Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Depressed? Who me?

By Don Klein

A good friend of mind said he is worried about me. He thinks I am depressed. My wife disagrees. She thinks I am overwhelmed with stress. I don’t know who is correct.

I do know I am confounded, perplexed and bewildered. I feel some strange power has singled me out for a heavy dose of negativity over a very short period of time.

It all started a month ago when my dentist told me my teeth were in bad shape. Four of them had to be extracted. He yanked them out of the back of my mouth then informed me it would be some time before he could build partial bridges because he had to wait for the gums to heal. That immediately destroyed my eating routine. No steaks, no chops, no bagels – just soft food for a long time.

About that time my wife was diagnosed with an ailment that required surgeries in Baltimore by two specialists. We had to make arrangements for the trip and order referrals from our primary physician’s office. That’s the insurance imperative these days. The clerks promised to mail the sacred documents to the distant surgeons.

Meanwhile I got a call from my bowling team captain reporting that she had been hurt in a auto accident and wouldn’t be bowling that week and could I take over for her. I did. In the confusion of first finding a substitute bowler, then entering the names on the scorecard and the monitor screen, I noticed time was eluding me so I grabbed my ball for at least one practice shot. I landed flat on my face.

Why? In the rush to do everything in the briefest time allotted I forgot to put my bowling shoes on and threw the ball wearing my street shoes. Advice to bowlers: Don’t ever do that. No traction. Splat.

The next day we learn that the referrals that were supposed to be sent to Baltimore, were not. At that time it was too late to mail them and besides we didn’t trust the clerks and did not want to travel 135 miles only to be turned away because of no referrals. So I drove in exasperation to our Salisbury doctor’s office to pick up the referrals personally after first revisiting my dentist for a checkup on my gums.

On the way back somehow I drove my car off the road and smashed into my neighbor’s house. The car was totaled. Miraculously there was no injury to me or severe damage to the house. That initiated a whole series of gut-wrenching routines that follow all accidents. First, arranging for towing the damaged car, then renting a car and dealing with the insurance people and finally negotiating for a new car. All in three days time.

A day later my wife’s car stopped running. Again a towing – to the dealer this time. Diagnosed as an engine computer failure, it took several days to repair. At the same time my prize possession, the Bose radio and CD player, whose music always cured my tension, also stopped playing for no discernable reason.

Now we were ready for the Baltimore excursion. Great friends in rural Clarksville put us up for the three-day stay there. We had never been to their house -- or that area of Maryland – so we traveled on unfamiliar routes reading directions as we roamed darkened roads. It rained all three days to add to the strain of driving.

We had to be at the two different doctors on two succeeding days before dawn. There were no good night’s sleep as a result.

Getting to Baltimore was weird, inside the city the travel was familiar enough though stressful. Trying to find our way among the myriad of structures on the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus is like trying to escape the clutches of the Blob that ate California. Hopkins has wrapped its unwieldy embrace over a sizable chunk of east Baltimore and turned what once was one of the dumpiest neighborhoods of the city into a widespread, confusing technological health complex even an employee would have trouble negotiating.

When my wife’s treatment was over we were free to travel back to Ocean City. It was Thanksgiving Eve, the worst travel day of the year. I stopped for a snack on the approach to the Bay Bridge, my wife was not hungry, and found out that bridge traffic had been greatly retarded because of heavy fog.

A half-hour later, safely on the Eastern Shore side of the Chesapeake Bay, I had to stop and close my eyes for a nap while parked in a county lot off the main highway determined not to repeat losing control of my driving again.

When we got home it was still raining. No food for dinner. Went out for pizza and stained the back seat of my new car with its drippings. Then I learned our oldest granddaughter, an 18 year old who was in tears a few weeks ago when she left her boyfriend in Virginia because of his bad treatment of her, had recanted. They left together to return to Virginia after Thanksgiving despite parental and grand-parental advice to the contrary.

Then to top off everything else, our newspaper whose delivery had be discontinued while we were in Baltimore, was not delivered for five days after the reinstatement date. The responsible circulation people at the paper couldn’t figure out why.

The American Psychological Association reports that 75 percent of Americans are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress, demonstrated by symptoms of irritability and anger. Why should I be different?

Am I depressed? No. Am I stressed out? Maybe. I just want to climb into bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until they start redelivering my newspaper. I joyfully will open the tardy news sheet and look at the front page – then I’ll really be depressed.