I wanted to read Sick as part of a quest to learn more about chronic illness (and, specifically, how to be a better supporter to people with chronic illness). But I actually first became aware of it when my friend Sandy Allen mentioned it in the context of convincing me that I should really, really see a doctor about the bull's eye bug bite I had just found on my knee.

Having finished the book, I am even more glad I followed their advice and immediately nuked whatever might have been coursing through my blood with a full course of antibiotics. Diseases that impact the mind are the most terrifying to me, and this made Sick a difficult read. The memoir is a series of compounding tragedies that close in from all sides so completely that it's a wonder there is still room for a person left at the center, let alone a brilliant person making beautiful work and continuing to recover and relapse and live. It was a story I could barely stand to read closely at times, skimming past heartbreaking episodes of yet another breakup, accident, move, relapse into illness or addiction.

Takeaways:

  • Chronic illness, especially those that are poorly understood or difficult to diagnose clearly, makes the already blurry border between mental and physical affliction even blurrier
  • The best help to give a chronically ill person might be belief, empowerment (logistical, financial, and being a passive receiver of grievances/complaints/information)
  • That asking for help is hard, especially in a sustained way, and so making oneself available for help requires stubborn, patient, consistent persistence