Saturday, May 30, 2009

When you don't look the part

During my last several hospital stays I have taken to wearing a camisole (helps hold up the chest) and loose yoga capris after the initial surgery etc .... instead of a hospital gown. And, boy has that caused a stir to the point of eliciting comments from caregivers.  "Wow, you look like you are ready to leave." (on day 2 post surgery, while I am shuffling around with my walker). Or, you don't like you have anything wrong with you (What about all the IVs that are sticking out of me?). 

I don't think people say these things to be provocative. I guess I get provoked.  Sometimes I take it as minimizing my suffering or what I am going through. And, I do the same thing. I try to look like and act like there is nothing wrong with me so that I can pretend that there is nothing wrong. 

It does raise the question/issue of how linked people's perception are to being sick, including my own. You have to look sick to be sick. It's weird. It is almost as if, the legitimacy of struggle/illness gets reduced when one does not look the part. That happens to me on a regular basis. When people see me in person, check out picts, especially when I do not have an aid in hand (crutches, wheelchair, walker, cane) then I must obviously be OK.  "Oh, you must be doing better." When in fact, I often don't use a cane, because it hurts other joints, or I am too lazy, or whatever reason. I am in constant pain in so many places. But, because I am athletic looking, thin, long legged, I must be ok. When I went to the hip replacement class, prior to my surgery, two separate nurses checked to make sure I was in the right class. I insisted that I was. It depressed me, or should I say enraged me. It even makes me second guess myself. ..." Maybe I really am OK, and have no problems, or have lesser problems than I pretend I do ". When I allow those sentiments to grasp hold of me it can be deadly to the psyche and hurtful.

Its a conundrum. One of the many that I have had the pleasure, so to speak, of tackling in the experience of being a patient.  Mostly I have come to accept the frustrations of my condition, there are times, especially when I am fragile that I react. But overall I have gotten to accept the humor in it all and so try to find the comical. 

If I find myself needing to react. I slyly ask people, "Didn't your mother teach you not to judge a book by it's cover?"

If I didn't I would be in a very unproductive place.

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