Skip to content

Illness and the Other – if that makes it easier.

February 20, 2012

I am back at work tomorrow for the first time in more than a month. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little apprehensive.

This is the first time in my working life that I have ever suffered any kind of lengthy lay off due to ill health. On the scale of things I have been very fortunate. I have recovered remarkably quickly. The Bell’s Palsy has cleared up in just over a month; it can take anything from a couple of weeks to six months (sometimes considerably longer) for it to clear and it is often the case that the physical signs of the illness never recover completely – a scar remains.

In my case all the physical signs have all but disappeared. I get caught sometimes by a “fluttering” in the areas of my face that suffered the worst, but you would never notice this to look at me – it Is very infrequent and subtle. Maybe this will never return to “normal”. I don’t know and nor can anyone say for sure one way or the other. Whilst living through a time when humanity has reached the advanced stage of being able to split the genome, there remains no medical opinion that can definitively say how, when or why Bell’s Palsy occurs. I have no idea whether it will come back or even if I am now more susceptible than anyone else.

But the whys and wherefores are not really the subject of this post.

For the first time in my life I have experienced a major health concern – and nor is this really the subject of this blog.

I think, and I may be wrong as I am writing this as it forms in my head, this blog is about the other illness. Or perhaps the illness and the Other me.

The illness has now all but departed my body. I have no idea whether it will come back, but the experience of the illness and its effects remain in the conscious and I can already feel how it will continue to influence my life.

I have suffered an extremely mild illness when you put it up against some of the others – it’s not cancer. Nor is It HIV/ AIDS. It’s not malaria or polio. Nor is it a progressive disease of the nervous system.

The only effects that remain for me are those in my head.

Tomorrow (actually it is later today) is the first day for me at work in more than a month and there is a part of me that is absolutely terrified of this fact.

It is a completely irrational fear.

I am totally cognisant if the irrationality of this fact. Nothing bad is going to happen tomorrow, but part of my brain tells me that it might be a disaster and I might not be able to cope. The larger part of my brain tells me that this is absolute tosh. Nothing is going to be so insurmountable that a) my world is going to come crumbling down and b) that in any case, there are so many people to call on that will help me fix it, whatever it could possibly be –it (whatever “It” might be) will be alright.

I met with a friend for coffee last week. It was the first contact I had had with someone other than family for the best part of a month. No contact with other people has led me to crave human interaction and I thoroughly enjoyed being out and about and talking about ideas. I have no idea how being in a crowd of people will go. Or more specifically having to socialise in a crowd.

How did this happen? Where does the doubt come from?

I have been chair of the board for Studio Upstairs for the past 18 months. It is a fantastic organisation and has taught me a lot about mental illness and how charities operate. Personally it has been a fantastic career development opportunity.

Only now can I even begin to comprehend some of the most basic principles that organisation strives to alleviate.

I have all the support that I could ever need but there are so many that have no support structures around them. But even more disturbing than that, for many, they never reach a point where their illness is recognised. They are labelled as “mad” and left to fend for themselves. More often than not, these are also the most vulnerable members of our community. Those that are overlooked and passed by.

If I am even a little nervous; a little concerned about what might happen when I wake up in the morning; a little overwhelmed by expectation; a little displaced – I can’t even begin to imagine the suffering inside the head of someone who has had to face the indignity and fecklessness of the crowd.

Can you?

One Comment
  1. If you would like to know more about Studio Upstairs please do email me at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: