocrates said, “As to diseases make a habit of two things—to help, or at least, to do no harm.”  He also said, “Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.

(While we’re here, a few more quotes from the old doctor:

  • “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
  • “It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
  • “Eunuchs do not take the gout, nor become bald.”)

My physician only knew how to prescribe drugs (and for more complex carbohydrates, you eat rice and potatoes–that wasn’t hard, was it?) so I went to a dietitian.  I learned a whole lot, stopped eating eggs every day, started eating brown rice, and got my glucose under control.  For about six years I kept my diabetes perfectly under control by eating a really healthy diet.

I would like to repeat that:  For about six years I kept my diabetes perfectly under control by eating a really healthy diet.  If anybody would like my diet, I’d be glad to share.  (It included ice cream every day, but only half a cup.)  I ate the diet that every American diabetic should.  It was healthy, it worked, and I was happy.  Then my glucose numbers started to climb, so I went to another dietitian and made some refinements in my diet.  In other words, having gotten a lower level degree in Righteous Eating, I went back for graduate work.

That helped for a while, then the numbers started climbing again.  I tried acupuncture.  I tried cinnamon.  I went vegan.  I took insulin, which gave me the screaming willies.  I took metformin for three weeks, which nearly killed me.  So here I am.  I have diabetes that cannot be controlled.  The bottom line, folks, is that sooner or later the body wears out and cannot fix itself.

And I’ve hit the bottom line.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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One Response to When Sooner becomes Later

  1. Feminist Rag says:

    Oh Anne, I’m so sorry you’re having such health troubles. Parts of this article made me laugh though, I love your sharp wit. I completely understand your frustration with people trying to tell you to try this or that like it is THE answer to all your problems. My wife encounters the very same thing, she’s been suffering from several complex, incurable illnesses for the last 15+ years, it’s maddening to hear over and over again “advice” as you said, is just rude and offensive by assuming the ill person is an idiot (though the advice-givers are usually well-meaning, but they need to do far more listening than talking). YOU are the expert of your body, you know what works and what doesn’t. You may like an article I just posted on my blog about “Helping” versus “Serving”, where Helping = inequality while Serving = a relationship between two equals. It’s a must-read for all physicians and mental health professionals.

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