Stopping to Start

by marinashifrin

“видиш это?”

“О да, прямо там?”

“да. Я думаю что нужно биопсии.”

What followed was a series of events that culminated into a “hypochondriacal break down” as my psychologist would later call it (but that’s in a few posts).

The only time I really speak Russian, outside of the family, is when new acquaintances ask me to translate phrases like, “I like it in the ass,” or “Can I have some sex?” You’re not considered Russian until you learn how to teach Americans inappropriate sayings.

Occasionally, I turn into a spy at the request of my American friends; elevators, grocery stores, Marshall’s, no Russian-speakers can escape the keen ear of Shifrin, Marina Shifrin. My friends wait, with bated breath, until I give the epically disappointing translation; that couple is debating whether to do laundry before or after dinner, he can’t believe the price of Kraft cheese and she already has that pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans.

The day I was a secret spy in the doctor’s exam room, no one was there to hear the shocking translation.

I am no doctor, but I do have a suggestion to the Russian nurses at the Brooklyn health clinic: when a patient of yours has the coloring of paper maché, a name like Marina Vladimirovna Shifrin and told you she scheduled the appointment because her mother Olga had “premonition”, there is about a 107% chance she understands Russian.

This sure as hell means you shouldn’t utter words like “abnormal”, “biopsy” and “doesn’t look good” in Russian, because she-I UNDERSTAND YOU. I UNDERSTAND and I understood. My I’m-gonna-die face blew my bilingual-cover and they attempted to rebound with sympathetic smiles, gently saying “Не волнуйтесь.”

“HOW AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO?! I am dying!”

“Ve’re all dying!”

Russian women have a way of taking hysterical situations and adding more drama to them – even nurses. Worst of all in the hysteria-department are mothers, and mine was no exception. I hadn’t finished saying what I’d heard before Olga burst into tears and started preparing for my move home.

I walked out of the clinic and onto the street. People shouldered past me, cars honked, men cat-called. New York is an interesting place; when your world stops you are reminded that no one else’s does, it’s comforting and disheartening at the same time.

When you spend every day scouring the internet for symptoms and sicknesses eventually you will find something that is abnormal. The two weeks I waited on my results, I stopped writing, stopped seeing friends and stopped doing stand up. I stopped running and stopped laughing.

I locked myself in my room and began self-medicating with Ally Mcbeal and peanut butter.

Clearly — as indicated by the humor infused post — the diagnosis wasn’t devastating, but my life had changed. The photo below was actually snapped the day after my results came back negative for cancerous cells:

Although my physical health was untouched, my emotional and psychological health was shattered. I realized how much of my life I spent stopping myself from starting. I feared the unknown — which, in my case, was my health. At first, I had high hopes of ending the hypochondria-induced anxiety on my own. After all, I had a new lease on life. But, I was wronger than the use of the word “wronger” in this sentence.

Emotionally worse-off than a menopausal crack-whore who just found out she won the lottery but needed to get both her legs amputated, I decided I needed to get more help than six glasses of wine and bag of funyons could provide for me.

Like any other 20something, whose biggest trauma (other than just surviving a far-from-death experience) was the time her sister spilled coffee on her macbook pro, I immediately checked myself into therapy.

Lesson #16: Sometimes the doctor you need to see the most is not wearing a white lab coat. Oh! and Lesson #16.5:  If you are bilingual, wear earbuds to every doctor’s appointment for good measure.