Monday, September 29, 2008

Personal Problems And Public Issues

How about a (very brief) sociology lesson to get your Monday morning started off right?

In sociology, we often define things based on whether they are personal problems and/or public issues.

This past week, since I last posted, I have been grappling with the decision of whether to make my personal problem of illness a public issue.

Sometimes it takes looking at someone else’s situation to realize that something needs to be done about your own. And sometimes it isn’t until that point until you really get the message.

I found out last week, in the midst of everything else, that one of my students is severely acutely ill on top of having a chronic illness. The difficulty and uncertainty that this situation has caused deeply affects all involved.

It has also made me realize that I need to have a contingency plan for my own health. How bad will I let things get before I need to take steps to drop classes or withdraw from the semester (or graduate school) entirely? At what point does my being stressed out by a particular person or event require action?

This situation with my student highlights that ones ability to admit their limitations to themselves can have a profound impact on others.

Sometimes we have to look outside of ourselves because introspection can cloud our vision. And in the foggy murk that is encountered, we are left confused.

I have been putting a concentrated effort into going to bed early, based on conversations with my rheum last week. This hasn’t worked as well as I would have hoped mainly because I have been hit by more lack of understanding from friends and peers.

I’ve been recently made to feel by several people in my life that nothing I do is good enough. I feel like I am constantly having to justify that I am trying my best and that I am exerting effort, even if the accusing parties would beg to differ. Most of all, I’m really trying to make an effort to work on getting my health to a more stable place.

I felt really down in the dumps this weekend, depressed about a lot of things. One of my friends made a surprise visit yesterday and we spent the day hanging out. It wasn’t so good for the work situation, but I think it was much needed on the mental health front. I’ve come to realize that if work doesn’t get done today, it will still be there tomorrow, and then some, and then some more.

The other thing that frustrates me lately is that it seems some people are viewing my illnesses as an inconvenience for them. This really troubles me. As far as I can tell, the only one who should feel inconvenienced by all this is myself (and maybe my family). It’s not as if I woke one morning and said, hey, I think it would be fun to get lupus and rheumatoid arthritis today. Or that I’m really happy that for the first time in my life, I have a curfew!

(And what the healthy don’t seem to understand is that I’m trying to build a positive relationship with my rheum. If I go to my next appointment still feeling bad and Doctor C asks if I’ve been making an effort to go to bed early, what happens if I say no? Then there is no reason for Doctor C to trust me. And Doctor C might think that I don’t want to work on getting better, if I so casually disobey orders.)

Just because I can’t stay out late or decide not to do certain things at all, shouldn’t be looked at as inconveniencing others. And yet, the unpredictability that these illnesses effect, make me seem flaky, wishy-washy, and unreliable. In some ways, it seems to me that some people view having me as a friend as a liability. And that really isn’t fair.

As I’ve said all along, I don’t want to be a burden to other people. I don’t want to take in any relationship more than what I give to it. So, if there’s anyone in my life who really does feel that way, I ask that they to bow out now.

It’s no secret that chronic illnesses impact a variety of people in a person’s social network, not just the sick person. And I think more than ever before, this week has made me realize that all of this illness stuff requires a delicate balance, which often times ends up tipping the scales.


  1. My life has had less dimension with a chronic illness as I have not been able to keep up socially.
    Work I can manage, family pretty well after all this time but it sure puts a crimp on your social and recreational pastimes if you are wondering whether there will be somewhere to sit. And a simple event like a party or funeral makes you consider how much energy you can spare.

    Too bad there is no provision for naps on your campus. That might make up really well for some of your deficit. I have on accasion considered crawling under my desk but people would never get over it if anyone saw me

  2. Annette,
    Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you about the nap thing. I could definitely use a place to nap that would be easily accessible, but unobtrusive to those around me. No such luck, as you can probably imagine!

  3. Those tiny cubicles they have at some airports would just be perfect.

  4. I agree, Annette. I'm not asking for comfort, just a place to sleep!