My Late 30’s and Me

Solomon had a stomach ache last week.

“My tummy hurts,” was his excuse for everything. Waking up at three in the morning. Pushing his brother. Throwing a temper tantrum.

“What’s wrong, bud?” I asked after such an incident.

Incidentally, “bud” is an essential word in Central Pennsylvanian culture. It’s as Central Pennsylvanian as an Amish coal-miner drinking a barrel of Yuengling from the skull of a Nittany lion. Yinz know?

Anyway, Solomon’s response to “what’s wrong, bud?” was “my tummy hurts.”

So, after a few days of this, we scheduled an appointment for the doctor to look at his tummy. I picked Solomon up from Kindergarten on a Monday morning. Drove him to the doctor.

I figured, since I was going to the doctor anyway, I’d see if I could get an appointment too. I’ve had the sensation that there was something in my throat for the past month or so. Couldn’t hurt to ask the doctor about it.

Solomon’s doctor appointment was pretty simple. We told his doctor about his symptoms.

“He’s probably fine,” I said. “But I doesn’t hurt to check.”

The doctor poked and prodded him.

“He’s fine,” the doctor told us. “But it doesn’t hurt to check.”

My doctor’s appointment was a little different.

I told her about my symptoms.

“I’m probably fine,” I said. “I’m a hypochondriac these days.”

The doctor poked and prodded me.

“It might be acid reflux,” she told me.

“Gross,” I said. “That’s not serious, right?”

“Well, it can lead to throat cancer.”

Ugh. Don’t ever tell a Sam Tanner something like that. You’ll induce a panic attack. Especially in my late thirties. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m mortal. So I’m more prone to hypochondria.

Anyway, she proscribed Omeprazole and sent me on my way. I read the description. Seemed like a pretty dramatic medication to me.

Couldn’t I just change my diet? Try to fix the problem without drugs that may lead to, and I’m quoting from the description here, “blood in my urine” or “kidney failure?”

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to give up coffee for a bit. Lay off the sauce. Coffee is terrible for acid reflux. And I put down about 40 ounces of strong, black coffee a day. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I’m an educator. An improviser and a writer too. Coffee is the fuel. It’s probably been fueling some acid reflux, too.

Incidentally, how many blogs have I written about trying to quit coffee? Too many. But here’s another.

So I didn’t have a drop of caffeine for a week. I finally broke and had some tea. Right before I wrote this blog. Did my throat feel any better? My maybe-acid-reflux symptoms? Who knows. I was too busy dealing with caffeine withdrawal. I felt like a heroin addict. Headaches, chills, and lethargy. My brain was functioning at about 13% of its capacity. Nasty stuff.

Like I said, I finally broke and had a cup of tea. But I’m still free and clear of coffee. I also made some other changes last week. Tried to eat healthier. No food three hours before bed. That sort of thing. I haven’t taken the meds yet. I want to see if eating healthier helps the sensation in my throat go away. I’ll try the meds if that doesn’t work. I’m only thirty-nine. Too young to require a medication regiment, right?

***

I was talking with my father last week. He’s in his seventies now. Still kicking. I’m glad Dad’s still around. It’s always nice to hear his voice. Parents are a constant until they’re not. I haven’t talked to Mom in four years. Seems like a lifetime.

Anyway, I love telling Dad about my trials and tribulations. All my little panic attacks. Dad is well versed in anxiety. He gets it.

“I’m dying of acid reflux,” I told him.

Dad laughed at me and talked me down. He’s always been good at that. Laughter is strong medicine.

I come from a long line of anxious, Russian Jews. Escaping persecution and making our way in a dangerous world. Dad’s mom was a worrier, too. I’m sure the trait goes further back than her.

The long and short of it is this. I’m in my late thirties. I’m not a kid. I’m not immortal. Well, I might be, depending on your faith background, but this body will eventually go away. And I have a wife and two kids who would probably be better off if I stick around in this incarnation for awhile. And to be clear, I suspect I will stick around for awhile. And I suspect that my anxious worrying is just that, anxious worrying. Born out of firsthand experience with chaos, disorder, and pain (shameless plug: see my trilogy of weepy memoirs).

So a tickle in my throat sends me reeling. Acid reflux must mean death. I get worried about traveling away from my family for work. Flying. I get anxiety about a little lump on my stomach or a stirring in my chest. I’m more attuned to things I would have ignored in my twenties. I’m probably not alone in this. And I can probably figure out how to make my way through. I don’t want Xanax or Omeprazole. I’d rather figure out how to be healthier. In mind and body. So there’s that.

***

Look, if my worry about acid reflux turns into better eating habits, so be it. I’ll give that a go for a bit. And I love coffee, but I probably love it too much. I’ve never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. But coffee has a hold on me. So it’s good, even if it is temporary, to show that I can break free from the power of the bean.

And if I want to whine about giving up coffee in a blog? Well, I apologize if it’s annoying to read about, but writing helps me process. More than Xanax. More than Omeprazole.

I’m not a crazy person. If my symptoms linger, I’ll try the drugs. See if that helps. But first I’ll try to be a little healthier. Mindful about what I’m putting in my body.

My late thirties and me? Being thirty-nine is different than being twenty-nine. That’s all.

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