Wednesday, 19 January 2022

A year in review: Health and wellbeing, part eight

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about my health! – and the post you’re reading is the twenty-sixth in the series. 

On 20 October aiming to go to Richmond – a town just outside the northwestern borders of the city – I got in the car and drove along Botany Road heading for Wentworth Avenue. I had the phone plugged in ready for a long drive but by the time I’d arrived at the intersection just before the turnoff to get onto the main road my heart had started to race. Inside the car I called Omer asking if he could drive me and when he agreed to granting me the favour so I turned off Wentworth Avenue and headed over the rail line toward Wolli Creek. Once there we went down to the car but Ming quickly SMS’d me saying she wanted to come too so I rearranged the back of the car where my artworks had been sequestered and lay down the spare seat for use. 

The detour delayed me by an hour but Omer quickly got used to the motorway and my comments were less frequent on the way home. While in Richmond, a small town just outside Sydney, the three of us took a break from the task of designing things for framing and went to a shop with a cafĂ© that has a little garden out the back and a fountain. I had a coffee even though it was already lunchtime while Omer and Ming shared a piece of cake. At home that evening I was soon busily putting things up on the walls because I still had a reserve of drops and hooks to use on the new rails I’d had installed. On the staircase going up to the first floor I situated a collection of five crayon drawings Adelaide had made when she was small. Some miniature watercolours – into which Amanda (the framer) had put D-rings – were hung in the kitchen next to a Sandra Hendy painting she’d just finished off for hanging up.

On 1 November I started out on a journey to Broadway Shopping Centre but aborted due to my heart beating heavily. It didn’t go fast, just made its presence felt, so I went to pick up Ming – who’d said she wanted to come over to my place to paint – and while waiting in her lobby phoned the Blackwattle Clinic to make an appointment with my psychiatrist. The earliest available time was the end of the week, a Friday (I organised to do the consult remotely) and while in Wolli Creek I drove to Woolworths to do grocery shopping. 

I’d planned to shop at Broadway where they have low-carb bread, which was out of stock at Woolworths in Wolli Creek though I still had a quarter of a loaf in the fridge I could get by with for a few days. I bit the bullet on Wednesday and headed north on Botany Road on the bus. I got off at Redfern and walked to Campos Coffee, bought three bags of ground Superior blend (you get a 10 percent discount for bulk purchases), then proceeded on foot to Broadway Shopping Centre. Here I collected mail and bought two loaves of low-carb bread – taking the last two off the shelf – as well as the mayonnaise I like and a bag of Brazil nuts. I left the building and walked across Wentworth Park to Pyrmont to visit the pharmacy – where I collected shampoo I’d ordered as well as medication – but I also took possession of the medical scripts I’d left with them to keep. The pharmacy’d been keeping them for me for a long time but, due to the unpredictable nature of panic attacks that periodically overcame me, I now wanted to buy my drugs nearer to home. 

I then headed east across the Pyrmont Bridge to the Queen Victoria Building, where I caught the light rail to Central Station, and then got on the 309 toward home. The trip overall consumed four hours and back home I rewarded myself by making a pot of tea. I was on the 309 again the next morning and by the time I got to Mascot I was sensible of my heart in my chest. It alternated between being noticeable to borderline as I made my way on the light rail, then the ferry, to Parramatta. I’d never caught the ferry up the river before, and was obliged by circumstance to stop this time at Abbotsford (where I was harassed by an aggressive noise miner) to pick up one Facebook purchase before boarding a second ferry to take me all the way to the head of the river in order to drop off a bagful of history books to a different person, a buyer. 

To get back home I caught the train then at Redfern got on a 309 heading south. That day I was out for about five hours and two days later I again risked a panic attack, this time in order to get to Camperdown. It struck me as somehow shameful to be limited to such a degree that I couldn’t make my way to the university where I’d completed the course of study dad’d so strongly wished for me so, ignoring my heart but full of anxiety, I conveyed myself to Newtown’s traffic snarl and on King Street, where it goes slow, I was sure of myself and the debility didn’t return on the way home. 

I ate some nuts and drank a cup of tea and immediately readied myself for a psychiatrist’s appointment on Skype. As usual he was late but on this occasion his customary tardiness suited me as I’d only just prepared myself. Dr Ouzas advised increasing the dosage of the anti-depressant I was on and he also wanted me, while waiting for the higher dosage to kick in, to again start taking the beta blocker. I got him to email a script to my local pharmacy and, after we’d hung up, I walked down to Botany Road and spoke with a salesclerk who took my scripts and told me that they’d make a file for me. “We’ll look after you,” she said before I left the building and I’d explained why I wanted to change pharmacies. This punctiliousness is part of growing old: because you rely on drugs so heavily once you reach a certain age they take on a special significance along with everything related to the body.

On 7 November I took a risk and drove the car to Campsie to pick up Omer and Ming, who’d been shopping, then the three of us drove along Victoria Road to Longueville, the trip to this leafy, distant suburb (to pick up a Facebook purchase) successful because for a change my heart behaved itself. After putting the pot I’d bought in the back of the car we went back to Botany via the Harbour Bridge and the Eastern Distributor. On the approach to the Harbour Tunnel I said to my two passengers that a week earlier it would’ve been impossible to drive on this road, and that I felt proud of myself (though it was my psychiatrist and the drug making it possible), but two days later on a trip away from home – using satnav because the way to the beachside suburb of Coogee was unfamiliar – I experienced an accelerated heartrate halfway and had to stop at the side of the road to try to get it calm down before going on.

Strangely, the palpitations didn’t recur on the way home, even though this small feat was also achieved using satnav. I didn’t chance it on 19 November and caught a bus and train to Crows Nest for a book sale, guessing that my heart wouldn’t tolerate exposure to the quick road and the tunnel. In fact this wasn’t a hardship as I was able to get out at St Leonards and walk – it’s only ten minutes on foot from the station to the hall where the tables were set up laden with items for purchase – and probably in the upshot saved money because not only did I avoid tolls but parking isn’t free in the vicinity of the community hall where the books were on sale. 

I had a major scare on 1 December when I got a heavy heart beat while watching TV. I’d had the problem since the day before that my front doorbell wasn’t talking to the intercom. I’d rung various companies but still hadn’t been able to get someone to come out and have a look at it. A company called Yates quoted me $200 for the first 30 minutes then about $65 for each 30 minutes after that but they never called me back to make a time to visit. On top of this I’d discovered a couple of days earlier that the annual premium for my home contents insurance was coming due. The amount was up almost 20% on the previous year, and came in at over $1000. Then more worries as money from my rental property, which I’d been expecting to arrive in my bank account, had again been quarantined for unpaid strata levies. On top of all that a guy next door was practising drums for about two hours. I was frazzled and my heart sped up, necessitating me going upstairs to take a beta blocker, which took effect after about 30 minutes. I got to sleep that night but it was pretty hairy and twice I almost called “000”, eventually messaging Ming when things started to look like they’d remain stable. 

I had another event a few days later, during the Sunday following our municipal election day. Ming’d messaged me at 4.30pm because she hadn’t voted and so I jumped in the car to speed over to her place. On the intersection to Botany Road the car ahead of the bus in front of me failed to move into the crossing as the light was green, and I beeped my horn at length to urge the driver to proceed. Then I didn’t stop at the amber light and crawled into the road just as I saw a police car stopped in the carriageway coming from the city. As I moved off they flashed their lights – which is what cops do to tell you you’ve been given a fine.

For the next few days I ended up checking my state government app to see if a fine had been issued for my car. For most of Sunday I read a book, recuperating my equilibrium following the event, but comforted myself reading people’s LinkedIn posts about family deaths, cancer survival, and other everyday tragedies. A few hundred dollars lost would be quite mild by comparison with what many people go through, I assured myself, but negative feelings persisted for a week until I became certain no fine would eventuate.


On 18 December I saw a post by Mark Mordue on LinkedIn about his getting a booster shot at his local chemist. Mark’d gone down to the shop a touch prior to the point where five months would’ve passed since his second shot, and I guessed my pharmacy on Botany Road would be doing something similar so I tucked a shopping bag in my pocket along with a mask and headed out. I made a booking for the 29th – just before New Year’s Day – and felt virtuous in advance of getting the Pfizer jab for additional cover.

A major panic attack beset me on 22 December when I vowed to pick up my mail at 4pm. I’d had the election day contretemps with the police car and since it was about three weeks since that event I was worried when an email from the post office arrived telling me I had something in my post box. The trip to Broadway Shopping Centre started out ok, but by the time I got to Redfern Station – just five minutes down the road from Bay Street, where the shopping centre sits – my heart was beating noticeably and I worried that it’d accelerate even before I got to my destination. This was alarming as it’d happened on an earlier occasion (before I’d gone back on the Lexapro) that, coming out of the shopping centre car park, I’d had palpitations.

In the end I arrived at the car park without palpitations this time. I picked up my mail (it wasn’t a fine) and got back in the car and made my way in the long queue to the exit gate. After pushing my ticket into the slot in the machine I drove out onto Bay Street and made it to Fig Street without too much of a problem. When I got onto Wattle Street, however, my heart began to thump alarmingly so I pulled off near Broadway and parked, took my car’s resident water bottle, and stood drinking water on the pavement for a few minutes. Long enough so that when I got back in the car – my hands shaking with nervous tension – I was able to drive back into the traffic at the lights and get home in one piece.

But my heart was alarmingly heavy until about 6.30pm. By this time, sitting on the couch in front of the TV, I’d taken a beta blocker having almost called an ambulance several times. My next psychiatrist’s appointment was in three weeks’ time, in the middle of January.

No comments: