A Whackadoodle detour in which my student checks up on me to make sure that I am eating enough, and learns a few other things about diet and depression. If you have entered this story in the middle, click here for the table of contents.
The phone call came while I was peeling potatoes. “Have you heard from the blood guys?” she asked breathlessly.
She didn’t say hello, or tell me who was calling. She didn’t have to tell me because she’d pretty much been pestering me all week, calling at least once a day. At first, she would simply ask how much I had eaten that day, often threatening to bring me a home cooked meal if she didn’t like my answer. Later she began pestering me about seeing a doctor. Apparently, she had done some Internet research and discovered that depression is often a symptom of some underlying health issue. After three days of, “But it only makes sense to be sure,” I had finally relented, and agreed to take a blood test.
“What did blood guys say?” she asked again.
I laughed gruffly, “You make them sound like vampires.”
“Whatever,” she replied. I could imagine her scowling through the phone lines. “Just tell me what they said.”
I considered reminding her that medical records are private, but I decided that she was in no mood for teasing. “My blood is pretty much perfectly healthy: red, pumping, keeping me alive.”
“Pretty much?” she prompted.
“Well,” I hesitated. “They did spot a pretty noticeable potassium deficiency.”
“So what does that mean?”
“Well, it explains why I have been so weak, dizzy, and exhausted because those are pretty high up on the potassium deficiency symptoms list.”
“So what’s the treatment?”
“You mean after I was able to assure him that I was not bulimic, anorexic, nor the survivor of famine? He recommended that I start by treating the problem with diet and then getting another blood test next month to see if it’s working,” I sighed. “Female over fifty are supposed to get at least 2600mg of potassium per day, so he pointed me to a list of high potassium foods that includes the amount of potassium contained in each severing, and recommend that I use it to keep a food diary.”
“So you got depressed and stopped eating, and the depression got worse because you weren’t eating?” she asked to confirm.
“Evidentially,” I agreed. “Funny thing depression. You get to a point where you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, let alone eating what you have fixed, and suddenly you can’t walk up the hill to the bus stop without resting three times; which of course makes you even more irritable and depressed. Then you start wondering why the people around you don’t notice, even though you have been hiding it because the last thing you want to do is explain yourself to everyone. The contradictions are exhausting.”
“Well, I’m glad that now you have at least part of the answer,” she told me. “So how have things been going?”
“Better,” I admitted. “I managed to finish my article on entropy, and I am about to post another article today. I even managed to climb up the hill to the bus stop without having to pause for a rest.”
“Small victories, but victories none the less,” I agreed. “I just hope my family doesn’t get sick of roasted vegetables.”
“Why do say that?”
“Because root vegetables are full of potassium, and roasting them is my favorite way to eat them. In fact, I was just prepping the potatoes when you called.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll let you go then,” she said in a rush. “See you at our next tutoring lesson, okay?”
We said our farewells, and I went back to my potatoes. A few minutes later, I actually found myself humming.
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