The latter item didn’t come so easy, either. The last time I went to the doctor, it was because I had a serious heart scare that turned out to be nothing … but stress, and too much of it. The minute that doctor told me to calm down, the tightness I felt in my chest for the better part of eight months just stopped. Cold.
People wonder why teachers get the benefits they do, including the personal health days, affordable health care, and relatively early retirement. Before 30, I took many of these parts for granted. I accumulated over 30 days of unused vacation days, often stayed after school, and rarely used any of my medical benefits for prescriptions. I thought popping a vitamin and getting in the occasional exercise would do. I pumped over the counter drugs into and out of my system whenever I got a cold, and inhaled a few days’ worth of Vicks Vaporub for anything resembling a runny nose (because Latinos swear it’s a topical placebo).
If I cure it myself, then I didn’t care and just let it be. That includes the pain in my heel, the itch in my nose, and that annoying stomach burn I got randomly after a few negative thoughts. With all the time I had off, I could have scheduled all of my appointments for those times when I wasn’t working, but I didn’t. Actually, I used “work” more often than not as an excuse to not attend to my own health. I’m not afraid of doctors and their paraphernalia, nor do I have any pre-existing conditions that might make me nervous to go.
It’s also easy for me to blame the fact that men don’t go to the doctor, and an unwritten rule that going to a doctor often signals some sort of weakness. We tell ourselves we’re too busy, have loads of papers to grade, people to see, places to visit … in hopes that we can ignore those little things that become big things.
I’d like to tell you to do the right things to take care of yourself, like eating better and getting some sort of exercise, because I’m working on these things myself. I’d like to tell you to stop smoking, smile more often, and, if need be, step outside and decompress when the situation gets too crazy. More importantly, however, I’m imploring you to go to the doctor sooner than later. If it’s been a few years, get in there as soon as possible. You owe it to yourself to get checked out and make sure you’re solid.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, I value you. But I’m not the only one. Stick around a while. Get checked up.
Jose, who went through hell, so he’s expecting heaven …