Talking About Illness

I’ve been thinking lately about the question How are you? It’s a common greeting, but no one really wants an answer. When I was in grade 4 or 5 the French teacher used to start each class by asking Comme on ca va? And the class was supposed to answer Ca va bien. (Pardon my appalling French spelling) I think that sums up our society. No matter the truth your answer has already been assigned: you are well.

So what do you do when you aren’t well? If you’re like me you have an overwhelming desire to take about your illness. To dissect it, to discover what exactly is wrong with you and how it can be fixed. How does that fit into a society that constantly tells you illness is something to sweep under the rug? I think things like this blog are the answer. While every individual is of course unique and their journey is their own I am sure I am not the only one frustrated by the medical community. I can’t be the only one who has made the mistake of actually answering that perennial question of how are you honestly only to watch the questioner’s eyes dart away as they seek to escape. Or perhaps worse glaze over as they ignore my answer totally.

I have never understood why the medical community refuses to treat the entire body but instead insists on treating it piecemeal. I suppose that is really where this is going. How can we expect to get treatment and possibly get better if our doctors refuse to listen to the entire answer to that age old question of how are you? Are we so socially conditioned not to listen to complaints that not even the medical community, supposedly there to treat our ills, can take the time to listen long enough to hear them. I was thinking earlier today about the number of people that have bothered to hear all of my symptoms before passing judgment. There are three, four if you count my mother. All of them are specialists and I never saw any of them again because I am outside of their area of expertise. The specialist who diagnosed me also saw me once and barely spoke to me. I would welcome your ideas on how we can change this social malaise. Illness should not be a stigma. After all everyone gets ill and surely it would be easier to deal with if we could talk about it openly.


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