I just wanted to give it a try, spurred on by hearing him list my so-called ailments over the phone to the insurance broker. Am I that ill? Am I that unwell? I don’t feel it. The pills, the taking of the pills mark me. Mark my card. I take medicine for high blood pressure, therefore I have high blood pressure. Q.E.D. I did have it. Once. It was an episode. Do I still have it? And the other tablets. The ones for water retention. Do I still need them?

I just wanted to give it a try so I asked the doctor to call. You have to do it that way these days. Book a call, that is. She did, eventually. I know they are busy. So many sick, needy people. They are the only ones you can go to, if you don’t mind the wait. And it’s free, so far. The rest, the other listeners you have to pay for and you don’t know what you’re getting. Mind you, you don’t know what you’re getting with the doctors either, but that is another story. I asked for the one I thought would know me. I’ve seen her twice, or was it just the once? She was the one that prescribed the pills. I thought she’d remember me. She didn’t, that was clear. When I said that I’d like to try coming off them there was a silence down the end of the phone. I kept talking. I just feel better, I said, and I want to see if I really need them. What’s changed? she said, eventually. Was her voice cold? Are you drinking less? Do you eat less salt? I don’t drink at all, I answered, feeling myself getting defensive, thinking can’t you see all that on the screen? I wasn’t expecting such a reaction. I thought she’d be encouraging. And I don’t eat salt, yes. But it’s more than that, I am feeling so healthy. But, she said, it was so high. Yes, I know, but I was unhappy then, my life was so different.

There was a wall between us. A wall of non-understanding. I’d have to negotiate. She began talking again. You could try taking them down to half. The blood pressure pills first. One at a time, she said. Try half dose for a month and we’ll see. Are you good at taking your own blood pressure? You could get one of those machines and monitor it at home. Yes, I can do that. She was rigid, immoveable. So how are we going to do this? Shall I record four readings and drop them off at the surgery for you to respond too? Yes. But I don’t think you’ll be able to do it, she said, it was so high.

And that was how we left it. Me thoroughly deflated and ill-disposed towards someone I’d thought was kind.

Let’s deal with that last bit first. She’s just doing was some doctors do. She sees sickness day-in-day-out. She believes I am sick and that I need this medication to keep well and that I’m wasting her time with this charade. But it was so high, he says. You could’ve died. Possibly. But things were so different. And I want to try, to see if my body can manage alone. Can’t it?

I was deflated. Am I being preposterous? I know I have all sorts of negativity towards the medical profession and I know much of it is irrational. Passed on from her, mostly. And from my inclination towards alternative therapies. But then I’ve never been really sick. Not really. The water retention and the pressure could be inherited. She had it. Though she also drank. I do not. Not any longer. But I do wonder about whether I nourish myself enough.

A girl from the surgery rang. Doctor got your letter and she suggests going down to half for a month and taking regular readings. OK?

Now comes the confession. I did go down to half a day but then, on Monday, I stopped taking them all together. I just want to try and the half measure thing is just pussy-footing. How am I? I feel OK though a little light-headed this morning. But that could be the massage I had from the ‘Brute’ yesterday. Or hunger. We had to rush supper last night so that I could go into work. Who knows? We shall see. I’ll take a reading later today and see. It worries him, I know. And I will go back to them if need be. All sorts of people have to take them, he says, look at me. I know. But I don’t want to be all sorts of people. I want to be me taking responsibility for my own life, my own body. They take you over, take charge. They see a machine, slightly defective, like our blessed, money-eating car.

A delicious walk this morning, despite the slight mugginess in my head. Dry, windless and mild. Just lovely.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.