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.



Swines, Revenge & Telephone Therapy – An Entry About Isolation

I’m a strict vegetarian. Or at least I used to be.
Now I’m not so sure. I went down with swine flue last Friday, and right now I’m seriously contemplating settling the score with the blasted pigs by eating as much pork as I possibly can.
You give me flu?? I eat you!
Forget Babe – I want revenge..

That said, I do feel better now. Even able to sit by my beloved computer again.

I was in complete isolation, stuck in my room, for seven (yes, 7!!) long days, and as much as I enjoy my own company, it’s not quite the same when you haven’t a choice in the matter. Especially when you’re too bloody weak to even hold a book to read, and too headachy to watch telly or listen to music to pass the time. Also it didn’t help that I was stressing out, knowing that I’d have to ask to have the deadline for the assignment I’ve been working on moved, since there’s no way I could have sut up for long enough to do it. I hate not being on schedule.

So, what did I do in my state of complete incapacity? Well, a clue is that I can now list all twenty-seven hairline cracks in the paint on my ceiling.. Information I never thought I’d have.

Apart from that I spent a reasonable amount of time on the phone. I’d lie down with the phone resting on my shoulder and just talk to anyone who happened to be home to answer the phone. (My poor friends and family have had to put up with enough crazy S-talk to last them a lifetime.. I’m surprised that they haven’t barred my number yet.) I also checked my email, Facebook and Twitter about every six and a half minutes.. Thank God (and Dev!) for my iPod Touch. Small mobile devices rock when you’re not able to sit up, I’m telling you.
Talk about a window to the world.

Was meant to see A. on Tuesday, but as I was in quarantine I obviously couldn’t go. Instead we had our session over the phone. A first for me, and – I’m guessing – possibly for A., too. It was ok, but also quite different to a normal session; like most people, my concept of telephone conversations is that both parties speak roughly the same amount (and in the case of my sisters both parties speak as much as the other, at the same time…).

This is not the case in a therapy situation. So, naturally, ‘translating’ a face-to-face session, with silences, interpretations and general thinking time, into a telephone call presents something of a challenge. Also, there’s the additional test of having to judge the other’s reaction purely by listening for slight changes in the voice at the other end of the line. Not quite as easy as it is in a face-to-face situation. Needless to say this changes the nature of the entire session. Whilst it’s difficult to not have the person’s subtle non-verbal response immediately available to you, it also, in some ways, makes things easier.

For example, I spent a good deal of time in this session talking about a chance meeting I had with D. (my former counsellor) the previous week. It was a pretty important thing to me, and so, in my head, it had been my plan to bring this up regardless, but – as I discovered – not being able to see A.’s little shifts made it both harder and easier to do so.

As a general I feel quite embarrassed talking about D. with A.; I worry that she will understand whatever I say as some sort of thinly veiled criticism, or as an indication that I wish she’d do things more like the way D. did, which isn’t actually the case. Now, in the consultation room I can judge by A.’s facial expression whether or not she seems to be getting this or not. Over the phone.. Well, those type of clues are taken away from you, and in essence you’re flying in the dark. With the consequence that you end up talking in a different way.

I’m glad I had the phone session with A. I think I needed it. Especially since A. was away for what would have been our Friday-session, and I wanted to talk about her going away before she actually went. But, with regards to some of the other things we talked about (including what I said about meeting with D.), I do feel that I’ll need to come back to it. To, in a sense, ensure that I was understood in the way I had meant.

So, my conclusion is this: phone sessions are good, since you might be able to say things you may have otherwise hesitated to say. But, equally, phone sessions can lead you to say more than what you would have been able to say in a normal session, and so any material brought up will likely need to be revisited and looked at again at a later time.

In short, face-to-face therapy feels more real.
And is scarier.

Much, much scarier.