I was never much of a Friends fan. It was on one of the only TV stations we had access to when I was in rehab back in 2000, so I had seen a number of the episodes then. Other than that though, the show wasn’t for me. It was too cheerful and optimistic. Much like other cynics of my day, I preferred watching Seinfeld and South Park and mocking late-night infomercials.
But I found myself watching Friends last Saturday night in a hotel room in Philadelphia. I was there for the night to support a friend who was auditioning for The Voice. We had to be up by 6am Sunday to get in line at the convention center so we were in bed by 10. I took an Advil PM to help me get to sleep. As I lay there waiting for it to kick in, I became acutely aware of the pain in my lower back that had been bothering me for the past week and I started to worry that my kidney was failing. (There’s an even longer story there that started with webmd.) Perhaps I had taken too much Advil PM over the past few weeks to deal with said back pain, I wondered. Google confirmed my fears that the overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could lead to kidney problems. So it was off to the races.
Once the anxiety kicked in I started urinating like crazy. I went to the bathroom every 5 minutes. (Another symptom of kidney problems.) Then the fear started and I had images of an ambulance carrying me to the hospital and me imploring my friend to go on with her audition. “You can visit me in ICU after the surgery,” I imagined saying.
Before I dialed 9-1-1, I thought I’d check in with Sebastien, because I didn’t want him to be alarmed when he received the phone call from the hospital at 3am. I told him my symptoms and that I had acute kidney failure and was probably going to die that evening.
He’s taken calls like this from me before, usually when I’m afraid someone is going to try and kill me. Sometimes I’ll even ask him to call me when I’m out reporting a story just make sure that I’m alive if I am going to an unfamiliar place or interviewing a suspicious person. He has never once said no to making or taking these phone calls. And just like the other times, when I phoned Sebastien Saturday night, he very calmly and lovingly talked me through the anxiety. He suggested that since I wasn’t in any acute pain, I wait until morning to schedule a doctor’s appointment. “But I might be dead by then,” I said. He reminded me that my symptoms were mild. We talked for a few more minutes until what he was saying started to make sense. He suggested that I enjoy watching some TV since we don’t have that luxury at home. Whenever I’m on vacation I love nothing more than parking myself in front of the TV and watching re-runs of Full House or Saved By The Bell for hours and hours. So that’s what I did.
I hung up the phone, meditated for a few minutes, then turned on the TV. I clicked through a few channels before settling on an episode of Friends. The blonde girl was pregnant and always hungry and the other girl with the haircut that everyone liked in the 90s was desperate to get some guy to pay attention to her. It was so cheesy and predictable. And I laughed and laughed. It was exactly what I needed to calm down before bed. I guess sometimes cheesy things are good. [Cue sappy music like when Danny Tanner is moralizing to DJ] And it’s nice to know that I married a man who is there for me through my paranoia and anxiety. I bet if there were good words that rhymed with paranoia and anxiety, The Rembrandts would have sang that song instead.