Why I feel like there ain’t no such animal as a typical personPosted: June 8, 2010
I…well, I have been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. You won’t hear me refer to myself as a PWD, because I am so guilty about being imperfect (note: this is my skewed perception, not my objective description) that I refuse to consider that I could need help when others are so much more deserving or needful. Like Lily. I mean, me? I can go to counseling once a week and make progress towards controlling the anxiety. Lily has been on anti-convulsants for most of her life and those seizures sure as hell aren’t what any of us reasonably considers more than nominally controlled. (Just about every night between 6-7pm, I’m told, is her “normal” prime seizure time these days.) So, sure, I cling to my denial for all it’s worth. I’ve briefly mentioned that my mom has MS. Dad and I are the “healthy” ones in the family, despite my fun times with frequent infection during the final days of my doctoral work; neither of us has chronic health conditions that are noticeable. (My heart murmur and his lack of gallbladder are Just Not That Big of a Deal.)
So you can imagine how surreal and painful it was to learn that my father has been diagnosed with diabetes.
On my mom’s birthday.
During my phone call to wish her a happy birthday.
SCANT HOURS AFTER MY THERAPY SESSION FOR THE WEEK.
Little Scientist Elysia came out the day after this revelation and decreed that Dad has, in fact, prediabetes, since that’s what the Mayo Clinic calls his symptoms. (Denial is SO GREAT!) But still: now the third member of my nuclear family (that isn’t me) has a chronic health condition.
Tell me: if I can give myself permission to call my anxiety a chronic condition, and my family a fairly ordinary middle class American family, then we all have chronic health conditions. Is this your family, too? Is this many of us? Most of us? Maybe typical really is synonymous with having some medical condition. My grandmother’s allergies? My aunt’s need for glasses from childhood? My other grandmother’s diabetes? Great-grandmother’s alcoholism? My cousin’s Asperger’s? Hell, in my office, three of us have something interesting in our medical files, and I don’t know the fourth person all that well.
I have a lot more to say, of course (I’m nothing if not a talker), but right now I just want to scream at the world that this sucks. The timing sucked (having a cancelled date hours after getting this news…?), and the consequences for us all suck, and just about everything about this in a larger societal sense sucks. The only thing that doesn’t suck: Dad is already seeing improvements in his health stats.
I will end this post with this thought: given the right set of definitions, we are all PWD, which makes our treatment of fellow humans with more obvious or nominally more difficult to deal with disabilities that much more reprehensible. (Elysia, PhD, will say that this is not surprising, given what she knows about the evolutionary genetics of humans.) Here’s to hoping that someday blogs like mine become irrelevant as people figure this out and live up to the compassion to which we aspire.