A Letter to My Very First Neurologist (Ish)

Dear WebMD,

I’ve noticed that you’ve been getting a lot of flak. A lot of hate. People use you as a punchline. Like, “I had a cold.. but WebMD told me I had cancer!” That must be hard. So I’m writing to let you know that I’m still here, as a friend. I’m a loyal, true believer. Yes, there have been times when I just had a nosebleed and you told me it was either a brain tumor or like, I don’t know, Ebola, but one time, when it really counted, you were my ally.

You probably don’t even know what I’m talking about, so I’ll tell you. Once, when I was 18 and home on winter break after my first semester of college, I had just gotten over what my local doctor told me was a bad virus when my feet went numb. And then they stayed numb. It was very odd. I did a lot of things to try to get them to un-numb themselves, but nothing worked. I put on warm socks and ran up and down the stairs. I rubbed them a bunch. I took hot showers. And then, WebMD, I turned to you. I plugged all the things I was feeling into your lovely symptoms checker and you spit back at me “Multiple Sclerosis.”

Multiple Sclerosis was something I knew nothing about. I didn’t know anyone who had it. I knew that sometimes people did charity runs or bike rides for it because it was A Very Tragic Disease that, I don’t know, probably Only Very Sick and Old People had and probably led to them being Confined to Wheelchairs. Thus, I yelled to my dad, “Dad, could I have multiple sclerosis?”

And he, as every father probably should when a teenage daughter says “Dad, could I have [insert tragic disease here]?,” said “No, what? No.” Thus I attempted to put it out of my mind. But, as the existence of this blog might have led you to guess, you were right, WebMD. You were right! You are probably wrong a lot of the time, but with me, you were right. And I argued with a few doctors and convinced them that something was really wrong and that I knew my body and knew that it didn’t feel right and that I really really did need an MRI. Finally, though they thought I was crazy, they gave me one and then they scratched their heads because you guessed it, there were lesions, and without your symptoms checker, I might not have gone to the doctor.

Which is really my point, other people who might be reading this letter (oh, is this on my blog? How interesting.). My point is that you know your body better than any doctor might and even though WebMD is often wrong and you don’t have a new kind of cancer every time you have a headache, sometimes they’re right, and if it’s WebMD who convinces you to go to a doctor and makes you feel legitimate enough to say, hey, listen, I want you to run that test, then so be it.

A thing, though, which is strange, is that I went back, for old time’s sake, let’s say, and I put in all those symptoms that I had, because, I don’t know, masochism, and MS didn’t come up. The top results were much less serious conditions, even though I put in all the symptoms I had which were accurate and pointed to an accurate diagnosis. I had to scroll down a very long list to find MS. WebMD, are you feeling pressured? Are you trying to change your reputation as an over-reactor, the website that says cancer when it’s just a nosebleed? Don’t tell someone like me “Poorly fitting shoes” (an actual result just now) when they have MS. You know that doesn’t explain the nausea, the dizziness, the vertigo, the vomiting.* WebMD, be yourself. Just tell us your truth, we can take it! Be a tool of empowerment, even if people don’t see you that way. Some doctors suck and barely listen, but you take every symptom into account and give every possible answer. Keep doing that.


a Hopeful Fan

*seriously, I have worn some poorly fitting shoes in my life, and they have never caused… MS-like symptoms.

4 Things To Do Instead of Getting Pregnant Before You’re 4

I think I found someone who I really dislike on the Internet. That’s not how I want to start this post, but it’s how I’m feeling, and I’ll be honest. What I don’t like about this person, this Vanessa Elizabeth, isn’t her opinions, which many of you have probably seen by now, in a viral post entitled “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23,” but the way she has decided to react to people who disagree with her, both in the original post and in the aftermath.

The whole premise of her post is that people her age (our age, my age) aren’t mature enough to get married, which she would be right in thinking if all of her friends are as mature as she is and that’s all she’s seen. See, now I’m a jerk, too. I don’t like this girl.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I haven’t been getting more articulate, it seems.

I don’t like that she pretends that she’s talking about marriage, but what she’s actually talking about is commitment. I’m in a committed relationship. By that, what I mean is that I don’t wake up every day wondering if I would like the relationship to continue, or if my boyfriend is considering ending things. He is someone who I can count on. We’re in it to win it, or we’ve already won. Sap! I’m not saying anything about marriage here, because that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about commitment, and I think that’s what she’s talking about, too. While she pretends to be against people just getting married young, which I understand the arguments against (though I think that people should just let each other make their own choices and shut the fuck up about other people’s choices, but whatever), all of the things which she says are arguments against getting married young are actually arguments for staying single. They’re arguments for making out with strangers or being alone or not having a significant other to grow with. They have nothing to do with the legal/religious/meaningful/however-you-want-to-think-about-it union that marriage is. It’s about commitment. So why is she pro-single? That’s an argument that she has ignored entirely. What makes me sadder is that people who are in committed relationships have become supportive of her argument without seeming to notice that she would have them make out with strangers on the regular. She’s not pro-commitment, pro-dating, pro-love, or pro-union, she’s pro-one-night-stand, pro-single-girl. Which is fine, and people should not call her a slut because that’s stupid, but her argument is not what it pretends to be.

I don’t like her because she’s not about discourse. She deletes comments on her Facebook page which are negative and she just wants clicks, because she wants to be provocative. She’s created some image that makes no sense. Her page claims in one section to be more than just her (using “we,” as though “Wander Onwards” is some big multi-person enterprise that we should respect), claims to encourage wellness while also promoting excessive sugar and alcohol intake, claims to be about making Asia accessible to Americans while complaining constantly about the difficulties of living abroad, and is really just there to promote her as a brand. She’s clickbait. She’s a Vanessa-no-last-name-Elizabeth. She’s all sass and very little substance, which is fine, but not especially interesting, and the fact that she openly mocks her “haters” (people who try to disagree with her, usually with well-reasoned comments) and just wants ┬ámore views shows that she’s not about thought or conversation. Her views matter, not yours. Which sucks, and I wish she didn’t act like that, because she’s being a jerk and making me feel like a bad feminist for daring to disagree with another woman, especially one who’s attacking The Institution of Marriage, but since she’s mean and doesn’t want people to disagree with her on her page, it’s what I’m up to. Hi.

And, anyway, I don’t like her because I don’t think she understands the human experience. I don’t like her because

  • I’ve completed 14 of the 23 items on her supposedly satirical list
  • 6 of them just made me feel sad, and they made me feel younger. They were signs that I needed to grow up
  • Some of them were more fun with someone by my side, or would have been more fun had I not been alone
  • a few made me lose someone I cared about
  • the tattoo behind my ear is blurry already and it’s only been two years. And I hope that people spend a bit more time getting to know the person they marry than they spend getting to know their tattoo artist.
  • one of the items on her list, “sign up for CrossFit,” is just her promoting her employer, which is gross
  • the 9 that I haven’t done aren’t necessarily things I’m interested in

I don’t know. Something about her just makes me so angry. I think a large part of it is that she’s in China promoting CrossFit (find me a stupider reason to be anywhere) and she seems to have decided that moving a body across the globe makes that body more valuable. Travel is great, travel teaches you about different cultures, but deciding that travel makes you a better person is classist, and idiotic. Not everyone has access to higher education, and not everyone wants lots of sexual partners. The value system that she has created in her post is interesting in that it makes the life that I’ve lived thus far “valuable” because I am a young, liberal woman who is completing a college degree, has changed religions and career paths, has lived alone and traveled, and has dated people, but it makes me angry that she values my type of life above other people’s lives. My choices haven’t all been right and they haven’t always made me happy. I’ve read some of her other posts, and she doesn’t always seem happy, either. Maybe she would be happier if she didn’t constantly attempt to validate her choices solely through negating other people’s lifestyles and promoting her own.

Maybe that’s utopian and maybe that’s stupid but maybe suddenly one day you stop thinking that you’ve made all the right choices and gain some humility. It happened to me, once upon a time. But until then, she shall wander onwards.

Love and Happy New Year,


PS please excuse the title, I couldn’t resist