It’s a Shame (that stresses sick people)
Sickness, illness or health problems in general wouldn’t be described as something to be ashamed of. When one’s ill, she/he gets comforting, help and sometimes even pity. But shame? It has been common not to blame people on their conditions (at least if it’s not hangover). I say has been because the tendency has grown quite a bit in the direction of emphasizing one’s own responsibility in taking care of themselves by “living right” (also known as giving up your afternoon coffee cake, walking the stairs, passing the Friday night beer and so forth). But as the information gathers we are now more and more aware of the complicated system a body is. For example, calorie theory has been crushed (Don’t buy that? Read Gary Taubes: Good Calories, Bad Calories). Therefore it’s not as simple as 1-2-3 to go tell someone to stop eating fat/carbs to lose the extra pounds and the diabetes or to blame the years of cigarette smoking on someone’s COPD.
Anyway, I got a bit on the sidetrack. The point is that as I just returned home from the office, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed because I discovered in the morning that I’d lost my voice totally during the night. I feel ashamed because even if I did go to work it wouldn’t work: it’s impossible not to speak as a therapist. And furthermost I’m ashamed because my work pair (a physiotherapist) commented that “you always have something going on“. No I don’t! I wanted to scream. I’m never ill! I haven’t had a flu in years and I’m vibrant and strong and balanced and… Versatile.
So you see, I would SO like to cherish my image of myself as the invincible human being that continues to work while others fall in the depths of a seasonal cold (or when they sneeze and cough for weeks). It hurts to feel like your body has let you down and it stresses to have all these thoughts going around your head about what people are going to think of me, getting a laryngitis right after my summer vacation. And it’s not that they would or that they will. And it’s not that it WOULD be my own fault that I lost my voice. But still: can’t help but being ashamed.
Which brings me to the key point of this post. For a therapist it’s priceless to be able to go under the client’s skin to better understand the phase and process she/he is going through whether it’s a long term disease or a minor illness. It’s not easy to go see a doctor. It’s not nice to be taken on the ward. It’s HORRIBLE to be dependent on the hospital staff in taking a leak or changing your position in bed. Illness steals away the sense of control one has to her/his life. On the top of that it makes you feel shamed for being weak while seeing others strive.
Sigh. Oh well. Maybe I overreacted. I just wanted to say that trying to relate to your clients’ situation really pays of. It helps to become a better (occupational) therapist regarding client centered approach, minding the psycho-social aspects of the therapy and empowering people to gain back their sense of control. And, first and foremost, their dignity.
Ugh, I have spoken. I shall withdraw to breath some steam and then to lay on the sofa working on some studies. Wish me well!