When doctors don’t know what you have–you know, “the thing” that bends you low, makes you sweat, causes you to entertain prayer, forces you to jump up and down like a mechanical toy from the 19th century, they call it an “idiopathic” condition.
Now of course there are different kinds of not knowing when it comes to the body. There’s not knowing and there’s not knowing. I hope this clears things up.
I have one of the commonest idiopathic ailments and you might have it too: I fucking itch all over. We’re not talking a minor league, Sunday school itch–the kind Huck Finn had when they told him not to scratch in church–that ain’t idiopathic my friend. We know why Huck was itchy. In fact studies have shown that ministers, preachers, priests, rabbis, zen masters, imams, and school teachers can cause itching by doing nothing more than moving their eyes. There’s a scientific term for this. Preachers who make you itch just by looking at you are known as ohptho-idio-paths, which is an elevated way of saying you break out in hives because they really don’t like you.
Meanwhile the doctor doesn’t know why you itch. You just boil all over with purgatorial pins and needles, with no part of your body unaffected.
You might be allergic to wine. Maybe food. Maybe air pollution. Agribusiness. Laundry detergent. But when you live without these things as an experiment, sequentially, sober, starving, hiding in the cellar, stinking so badly the dog won’t come near—nothing changes. You itch like an electrified sponge.
In my case the thing that most helps is an over the counter generic drug called loratadine–an antihistamine that’s commercially marketed as Claritin. When I take it the itching is vastly reduced. I stop tearing at my skin. I even get some sleep.
So why then did I spend last night “not taking it” and playing a game of mind over matter? Why did I lie on my bed of fire and send brain messages to every part of my straining body?
The answer? It’s the Lutheran Olympics. It’s a Scandinavian thing.
Brain to feet: “C’mon guys, can’t we all just get along?”
Feet to brain: “Captain, the engine room’s on fire and the door’s locked!”
Brain to hands: “Now just stop that! Grow up!”
Hands to brain: “Help! The tarantulas have escaped! They’re in our mittens!”
Other parts of the body have requested anonymity.
Please don’t try this. We are, as they say in TV land, trained professionals.