I’m wrestling with something after reading Brian Dillon’s article ‘Malignant Sadness’ (Saturday Guardian, 22.08.09) chronicling the history of creative people’s predisposition to hypochondria.*
Freud thought it was a ‘state of being in love with one’s own illness’, but I support Charles Darwin who claimed that ‘ill-health … has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement.’
I’m aware that most people would class me as one of the ‘worried well’ as I seem to always have a bit of an illness on the go. Even when the doctor prescribes the right medicine, I’m susceptible to the side effects and get iller from the cure.
I’ve come to accept it’s just the way I am. At the moment I have Dupuytren’s Contracture of my right middle finger, a sprained knee, blocked up Eustachian tubes and paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Alice James, sister of the starry Henry and William, who, according to Dillon, was labelled as a ‘life long … cheerful and ironic malingerer’, almost welcomed it when she was finally diagnosed with cancer and ‘truly began to live at the moment she knew she was dying.’
I am at a stage in my life when I begin to see that the illness is beside the point. Perhaps we need a new social network site like Facebook or Twitter for people like me to share our current anxiety about our ills. What would we call it? healthy anxiety.com? tormented.com? Hopes and Fears.com?
After reading this brilliant piece by Brian Dillon, I’ve come to realise that I don ‘t have a wish to die, a death wish, but rather that responses to mortality vary and we all deal with it in our very own ways.
My girlfriend expects to have 100% bouncing health and is surprised at a sniffle. I’m not like that. My creativity seems to be wrapped up in human suffering and I’m that human. Oddly enough that cheers me.
*Brian Dillon, Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives, Penguin, 2009
(Originally published 18.09.2009.)