I just finished having lunch with “Robin,” a friend. Well, she’s much more than a friend. She taught the very first class I ever attended in college. In all, I took three courses from this professor of sociology. I think I was always inclined to study something like sociology, but having taken her course (Women and Work in the US) in the beginning really steered me to pick that field as my major. Also, she was really the first person to expose me to feminism and what it meant to be a feminist. Robin really is my mentor.
I rarely go out with a group of friends or, well, have fun in that manner mostly because I really don’t have that many friends. But the support from the friends that I do have has been incredibly important during this period. (Note: this entry doesn’t cover just how crucial my family’s hands-on support has been while I was in treatment.) I needed ‘real’ people outside of my doctor’s office that did not mind engaging in conversations about my health — and also gets you out of the house for lunch, coffee or whatever. Robin is one of the few people whom I can share personal issues but look at them from a sociological perspective. Heck, the only person that’s visited me in the hospital twice in the last six years has been Robin. She was also one of the very first people I told that I was going to undergo ECT (I remember I ran into her at a Roy Blount Jr. lecture around the same day I had told her about the ECT. She gave me a huge hug. I was really scared then.) It’s been really nice that I can tell her something given that she knows me well enough to know what I was talking about. After all, I took my first course with her in 1999 and have had office hour meetings and many conversations with her since.
Another friend who’ve met me for coffee before and after the little sparks also happens to be a sociology professor. (Is it kind of odd that some of my semi-confidantes have actually been two sociology professors? ) The other day I came across a set of papers that I wrote for her class Race, Gender & Health. It was really the first time I documented much of my illness experience (along with those of other interview subjects) and wrote something that intertwined the personal and the academic. Having written those papers profoundly changed the way I view and write about my illness and the events that have come with it. She is also the one person that has always encouraged me to write.
The point is, having a core group of people, no matter how small, who you know are willing to support you before, during and after ECT is really important in helping create an atmosphere that will guide you to better health. You don’t have to see them all the time, but knowing that their support is there helps immensely. Even if ECT is the main component to this restructuring process, the other parts do matter greatly.