Person or Thing?

A person may frequently fluctuate between feeling like a human being and feeling like some sort of body object when living with chronic physical illness. Such experiences may consist of pain or intense emotions, such as burning sensations in one's legs, a relentlessness nausea, and extreme sadness because of this. These are the moments of identifying oneself as a living, mortal human being--a person.  To the contrary, when one is repeatedly poked, prodded, examined, and spoken about as if his/her body is detached from the emotional experience of what is occurring, then this is the moment one may feel like some sort of body object.

It can be easy to rationalize that, at times, certain visits to the doctor can make you feel like a body object because the medical staff is just "doing their job." However, there are better ways to "do the job," and some staff members are better than others when it comes to understanding that how the body is treated will affect one's emotional state, and how one's emotions are treated can also affect how the body feels. Compassion for what a person is going through and interest in one's experience goes a long way. For example, the experience of having blood drawn can, despite being a relatively simple procedure, become a moment of objectification if attention to the patient's fears, breathing, anxiety level, and concerns are ignored or dismissed. Attending to any discomfort that a patient may be experiencing, takes focus away from the body, the needle and what the patient perceives the needle's impact to be, which additionally demonstrates a recognition of the patient as a unique individual being rather than simply an object-body. In taking care to ensure that the patient's subjective experience is being responded to, the patient is much more likely to relax during the procedure than if s/he feels as if s/he is just another body being prodded. An anxious patient is more likely to fidget, refuse treatment, or feel pain -- nobody wishes to be an object, so it makes sense one would rebel, consciously or not.

If you are having a poor experience with a medical professional, try having a conversation with them about this. Sometimes the person may be completely unaware of how you are feeling and may be very happy to change his/her approach, or at least to explain to you why a certain stance/approach is necessary and warranted. This is very often the case. If the person is unwilling to take your feelings into consideration, then perhaps, if you have the option to, you can change which members of the medical staff you interact with. Unfortunately due to certain circumstances, you may not always have such an option. In these cases, it can be helpful to try to not lose touch with your own experiences of yourself. It can be easy to fall into feeling like an object or detaching completely from your emotions just to get through the procedure, or also because it is being communicated to you in some form or another that that is the case. Perhaps the particular staff member may not be able to hear your feelings, but you could always share them with someone else, such as a family member, a friend, a religious leader, or a support group. It is always wise to consult with a mental health professional if you are really struggling with your feelings regarding having to endure continuous medical procedures.

Every person's experiences of illness is different, and the contents of this blog post should not be considered to be true of every person's experience, nor is it meant to replace the advice of one's individual doctor or mental health professional.