I’m 23, but health-wise, I feel like I have the body of a 60-year-old. I have a lot of health problems that usually only spring up once you reach middle age. I don’t feel young and invincible. I don’t feel like I can do dangerous or stupid things without getting hurt. I don’t relate to the chorus of “We Are Young” by fun. I am a very cautious twenty-something who has at least four cans of ginger ale in the fridge at all times and spends a lot of money at CVS. Here are some of the medical problems I’m dealing with now that probably shouldn’t happen until I’m 60.
I discovered that I have fallen arches when I noticed that my feet were hurting more than they used to after walking for longer periods of time. It’s not like I was hiking or anything — just doing a normal amount of walking in New York City that adds up over the course of a day. My feet, particularly the arches, would be very sore at the end of the day. I would get home and immediately take off my shoes and massage my feet. Sometimes if I was walking for a long time and then sat down for a bit, like while I was on the bus, my feet would cramp up and when I tried to walk again I would end up hobbling like Tiny Tim. Sometimes my feet would hurt so much that I would have to sit on a bench and rest, like an 80-year-old. It would help somewhat to soak my feet, which is such an old person thing to do. I would borrow my dad’s Epsom salt — which he uses because he has foot problems that are appropriate for his age — and pour it in the bath and then sit on the edge of the tub and ponder why I had the feet of a 60-year-old. Now I wear orthotics, which I ordered on Amazon. They have definitely helped, but are super annoying because they make your foot not fit in your shoe anymore. Some of my shoes don’t fit with them, but I wear them with ones that do, like boots and roomy sneakers. Sometimes immediately after I wake up I have to flex my feet before I get out of bed to get them to stop hurting. I asked my dad if he’s ever had unprompted searing pain in his feet and he said, “Yeah, but I’m 63.”
My ears are not only prone to infection, but they also produce so much earwax that if I don’t get them cleaned every few months, it impairs my hearing. Having too much earwax in your ear hurts a lot. I was in high school when it finally got so bad that I had had to stop ignoring it (which had been my strategy up until then). It happened to be opening week of a play I was in and I could barely hear out of one of my ears, which is not the best when you’re trying to act. We couldn’t get me a doctor appointment before the show, so I just persevered through all three performances and somehow avoided any onstage disasters. Ever since then, I’ve had an appointment with my Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor every three months to get my ears cleaned. When I’m sitting in the waiting room, I am consistently the youngest person in a room full of 80-year-olds who are there because they’re losing their hearing due to old age and not to earwax. When I go into the examination room, I inform my doctor that I’ll have “the usual,” as if I’m ordering my morning coffee at a my favorite coffee shop. Every time, my doctor concludes our appointment by cheerfully saying “You’re a very waxy young lady!” to which I gamely agree.
Every so often, when I’m stressed out, I’ll wake up with a stiff neck and upper back. Sometimes I won’t be able to turn my neck all the way to either side. If someone behind my calls my name, I will turn my head just barely enough to glimpse them out of the corner of my eye and say hi and try to act like a normal person who is not an invalid. It helps to take muscle relaxants and ice my neck. In college, I made more than one last-minute finals-related massage appointment with the very patient local massage therapist. Also, when you’re a person who uses ice packs a lot, you can’t just have one. You have to have at least one backup that stays in the freezer while you’re using the first one so you can alternate them. I have accumulated almost a dozen so far. In college, I had to buy a mini fridge for my room not for beer, but for ice packs.
My back hurts a lot sometimes. I’ve tried to lighten the load in my purse or use a backpack on a day that I’m carrying extra stuff, but it doesn’t help. I also crack my back in public all the time like a crazy person. Actually, I crack a lot of joints in public. When my wrists hurt I make these little wrist circles that people think are weird. I also crack my fingers. It helps to lay on my bed with an icepack on my back. Sometimes I fall asleep with it on.
I am very prone to nausea. Definitely more than is normal. I keep a stockpile of ginger ale in my fridge. I carry a water bottle with me every day, which does double duty because I also get dehydrated very easily. I have been known to accumulate up to five war, half-full water bottles on my nightstand. I’ve learned long ago that theme parks are not my jam. Weirdly, I don’t usually get motion sick and I love to read in cars and on public transportation. I always get a stomachache if I have a whole milkshake or a piece of cake. Avocados and Alfredo sauce too. Anything rich or sugary. Rich chocolate cake? It would be dumb as hell for me to try to put that in my body unless I could devote the rest of my night to drinking ginger ale in my bed while watching Netflix. The only other person I know who has a very sensitive stomach is my grandma. Sometimes the nausea just comes on randomly and I have no idea what caused it so I just go about my business and wait for it to go away.
If anything, these ailments have prepared me at least a little bit for getting old. I won’t be that 40-year-old who, after a day of spontaneous and quirky outdoor physical activity or a night of binge-drinking, says, “I’m getting too old for this.” I was always too old for this.
Image Via 30 Rock
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Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She is a Blog Editor at BUST. She has written for Splitsider, The Billfold, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.