anthropomorphizing the stone


Many people have kindly emailed or texted me over the last few days to check on my wellbeing, given the allergic disaster of last week, and as some of you know, I had to come back to LA early and emergency-like. I’m sorry I haven’t written some of you back, because I’d like to say that I’m okay, but the fact is I am NOT goddamn fucking okay.

I’ve had it, frankly. I’m pissed off. Hearing about other people’s ailments might be boring to some, disgusting to others – but for those of you who can’t turn away, drawn like onlookers at a truck accident, I will do my best to entertain.

Let’s put it all in context, shall we? I am fully aware I should be fucking dead from a burst appendix at 5. ‘Twere I born but 75 years earlier in man’s ascent, that’s me in the corner, losing my religion, expired from internal poison. That I’m still here is pure happenstance and a couple of good decisions.

So let’s list my Fights with God. I’ll call it “God” because he’s easy to anthropomorphize, and someone’s gotta be the strawman.



1. Inexorable loneliness. I was stuck in a grade, two years younger than everybody else, with red hair and a penchant for playing the violin. I liked ham radio and calligraphy; I wasn’t even cool enough for Dungeons & Dragons. Beaten up on the way home from school even on days we didn’t have school.

Cure: Finally getting to a high school – a prep school, actually – where I made friends among folks were intellect, humor and passion were valued. Then to college where it was the same, only explosively better.

2. Ravaging acne. I was so besot with acne that I couldn’t shower, because it hurt too much on my back. I went to school every day smothered in Clearasil, and the scars are still there.

Cure: Accutane during my first semester at Carolina. Sure, it fucked with my liver and dried me out like deer jerky hanging in a winter cabin, but that shit got fixed. Still have to bathe in Proactiv, though, and that’s stuff is expensive.

3. Blindingly-poor eyesight. Got stuck with glasses at 7, thus cementing my virginity for another 15 years. I had the worse eyesight of anyone I’ve ever known who wasn’t actually blind. Got contact lenses at Carolina, but they were so thick that I got migraines.

Cure: LASIK, 1999. The absolute best. I can still read books in rooms across the street.

4. Soul-drenching lethargy. By 21, there were some days I couldn’t even move. Even researched something called “Epstein-Barr”, pre-internet, at UNC’s med school. Dazzling lack of focus.

Cure: Diagnosed with ADD in 2006 and went on small dose of Dexedrine. No longer have fatigue issues (when not sick, which, these days, is never) and lost 25 pounds without noticing. Gained some back, which contributes to…

5. Suicidal depression. Starting soon after parents’ divorce (but felt as far back as 7), I inherited my mom’s noonday demon. Like being drunk on black death tar.

Cure: Celexa in 2002, switching to Cymbalta and meditation in 2010. Still recurs, but with nowhere near the ferocity.

That brings us up to the last two years, which has been nothing short of a test of motherfucking physical endurance. Are my problems first-world? To paraphrase Ringo, “I can’t tell you, but I know they’re mine.”

6. Kidney stones. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone used to live through these before massive IV painkillers. Thought I was done with them in 2003 when I started Allopurinol, but got my worst one ever in 2011. So bad that it actually scared me like a little kid. Three days of agony I wouldn’t wish on the Taliban.

Cure: Allopurinol (for gout) seems to work, but hydration is key. Kidney stones lurk in those dark alleys in the future; I can only hope I elude them.

7. Unrelenting nausea. I told you all about the boat ride to end all seafaring excursions, but three weeks ago, I spent two full days on the floor of our bathroom praying to fucking die than to dry heave again. It was brought on by antibiotics taken due to…

8. Eight strep throats in 2 years. Apparently caused by a deviated septum that led to sinus surgery in May, easily the worst procedure I’ve ever undergone (which also led to splitting my bum open). Three weeks of pain and blood ensued, but things definitely got better sinus-wise. Except that started…

9. Six months of excruciating sore throat pain. Was it more strep? No. Was it dust mites? God knows. But the doctors thought it was thrush, so I went on Nystatin to kill the yeast. Four days later, I was in the throes of…

10. Agonizing, skin-shredding hives, welts and weeping itches. Yes, that’s right, I’ve spent the last week covered in festering sores all up and down my arms, my legs, my neck and ports Netherland. I look – and feel – like a plague victim hobbling out of Nottinghamshire in 1347.

On Saturday, I cut my trip to NY short, because I could see it all getting worse, and upstate New York was no place for skin experts. On Sunday, I was running around my house, alone, screaming in agony from the painful itching all over my body. I eyed the cheese grater in the kitchen cabinet, because I truly contemplated shredding my own skin with it, just to be in control. I understand people who go crazy from their own bodies.

On Monday, I got a massive steroid shot from the doctor, and it has taken the violent, awful edge away, but it’s still bad. Apparently when the yeast dies off, it releases massive amounts of toxins into your bloodstream, and your body reacts to the insult.

And this is where I am. Shot up on steroids, drinking Beandryl, trying not to think about tearing up my arm like a dog toy. It’s unabated torture, but there is an upside: it’s not depression, or some “feelings” or an unknown impetus. It’s straight-up physical agony, which is much simpler.

There is another upside, in that I am still here, writing this, despite all this bullshit. I can’t ask for more than that. I am still here.

I am still here




13 thoughts on “anthropomorphizing the stone

  1. Matt

    I’m resisting the urge to one-up you on sickness/maladies, so I’ll just commiserate with you on how awful kidney stones are. Walter Reed messed up my surgery, leaving permanent damage – military doctors have immunity to malpractice suits. Give me pneumonia, strep throat, Ebola, anything than more kidney stones.
    I’m glad you’re still blogging. I read, just rarely comment anymore.

  2. Paul G

    I golfed for the first time in years this weekend and pulled my stomach muscles so bad that I thought I got food poisoning. This was 4 days ago, and I’m still deciding whether or not it’s a hernia. I just wanted to share. I feel safe here.
    I’m really commenting b/c I wanted you to know that all throughout Thanksgiving weekend I kept checking for a new post and as of yesterday, patience gone, I was downright unhappy with your “laziness”! I hope knowing how much one misses your writing makes you feel good in between the itching/aftershock.
    I hope you only got to watch the first 16 minutes of the Heels game tonight.

  3. LFMD

    Ian, I love you dearly and am so sorry to hear about these ailments. You have more than your share of medical problems. . . . hoping that you are feeling better soon. Thanks for continuing to blog throughout!

  4. chip

    Matt and Ian:
    Sorry to hear about your epic bouts with kidney stones.
    Is the malpractice immunity known as the “Frank Burns” rule?

  5. Caroline

    Ian, this is all terrible and I’m genuinely sorry. Though I admit to being kind of fascinated by your thrush rash. What is your prognosis? Did your doctor tell you how long you might expect to be in ‘agony’? And, seriously, post some pictures of that fucked up shit. I do hope you are better soon. I feel like that sounds disingenuous after my request but I do mean it!

  6. Jules Abraham

    Ian – I’m so sorry. These are all heartbreaking and crazy-making things, but as one of those prep school folks who accepted you for who you are, please know if there’s anything I can do, say the word. I’m not a doctor, but you have my positive thoughts and hopes for things to abate and continue to get easier.

  7. Schultz

    As someone who once shed his entire skin thanks to a psoriasis flareup due to strep throat, I know exactly what you are going through and how miserable you are. It took me weeks to recover. Good thing you got the steroid shot. Have you tried Benadryl spray?? It might help. You can also get a topical steroid spray that can lessen the itching. Hang in there!!!!!!!

  8. Caroline

    Ian, that looks very itchy, red and awful. As someone who used to get poison ivy so badly I was almost hospitalized, I completely sympathize with that kind of agony. (I only say used to because if I see anything remotely like it, I run in the opposite direction.) My mom found me in the basement itching till my sores opened and then pouring bleach in them to make it burn instead of itch, because it felt better. I’m lucky I don’t have scars. I did get an infection, though!
    So, does your doctor think it is the thrush working itself out? I know someone sent a link talking about that (which I read and found fascinating!). But I was just curious if a doctor agreed.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.