Being Unwell And Feeling Cared For

Cure For The Ill

Cure For The Ill

I’ve been unwell. Still am, actually. Pneumonia. It’s a bit of a long-winded story, but in short it involves leaving a psychotherapy session early for the first time ever, thinking I was better when I wasn’t, and ultimately on Friday having to go see the doc urgently.

I had just left a session, and on the train home I suddenly had this terrible pain in my chest. And it was a pain I had felt before; two years ago I had a pneumonia, and this was what it felt like.

Anyway, once I got to the doctor’s, she had a good listen to my chest, took my medical history and told me she felt confident that what I had the previous week was more than likely a flu virus, but that I had milder symptoms than most, since I’d had the flu jab, and that despite this my immune system was compromised enough for me to develop a pneumonia. [Ironically, the reason I have the jab every year in the first place is so as to make sure I don’t come down with secondary complications, such as this..] Since I have a history of pneumonia, starting in exactly the same way [top right lobe a week after having had another illness] and because my asthma was kicking off like crazy, she decided that she’d rather start me on antibiotics straight away, than wait for test results to come through.

So, home I went, antibiotics in hand. Crashed into bed, and this is where I’ve been stuck up until just now. I have to say, antibiotics are a wonderful thing once they kick in. You really do feel so much better, very quickly. Of course there was always a chance that the pneumonia I had was viral rather than bacterial, in which case the antibiotics would have done nothing for me, but ‘thankfully’ it turns out that it must have been bacterial.

While in bed I have been thinking about being unwell. It’s something I have a fair amount of experience with. You see, I have a really poor immune system, and so whenever something’s going ‘round, I tend to catch it. I mean, I had swine flu long before it became fashionable. But, also – as I have mentioned in previous posts – I am prone to what I call psychosomatic fevers. Other people get upset tummies when they are stressed out; I get a temperature. And this is what’s been on my mind, these last few days; the relationship between having a genuinely poor immune system and getting psychosomatic illnesses.

You see, I don’t think it is entirely chance that I get ill very easily, weak immune system aside. When I was little I was always seen as someone who could look after myself, someone who was responsible and dependable and able, far beyond my years. My parents tended to assume I’d be OK on my own, and mostly I was. I’m sure it was sometimes hard for my parents, this fierce independence I had; not so easy parenting a child like that. But, at the same time, they were very busy people; three other kids, one of whom really rinsed them clean of any energy they may have had. So, as confusing as it may have been for them, I’m guessing it was also something of a relief that I didn’t seem to need much looking after, that in fact, I was perfectly able to look after myself as well as anyone else.

But, when I was unwell, it was almost as if my parents’ parenting instincts suddenly kicked in, as if this was the kind of parenting they could understand, could relate to. After all, they are both trained in healthcare professions. This was something they knew what to do with. And so, as a consequence, when I was unwell, those were times when I truly felt like a child, like they were my parents and I was in their care.

At all other times I always felt equal to my parents. I always felt like I was an adult, just like them. And to a large degree, I think that’s how they and other adults around me saw me, too. But when I was sick, well, I could allow myself to be the child I really was.

So, is it so strange that I am prone to getting ill? Even now, as an adult, when I am ill, both of my parents will call me, will want to know how I am, will maybe even worry a little. This in contrast to other times, when I am nearly always the one to call them, nearly always the one to ask what’s going on for them.

Of course, something like pneumonia is a very real illness, it’s not psychosomatic, not imagined, not exaggerated, but in the midst of feeling so terribly poorly, I also do feel cared for, in that very special way.
Just like I did back then.

It’s interesting stuff.


How I’ve kept myself busy. The Square-1 cube puzzle. It’s a fair challenge, getting it back into a cube shape, and then getting all the colours right.



Standing tall at a hundred-and-fifty centimetres

I’m not into drugs. Never have been.
Then again, since I’ve never actually tried any drugs, maybe that’s a bit like saying that I don’t like base-jumping or storm-chasing; I’ve never felt the rush it’s meant to give you, and maybe if I had I would think differently? What do I know?

As a child I was on a lot of prescribed but experimental drugs, however.
I was very short and begun showing signs of entering puberty when I was only about six or seven, so my parents decided that they’d try to find out if there was anything to do about this. I’m not entirely sure how, but eventually they were put in touch with a Germany born specialist; Dr Westphal, and I was started on the first of many treatments in order to help me carry on growing.

This was in the early 80’s and very much cutting edge. At first I was given testosterone tablets, which I assume were meant to stop me entering puberty. One pill taken three times daily. A few years down the line, when I was around eleven, this was switched for a nasal spray called Buserelin, also on a thrice-daily cycle. Buserelin is a man-made form of the hormone gonadorelin, which initially sets off an increase in both testosterone and oestrogen, but will in the long run solely cause testosterone production and stops oestrogen production altogether. I was kept on this medication until I turned fifteen and in the last two years it was combined with daily injections of a synthetic growth hormone; Genotropine.

What does this have to do with depression and dysfunctional families you might ask. Well, “I don’t know”, is the honest answer. And, I fear, this is the answer I would get myself, were I to ask anyone else.

To the best of my knowledge Buserelin is (these days) mainly used to treat certain forms of infertility and advance stage prostate cancer, and you are advised to talk to your doctor before starting this treatment if you are suffering from depression. I haven’t been able to find an answer what the reason for this is. Is it that it may interact with anti-depressive medication? Does it tend to heighten the risk to enter depression? I don’t know.

But, it worries me somewhat that I have been on various medications for such a long period of time, and at such a critical developmental stage, not knowing what the long-term effects may be. I was one of the very first in the world, to be given this medication – especially at such a young age – and I can’t help but to wonder what this may have done to me. Has it made a difference to the way I behave? The way I think? The way my body works? I just don’t know.

Surely being put on a medicine which will increase testosterone production and cease oestrogen production must cause some sort of chemical imbalance in a person? Especially if you are a very young girl. And how do I know that I’m not still suffering from the effects? I’ve never been a girly girl, I’m attracted to both men and women and I am generally hopeless at traditionally female chores. Is the medication to blame for this? That is not to say that any of the above traits are at all things I dislike, I am only asking from an intellectual point of view. Has the medicine made me more prone to depression? Has it veered me towards more radical suicide methods which are more commonly used by men? Or is this all a psychological side-effect of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child? Maybe the answer is that both have had a profound effect on me, maybe it is neither. It’s impossible to say. But wouldn’t it be interesting to know? To have a black and white nature vs nurture chart, where you could see exactly what has made you who you are.

The medication issue also poses another important question. How do you as a parent decide that you’ll take a gamble on your child’s present and future health? A shot in the dark that you will hit the target?

I’d say that I’m about 98% happy that my parents made the decision to put me on these drugs. It has been estimated that I would have been around thirty centimetres shorter had I not undergone the treatment, and while thirty centimetres may not sound like much, the difference between being only 120cm tall and being 150cm is enormous. It’s the difference between being viewed as very short and being seen as a midget. Those thirty centimetres have made it possible to live a normal life. Yes, I have to ask Dev to reach for me, but there’s no need for custom made lowered worktops and although I sometimes struggle it is possible to walk into a shop and buy a pair of trousers that fit without being taken up. So, they have definitely made my life easier in many ways.

Still, there are those 2% of me which can’t help but to wonder – was it the right choice? Would I have made the same one, had it been mine and not my parents’ choice? Would I give up those thirty magic centimetres if I knew they were definitely the cause for my recurring depressions?

Again, the answer has to be that I don’t know.

But it’s food for thought.