Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I have been researching historical figures and examining literary characters, focusing on one theme. I’ve been searching for information about their health, their physique, their habits, and their overall physical state.
That may seem like a strange thing to be doing, but I can assure you that I do have my reasons, curiosity being only one of them.
I myself thought it was a bit strange. But it turns out that I am not alone in my curiosity. Many other people have searched for the same tiny and often ignored details.
And it’s so interesting to read the discussions that they have. Arguments over whether Queen Elizabeth I really did have a poor appetite, and whether it was due to illness, stress, or any number of other reasons. Demands for sourcing on claims of King Louis XIV’s shivering fits.
But the most common argument doesn’t actually seem to be over the symptoms that each individual exhibited. The most common argument seems to be over diagnosis.
The discussion threads which I have found about this topic all seem to centre around diagnoses. Postmortem diagnoses.
The thought seems to be that at the time these symptoms may not have appeared indicative of any known condition, but now, with our impressive knowledge, we can see things that they could not. We can understand, and neatly categorize.
It certainly is an interesting exercise. And perhaps there could even be gain from it. The suspicion that Alexander the Great was epileptic, for example. How exciting, to be able to put the famous conqueror’s face to a condition that invisibly affects so many. How bolstering, to know that his condition was so irrelevant to his achievements that his legacy barely remarks on it.
But the thing is, at the time that he was experiencing seizures they were actually seen as ‘the sacred disease,’ a sign that he had been possessed by evil spirits or touched by the gods. He was not seen as a patient. He was seen as a mystical being.
He lived in a different world from us, and the only element of his condition that we can try to relate to are his, for lack of a better word, symptoms. The things which his body did. His physical state of being.
And maybe it’s better that way.
We are so quick to label ourselves and each other. From a young age there are the smart kids, the popular kids, and the clowns. We group together based off of common interests, religion, and background.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us a community, other people who have at least a few experiences in common with us. Who we can relate to.
But sometimes, I worry. I worry that in banding together, we lose sight of the world around us. I worry that we isolate ourselves.
As I have mentioned in my past couple of posts, my health has recently taken a turn for the worse. I have had a series of tests, have seen multiple doctors, and have been desperately searching for the cause.
So far, I haven’t made any miraculous discoveries. I need to keep looking and trying new things.
I have called it a rough patch, a downwards slope, and many other things. And I have hunkered down to weather the storm, not going out, trying to conserve my energy.
But yesterday, I managed to have a lovely visit with a friend. And today, I went to a party complete with wonderful people, barking dogs, a tiny prodigy banging on the keyboard, a gift swap and latkes.
I didn’t think that I’d be able to do it. I planned escape routes, and rehearsed refusals.
But I went. And I did struggle.
Still, I had fun. A lot of fun. I even impressed myself with how well I managed the noise and sensory overload.
And there were moments when I really didn’t feel all that bad. Where I almost felt normal.
And right there, in that thought of ‘almost normal’ was the trap. The trap that I hadn’t seen coming, the trap of my own creation.
I had labelled myself as being unwell. A true label. But a label nonetheless.
And in my desire to make the best of being unwell, I put myself into a box, limiting my potential. I thought that I could only do things that unwell people can do. That I couldn’t do what they couldn’t.
But I am an individual, with my own unique set of abilities and issues. Each day is different. Each hour is different. And they are different for me as they are from anyone else.
I am not an unwell person, although I might be unwell.
I am not a person in a rough patch or downwards slide, although I might be experiencing both.
I am a person.
Simply a person. Filled with complexities.
And we’ll see what tomorrow brings.