Thanks for writing this. I didn't even know it needed to be said until I read it.
2010-06-10 09:54 pm (UTC)
On the flip side, when people say to me, "Oh, I'm so glad I don't have that problem" - which, by the way, is not a particularly nice thing to say - I want to tell them that they very well might and they ought to check. And I run the risk of being overly emphatic and seeing my own condition in other people when it isn't there. Because I said the exact same thing once, and I turned out to be wrong.
Yah, I can totally understand why people are glad not to have vertigo--I'm glad they don't have vertigo--and yet it seems a bit tactless to say it to me quite like that. It's not like my physics major, where it seemed tactless but at least it was something I had chosen for myself so I could be blamed for it if they felt blame was necessary.
But we also have had several runs of, "Here is a less easily detected/widely known about thing that we have found out about, and perhaps you should look into it," around here, particularly in family groupings. People don't always agree to. But I know the impulse.
One of the most common ways of expressing health concern is not the neutral, "What happened?" but the accusatory, "What did you do?" This is often even skewed in its intonation: "WHAT did YOU DO?"
And one of the things it means is, "What did you do that I can avoid doing so that I can dodge this thing that happened to you?"
"What did you screw up that I can get right so that I can be okay where you are not okay?"
Even, "What happened?" assumes that there is an event, something you can point at. Even if it's that a bolt of lightning or a meteorite hit you while you were sitting innocently in your living room reading, something happened, and there is before, and there is after. Whereas with, say, food allergies, or depression, or many other things people I know deal with, there is less the bolt from the blue--even if we stipulate that it is the blameless bolt--and more the gradual awareness that not all is well, or at least not as well as it could be.
Story-seeking is a very human urge. It's just not always a very useful or appropriate one.
oh, this a thousand times this
That's an interesting comparison, the broken leg, because it's exactly the one my doctor made when I saw him yesterday. He deals with chronic pain himself, and we were discussing how people who have never had to do so don't understand how exhausting it is, and he said precisely that: "It's not like a broken leg," and for some of the same reasons you give.
(I do, however, have the "advantage" of my age--people expect those my age to be falling apart one way or another!)
This is BRILLIANT!
We have a "blame the victim" mentality in our culture, which is one of its great evils.
We also have a vocabulary such that it's hard to say this without casting somebody as a victim. In no way do I mean to criticize your phrasing, because I'm having extreme difficulty coming up with a way of saying it that doesn't mean the same thing anyway, without being completely clunky about it. "Blame the...problem-having person" is just not pithy.
This is useful. Thank you.
You are brilliant. (And I do hope to be making some posts less under lock about some of it, but am being sensible and waiting till the current work stuff is not on the table before I do.)
2010-06-11 03:47 am (UTC)
This is an entirely fine and completely on-target bit of rant.
In certain cases, it should be engraved on razor-edged steel sheets, folded to maximize the exposed edge, and, um, applied suitably to people who apparently are in need of a truly memorable experience on the topic.
And then when people asked how they got their injury, they would have a ready answer.
I actually just had a broken foot, and it was pretty much Hollywood variety. Having had other ailments that weren't at all Hollywood, I really loved how clear and simple it was,even while hobbling around in a cast. The doctor didn't doubt that I really had it. The cure was not worse than the injury. The insurance didn't question the need for a cast or even X-rays. It didn't make me look weird (I happen to think a purple cast is glamorous). It meant that I got lots of attention and lots of support, because everybody can see a purple cast. And I didn't have to worry about the long-term side effects of the treatment, since they've been splinting broken bones for a while now.
I suffered much more debilitating pain with a nerve injury that went through three doctors before even being diagnosed, and then just when I thought it was well, came back double-strength.I took drugs that could have done some bad stuff to my liver, and I was irritable and cranky for months. And I couldn't go around announcing "I'm in hideous pain, feels like a giant bird has its claws in my neck," so I had to pretend I felt just like everyone else at parties and meetings. The only good aspect was that I did develop faith in the appropriate alternate medicine, and that's helped me with other things since.
When I think about problems like the one you suffer with, I can't begin to imagine the psychological and social problems it creates.
ETA: I know your real point was the blame-seeking that attaches to so much illness. Sorry to hijack with a slightly OT rant of my own, but I'd just been thinking about this.
Edited at 2010-06-11 03:54 am (UTC)
I don't think you were hijacky at all.
The other thing they don't tell you with broken legs is that you'll heal faster (or at all) if you only maintain the proper chirpy attitude.
Yes, fatigue is supposed to be the most common symptom of heart problems among women. Although heart problems are not the most common cause of fatigue among women, not by a long shot. I'm glad they did make sure, and I'm glad the cure was so nice.