I have a confession to make. I'm bad. Not all bad, of course. I teach yoga and eat healthy food and take my vitamins and stuff. But I drink. I also smoke. Not a lot, but I smoke. (Trying to quit, of course.)
Oh, shut up. Just because someone's a sex columnist doesn't necessarily mean that person has the best sex life on the planet, and just because I'm an alternative health columnist doesn't mean I have to be one of those people who only use shampoo they can eat and shriek at the sight of a non-organic carrot.
I'm a rock chick, as anyone who reads the music section of this magazine might already know. I also, up until recently, hadn't been to a doctor (except for sports injuries and one skin disease that I caught from a mat at a yoga studio) in four years. No checkup, no pap smear, no nuthin'. I am terrified of doctors.
This year I plan to confront this fear, which sets my heart pounding like a jackhammer and makes my palms drip. It's not that I think the medical establishment is evil and, as many seem to believe, in bed with pharmaceutical companies that are only out to make a buck and don't care whether you live or die. That's radical paranoia and total bunk. People who honestly believe that conspiracy crap are armchair pundits who have never seen what doctors have to contend with, say, in an emergency room, on a regular basis. (I have thrown out my Vioxx, though.)
No, I'm not terrified of doctors because I think they're evil. I'm terrified of them because I'm afraid one will tell me I'm sick. I'm afraid I'll walk into the doctor's office for a regular checkup and walk out with a time limit on my life. You'd be scared, too, if you'd drunk away your 20s.
This just can't go on. You have to go to the doctor and get checkups. A woman I know was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer, which for me is both a good reason to get a pap smear and a good reason to fear doing so. Did I mention I plan to confront this fear? Friggin' doctors. Bring 'em on.
It's funny, but I think this type of fear is what makes many of us who do not necessarily mistrust the medical establishment turn to alternative health sources in the first place.
I knew a girl who stuffed parsley up her snatch because she read this could bring on an abortion. It didn't work. Neither did dong quai. She wound up getting the abortion. But I understand the motivation. Who needs a scary doctor when you can cure yourself with herbs and the power of thought?
I do honestly believe that there's an untapped reservoir of possibilities in alternative medicine, but I'm not one of those people who think that just because something is natural it's good for you. Digitalis is natural. So is dog shit.
This year I'm going to start going to a doctor.
About a week ago, I started with the pap smear. It was horrible. The horrible part was making the appointment, then waiting for it, then biking over to the appointment, then waiting in the stupid waiting room.
I swallowed about half a bottle of the allegedly calming Bach Flower Rescue Remedy in one day. Valium might have been better. The actual test, taken by this incredibly comforting and manly woman doctor who I imagine breeds huskies on the side, took about four seconds.
Now I just have to wait for the results. Then maybe we should check out the rest of me: my liver, my lungs.... Um, wait a sec. Maybe I'll just wait for the pap results, then take baby steps.
I keep thinking about the old Chinese saying that goes "One disease, long life. No disease, short life," and I know that somebody in China understands me.