Not Still Me
On the question of investing interest in sick people
It has become commonplace for sufferers of disabling conditions to plant a flag of identity, boldly declaring that despite the changes that have befallen them, they remain the same person. Although I sympathize with this and even admire the message, as a former practicing psychiatrist, who is very diminished due to multiple medical problems, I plant no such flag. To jump to the conclusion; in brief, I am not still me.
So the direct evidence: I cannot do a fraction of what I used to. I am no longer in the fast lane. I am not as sharp and tend to focus on my health problems. I look and feel different.
As for the circumstantial evidence, I will merely state that if the person in question were still the same, then others would treat her the same way as always. They do not.
This latter point can easily become a source of bitterness. But I have learned that while illness is the subject of my life, it cannot be the subject of my relationships.
We could debate a core identity, an essence, and indeed I sense something like that deep within myself. Many important things about me have not changed. So the picture is by no means bleak and I am far from unrecognizable.
Becoming either severely or chronically ill begins like other tragedies. People come by with consolations and lasagna. This may stretch out for a few weeks then quickly thins out to a few stragglers. Some are friends you didn’t know you had. But people are busy and have lives. Life is about life. Illness is about illness. They are not the same.
Life goes on with the body or mind as a vessel upon which you sail through your day, getting done what needs doing. The body’s demands in health are rolled into daily rituals. A good meal, some reading, watch TV, and a good night’s sleep. Illness is a creaky, whining, painful companion demanding attention before you can even make your oatmeal. It is like putting up with a surly child that only a parent could love.
People crave likeness. Soccer fans like soccer fans. Democrats, Democrats. Sick people don’t crave sick people. They crave jumping back into life. But barring that, they crave interest. I am using this word, interest, instead of…