Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What if the face in the mirror was not you?

I hope this link will work. It's to a piece by Joanna Cannon - author of "The Trouble With Goats And Sheep" here -: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/my-face-was-torn-open---but-m…/
It took guts to write that piece, real guts. Reading it there and having my belief in what had happened to Jo confirmed was tough on me too. 
Yes, I know what it is like to have people ask, "What's wrong with you?" and "Have you hurt yourself?" and a good many other things beside - not all of them kind or well meant. But at least when I look in the mirror - which tends to be long enough to part my hair in the mornings - I am looking at the image I know as me.
Jo has had to learn to live with a new image of herself. It is extraordinarily difficult to imagine doing that. Our faces are so much part of our personality. They tell  other people - and us  - so much. 
We grow old gradually and thus we change gradually. Somehow most of us learn to accept that - even if the acceptance is something we resent having to do. If someone has a relatively minor injury to the face then they can look in the mirror and still see themselves. The change has not been that great. If they choose to "have a nose job" or some other cosmetic surgery then - hopefully - they are pleased and can accept the change.
But, for Jo, the change was as unintended as it was sudden and dramatic. She had to look in the mirror and come to know that she would never see herself as she once believed herself to be.  I don't know how different she looks now. I have never actually met her in person - although I hope I might one day. 
People will say, "It doesn't matter" and "She must be used to it now" and all manner of similar things. And no, in one way it doesn't matter because of course what counts is the person inside. And yes. she must be (somewhat) used to it - but only in the sense that the face in the mirror has grown more familiar. It doesn't necessarily mean that she sees that face as herself.
So it does matter. I suspect it has made Jo a different sort of  doctor from the one she might have been - indeed, she might not have been a doctor at all had it not been for the experience. Let's forget that "adversity makes you stronger and better" theme though. I doubt Jo wants to hear that - most people I know who have been through some horrendous experience don't want to hear it. 
I suspect she has always cared about people but perhaps she has learned to care about them in a slightly different way because of her own experience. At very least she isn't going to shrug her shoulders and say, "Who knows?" when a patient asks a question.
People matter to her - so the person in the mirror must too and I suspect that learning to live with that person hasn't been and isn't always easy. 
I am looking forward to soon having a copy of her first book. From all I have read I will probably want to devour it in one sitting. Yes, people say it is that good.
And now she is writing another. Keep up the good work Doc! I am proud to "know" you - just a little.

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