Monday, March 10, 2008

Not Quite a Rant

I don't understand the punitive model when it comes to getting sick. I don't understand a colleague who told me she's certain that the body is meant to be blissfully healthy (her words, my emphasis). Hmmm. Another friend, after receiving a shocking diagnosis, joked about God slapping her across the face. Huh? Why would God do that? Why?

Whenever my clients get sick, the first thing they think about is what they did wrong, where did they mess up. They're trying to understand how was it that they came to be ill, as if illness is some kind of anomaly.

They didn't do anything wrong. They're just human beings, living their lives. People get sick, they always have in every location, every culture, thoughout history. The intricate systems of healthcare and medicine that are a part of every culture were devised ages ago. Medicine is one of the oldest arts. Medical theory and process has been improved upon, updated, and restructured over and over again. Still, there is no medical system that can guarantee recovery from anything. Even the greatest medical geniuses have been unable to cure the common cold. It's humbling. And, it's true.

The universality of bad health should be sufficient evidence that a part of being human is the experience of illness at one time or another. There has never been a human being - ever - who has lived out his or her life in perfect health. Animals get sick. Plants get sick. It's as plain as the nose on my face. You'd think my colleague might have noticed, taken that into account before deciding what our bodies are meant to be.

You'd think.

Illness is frightening, painful, and puts a big stop sign in front of people, interrupting their routines, but is it always a lesson to be learned or a slap from God, or is it just the way of nature, as complicated as the weather? The earth always has belonged to the viruses and bacteria. That these critters get to us at times seems inevitable. As for systemic imbalances that cause another whole host of problems, well, that seems inevitable, too. Who do you know who is perfectly balanced? I mean, really.

Our human shoulders hang heavy with a sense of responsibility for our health. I know, I know, we can all do things to be healthier, but I just don't get the punitive model that blames people for their own illnesses. I don't!


Barbara said...

So much of our existence is determined by our environment, what we eat, how much we exercise, etc. Rationally we all know this, but it's only natural to think of adversity as punishment, but by whom? God making us sick is as absurd as God sending millions of Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust. But sadly, there are people, even Jews, who believe God was punishing the Jews for something they did. My God is not vindictive.

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

yep, viruses, bacilli and bacteria were here before we were - a fact of life. They like us and we don't like them. That sums it up for me, Reya.
Hope you're getting the upper hand on the primal ones :-)

Reya Mellicker said...

My God is not vindictive, either. But my God can wrap his arms around adversity, he can comprehend it; I can't.

Lee I'm feeling much better today, though a trip to the Sufi acupuncturist tomorrow will no doubt make me feel even better. I'm lucky to be a very healthy person, very lucky (cuz Barbara I think it's luck and privilege and genes more than what we eat, etc. that MIGHT mean we're healthy.)

deborah said...

here here
no more models blaming the victim

more models blaming pollution

that's what i say

rothko said...

I tend to blame myself for everything. The weather, other people's emotions, and most definitely my health. Not sure where this inexplicable guilt comes from. I'm not even Catholic.

dennis said...

Dennis has been lucky with robust health so far, but Chedwick has always been sickly--ever since day one.
Dennis says that's how it goes....(shrug)

Reya Mellicker said...

Dennis, I envy you.

And Rothko, you don't have to be Catholic to blame yourself. People have done it for at least all of recorded history, most certainly before that.

Remorse is a part of every illness, but i think it's physiologically linked to pain and fear, not reflecting any particular failing on the person who got sick. One thing I have seen is that people use all their energy blaming themselves, and then don't have anything left to devote to healing.But - maybe that's part of it, too.

All of it is very interesting to think about.