My “Wellness” Survey

I am not doing well, and I know it.

There is something buried within my psyche, or physically in my body that is causing my nervous system to act up. It could be as simple as finding new stretches, but whatever it is, I’m apprehensive. After the past year of surgery and rehab, it’s easy for me to worry. And being old with a fear that things could really be falling apart only contributes to my trepidation.

Root causes

When I was young, I wanted to know the root causes of my angst or lack of physical well-being. I figured that if I could parse that cause out, I’d tackle it. I couldn’t afford a counselor, so I’d sit cross-legged on my bed and talk to myself as if I had a wise advisor. Then as I listened to the mythical counselor’s voice, I changed my profession, exercised, dieted, or whatever else I could figure out to manage life better.

“Find the root and rout it out,” became my motto.

But now I’m old, and I know that the fixes for my body may not come so readily — even if I’m wise enough to figure it all out. And last week, rather than moving, I was stuck in a whirlpool of worry while I tried to avoid heading down the drain.

It doesn’t help that my husband, Michael, has been out of town.

Not much help is better than none

Sometimes I think Michael isn’t much for helping me problem-solve. But if he is gone, I realize that when he is at his kitchen command center and solving crosswords, he can still be of some help. Even when his hearing aids aren’t in place.

However, now he is on the road for two weeks, and at night the phone conversations are about his days golfing or officiating. I know I’m talking on his speakerphone so that he can hear more clearly, and I often hear others in the background. These are not conversations for me to say, “I’m feeling pretty damn lousy, and I don’t know why.”

Besides, if I were going to tell him how I felt, I’d mention how pissed I was because he didn’t take care of some things in the yard or buy some heavy items that we need before he left town.

Maybe that is why he calls and says, “We had an interesting day . . .” and then wears me out with the details. However, that isn’t a stalling strategy with Michael; it’s just the way he conducts “conversations” about golf. At these times, I only casually mention feeling crappy or being irritated because they won’t lead to a discussion that’s helpful. Especially on speakerphone.

In my current funk, I realize that Michael isn’t much help in resolving my dilemmas when he is home, but when he is away, he is useless, and my psyche can suffer.

Social scarcity

Social isolation can impact old-age well-being in many ways. Often the people we relied on earlier in life are no longer available. We don’t connect daily with colleagues at work, friends move on, we don’t have kids, or they have consuming life issues of their own, we ditch an organized religion. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

After hanging out at Mom’s senior center and eating a myriad of meals with old folks, I know that when people didn’t get tranquil about their situation before they arrived, they can fall into resentments or petty pridefulness. By the time we set the old-age cruise control and think we are going to coast out our days, we’d better be at peace because unlike my mom, most old folks won’t have easy access to art therapy as they fade.

I’m writing my story to discover and own more of my past life. But right now, I’m not in any sort of a tranquil state.

Physical roots

Last week, to try and find a possible root cause for my nerve pain, restless legs, and resulting angst, I made an appointment with my new physician for an annual checkup. I dislike having a new doctor because my retired doc knew that I didn’t whine unnecessarily. Outliving our professionals’ careers is a problem for old folks, and because the new doctors get you when you’re falling apart or becoming ditsy with age, they may have difficulty seeing the “real you.”

As readers know, even I’m trying to figure out the real me is right now, so how do I expect any insight from the new doctor? That said, not seeing a doctor isn’t helping me address my physical issues, so I made an appointment for a couple of weeks from now. Just scheduling a visit made me feel like I took a good step and I was moving ahead.

Then the mail came.

The survey

After I made my appointment, I got a letter congratulating me for scheduling my annual “Wellness Visit.” It included a survey that is a required part of the assessment. At no charge. Online or written. The message was to get the sucker done for my good (or the health plan won’t be able to bill Medicare for my visit).

Fine. I was a researcher so I can appreciate a survey. Then I started reading it.

I was asked about bladder leaks, falls, my mood, my sex life, loneliness, family member observations about my memory, and much more. I suppose much of it made sense for old folks, but I didn’t appreciate being reminded me of my current stage of life.

After six pages of this irritation, I was asked, “Who provided the answers to these questions? The person to whom the questionnaire was addressed without help from another person?” ” . . . with help from another person?” “Family member or caretaker?”

With my psyche, anytime I can move from anxiety to irritation I’m on my way to “normalcy.” When I made that medical appointment, I had no idea that my boost would come in a bothersome survey. By page six, I was sailing forward to more sanity with the winds of irritation at my back.

A little help from my friends

In my current funk, I may not have needed help with that detailed survey, but I did ask a neighbor to plant a few dahlia tubers, a daughter to take me shopping and lift the heavy items, and a friend to help me paddle out of a decision-making vortex. I rolled out of bed early and practiced taking low-light photos of the sunrise on my iPhone.

For at least today, I’m listening to my self-talk and doing my therapy exercises more often, going to pilates rather than taking a strenuous hike, and joining with friends in less physically demanding ways.

It feels like getting old, but actually, it is moving forward and making connections. That’s all I can do. I’m past the age of being able to “find the root and rout it out.” Some of my issues are going nowhere, but I can always find a way to keep moving if I will ask for help.

One step at a time.