sickness and health

In my part of the country, it’s been hot hot hot for going on two weeks now.  One of my co-workers was complaining about it yesterday “I just feel, like I don’t want to go out – it takes out all my energy.  I’m in a bad mood and I can’t enjoy anything.  I just want it to end.  I can’t get comfortable.  I don’t even want to eat because I feel so gross.”  I said “Hey, you know, I think you just described what it feels like to have a chronic illness.  Imagine that?”  Her response was  “I’d shoot myself if I felt like that all the time.”

I think that is a big part of what healthy people do not understand.  Survival is a strong force.  Most of us wouldn’t shoot ourselves.  We’d struggle and fight and hang on.  We’d be seen as disagreeable sometimes.  We’d come across as moody and needy and maybe even whiny, as alternately depressed and agitated.  And after talking to the coworker, and reflecting on this, I have to say it really frosts my ass that those pathological labels would be applied when people with a chronic illness exhibit what is, relatively speaking, a healthy response to a bad situation.

I was talking to my little brother a few hours later, after I got home (got a ride from Miss “I’d shoot myself”).  This is the guy with HIV and who is less than 6 months out of his HCV treatment.  He’s busting his ass at work.  Worked 9 hours Sunday and 11 on Monday.  “How are you feeling?” I asked him.  He responded with a report about mental and emotional feelings, about finding “his groove” at work and getting the hang of it.  “That’s good,” I replied “but are you ok physically at this pace?”  He answered unhesitatingly “Oh yeah, I’m fine.  I’m good.”  Now you need to know, he’s not stoic or shy about sharing when he doesn’t feel well physically.  While he may not elaborate eloquently, he usually will express that he is fatigued and worn out, he’ll tell me of sleepless nights having woken up with a fever or chills or nausea and being unable to go back to sleep.  And he’ll sound wrung out.

I told him I hoped that his job pace slowed somewhat soon.  He assured me it would and that he’s taking some time off on Friday.  “Maybe I’ll go to the pool” he said.  He sounded upbeat and good.

And I am wondering after I hung up the phone and laid down on the couch because my head and chest hurt, because my eyes wouldn’t stop dancing around in my head like jumping beans, because I was so fucking tired that it felt like I had just walked a mile in the full sun and heat hazy weather – what the hell?!  Not why doesn’t he feel worse, not at all.  I am truly and deeply pleased and amazingly, joyfully relieved that he’s doing well health wise right now.  But what the hell that I don’t feel better.  I don’t have HIV.  I didn’t just have a year long fight with Hepatitis C.  I don’t have syphilis.  I don’t get MRSA infections every 18 months or so.  And here I was thinking of asking my little brother, who has all that, to come help me get to medical appointments on Friday because I’m not sure I’m well enough to drive.  There is something very fucked up about that.

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  1. R. G. Maines

     /  July 13, 2010

    No, it’s not f*cked up, not from where I’m sitting. Every one of us deals/copes with illness, pain, treatment, differently. Every one of us brings a little something different to living with chronic illness, we are strong in different ways, we are weak in different ways, we handle life and what it throws at us differently.


    • Yeah, generally my brother and sister have always had a stronger constitution than me. I probably should keep it in mind. I couldn’t bring myself to ask him for help though. It just felt wrong.


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