Sweet Relief

Today was a big day: my neurology appointment and my headshots.

I don’t know why I scheduled seeing the neurologist for 9 am. I think I was just so happy to get an appointment sooner than July that I snatched up the first time they offered. So I dragged myself out of bed at 7:15 and was on the subway an hour later. Even after getting lost (why do so few buildings in Philadelphia have numbers on them?!), I was on time. As I was waiting to be seen, I saw I had an email from my headshot photographer. It was supposed to storm around the time of my session, so she was wondering if I could come in earlier. I said that that was no problem; my appointment would probably be over around 11. Perhaps she misread my message, because she wrote back, “Great, see you at 11!” Still- my appointment was only supposed to take an hour, tops. But, you know… doctors. I don’t think I got into her office until 9:30.

She was awesome, though. She was very thorough and nice and made sure I understood what she was saying. I also wasn’t embarrassed/ashamed answering her questions like I am with some doctors. Then again, she’s probably the first doctor I’ve seen in the last year and a half besides my eye doctor who I’m seeing for something besides a stigmatized illness. My migraines are pretty much out of my control. I don’t really do anything to trigger them, since I know what my triggers are and, as the  doctor said, in order to stop those, she’d have to control the weather and the population.

I knew from my reading that if my “only” problem was migraines, there wasn’t much that could be done. Very little is known about migraines even today, but I wanted to make sure that mine weren’t the result of something more serious. It doesn’t seem like they are, which is good, but I’ve still been put on a new prescription medication, which doesn’t make me happy. At least my previous prescriptions have been written by a single doctor; I’m afraid of what mixing them might do. However, my therapist had mentioned that the medication I ended up being prescribed, would probably be the one they chose, which was somewhat reassuring. But it does make me nervous that I’m taking medication for epilepsy that could slow not only my speech, but my thoughts. We’ll see what happens; I’ve been able to deal with side effects in the past, and I don’t get many in general.

There was only one uncomfortable part of my exam (well, besides my reflexes being tested. That will never stop being weird), which was that a medical student was observing the process. She was nice and very professional and just sat in the corner, but I could feel her watching my physical reactions to everything, and it was kind of weird when the doctor completed the final part of my tests and immediately turned to the student and said, “See? A full neurological exam in five minutes. All of that, in five minutes.”

Despite the exam only taking five minutes, the full appointment was long enough that I knew I’d be cutting it close to make it to my shoot on time. As the subway slugged along, I knew I’d definitely be late, which stressed me out. Kim, the photographer, had told me there was almost always parking on her street, so I wasn’t worried about that… until I saw that there was some sort of market going on, which apparently attracted all the car owners in the city. I ended up parking in a paid lot three blocks away from her house and was sweating in the warm weather by the time I knocked on her door. But as the testimonials reported, she put me instantly at ease, assuring me that my being 15 minutes late wasn’t a problem, since she had changed the time so late.

I’d met Kim before when she came to one of my classes my junior year to give us feedback on our musical auditioning. Obviously I couldn’t know everything about her from watching her for two hours and interacting for five minutes of that time, but I did remember she was super nice and made everyone, even the non-singers, feel good about what they had brought to class. I don’t need a photographer to fawn over me while I’m getting my pictures taken (actually… please don’t), but I do want to feel comfortable and supported by that person.

I definitely felt that today. Maybe because she’s an actor, too, she understands why it’s necessary to shoot for “type.” The last headshots I got were done by a guy who, besides making me feel very uncomfortable by shouting “Hot! Oh, that’s sexy!” while he snapped away, insisted on putting me in heavy makeup. Even after I spoke up and told him that he needed to take a lot of it off because I played children, what I ended up with was a glamour shot: I look pretty, but I’ve never ever walked into an audition looking like that, and I’ve never played any one who was supposed to look like that. Kim, though, did very natural make up that looked great in the pictures, and though she said nice, encouraging things to me while she was shooting, they made me feel good and confident as opposed to slimy and creeped-on. The best thing about the shoot was that, probably also because she’s an actor, Kim knew how to help me work the camera. Besides instructing me to do some tricks I already do so I didn’t feel like a Top Model wannabe when I did them, she basically gave me an action to play. “I want you to look down, and on ‘three,’ look at me like you know who the boss is and it’s you,” or “like if I were upset, I could come and talk to you.” It was really great and gave me something to do besides smile stiffly.

We shot outside for about an hour, and as we went back to her studio, she was like, “Now I can show you some of them!” I always hate this part of any photoshoot. I don’t enjoy looking at myself; I don’t spend a long time in front of mirrors, I avert my eyes when I walk past windows, and I never ever take selfies. But I actually didn’t cringe while looking at Kim’s pictures. I still didn’t enjoy looking at ME, but I could see past that and appreciate the quality and ME-ness that could be seen in the picture. I look my age, which is great, since in my glamour shot, I look older, which I rarely play. I’ll get the proofs in a couple of days, and I’m actually excited to see them! I’m sad that I can’t bring them to my audition tomorrow!

Ugh

It’s been a rough couple of days. 

On Saturday, I had an AM shift. As I was driving to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the brake lights of the tractor trailer in front of me lit up, and of course, I hit my brakes as well… but nothing happened. I had the pedal pressed to the floor, but it was like I wasn’t touching it. Because of the traffic, though, I was only going a few miles an hour, so instead of crashing into the truck in front of me, I glided into it softly enough that he didn’t feel it and there was no damage to either vehicle. 

I somehow made it to work without any other incidents, though I was late because I was going super slow. After my shift ended at 3, I called AAA because I wasn’t sure I would make it home. The tow truck took my car to a garage to be checked out, and the diagnosis was not good. Not only had the back brakes failed, but there were a lot of other problems, including “possible internal failure.” I wasn’t surprised. I know pretty much nothing about cars, but I’ve been driving this car for five years, and I’ve known something was wrong for awhile. In the end, nearly $800 was forked over (and that was with a 10% discount) and I waited for three hours while they fixed my car. I didn’t mind the wait- in fact, I was really grateful that they worked on it up until closing to fix every single thing- but the fact that there were that many things wrong with my car was really scary. 

I was glad I didn’t have to miss work the next day… I thought. The day before at the same store, my manager had watched me do a few shows, and saw me being harassed by a customer. She told me afterwards that that was the line- if someone talks to me like that, I’m allowed to cancel the show. It was good to know what the limit is, but I figured I’d never have to worry about it. But then, during my third show, a woman stood front and center at my table with her two young children with her hand out, waiting for the free gift we give to everyone. But before we give them out, we ask them to watch a demo. Most people are fine with this, and if they’re not, they leave; no big deal. This woman, however, wanted her gift now and she was willing to berate me until I gave it to her, even going so far as to grab for it. Instead, I told the group that I was cancelling the show, and if they wanted to join me in ten minutes, I would welcome them. As I turned around to walk away, I heard a noise behind me and turned back around to find the berating woman flipping the table over (onto her children, I might add), grabbing a free gift, and running away. 

I was stunned. I have been harassed, I have been snapped at, and made to feel awful about myself at this job, but NEVER have I had to deal with physical violence.It shook me up, but after a walk around the store and having some people from that audience telling me I had made the right choice, I put up another show fifteen minutes later. A lot of people who heard the story asked why management wasn’t all over her, but from what I was told by the store employees, behavior like this is pretty run-of-the-mill in the inner-city store. 

That was my last day in that store, thankfully, but today was a challenge, too. I was working in a store that we’ve been in twice since I joined the company. It’s across the street from my house, and I was excited to go back, since we’ve done well there before. But many things were working against me: 1) We’ve been there enough that everyone who wants our product already has it, 2) it’s tax time and people are thinking about money in a negative light, and 3) the store doesn’t control its own thermostat, and it was cranked up to 80. I though it was just today, but I heard from my coworkers that it had been like that all week, and customers had been fainting. No one fainted while I was there, but no one wanted to stand through a demo while we all had sweat running down our faces. In the end, I only sold eight, which I don’t think I’ve done since I started at the company. But whatever; we’re out of there now. 

This coming week involves my neurology appointment and getting new headshots,both on the same day, both very scary. 

Now I’m Nervous for My Brain…

Image

I’ve been getting migraines and bad headaches since I was twelve, but besides home remedies, I never did much about them. But since seeing two doctors who are invested in what happens within the grey matter inside my skull, I started thinking about going to a neurologist for my still-very present headaches.

I can’t call it luck that I have an amazing therapist and an amazing psychiatrist, because I chose them after a lengthy period of research, but not everyone is who they seem on even a professional website. My doctors are, though, and because they are two caring individuals, they insisted that when I looked for a neurologist, I find someone caring.

My therapist said the same thing when I was looking for a psychiatrist over the summer: “Look for someone who cares. They’re kind of rare, but you can find them.” For all my past experiences with less-than-awesome doctors and the stories my mom sometimes brings home from the hospital, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this comment, but I was. Like… why would you get into healthcare if you didn’t like people, or at least care about making them better (which I assume, perhaps erroneously, would make you care about the people who have the problems.) But my experience today showed me that not only was my therapist right about that, she may also be right about being able to tell the quality of the doctor by the tenor of their receptionist.

I’d read through the information packet sent to me by the neurology office when it arrived a month or two ago, but since I am now just a few weeks away from my appointment, I wanted to read it over again. When I was confused by the circumstances under which you need a referral, I called the number the packet tells you to call if you have questions like that.

ME: (rattles off preliminary speech about when my appointment is and my confusion)

RECEPTIONIST #1: Um, this is Penn Presbyterian Hospital.

ME: I know.

RECEPTIONIST #1: So… you meant to call us?

ME: Yes, I’m holding medical papers from you in my hand.

RECEPTIONIST: Well, this is the emergency room number, I don’t know how you got it.

ME: It’s in the informational packet I was sent.

RECEPTIONIST #1: Well, I can’t help you. I’ll TRY to transfer you to the neurology unit.

(Extremely loud holding music plays, so loud that I have to put the phone on speaker and put it on the other side of my bed.)

RECEPTIONIST #2: Hello? (two second pass) HELLOOOOO?!

ME: Hi. (Previous speech.)

RECEPTIONIST #2: Wait, wait, wait- this is Penn Presbyterian.

ME: I know. I have papers from you in my hand.

RECEPTIONIST #2: Okaaaaay…when were you discharged from the hospital?

ME: I haven’t been a patient yet, my appointment is on the 22nd.

RECEPTIONIST #2: Uh, well, the emergency room told me that you had been discharged from this unit. If you haven’t, I can’t really help you.

ME: Okay… I was transferred to you after calling the number in my information, so I don’t know where to go from here.

RECEPTIONIST #2: I’ll get you the number of the operator. I don’t have the neurology number, but they should.

ME: Great, thanks.

(More incredibly loud holding music. The operator picks up and I give him the rundown.)

OPERATOR: Oh. Um… uh… I really don’t have that information, so I don’t know what I can do.

ME: You’re the third person I’ve been transferred to, I really don’t have any other way of reaching the neurology office.

OPERATOR: Well, uh… I GUESS I could maybe find the number for you… hang on.

(He figures out a way to transfer me, like an operator does. I finally reach the neurology office…’s answering machine. Awesome.)

 

Now the question is, will they call me back or will I go in without a referral, only to have them tell me (as the packet warns might happen) that they can’t see me without one and reschedule me for six months from now?

If my therapist is right about the receptionist reflecting the warmth of the doctor, I’m afraid I might just have an ice pick stabbed into my brain.