This list of words is not exhaustive

Word Art (1)

I made this graphic (using WordArt) because I wanted to see how many positive words I could think of when thinking about my heart defect. So I just made a random list of words that sprang to mind when thinking about it, put them in a heart-shaped word cloud and categorized them using colour. As you can probably tell, the black ones have negative connotations, the blue ones are (sort of) neutral and the red ones have more positive connotations – all according to my subjective viewpoint, of course.

Once I’d finished the word cloud I realised how childish it is: the use of the word ‘tablets’ instead of ‘medication’ (or even medicine); ‘teddy’, ‘pricking’ (this refers to my sternal wires pricking me inside my chest – it happened a lot in my teens/twenties; not so much since the old wires were removed when I had surgery in 2008). You might be wondering why ‘picnics’ is in there. This is because when I was a child we always went to Harefield Hospital for my annual check up in the school summer holidays, and we always took a packed lunch and ate it outside. The ‘birds’ come from that, too – I remember the sparrows used to come and peck at our sandwich crumbs. I guess the childishness is explained by the fact that a lot of my thoughts to do with my heart defect are also to do with my childhood.

I think it’s quite encouraging that I managed to list so many positive or at least neutral words. When I first made the cloud I thought it was overtly negative, but then I realised lots of the words in the list are simply things that are just there – they are merely part of the experience of having a heart defect; not bad, not particularly good either, just there (bedpans, tests, screens, wires (although wires are bad if they hurt you)). Some words are a bit ambiguous – e.g. ‘parents’. I made them blue even though it is not really the case that they are ‘just there’ (and I’ve just realised I forgot to add ‘guilt’ to my cloud), partly because it seems the most diplomatic thing to do. ‘London’ is there because it’s always been the background to the story of my heart. When I was in hospital in 2008 I drew a picture of the skyline I could see from my window (hence also ‘drawing’) and at night when I couldn’t sleep I pretended the shapes I could see were animals instead of cranes and tower blocks.

I put ‘waiting’ in black, because I’m impatient. I think the other black words are self-explanatory, although some things like catheters and stitches are not really bad in themselves (they are there to help us) they are not very pleasant to experience.

This list of words is not exhaustive.


1 thought on “This list of words is not exhaustive”

  1. It sounds as if you are trying to analyse the trauma you have been through in order to gain some fresh perspective on it.

    There was one year of my childhood which was rather unhappy. I find myself thinking about it sometimes and how it has shaped my personality. I think I am beginning to look at it a bit differently now that I am older and have children and grandchildren.

    It wasn’t particularly bad at all really, just being sent to a very strict school at the age of eleven where I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t bullied, I did well academically and I got on fine with the other girls. At the end of the year my family moved house to another area (yet again) and I went to another school which suited me better. But that year left it’s mark.

    I can remember the feeling of powerlessness and of feeling that I was being forced to think and behave in ways I didn’t understand. If you had transported me back to the nineteenth century and sent me to a school where I didn’t understand the language it couldn’t have been more traumatic. The school was a Gothic nightmare of a building which I found creepy and it took two buses to get to it. It was in the middle of a very rough, run down area on a busy road. The amount of homework was appalling and I was permanently exhausted with a cold.

    That was a child’s view of it and the only one I had. My Mum on the other hand was delighted when I passed the scholarship to get into it. She was probably really disappointed at my reaction, though she was a kind person and sympathised with my problems, though I wasn’t able to articulate exactly how I was feeling.

    I think what would have helped is if I had been given more information and power. I also needed to know that I didn’t have to be perfect and do everything I was told. My parents tended to make a joke and lightheartedly dismiss things, but then they didn’t have to go there!

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