This time of year always reminds me of my first diagnosis. It happened several years ago, but during December, it feels like only yesterday I was sitting on the cool examination table wearing an uncomfortable hospital gown with my snowman toe socks…


I typically avoid doctors, but after WebMD failed to identify which terminal disease I had this time around, with my symptoms worsening every day, and since I was single, I knew it was time to make an appointment.

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While waiting in an exam room filled with equipment I sincerely hoped wouldn’t be going anywhere near my butt, I pondered both the sterility and the taste level of the hospital’s holiday decorating decisions. Surely they could have done better than a Christmas tree with hypodermic needles for tinsel, a chain of hospital bracelets for garland, and surgical gloves for ornaments. What about all those latex allergies?

I doubt I’m sick. I bet it was just the cranberries I ate on Thanksgiving—I guess canned food can go bad. Maybe I bumped my head when I was hanging Christmas lights and I have a concussion! I hope the doctor doesn’t mind I didn’t shave my legs for him.

The door suddenly opened right when I was testing how far I could slide in my socks on the glossy floor. Frankly, I was relieved he didn’t catch me when I was rifling through the drawers and sticking gauze and band-aids in my purse.

“Hi Katherine, I’m Dr. Holly. It’s nice to meet you. I see here you haven’t been feeling well. How long has this been going on?”

I feel bad for men that have women’s first names for last names. “Well doc, it started a little before Thanksgiving, but it’s only gotten worse since then.” I was so glad he didn’t make any Risky Business jokes.

“After Thanksgiving?” He jotted a few notes. “Is it possible you ate some turkey that might have been… Risky Business?”

Mother fu… “I mean, it’s entirely possible because my aunt Stella’s an awful cook, but to be honest, I think there’s more going on, because I haven’t been vomiting or sharting or anything like that. Some of the symptoms even seem psychological? If that makes sense.”

“Psychological? How so?”

“I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I spend the nights tossing and turning, and I constantly feel like I’m being surveilled. It feels as though someone knows when I’m sleeping and when I’m awake… I get this weird sense I’m being tested. Like I’m trying to make a certain list or something.”

“I see. Is there something you’re afraid of, perhaps?”

“I have fears, sure. Like what if the Cheesecake Factory went out of business? But now that you mention it, I’ve been more a lot more cautious crossing the streets lately.”

“Was someone you know involved in an accident recently?”

“Not exactly recently… It’s that horrific death from the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1979 that’s been weighing on my mind.”

“I’m not familiar with that…”

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Oh, please. He was probably in his twentieth year of residency. “An inebriated older woman, a grandmother no less, wandered out into the storm and got ran over by a reindeer. Killed! Just from being trampled by a fancy deer. …Between you and me, I think something improper was going on with her widower and one of the cousins. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ordered a hit or something. Anyway, I just worry that could happen to me.”

“Do you feel unsafe? Have you made any risky decisions lately?”

Is this guy ever going to let that go? “Well, not to tell you my whole life story, but I had a date last week on Friday, the night we got all that snow, remember? It went well, but I wasn’t ready to introduce him to my va-J.J. Abrams, if you know what I mean. Point is, the bad weather made me want to stay at his apartment, despite my concerns about what the neighbors would think and my mother’s worrying. The guy seemed a little pushy, but he did say my hair looked swell, which was really sweet because I didn’t have time to shower that morning.”

“Ahem, well…”

“Alright. I had time. I just didn’t shower.”

“Is it possible he put something in your drink?”

“You know, he did allude to that in a way that made me a little uncomfortable, but I didn’t drink it because then I would’ve had to pee at his place, and the walls are super thin, and I didn’t want him making any judgments about my pee sounds so soon.”

“I’m not sure I understand what…”

“Since we’re already having this uncomfortable conversation while I’m wearing the unsexiest holiday socks ever devised, I feel like I should note that I’ve been thinking about kissing a lot–usually under doorways. That’s out of character for me, because normally I don’t think about anything when I’m in a doorway, except that maybe it’s cool I’m in two different rooms at once or that if a freak earthquake happens, I’ll have the best chance of surviving. …Is any of this helpful?”

“Not remotely. I mean, let’s see here. Have you been having any pain? Strange reactions to certain stimuli? Visions or hallucinations?”

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“All of the above, doc. I’ve been having some chest pain, but it’s not really pain, just like a pleasant tingling? Typically when I see some really beautiful holiday decorations, but it didn’t happen here at the hospital, so… I had a really bad episode when I was putting up the Christmas tree at home. I’ve also been experiencing a, how would I describe it, I guess a sentimental feeling? Usually when I hear voices singing, ‘Let’s be jolly!’ And a few times a week, I’ve been getting these visions of some weird purple candy…”

“Sugarplums? The candy made of dried fruits?”

“…Is that what that shit is? Gross. Speaking of food though, I think I’ve gained a little weight, lately, too.”

He raised he eyebrows and scribbled furiously on my chart. “Has your diet changed? What have you been eating?”

“Cookies, primarily. Pretty much anything that combines chocolate and peppermint. Hot chocolate. More cookies. Chocolate. Lots of sweets, I suppose…”

“Ah. Uh huh. I think I know what’s going on here…”

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I readjusted my socks and fidgeted with my wrinkled gown expecting the worst. I had no idea how the doctor could possibly diagnose me based on these seemingly unrelated indicators. He was reaching into his lab coat pocket now. What if he just kills me right here!? I should’ve known “Dr. Holly” sounded like a fake name! Do I need a shot? Is he taking some blood?

He produced from his pocket not a syringe, or worse, a vaseline-coated thermometer, but a candy cane, which he presented to me with a smile.

“Sounds like you’re experiencing some side effects of the holiday spirit. Some folks also call it Christmas cheer or a case of the jollies. It’ll clear itself up by mid-January when you realize all you have to look forward to is President’s Day. Try to enjoy it while you can. …And stay away from that creep who wanted you stay over.”

26 thoughts on “A December Diagnosis

  1. If the cheeecake (not cheesecake, though that’s nice, too) factory went out of business, I don’t think I’d have much more to live with. For. Fuck, I’m so fried. Baked, I mean. (I’m not even stoned.)

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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