Personal Life

Is ill-health/critical illness a social stigma?

A Visit to the Local Hospital

The last quarter of this year has seen my family members stricken with ill-health, though nothing too major.  However, this demanded my making a few trips to the local hospital. (I have always maintained that funerals and hospital trips jolt me back to reality, reminding me to thank God for giving me life coupled with good health).

On one such trip to the hospital, I spotted a much respected, and talented priest rushing to the exit. Seeing me, he slowed down to inquire about my hospital presence and on my return of courtesy, informed me he was visiting his mother who had a fall. Since the priest was senior, (to me, most people appear so!) I inquired her age, and was told she was “16 in her head”; all this whilst hurrying out and over his shoulder, almost not inclined to engage with me. This got me wondering if I had crossed the line between courtesy and curiosity, the latter of which I have been often accused of. So I berated myself and left it at that.

A Neighbour’s Hushed Secret

In the same hospital a few days later, I bumped into another old friend (this time positively my junior!) whose father has been in and out of the hospital for over 3 years. He informed me that just the private nursing staff bills per month crossed the 6 digit figure. Add to that the other expenses and the figure is astronomical! He also whispered to me that he had bumped into another common neighbour hospitalised in the adjacent room. And that the neighbour’s presence was supposed to be a “secret” as they did not want to share any details. I wondered aloud why some people did this. Am really unable to fathom why such issues like a critical illness, cause some people embarrassment or extreme discomfort. I always think that even a serious diseases or a critical illness like AIDS or cancer does not necessarily represent one’s lifestyle, nor are we being judged or punished for our misdemeanors on earth, and so there is no need for shame.

A few months ago, I heard that one of my close relatives, with whom I am not in close contact, for sheer lack of time, was stricken with prostate cancer. This caused me tremendous sorrow and so I attempted to reach out to him through a telephone call. He sounded hale and hearty and informed me that he had occupied himself with a full time job. We chatted in general, and I never got the faintest idea about his ill-health, if any. Naturally I was embarrassed to ask him upfront and till date, I don’t know if what I heard was just a rumour or the truth. But I have done my duty by my conscience and reached out to him. In fact, respected his privacy too! (Unlike the priest incident.)

Live and Let Live

This year itself I have lost 2 friends to the dreaded terminal cancer and they made no bones of being inflicted by it, discussed it freely and without any restraint. May their souls RIP.

I just presume now that different people react differently to the same circumstances.  Will never know the reasons, until shoes are exchanged, nor would I like to find out.  Only the owner knows where the shoe pinches – so decided to just learn to live and let live!






One thought on “Is ill-health/critical illness a social stigma?

  1. It is not as much of a taboo, people generally do not like to be prodded in their personal tragedy because in general a horde of inquiry follows. Often death or critical illness brings in a lot of trauma. It is not the best time to share the details as as taken 99% will not understand (during crisis time we tend to become unpleasantly pessimist) plus describing the details is a strenuous task as it brings the harsh reality which is covered by the defense mechanism. It is like this, you see a horrible scene in a horror movie or real life, the first impulse is to close the eyes. In similar fashion when something goes terribly wrong we hate to speak about it in open. Not speaking it momentarily vanishes the pain as we feel a placebo effect. So, its more of how we react as individuals not some social taboo. Having said that STD like AIDS/HIV, syphilis has got a huge taboo. As a society we need to overcome it. Awareness is the only key here

    Liked by 1 person

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