Conversion is Turning Around

Conversion is Turning Around August 28, 2022


Just after I got depressed, I got sick.

I am sick so much less often than I used to, it blindsided me, I was in bed with bad fatigue for hours. I used to be fatigued almost every single day, back before my poly-cystic ovary syndrome diagnosis, before the doctor prescribed medication and ketosis for keeping the symptoms under control. Adrienne remembers me as the exhausted parent who had to spend hours in bed after every outing.  So at first, I didn’t think to look for a reason I was getting sick. I thought I was going through another bout of fatigue. This added to my depression: I was getting sick again. Nearly two years of improved health had caught up with me, and I would pay for it now.

It turns out that I wasn’t going back to a daily struggle with chronic fatigue, however. We finally found the culprit this morning.

There’s a supplement I take called inositol. It used to be a B vitamin but it doesn’t count as a B vitamin anymore. I’m not a biologist so I can’t tell you why it was demoted. Inositol is a chemical that has shown promise in controlling blood sugar spikes and in helping people with Poly-cystic ovary syndrome have more regular cycles. It’s also rumored to act as a mild antidepressant, improving seratonin a little, though the studies don’t yet back this up. Many people with PCOS take inositol. It’s one of those things that goes into the “might not help but can’t hurt” category. I was taking it in pill form, which is apparently not nearly as absorbable as the powdered form stirred into drinks. I was taking a triple dose every day. That did seem to be taking the edge off my anxiety and helping me sleep while improving my PCOS symptoms all around. But then the company I buy it from stopped making the inositol supplements in pill form and shipped me two tubs of the powder. I took three doses of the powder throughout the day. It sedated me like knockout drops. I googled the side effects of an inositol overdose and there they were: tiredness, dizziness. Everything that makes normal people only a little drowsy always knocks me out. I can’t even take melatonin very often because when I do, I’m sleepy and groggy for the entire next day.

My first response to this was humiliation, and a twinge of the old anxiety, as if someone would appear out of nowhere and yell at me.

If you’re chronically ill, you’ve probably been heckled for taking supplements. There’s a whole army of people who think that the chronically ill want their opinion, and exactly half of this army think all supplements are hogwash. They think you mustn’t take vitamins or herbal tinctures or dab your temples with lavender and peppermint, even if it seems to help. You’re not allowed to know what helps your individual body, they know what helps your individual body, and they know that supplements are snake oil. The only thing you’re allowed to do, according to these people, is go to the doctor and take prescriptions. If you’re still sick, you haven’t been to enough doctors or taken enough prescriptions. Meanwhile, the other half of the people who heckle the chronically ill believe that doctors and hospitals, prescriptions and peer-reviewed studies are all hogwash and a conspiracy. You mustn’t see the doctor because doctors are the minions of Big Pharma. They don’t really know how to give you healthcare, only sick care. You ought to get off of all of your medication and just take herbs and supplements. A naturopath will help. Neither faction seems to realize that chronically ill people usually do lots and lots of both.

Another chronically ill friend once said that the meds-only faction and the herbs-only faction squabbling over chronically ill people who don’t want their opinions remind her of Plants Versus Zombies, an image I love.

So now I am depressed, and back to anxious, and severely exhausted, as well as humiliated that the plants and the zombies are cross with me. I will probably at least have gotten on top of the exhaustion by tomorrow. I will adjust my regimen right now and call my doctor if nothing gets better.

I couldn’t drive into Pittsburgh to church today with all the dizziness, even if I’d wanted to go. I couldn’t even sit up for most of the afternoon, so I just drowsed in bed. I had the kind of deep, vivid, ominous dreams I usually get when I’ve had a bad fever or when I’m having trouble eating or I’ve taken sleep medication.

I dreamed I was with my grandfather, the wonderful one, the one who had an orchard and a glorious garden on a triple lot. We were in a garden, but it wasn’t his. It was one I’d never seen before. We were walking among flowering trees that don’t really exist but I wish they did : dwarf apple trees with silver leaves and milky pink blossoms bigger than hibiscus, bigger than a cake plate, somehow dropping a snow of normal-sized petals as we walked by. The grass blow our feet was white with frost but it was warm to walk on. There were birds of all kinds darting between the trees. One of them perched on the tree right before my eyes– an oriole like the ones in the community garden, but all the yellow parts were white.

“Conversion is turning around,” said somebody, not my grandfather, from behind me as I stared at the oriole. “Conversion is turning around. Conversion is turning around.”

I woke up with a start, in my bedroom, in the detested rental house in miserable LaBelle, in Steubenville where there are no magical trees and nothing is as it should be.

I’ve been thinking of that phrase all the rest of the day, as I prop myself up and play games on my phone. I’ve heard it before.

I think it was first pointed out to me by a friend, many years ago, when Adrienne was a baby. I went home and looked it up and she’s right: conversion comes straight from a Latin word that means “turned around.” That’s what you do when you have a conversion. It doesn’t mean you beat yourself up or feel guilty or humiliate yourself with public penance. You realize that things are wrong, and you turn around to do it right. We are supposed to live lives of continuous conversion, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means constantly orienting yourself to get it right, that’s all.

That’s the sermon I got when I wasn’t in church today.

That’s what I did when I should have been writing.

And we’ll see where we go from there.



image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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