Sunday, November 8, 2009

There are advantages to suffering in silence

posted Thu, 18 Nov 2004

I’ve figured out the real reason you shouldn’t talk about your health with anyone but your doctor. It’s not just because it’s self-absorbed and impolite to talk about yourself (not that that ever stops me – I am self-absorbed and probably impolite at times) but because there are too many repercussions.

When I say repercussions, I mean one of the worst things you can get: unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. What am I supposed to do once they start telling me how to solve the headache problem? I’m the one who brought up the subject in the first place – it’s my own stupid fault. [PS None of this applies to this journal, BTW – If I post it here, I am by definition inviting feedback.]

So now I am trapped in a conversation that is barreling down a highway I really didn’t want to travel. Sure, I wanted to whine. Sure, I wanted some sympathy. But I didn’t know the price would be so high, i.e., that I would be told what to do to solve the problem. If you’ve ever read a woman’s magazine, you know that we don’t want anyone else to solve our problems when we complain about them – we just want sympathy, a hug and some chocolate. And not in that order.

Thus far, I have been told to see a particular neurologist – but only after I was grilled on my dietary habits (no, I don’t drink red wine or eat stinky cheese), I have been advised to get acupuncture, I have been ordered to visit a chiropractor.

I have been commanded to stop drinking caffeine (which I am going to try) and to stop consuming aspartame (which I am also going to try).

Have I tried essential oils? What about allergies? Have I been tested for allergies? Am I taking too many vitamins? What about a shot of B12? Am I taking enough vitamins?

At first, I tried to answer these questions honestly and fully, even though I felt a bit uncomfortable at how personal some of them were. (I did not list for you all the questions I was asked.) After all, I had started this. Then I realized that taking medical advice from my hairdresser – or anyone else but Dr L, my sister and Dr Ilene – was as smart as asking my doctor to cut my hair.

Actually, though, it’s not the new ideas that my friends are throwing at me that bother me – there might be something useful there – it’s the pressure I feel to respond to them. No, I am not going to see a neurologist about this while my regular doctor is treating me. He has never hesitated to refer me to a specialist before and I know he will refer me now if he thinks it is necessary.

But what do I say to my friend? “Oh, thanks. That’s worth considering.” That’s a lie. I am not going to consider it.

I am such a bad liar that it is hard for me to say the social niceties that keep conversations flowing – the things you say when someone gives you advice you have no intention of taking and you want to express your gratitude for her concern but do not want to agree to what she has advised you to do. That is another one of those southern conversational skills that I lack – the nice version of “I heard you but I have no intention of acting on what you said.”

It’s making my head hurt just to think about it.

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