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Scales Of Language (Or - How To Complicate Things Without Even Trying)
I don't know about you but – when I find out that one of my friends is affected by something – I am more likely to go out of my way to (1) learn about it and (2) attend events which either raise money for it or educate people about it.

This might explain why I attended a “Charity Curry Evening” which was held to raise money for “Bipolar UK” and one other charity which I cannot remember the name of at this precise minute.

I had previously gone through my usual “Travelling in the Evening” checklist (luckily I knew that I would be going there in the light, and it was near a bus stop – if that wasn't the case I wouldn't have gone).

The Curry Evening itself was a great event.  The food was delicious and the restaurant it was held in was perfect for someone like me (no cluttered furniture, lighting was adequate).

My attention was grabbed by a leaflet on the table which totally confused me.  I don't know whether or not this was because I had come up with something completely different when it comes to asking one of my friends how they are feeling.  It could also have been because I hate traffic lights.

This leaflet had a kind of scale on it – with red at both ends, then yellow, and green in the middle.  The green bit was supposed to be the “steady” bit – whilst the two red bits were supposed to be the “Danger zone” bits.  My problem with that was the fact both “Danger zone” bits have got very different outcomes.  The “Mania” bit can be life-threatening without the person intending to delete him or herself from the planet – whilst the “Depression” bit can result in the person intentionally attempting to delete him or herself from the planet.  So – unless you can see the scale in front of you – when someone has been trained to name a colour and they say “red” you need to find out which “sort” of red.

I know a few people with Bipolar and one of them has allowed me to experiment on him.  Before you get worried – the experiment wasn't likely to harm him.  In fact, he told me that it made it easier for him to tell me how he was feeling.

When he had told me a bit about how Bipolar affects him I came up with a rather basic scale so I could find out how he is.  (The scale has even been added to recently.)

If you know me you will know I don't like complicated things (especially when I need the information to help with something) – you may also have realised that I have a rather “left-field” way of looking at situations.

So – I wanted to know how my friend was.  And I wanted the information in a way I could understand.  Forget using the proper terminology – miles too confusing.  Instead break it down to the basics.  Descriptions work best for me.

The scale which my friend and I now use is as follows;

“Scrape Off The Ceiling” - Hypomania or Mania.

“My friend's name” - Balanced.

“Sad” - Depressed

“Mixed” - Bouncing between “Scrape Off The Ceiling” and “Sad”

“Fell off the Bottom of the Scale” - Suicidal.

(That last one is a very recent addition to the scale.)

There is something which has always puzzled me about things like Mental Health, Disabilities, Cancer, and other “Socially Taboo” subjects regarding health.  Why are things always made so complicated when it comes to talking about them???  Why do I never feel entirely comfortable using language which I understand most easily in conversations???

It is a bit like when I was at Schiphol Airport a few years ago.  I was speaking to a lady behind a desk in Dutch (I wanted to get some information out of her about something) – then I told her I didn't understand something she had said.  The word I used was English (I think it was “sorry?” - which has a slightly different translation in English and Dutch – it certainly wasn't “What?”, which would have been quite acceptable to her ears) – the lady immediately came back in English with “I thought you could speak Dutch”.

If we could find a way of talking about Mental and Physical Health in ways that we feel comfortable with (whilst not offending anybody who may have the conditions under discussion) life would be a lot easier.  I suppose I am lucky in having people who I know I can talk to about their conditions in language I understand (as well as asking what must sometimes seem like the stupidest questions they have ever heard) without them causing me any physical damage as a result.

Just out of interest – instead of calling one of my illnesses “Heart Failure” (to me – if something fails it stops working altogether.  Whilst my heart isn't operating at anywhere near full capacity the fact that I am typing this blog post indicates it must be working) I wish we could call it something like “Reduced Heart Function”.

Even when illnesses and health conditions seem complicated – surely the best way to deal with them is to keep it as simple as possible???

Or are we doomed to spend our lives having to get translations of “Medical” Terminology which we would otherwise have no Earthly use for???

I speak English and Dutch (I also have a GCSE in French and German).  I do not speak “Doctor” or “Medical English”.  Humans who attempt to talk to me in either of those languages are likely to be asked for a translation.  I can still remember being told by a Dr in Glenfield hospital that I had told someone that I had an “ASD” (or some other three letter acronym) when I was a baby – this was news to me.  When I asked for a translation it turned out that I had told them that I had had a hole in the heart – which was correct.

Using simple language might seem like a total waste of time to those who make their living using “Medical English” but – if you are anything like me – people end up feeling a lot more comfortable when they know exactly what is happening (and that their questions will be answered in a language they can understand.)


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