The C2S blog draws on the arts, the social and biological sciences to explore the many meanings of health and "dis-ease." Designed to be a locus where patients, their families and professionals can meet on a level playing field, it is the natural off-shoot of the Cell 2 Soul Online Journal. We encourage the submission of ideas, essays, poems, stories, humor, and timely reviews relating to the humanities and health care.
There’s an old French saying: to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always. It could serve a mantra for all health care professionals. It reminds us that it can be more important to treat the person who has the disease than it is to treat the disease the person has.
Two recent vignettes were sent to us that illustrate these points.
Pranay Sinha, a first year medical resident, penned an extraordinary essay on a dark side of medical training and culture (NY Times, September 4, 2014). It exposes the self-doubt experienced by many young physicians and the toll that this can take.
“There is a strange machismo that pervades medicine. Doctors, especially fledgling doctors like me, feel pressure to project intellectual, emotional and physical prowess beyond what we truly possess… We masquerade as strong and untroubled professionals even in our darkest and most self-doubting moments. How, then, are we supposed to identify colleagues in trouble — or admit that we may need help ourselves?"
A week ago, most of us didn't know who the Inernet activist Aaron Swartz was. Today, he is a cause celebre. If you want to read more about Swartz and see an impressive video of a talk he gave see: Remembering Aaron Swartz. In a 2007 post on his blog, Raw Thought, Swartz, related his thoughts about depression. Swartz committed suicide at age 26 on January 11,
2013. His candid insights about
depression may help to explain how and why the legal situation he found himself in
contributed to his death.
"Depressed mood: Surely there have been times when you’ve
been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly
awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether
it’s worth going on. Everything you think about seems bleak — the things you’ve
done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed
and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for
any reason and it doesn’t go for any either. Go outside and get some fresh air
or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at
being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets
colored by the sadness.
At best, you tell yourself that your thinking is irrational,
that it is simply a mood disorder, that you should get on with your life. But
sometimes that is worse. You feel as if streaks of pain are running through
your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. And
this is one of the more moderate forms. As George Scialabba put it, “acute
depression does not feel like falling ill, it feels like being tortured … the
pain is not localized; it runs along every nerve, an unconsuming fire. … Even
though one knows better, one cannot believe that it will ever end, or that
anyone else has ever felt anything like it.”
Hey, it could be worse. At least I have decent health
Emily Dickinson knew a fair bit about depression too.
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
last post, on November 1, 2012 was written about The Dark Knight. It ends with these two sentences. "Thus
Master Wayne is left without solutions. Out of options, it’s no wonder the
series ends with his staged suicide."
On November 6, Massachusetts voters will decide whether a physician may
provide a dying patient with medication to bring about a faster, easier
death if the patient chooses. On the ballot will be a Death with Dignity
Act. For more about this iniative read: May Doctors Help You Die by Marcia Angell.
Renee Marks Cohen presents us with a death story that would not be have been facilitated by this law. It will make some uneasy and raises many questions. We present it here to stimulate thought and discussion.
"Nora and Ann committed joint
suicide; that’s what the mother, Nora, explained in the documents she left to
be found in her apartment or mailed in advance. I read about the suicides in
the newspaper. Nora was in her mid- or late
70’s; her daughter, Ann, who had cerebral palsy, was about 30. Her condition
was so severe from birth that she couldn’t crawl, walk, or toilet herself. But
she could feed herself from a table, use a motorized wheel chair, and master a
computer to create graphics and communicate on the Internet. She could talk,
but a novice listener had to concentrate intensely to understand her.
Author Bio: Renee
Marks Cohen has done lifestyle writing as well as medical editing and writing.
In the latter niche, she has been the managing editor of New York
Medical College's New York Medical Quarterly, and the author, for
Janssen Japan, of over 35 interview articles on schizophrenia. She has
edited books on neurology, taught Beijing Medical University
scientists how to write, and audited clinical trial case report forms.
Cohen is also a zumba and yoga enthusiast. You may reach her at: RMC Email.