Yesterday I had to drive down by the college campus where I used to teach for an eye doctor appointment. This is the first feature that pops out at me about retirement: a lot more doctor appointments. I don’t know this for sure, but it seems like now that I’m retired (ten months and counting!) my body has realized I have more time to tend to its needs, so it is taking the opportunity to quietly go haywire.
The good news is there is nothing significantly or terminally wrong with my eyes. I have a chronic inflammation of the upper eyelids which is causing the pain and the blurry vision. I am not going blind, I do not have glaucoma or macular degeneration or any of the other horrible things I’d been imagining for last six weeks as I waited for my appointment date to arrive. The other horrible thing I imagined is eye cancer. I have a “freckle” on one of my eyeballs that my ophthalmologist is keeping an eye on (sorry bad pun). He says it is nothing to worry about but when your eyes go wonky, you worry. Well, perhaps YOU don’t, but I do.
I am a champion worrier. Always have been. I practice not worrying, relaxing, deep breathing, living in the moment, thinking good thoughts. But when the body acts up, which mine has been doing quite steadily for several months now, one thing after another like a cascade of age descending since I hit the big 6-0, or since I retired and now have time to pay attention, worry kicks into high gear and just keeps on racing along the highway of my mind. I step on the brakes but it’s like driving up and down hilly terrain, I really can’t maintain a steady speed. So I zoom between wild optimism (60 is great! Retirement is awesome!) and crazy worry (I knew that freckle on my eyeball was going to be trouble!)
Anyway, another worry put to rest. I was so relieved for a little less than 24 hours. But of course the cascade continues, as it has been doing. And yes I’m retired but I really don’t have time for this today. I have a book to proof and a luncheon to attend and how am I supposed to do either when I have a crashing migraine? I know all those bright lights the ophthalmologist flashed into my eyeballs yesterday triggered the migraine. So this is the way it works, I patch up one leak and another sprouts. Luckily, migraine is an old friend and I have the meds. I just don’t like using them as they really aren’t great for driving. And I had that lunch to attend…
Before I retired I imagined many lunch dates and much writing and several vacations. I have not taken a vacation since the ill-fated trip to the west coast to visit the grandbabies in May. Which is when I tore my knee muscle and fractured a bone and had to wear crutches and stay off my left leg as much as possible for three long months. Not even a weekend away. Been too busy dealing with the cascade. Because the stress of dealing with a bum knee gave me shingles and then I got a sinus infection and the steroids caused my insomnia to flare up and the medication I had been taking for years to help me sleep stopped working and I had to get an entire new set of meds not to mention the pain pills for the knee and so there was a lot of trial and error because my body hates most pills so that was fun.
Mostly everything is sorted now. The migraine will pass. I don’t get them much anymore. Well, I had a two day session when I quit my beloved coffee. Yes, I love coffee. But I love sleep more. So there’s that. I won’t even begin to explain about the anxiety all of this has caused to flare like fireworks over the Detroit River in July. That’s not even worth going into and the new meds seem to be helping with that anyway. Despite popping a dozen or so pills this morning, or perhaps because of these pills, I feel confident the worst is over and the real fun of being 60 and retired can begin. Tomorrow, I assume. Because it helps to be hopeful.
Of course there is that one stubborn area of my brain that insists on filing a complaint on behalf of aging, and it is this: why doesn’t anybody warn you that bizarre problems like inflamed eyelids are a thing? Or that insomnia is just a fact of life for older people? Or that medication used for years stops working and also has recently been discovered to cause “cognitive decline” in older persons? Yesterday the physician’s assistant actually said the word “dementia” — not that I have dementia but that the life-saving pill I had blithely taken for many years that recently stopped working was actually a good thing because it meant I had to stop taking it and thus would not be at risk for dementia. This is the same pill that my neurologist assured me was perfectly harmless lo these many years ago.
Did you know heroin got it’s name because when it was invented it was seen as a savior (or heroine) from morphine addiction? Yes. Drugs are funny things. They are miraculous and treacherous. A pill that cured all ills can turn on you like a bad boyfriend and begin to cause the very symptoms you took it to escape from. Like insomnia and anxiety. Crazy, right? But hey I’m retired and what else do have to do but monitor this body that is suddenly quite a handful. Or maybe it always was this way and I just fooled myself into thinking that retirement would solve all my problems, mental, physical, and emotional. So far, that has not happened, and yet I could not suppress a squeal of glee when I passed the campus without turning in to faculty parking.