You may have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a snazzy, often brightly coloured pyramid diagram showing how the needs or motivations of humans are set as levels of importance. It wouldn’t look out of place if it was scribbled on a large paper flipchart by someone wearing a badly fitting suit in a conference centre in Staines.
I can’t really be arsed to look into the history of it or whether or not it was created by a suited bloke wearing too much aftershave, but I assume it was this Maslow guy that made it, and that Maslow wasn’t just the name of his dog who he decided to name it after.
You’re probably wondering what my point is, well here it is, hold onto the edge of your seat… chronic illness also has a hierarchy of needs. I thought if this Maslow guy can make one, then so can I. So here’s my slightly less colourful version I just scribbled out with a Biro and a marker pen. *mmm marker pen fumes*
I don’t know if you can read my scrawl (You can click for a larger version though), so just in case I’ll type it out as well. Basically, when you’re really damn sick you have very basic needs that you’re trying to achieve. Here I’ve listed them as Not suffering so much you want to die; Not being in horrendous pain; Toiletting and washing yourself.
Then when you’re at the point where you’re a bit more well your attentions focus to Safety. – Not being constantly scared of hospitalisation or what will happen to loved ones if you pop your clogs.
Then if you improve a bit more again, congratulations you get to the next level on the pyramid ; Social. – Having friends that don’t think you’re a nutjob. Occasionally seeing those friends.
If you then get to the next level then give yourself a massive pat on the back because you’re on Esteem. Being proud of yourself for progress made and not giving up. Feeling a sense of achievement of getting better and helping other diseased people.
Now the top level is a bit hippy dippy airy fairy and called Self Actualisation. I have no smegging idea what that actually means, so I’ve taken it to mean Learning stuff from your experiences (of being horrifically sick) and finding meaning from it. Also reclaiming your hobbies or finding new ones. Perhaps finding a new direction in life.
So the pyramid is a bit like stages of getting better, or stages of getting your life back.
I’m extremely lucky because I’ve moved all the way from the bottom where I counted it as a good day if I didn’t want to throw up or could stagger 4 steps to the sofa,, all the way to the top where I’m looking back and thinking What the fuck was that all about then?! I’m getting better, I still have a way to go, but my body doesn’t require every ounce of my energy to keep myself from keeling over. There’s energy left over for me to see my friends, have some non energetic hobbies and actually emotionally process what I’ve been through. I’m at this weird stage where I’m trying to find meaning and make something good out of all the crap. My basic needs are met, so I’m in a luxury position of trying to fill the less basic needs.
For people that have never been at the bottom of the pyramid, (either pyramid!) it must all seem very strange, but for the people who have been there and have managed to climb up, it really makes you realise how lucky you are and fills you with gratitude that you can entertain existential musings or fashion dilemmas.