How do we people at the center of care speak about uncertainty in health among ourselves? How does uncertainty even come up in thought or conversation? I feel [fill in the blank]. Sometimes we feel poorly and speak to no one – the conversation is in our heads. Sometimes we feel poorly and seek advice about how to feel better from people in our network including healthcare professionals and non-professionals. Naturally, the person in distress and each of the people in that network have different information, knowledge, tradition, experience, and expertise about the distress and how to make it better. These difference occur within the groups of people: doctors can disagree, loved ones can disagree. Sometimes better means different things to different people. For example, when I have pain, better could mean
- I want the pain to go away completely, now,
- I can live with a level of pain that allows me to complete my activities of daily living (bathing, cooking, transportation, etc.),
- I want to go to my daughter’s graduation in spite of the pain,
- I want to feel less anxious about my pain,
- I can live with pain that doesn’t interfere with my ability to think or write,
- I just need to get some rest.
The are times we act alone. Other times we may not know what to do and we talk about it with someone at the center (that person could be on our health team or not). Or someone may see that we’re in distress and tries to help us figure out what to do.
We could be certain (sure) that a particular action will work – pill, treatment, food, activity. And it may or may not work. I’m sure that these pills or treatment will make my pain go away. The pills or treatment may or may not make the pain go away – for an hour, a day, or forever.
Geeze, this certainty / uncertainty thing can get complicated. We haven’t even talked about when we feel fine and someone suggests we change our habits – stop smoking, lose weight, be less grumpy. I will continue this exploration of uncertainty in weeks to come.