I never go to the doctor if I can help it. Growing up, my dad was the terse “Walk it off!”-type because he’d spent the first half of his life just him and my older brother Gilmore Boys-style. Suddenly, with his second wife (my mom) he had two little girls he didn’t know how to nurture.
My mom likes to joke that this was cruel karma — my father was apparently a big-time ladies man back when bell bottoms were hip. When my sister and I were little, my dad was ill-equipped to deal with our constant baby-girl whining and fragile bodies and so “You’re fine. Stop crying.” became the default. (A worthy pairing to my mom’s constant overreacting to every scrape and bruise. Her purse, as far as I knew, contained only a tube of lipstick, a wallet and seven thousand Bandaids.)
So now, I think I can heal myself like Wolverine.
Whenever I get injured or sick, my go-to method is the ol’ “do nothing.” Yep. I do nothing. I continue on with my life, dragging my half-working body around like I’m the guy from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. “It’s just a flesh wound!” I shout as my arm falls off. While some people delight in getting sick because it means they have an excuse to hole up in bed with Netflix, I simply pretend it isn’t happening.
For a while, when I was in high school, my family didn’t have health insurance and I learned to get by without visiting the doctor. Oh, I didn’t learn to be careful. I just used duct tape to keep broken toes together, drank powdered Vitamin C for everything and discerned which websites will give you a somewhat accurate diagnosis and which ones will just tell you that you have AIDS.
Now, I have some form of cheap health insurance that came from, what I can only assume was some guy’s trunk the way you used to get porn tapes or bootleg CDs. It’s shady-ass insurance. I have used it once — to get new eyeglasses. When I fractured(?) my ankle a few months ago, I learned this insurance would not cover it. I couldn’t afford the X-ray or cast so I just went into denial I was even hurt, and painfully limped it off. My then-boyfriend insisted I ice it and stay home and my ankle healed. Because he was smart and I am dumb.
I also don’t trust doctors. I certainly admire them and I think they’ve chosen a noble profession. I’ve just a) seen too many medical TV shows where no medical work is actually getting done — or where the “brilliant” doctor is also doped up on pills — for me to completely trust anyone in hospital scrubs and b) I’ve personally spent a lot of time having “tests run” with no results.
When I was in the third grade, I was hospitalized for a month with an illness I still don’t fully understand. My family says it was “like a flu, but not a flu.” I missed weeks of school while doctors and nurses poked and prodded me. I got blood drawn every day and was X-rayed so much I thought I’d become the Hulk. (More comic book references! They are all I know!) My parents hardly slept with worry, crumpled in the chairs near my bed, dark circles under their eyes. My tiny body was racked with symptoms — mostly, I remember vomiting all the time. But even though we’d moved into the hospital, not one professional there could tell us what was wrong with me or how to fix it.
There was never any conclusive diagnosis. Eight-year-old me just suffered and then eventually healed myself — like a goddamn child X-Man.
Since then, I’ve had tons of ailments. I am super clumsy and I also don’t really take care of my body so I’m generally, as one ex-boyfriend put it, “a walking cry for help.” I can remember exactly one instance when I walked into a doctor’s office, told them what was wrong and received a working treatment plan. Mostly, it’s this weird guessing game that I don’t have time for. One time, a doctor literally Googled my symptoms in front of me, showed them to me and then expected payment. Most often, I find a long wait and large fee with nothing useful provided. So, I don’t go to the doctor.
As I type this, I have two swollen fingers. I was drunk and I fell down and slammed them against the pavement and when I woke up the next morning, they were black and blue. They don’t hurt unless you push against this little bump on the sides of one of them (the joints?). So far, I have iced them a few times and then I have continued on my regular health care plan of doing nothing.
But I am getting older and I worry my Wolverine powers won’t last forever. Whether I like it or not, doctors have training and knowledge I don’t have. Sometime soon, I’ll start having things wrong with my body that won’t just go away with time. I will need help.
In Bryan Singer’s 2000 film X-Men, Rogue sees Wolverine retracting his metallic claws and asks, “Does it hurt?” And Wolverine, even though he can heal almost immediately, even though he seems invulnerable, says: “Every time.”
Even Wolverine feels pain. I am just a small human. I am not an X-Man. The point is: I may need to start going to the doctor.