name that illness

To name a thing is one of the smallest manners of controlling it.  Without a name, you struggle for reference in discourse, thinking, planning.  You get into TMI situations with coworkers and others for whom the practicalities of your illness are relevant enough to warrant some disclosure.  “You were out for a while.  Are you ok?  You don’t look good.  You look pale.  did you lose weight?  How are you feeling?  It must have been bad, you were out for so long.”  These are all of the things I’ve heard this week.  Most people, I just reply with minimal responses.  Most people are not worth divulging details to, don’t need to know, and truly actually sincerely don’t want to know for any reason other than to satisfy prurient curiosity and generally nosiness.  Because I am aware of the effect of naming on people’s perceptions of things in general and illness in specific, I have given this a name.  “I probably had a kidney stone” is what I am telling the coworkers whose knowledge is important.  E.g. the coworkers who cover my breaks and who will therefore need to cover my quite frequent bathroom breaks this week until I can go longer without being in pain every time my bladder is more than empty (yeah, I have no idea what that’s all about.  Is it a urinary tract thing then or is the bladder just irritating whatever this is?)

It has worked well.  And it’s not a lie.  The onset, pattern, character, and intensity of pain do fit the presentation of a kidney stone in the ureter.  It may not be that, but I’ve decided that these people just don’t need to know the details of the differential.  Allowing them to be involved in that conversation means, essentially, inviting them to invalidate the symptoms and  their impact.  And so I name it, which conveniently shuts them the hell up – for the most part.

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  1. I do the same thing…..just tell the nosey ones anything to shut them up, but someone is always gonna be an expert on everything. I have just learned to walk away and “escape questions”….if I can.

  2. Ugh, Annoying. Good luck with the back to work transition.

  3. It’s funny the effect that naming it has. My son had an issue with acid regurgitation when he was a baby, which meant he was always crying and refusing to feed – once it had a name it transformed him from a cranky baby to one with an illness, which was strangely comforting.

  4. I would imagine it would be comforting. What I can’t imagine is the stress of having a baby who is sick. They can’t say what’s wrong, but clearly are distressed…that must be incredibly difficult. I hope it was easy to treat, if not to diagnose.


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