You know the other day when I was so poetically sharing my thoughts on bacon, cheese, garlic, and the idea that it’s just not okay to say certain things to doctors (or hey, some folks in general)? You don’t? What’s your malfunction, then? Upshot is, in general, knowledge is a good thing, ignorance does not protect anyone, and sometimes shitty stuff just happens and you are well within your rights to express disappointment, frustration, and general pissed-offedness about it when it gets to that point. Emotions — positive or negative — are valid, and feeling either way periodically is just fine. Even a slight bias in one direction or another in a particularly crappy (or not at all crappy) situation is pretty expected. It’s when it’s all one-sided emotion — or none at all — that’s freaky. And boy howdy, that sure as hell goes for happy. Actually, maybe it especially applies to happy. (Shudder.)
I’m not alone on that front. Today I picked up Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America for my Kindle. (Hey, I never talked about my Kindle. I love that thing. I can read again — although I know now that my previous difficulties came from eye fatigue and (sadly, pathetically) the fact that holding a book open took most of my brain processing skills, so reading was a distraction. The Kindle helps that so much,) I thought the book would probably take on the positive thinking mantra that companies push down in training seminars — maybe it does later, haven’t gotten that far yet. What Ehrenreich starts off with is very familiar — well, familiar enough.
When diagnosed with breast cancer, she found that by and large the medical profession, support networks and general public were very much in tune with the “this is a blessing in disguise” way of thinking. I’m going to echo her sentiment, because it works for anything chronically sucky: No, it isn’t. It’s not a blessing, and I don’t want the wonderful insight it has given. I should be able to share that, and discuss my legitimate concerns about what the worst case scenario might be (even if it’s on the outside chance) without guilt with health professionals (I understand why family members and friends might feel uneasy on that front. I mean, it does have to be faced eventually, whether that comes to pass or not, but it makes loads of sense why that takes some adjustment time all round). I should be able to get mad about it. I should be able to say this without it being treated as though feeling regret over being ill is somehow — a failing that needs to be obliterated, rather than acknowledged.
And acknowledgement doesn’t even mean saying anything, sometimes. It doesn’t mean prescribing anything — not drugs, not therapy, even, necessarily (I mean, I do see some value if you click with a support group, but I can see where attending one could actually be — depressing). Acknowledgement just means you listen. I love it when my sweet GP says stuff like “Well, your parts that work are fine, and I wish we could make the shitty parts stop…” One, because she says naughty words. Two, because her actions (and she has been heroic, really… where few dare to tread) speak louder than the words, but the words mean a lot. There may not be a whole lot we can do, and it may or may not have resounding success when we find the best course of action, but we do have to try. That’s fine. She doesn’t have expectations that I’ll feel like I’m letting her down if they remain unmet (because I am not the only patient who has felt like a letdown, I know), and she knows damn well that I’m not expecting miracles. I’m not. Ultimately better days than this should outnumber days like the ones I’ve been having, but if it doesn’t happen — I just need someone who is thinking objectively, and who knows me and my peculiarities, to help get to where ever it leads with the least amount of bull to deal with from illness, side effects, other medical professionals, and my own silly innards.
Of course, I hate having to talk about the nasty bits when I don’t feel like it either, when I want a dose of positive, but then I kinda choose not to talk about this sort of crap at all, then I’ll go and try to have a conversation about hot air balloons and sail boats and Mecha-Godzilla (or all three at one time) with someone. But as Ehrenreich says, you’re expected as a patient to be a fighter (like you have a choice) and ultimately a survivor. It’s why no one ever dies after a wussy, girlie, half-assed fight with some horrible condition. They are always brave. They are, especially given that most of the time, no one wants to really discuss what they are going through, how it could end in less than wonderful circumstances despite everyone’s best efforts, so they have to deal with that alone. So do close friends and family — in their own way. And that’s just not right. It’s not conducive ultimately keeping everyone healthy in the long run.
Sometimes there is nothing anyone can say or do. That’s all right. There are no words, often. You can say that, and when you do, and it sounds lame, you all should know it’s okay to say something else. Something about dirty, hairy hippies being mistaken for sasquatches, maybe, or how Gamera is the best monster ever because he’s a big flying, flaming turtle. That is at least genuine. Because there are no words. Silence is okay, but it makes for dull phone calls…
Anyway, it was really cool to hear a smart, engaging lady say something that I’ve felt far too often. I have doctors that I have seen that I swear have an Astra-Zeneca Magic 8 ball with motivational sayings to hand out to patients… Before they see me, they ask the pharmaceutical-branded Magic 8 ball what the overall positive feeling they should impart at this appointment will be — overwhelmingly, I get the “most important part of the cure is the patient.”
Right. Otherwise, you’ve no one to use your 8 ball on.