R oss Douthat was a busy man. In addition to his regular opinion column in the New York Times, he wrote books, gave speeches, traveled, interviewed people, and was often interviewed himself.
In 2015, he and his wife had two kids and another on the way. They decided to leave Washington DC and relocate to Connecticut, where they had both grown up and still had family.
They found a rambling old country house that they fell in love with. After walking through the dwelling and briefly strolling around the property surrounding it, they made an offer which was accepted. Then, they returned to DC to prepare for the move.
And that’s when Douthat’s life changed dramatically.
It started with a stiff neck and an enlarged lymph node. (“Nothing to worry about,” said an internist.) It progressed to migrating pain that moved from his head to his spine to his chest to his arms and legs. (“Maybe drink more Gatorade–for the electrolytes,” suggested a neurologist.) Other specialists prescribed sleeping pills and antidepressants. (“Stress,” they declared. “Too much going on in your life.”)
The Reason or the Symptom?
“I did feel stressed,” Douthat remembers. “But the illness felt like the reason rather than the symptom.”
He was tested for Lyme disease a couple of times, with negative results.
Meanwhile, the bizarre symptoms continued. Before he and his family left Washington, crushing chest pain sent him to the emergency room on two different occasions. Doctors there found nothing wrong with him. He followed up with various specialists, who theorized that his symptoms were psychosomatic.
As one infectious diseases doctor put it: “Look, I know it’s hard to see, but you should feel happy. It’s a good thing not to have a disease, you know…. And, if you need a mental health referral, we can definitely help with that.”
Caught in the Middle
In his recently published book, The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery, Douthat writes about being caught between what he was feeling in his body and what the doctors confidently proclaimed didn’t exist…..Join or login below to continue reading.
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