24 October 2012

On Not Being Patient

When I was a kid and things weren't going my way, my Mom would invariably say, "It builds character."  I remember asking once, "Don't I have enough character yet?"

Apparently not.

Because I'm trying to be grateful: for doctors, for family, for health insurance, for flexibility at work, for enough money not to have to worry about choosing between health insurance co-payments and, say, food.

Instead, I'm grouchy, frustrated, and fearful.  I'm frustrated that the first round of medications didn't take care of the problem, and I got worse and had to go back for more.  I'm worried about the possible side effects of the medications, worried about the future, worried about the effect on my kid of having a chronically ill parent, worried about health insurance plans are, through higher and higher co-payments for doctor's visits and medications, placing ever more of the cost burden on the individual ill person rather than on the pool of people paying in.

As a person with dis-ease, I'm supposed to be (a) patient.  I'm not supposed to be angry about the things I can't do while I'm resting patiently, shrugging off symptoms and fatigue and side effects with good humor.

But lurking in the background is shame. Always the shame.  It comes from my own family dynamic, my own family history; but it's also part of the culture.  Go to the Mayo Clinic's web site and look up bronchitis, and there's an awful lot of noise about cigarette smoke as cause.  In other words, sick people brought it on themselves.

So guess what? I'm also angry.  Angry at being sick in the first place, angry at missing out on life while I have to rest, angry at the ways discourse frames illness, angry at feeling lousy.  So, character?  I'll have to work on that.