The Unique Experience of Illness

Nearly everyone who e-mails me about The Daily Headache says that they are relieved to find someone who identifies with the wild emotions, bizarre symptoms and, of course, horrendous pain of headache. I felt this when I began reading headache forums and found it tremendously helpful. While community is an important element in coping, everyone’s experience of illness is ultimately unique.

The Lonely Patient: How We Experience Illness is a new book that delves into the solitary nature of illness. This excerpt certainly resonates with me:

Like all of us, [Joanna’s] unique, irreplaceable, and healthy body was the reference from which she made sense of every experience. Joanna took this so much for granted that illness felt like a betrayal. The world lost meaning, or at least she discovered that the meaning of her world was based on health to a greater extent than she had supposed. The meaning of life became simplified: I am my body, my body is sick, I am sickness. Life’s stability had been threatened. The journey to the state of illness had been short and ruinous. (NPR has the rest of the excerpt)

Many people have used Elisabeth Kubler-Ross‘s stages of grief to explain how to come to terms with illness. Similarly, author Michael Stein identifies four “emotional stages” — betrayal, terror, loneliness and loss.

The book has only been out for a week, but your local library may have it. Mine doesn’t have it shelved yet, but I was able to put it on hold. I’ll give you a review when I’ve read it.