Thursday, December 18, 2008

Health and Aging

Something happened in a conversation with my girl recently that got me thinking. I was coughing and she was worried that I was ill and I had to laugh, which made her ask why I was laughing. The thing is, health has always been a big issue in my life. I was ill a lot when I was little and I can still remember all the doctor's visits, the medication and my mom bringing me tea in the middle of the night because I was coughing so much.

I'm not saying that to make anyone feel sorry for me. I was a smart kid and I soon realized that when I was ill, I got far more attention. We were three kids and my mother worked and so attention from her was something that I did seek very actively. I knew that when I was ill or something was hurting me, she would pay attention to me and take care of me, so I know now that I used that. In the past years, my parents often joked that in the morning, the first thing my mother did was ask me how I was and if I said that I was fine and didn't complain about anything, she knew that I was really ill. Because there was always something wrong or something to complain about. I have tried and am still working on not using my health as a way to get attention. I often get asked about it because I'm never just healthy, I always have a cold, mainly because I have all kinds of allergies, but I try to play it down. I've learned to live with them pretty well and while I always carry my medication with me, I only need it about five to ten times a year.

I think part of me was laughing because I'm just done with this subject. I deal with it, I try to stay healthy, but I'm finally at the point where health isn't an issue anymore and where I really rather not talk about it because I don't want to slip back into my old patterns. It's so easy to slip back into those patterns and while I sometimes feel comfortable talking about it, I just don't want it to be an issue.

I can clearly remember that when I was 10 years old, we had a written German test on a type of text that I really didn't like and had a hard time writing. I figured that if I was ill, I wouldn't have to go to school and wouldn't have to write the test. I started coughing two days before the test and actually fell ill. I made myself sick on purpose. I felt really bad about it afterwards, but it didn't stop me from making myself ill on purpose again a few times over the years. Some of you might think that you can't make yourself ill, but trust me, you can.

On the other hand, my health also was a pretty good indicator on how I was psychologically. When I was around 15-16, I had constant stomach aches for almost a year. There was no medical reason, except maybe food allergies, but looking back I think that I was struggling with being gay and being/coming out and I wasn't admitting it to myself. At that time, I also 'discovered' my mother's mortality. I think for most kids, their parents are somewhat superhuman and invincible. I know that I always thought my mother was very strong and that she could deal with everything. At 15, I realized that she was human like everybody else and when I visited her in the hospital after her first surgery, I was so shocked to see her lying in her bed, clearly not invincible at all. She is fine and healthy now, but at that time I didn't know whether she would be and I couldn't process the facts about her illness and mortality rates,... Up to this day, I hardly ever talk about it. There are very few people in my life who know about that and most are people who had been in my life at that time. I recently told one friend about it and she made it about her story and herself, which hurt me immensely.

Coming home now, I realize and see how my parents have aged. Because my brother is almost 10 years older than I am, my parents are 'old' parents to me. They age, it's a fact of life, but it hurts to see it so clearly. I think the fact that my mother was so seriously ill when I was a teen impacted me in a way that I am just trying to deal with now, so many years later. I try not to worry about her and I tell myself that she is healthy and that the chances that I have the same defect in my genes are slim. But I still think about it more than I would like to.

That's a bunch of stuff on health. Because apparently, it still is more of an issue than I would like it to be.

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