There is one thing about being a patient that I generally battle with more than almost anything else. It’s not the pain, the inconvenience, the boredom or even the lack of dignity. What I find takes real effort … and I suspect this is true for many patients …is in the Staying Cheerful.
Katy Carr managed it. If you never read What Katy Did, here’s a quick summary. In schmaltzy American 1872 style, Katy began life as an active teenager, fell off a swing, was as miserable as sin for a few weeks until Invalid Cousin Helen arrived and showed her how to deal with what she described as the School of Pain. Katy bucked up, and despite the inconvenience of being paralysed in 1872 (they didn’t even carry her downstairs), she stayed cheerful ….. And learnt lots of helpful lessons about Patience and Making The Best of Things along the way.
Fast forward 144 years. Fiona began last week as an active 46 year old looking forward to a skiing weekend away. She fell off a mountain, tore a knee ligament and was miserable as sin. No Cousin Helen on hand to gently wipe her brow with ‘the sweetest smile’ but she did have Sister Moira to point out the attractiveness of the Mountain Rescue Man, BFF Carol to take her to lunch and buy her weird presents and BFF Sarah to give her wine and take the mick. On top of that she had 5 other wonderful women to jump to attention every time she dropped a crutch, and a husband and friends waiting at home to carry on the job.
But all that support – which, luckily for me, I’ve had every time I’ve been ill or injured – means you feel a bit ungrateful if then you become a whinging, whiny patient. So you try your best not to be. It’s hard though. Really hard.
Some people don’t try at all of course. They put a miserable status up on Facebook about their third cold this year, and are a little put out if they don’t get at least 10 comments saying ‘Poor you, hope you get better soon’. Others complain vociferously to nurses, doctors, cleaners, anyone who will listen, about their plight and how it is worse than anyone else’s. And when you are low, a little wallowing in the rubbish situation you find yourself in is tempting…. And let’s be honest, we all do it every now and then.
Overall though I think Katy ( and Cousin Helen) got it right. No-one wants to hang round with a grumpy, bad tempered, miserable-as-sin patient, however sorry they feel for them. It’s blinking difficult being the healthy one too, constantly having to consider someone else, feeling sad at what the patient is missing and watching your tongue. (Remember – no one talk about the brilliant sunny ski-ing in front of Fiona.)
And Staying Cheerful has got to be better for your recovery. Sister Moira, as well as providing useful distraction on the attractiveness of rescuers, occasionally provides a bit of sound therapeutic advice. ‘If crying is going to make you feel better, go ahead and cry your eyes out. But if you keep crying and just feel worse afterwards, then don’t bother. Distract yourself instead.’
Staying Cheerful. Making the Best of Things. Katy probably would have put #countyourblessings on her Twitter feed. And posted very schmaltzy quotes on Facebook. Ultimately though she was happier because of what she did. Probably a good lesson for anyone in the School of Pain.