Every time I sit down with my doctor, the first thing he does is ask me how I’m doing. He listens intently as I tell him about the things in my life that I think he might find significant – changes in symptoms, medications; you know, medical stuff. He always says ‘what else?’ and waits patiently until I’m done with my verbal report.
He is by far the best neurologist I’ve had, and he knows my medical self very well. But I think he has very little idea of what my non-medical self is really like. When I enter his office I am acutely aware of our limited time, so I don’t embellish my story with many extraneous facts about work, travel, recreation, friends, or family. I want to use our time wisely, and I don’t want to annoy him. Thus I present my medical self to him, a collection of physical sensations and historical medical events, supplements and bloodwork, surgery and tests. It works pretty well, and we have a good bond, but it feels like something is missing. I’m much more than my medical self, and my health depends on much more than medical interventions.
Recently I’ve been trying to think in a little more holistic way about my health, as I’ve noticed that things like ‘having satisfying work’ and ‘getting outdoors more often’ have seemed to help me physically feel better. I’ve been wanting to map out some of the lifestyle factors that seem to make me feel better, so I’ve started with this diagram of some of the people and things that support me and contribute to my life balance; if any areas are deficient, my mental and physical health will likewise become deficient.
It’s an incomplete list of people and things that make me happy and joyful, that make me feel alive and vibrant, and that are my daily support. It would be great if I could share an at-a-glance view of my vibrance map, so that my doctors could quickly see if I was deficient in any important way.
How could such a map be created? My phone knows where I’ve been, who I’ve been spending time with, and it contains photo evidence of many parts of my life. My phone’s apps even know the identity of many of the people featured in the photos. It’s not a huge leap to think that we’ll soon be able to automatically generate a diagram to express how we’re doing with any certain facet of our lives.
Regarding oversharing: I consider my care team my confidants and partners, and I would actually enjoy giving them this quick view into what my non-medical-self is really like. ‘Quick view’ being the key phrase, as I’d never want to burden them with too much information.
This is certainly inspired in part by Lana Voynova‘s exploration into her instagram photos as they relate to her state of health. I’m curious what other visual health representations you’ve come across and would love to hear!