Think back to the last time you visited a doctor’s office. Regardless if the appointment was a routine physical or to treat a condition, the medical staff evaluated you against a series of “normal” standards for your age, height, weight, etc… In psychological screenings, a clinician uses some form of assessment or screening tool that pairs one against social norms. In both cases, your tested values must fall close to the middle of values on a bell curve or receive an appropriate number of checked boxes.
For Example, a good body temperature usually floats around 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Good blood pressures range between 60 to 80 over 120. Visual acuity is correctable to 20/20. Ones behaviors do not cause clinically significant disturbances.
There is nothing wrong with using these measures and tests to determine healthiness for your average individual. The precise measures and readings inform us on many possibilities. However, what if you possess a condition the prevents you from ever reaching these normative values? These indicators become not a goal to obtain, but a barrier for success. Thus, healthiness does not equal happiness.
Earlier today, I had a ophthalmologist appointment to evaluate the state of my eye. A couple of days ago, my cornea developed a hole, causing me to lose the fluids and medical oil that helps maintain my eye’s shape and ensures my retina remains attached. My sight in this eye stands at a little better than light perception, while my other eye perceives no light. The appointment concluded with the scheduling for an emergency surgery in the afternoon to replace the cornea and inflate the eye.
While discussing procedures and risks, the Ophthalmologist stated that a potential risk is complete loss of sight, and his focus was to squeeze every little bit of sight from this severely damaged eye. This of course is not new to me, having heard the same lines from the countless surgeries I have had since being shot in the head in Iraq back on November 11, 2004. This is the focus of the medical model, to restore through surgeries, aides, and any other means possible values as close to medical standards.
After hearing his speech, I graciously thanked him for the efforts and concerns he expressed. I politely informed the Ophthalmologist that regardless of the outcomes, the retention or loss of sight matters little. Rather, my focus would be on adapting to any changes and implementing appropriate strategies to regain optimal life satisfaction. This lessons stems from the Rehab, Independent Living, and the Strengths-Based Models my Masters in Social Work and other personal and professional experiences bestowed. upon my perspectives.
I must caveat this by saying that I Understand that these models focuses not on the return to “normal” conditions, but rather to work with what one possesses. These strategies shifts responsibilities from the gifted surgeon or therapist and towards the consumer. After all, the more the individual possesses hope and feels to be in control of a situation, the higher chances for a positive outcome.
Ask yourself the following questions, how important is hope to your daily life or in achieving a very important goal? how important is it that you feel you have control over the situation for which you desire to succeed in?
It is true that these alternative perspectives to the medical model of healing due little during surgical procedures, but surgical procedures due little to promote internal resiliency. Unless a doctor starts to discuss these concepts during the same speech as when they might pronounce the risks of surgery or prognosis, that medical provider only establishes a barrier to overcome should expectations not be met. Likewise, the patient should have these very same conversations with their families and support systems, so the external forces may acknowledge the goals, concerns, and needs of the individual..
In cases where the surgery accomplishes the desired mission or exceeds expectations, the medical staff and patient departs the procedure happier and hopeful.
However, what happens should something go awry? Some might leave feeling depressed, a lost of hope, or absolutely no control in creating a positive outcome. As I read it in one blog earlier today, the author judged negatively those who enter into these darken states and labeled them as living in self pity. However, this needs not be the case should my example be followed. Furthermore, we as outsiders should not judge those who traveled these dark paths, but hater stand ready to offer our support and embrace them when they reach out. The stages of loss or acceptance teaches us that the path of recovery is long, may not occur in any dictated order, and might be filled with setbacks and relapses.