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What My Mechanic Taught Me About Being Undiagnosed

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My mechanic taught me something valuable about being undiagnosed with a chronic illness.

No, he didn’t sit me down and describe the medical side of chronic illness to me. He didn’t tell me about his experience with chronic illness. I don’t even know whether or not he has a chronic illness.

Our conversation, like most conversations with mechanics, was about my car.

A while back, a light turned on on my dashboard. I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember which light it was. It wasn’t a super important one, like “check engine” but it didn’t just go away, so I took it to the mechanic.

When I explained the problem to him, he said “Ah, yeah, that can happen. I know what the problem is. I’ll have it done in an hour.”

I waited one hour. Then I waited two hours. Three hours had passed when the mechanic came back to get me.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but your car is basically taken apart in the back. We can’t figure it out. Clearly there’s something wrong. The light wouldn’t be on if nothing were wrong. We’re going to give you a loaner car that you can use in the meantime while we figure it out.”

I was, of course, disappointed. I wanted to be in and out in an hour, or at least to be going home with my car after three hours.

The next day, I got a call. They found it. They found the problem and they fixed it. The shop closes in an hour, but if I get there quickly, I can pick it up. I drive straight there.

I honestly don’t remember what the issue with my car turned out to be. Sorry if you were waiting for a big reveal. But I remember this interaction. The waiting, the wondering — this is often how I feel about my undiagnosed chronic health issues.

Months ago, I started having some health problems. Numbness, fatigue, headaches. All the tests they’ve done have been negative or normal, except for the MRI of my brain, which showed something inconclusive. It makes me wonder if I’m losing my mind.

But I remember the words of my mechanic. The light wouldn’t be on if nothing was wrong.

My body wouldn’t be in pain if nothing were wrong. Sometimes it’s just hard to find what’s wrong. Sometimes there’s a complicated answer to what’s wrong.

Getty image by Smederevac.

Originally published: May 26, 2020
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