17

November

It’s Private

Wednesday November 17, 2021


We’re an old-fashioned family, in that we still have all our meals sitting around a table. Eating dinner like this means we can all talk about our day; the things that went right and the things that went wrong. My daughter is passionately engaged in her A level subjects but it isn’t all plain sailing. She holds strong opinions, and often disagrees with the way a subject is taught. We get reports of the arguments she has with her teachers; who are, of course, completely and utterly wrong! Her father will talk about the office banter and how the convoluted systems he works with were obviously designed by sadists.

This meal-time forum gives rise to lively discussions too, and one such happened just yesterday about privacy, especially the privacy of health.

Now, I agree that there are some things in life that should be kept private (ahem - glances at Himself and smiles) but is our health one of those things?

Our medical records are private. Before my GP referred me back the psychiatrist, she asked me if I was happy for my medical records to be passed over to him. Well, of course I was happy! How could he treat me if he didn’t know all the facts?

While I don’t think it’s appropriate for those records to be in the public domain, there are some health issues that affect the way we live our lives. When these issues also impact on others, should we really keep them private?

My parents in law kept their health issues to themselves; even to the extent of discouraging family to visit. They did not want us to know how ill they were and how their lives were so curtailed. This had the result of making us feel unwanted and meant we could not help. Their response was that they did not want help and would prefer to suffer on their own.

For many of us, admitting we have health issues – especially mental health issues – is admitting to weakness. We don’t want to seem vulnerable; we want to be seen as strong.

We are presenting a lie. Furthermore, it is a poisonous lie.

When we pretend to be strong, others, aware of their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses, can feel inadequate. You may have heard the saying, “Never compare your inside to someone else’s outside.” It’s like looking at the Facebook pages of your friends. They will post family celebrations and holiday photos: they won’t post their troubles. Happiness is public, misery is a private affair. Health is the norm; sickness (except possibly for a broken limb) is still something to be hushed up. It is private because it is “shameful.”

I believe it takes true strength to admit our vulnerabilities. Owning weakness, however, can bring freedom and, in my experience, more respect from others.

Health and happiness is not the norm. Hopefully it is a part of our lives, but it can never be the whole.

It wouldn’t be healthy if it were.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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