Final diagnosis

One slice of the most expensive headshot I've ever commissioned. A $1,000 MRI ... discounted from $1,500 for self-pay ... a steal, considering that a nearby hospital charges $6,000.
One slice of the most expensive headshot I’ve ever commissioned. A $1,000 MRI … discounted from $1,500 for self-pay … a steal, considering that a nearby hospital charges $6,000.

When I went to the GP two months ago complaining of constant lightheadedness and diarrhea, he ordered a small battery of tests. All the tests came back negative, so he said to wait it out for a few weeks. Maybe the symptoms would just go away.


At one time or another since the latter part of July, I’ve expected the next words out of the doctor’s mouth to be “heart disease” or “cancer” or “tumor” or God knows what else.

Along the way, the lightheadedness and diarrhea accumulated more symptoms … debilitating fatigue, gray areas in my peripheral vision, stabbing pains.

I’ve tried acupuncture, massage, holistic medicine, reiki. Nothing was working.
So I sat down with the GP about a week ago as he thumbed through a medical book trying to reconcile my symptoms with all the negative test results. Finally, he said that he hadn’t a clue. He suggested that I get an MRI.

“Crap,” I thought, “so it is a tumor.” He added that it also might be an aneurism.


$1,000 poorer for the experience, I returned to the GP with my MRI results. Two pinpoint lesions, according to the MRI technician. Differential diagnosis: stroke.
The GP referred me to a neurologist to determine: a.) whether the stroke would account for my symptoms, b.) why I’d had a stroke, and c.) what I could do to prevent having another one.

Three days later, I was in the neurologist’s office. My right leg had begun tingling and my right heel was starting to feel vaguely numb. ALS, I thought. I once knew a guy who died of ALS. It wasn’t pretty.

The neurologist looked at my MRI and chuckled. The technician’s differential diagnosis was bullshit, he said, though he didn’t use that word. The technician had over-diagnosed, maybe covering his ass. Who knows.

But no lesions. No stroke. Totally normal MRI. The lighter-colored spots in my scan are common, the neurologist said. Everybody my age has them. And we get more of them as we get older. One or two for every additional ten years of life isn’t unusual. They mean nothing. He poked me and thumped me and made me push and pull on things with various parts of my body. He got me to touch the end of my nose with my finger, then his finger with my finger, then my nose.

Final diagnosis: All my symptoms, he said – every last one of them – were (and are) being caused by anxiety. Snowballing anxiety.




On the other hand, I am a control freak. It makes sense, now that I think about it, that anxiety might be the control freak’s constant companion. Even if he doesn’t feel anxious, he is anxious, constantly anxious, because he’s plugging a hole in the dike of doom. I do see that.

My solution over the last few years has been to shrink the size of my kingdom. It now consists of me, my car and my condo. These things I can control without much difficulty.
Or can I?

Now I’m wondering if, rather than lightening my load, all I did was compact it, creating a smaller, tidier, but much heavier objet d’anxiety.

Still looking for the door on that one.

Strangely, as I’ve begun to settle into the idea of myself as an anxious person, the symptoms are diminishing. I declined the neurologist’s offer of better living through chemistry, opting instead to continue the acupuncture. Next week I’ll start yoga. Regular massages, too.

And I’ll try to live less anxiously.

Eat, pray, love.