Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Pieces of Lettuce

My theory on why people don't get what it means to not be able to do anything except eat and shower (and occasionally spend a few minutes surfing the Web or blogging), is related to how people on a diet say they only ate two pieces of lettuce for lunch and that's the only thing they ate all day. Meaning they also ate two bowls of ice cream for dessert and a piece of pie. Or they had chips and several sodas between meals. And some cookies. Which is a whole lot different from actually eating only two pieces of lettuce in a day.

In everyday parlance, sometimes people say they haven't done anything all day or all week, but really, not doing anything actually means, they went to work, ran errands, cooked, ate, showered, sat around, talked on the phone, read some magazines, surfed the Web, painted their toenails, watched TV, listened to music, paid bills, and did yoga.

Not being able to do anything except eat and shower, in the context of describing illness or disability, is literal. Ie. eat, shower, and nothing else. Scratch out all the stuff in between. Not comprehending the literal meaning, is a perplexing case of not being able to imagine the literal meaning because one is putting too much imagined stuff around the words being communicated.

In addition, the description of lying in bed doing nothing. Sometimes people mean they were actually lying in bed watching TV, movies, reading books and magazines, listening to music or radio, and sitting in bed typing on their laptops. So much that people almost never imagine what it literally means.

So when trying to explain to the GP, I tried explaining many times that I meant completely literally and adding "like a 90-year old in a nursing home," but that still didn't work, because he wasn't taking it literally nor imagining a 90-year old in a nursing home. I think some of the CFS disability assessment forms that I sent him finally helped a little. They spell it out a little more, like itemizing some of the basic things the person can not do, except that it's not possible to spell out every infinite item that a person can and can not do.

I'm confusing myself as to whether the misunderstandings are caused by too much or too little imagination. I'm concluding that the imagined extras are not actually due to imagination, but due to assumptions. And assumptions are often due to lack of imagination.

6 comments:

Lara said...

i had a similar reaction when i became depressed. i hadn't realized that when people suffering from depression said, "there are days i just can't get out of bed," that they meant they CAN'T get out of bed. i always assumed they just didn't want to, or were so upset that it seemed too hard. but then i was there, and yeah, i really COULD NOT get out of bed sometimes.

i'm sorry you're struggling to get your docs to understand what you're going through. :(

Aditya said...

IS every doctor like this? Surely there must be doctors who understand exactly what you're saying?

Andrey said...

Check out the latest CFS research: http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2007/january/montoya.html
There is an ongoing trial for a drug that has helped several people with CFS.

CFS is a nightmare. But! Its getting more and more attention nowadays and there are some promising developments. Hold on. Check out the drug from the study. And live long enough - they will cure it...

Me.

Andrey said...

CFS research again:

http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases
/2007/january/montoya.html

Lady M said...

By the way, the only reason that I didn't tag you for that last meme was that I didn't want to put any pressure on you, in case you were having a particularly tired day. Wishing you well, as always.

dancing dragon said...

lara - I'm glad you mention that, because I used to assume that it was from not wanting to or being too upset too. And I still catch myself thinking things about other people, and then remember, oh yeah, I'm in a similar boat. :)

aditya - Apparently a lot are..., but not just doctors too.

andrey - Thanks for the info. It is actually one of my options to try.

lady m - Thanks, yeah, I'm probably not up for memes yet, but I'd be happy to meme-away when things improve!