Terra Sigillata

I’m always pleasantly surprised when a topic generates enthusiastic reader feedback, particularly when comments come from long-time readers who share experiences I never knew they had or, in some cases, comment for the first time.

The topic this time was a simple reflection on my current bout of pneumonia and my being taken aback by how debilitating it has been mentally. It’s taken me two days just put put together these few sentences of what will essentially be a referral post.

A very thoughtful commenter posed a question to me about what does it mean to be “really sick.” What is long-term impairment? When are you “too sick” and “healthy enough?” When does chronic illness stop being debilitating and how do you get others to understand that sometimes you may look healthy outwardly but are still suffering inwardly.

So, while I was reading up on these topics I turned to the excellent new blog, The Daily Monthly, by Dave Munger, formerly the co-author of the psychology blog, The Cognitive Daily. Dave’s new blog is an exciting new project whereby he will select a topic each month that he will explore in depth and breadth daily. For February 2010, Dave has tackled AIDS in America, launching with the story of his friend Charles, an old high school friend and best man at his wedding who is today living with AIDS.

I mention this story not only to draw your attention to Dave Munger’s exciting new project but also because yesterday’s post touched on some of the topics we’ve discussed here about chronic illness. The final three paragraphs of the post speak of “looking sick” vs. “being sick” and make me think more about the struggles that the chronically ill face in proving to employers and HR departments that they are actually disabled or otherwise unable to do their jobs:

It’s one of the paradoxes of HIV/AIDS. If you do a good job fighting it, you end up looking like someone who’s not very sick. Even Charles, who hasn’t been healthy enough to work a 40-hour week for years, still gets strange looks from bus drivers when he flashes his “disabled” bus pass.

I’ll be back with some of the discussions you started here but I strongly encourage you to go over and bookmark Dave Munger’s, The Daily Monthly. For this month, begin here with Dave’s introduction to Charles.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Munger
    February 9, 2010

    Thanks for the kind words about Daily Monthly. One of the things we’ll be talking about down the line is whether AIDS is “just another chronic illness” (as if that isn’t enough to warrant our attention and concern).

  2. #2 Keely
    February 9, 2010

    The comments on your bronchitis post (and the post itself) are very insightful. I was generally a healthy little kid, so the first episode of serious, debilitating illness was a case of strep throat in high school that became strep throat + double ear infections + bronchitis. It was horrible… I was away at school, and I remember asking my roomate to wake me each afternoon, determined to get something done in my “free time.” heh. In my entire time sick (nearly a month stuck in bed) I finished ONE chapter of Campbell’s biology and a handful of brief journal entries and was enormously proud of myself. That experience, as well as a few others in the past few years, including one that required hospitalization (apparently my immune system really went to hell about halfway through high school, as I have averaged two bouts of serious illness every year since), really changed how I think about physical illness.