She’s a little bit psycho(somatic).

With apologies for being a bit late to the party. Work has been absolutely crazy, etc., etc. In addition to my teaching duties, I’m involved in three different projects (because I’m completely incapable of saying no to anything) as well as national exams in English. Needless to say, my most significant generator of bitching (on my part), moaning and stress is work. It’s been foremost on my mind lately so I hope you gentle readers don’t mind if I mention it frequently in my posts. Also, just FYI, I’ve stopped using The Oxford Comma as demonstrated in the previous sentence: “bitching, moaning and stress.” Note the absence of a comma after the word ‘moaning.’

That’s enough grammar for now, but please feel free to respond with your opinions regarding the Oxford comma. It can also be called the Harvard comma depending which side of the Atlantic you happen to be on.

Right now we’re in the process of giving all the English A and B students exams in speaking. The students are paired up and instructed to have a discussion on a given topic. Their discussions are listened to by myself and one other English teacher. So far they’ve been going fairly well, but naturally there have been a few problems. Some students show up late for their appointments, or don’t show up at all, and then they have to be rescheduled. It’s a hassle but it’s pretty much unavoidable. It’s common and expected for students to try and get out of taking the exam by employing various tactics.

However, there is one student who really worries me because she seems to be sick all the time. It seems that every other day she informs me that she can’t come to class because she’s sick. She might be faking it, but if that’s the case there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. So far I’ve had to postpone this student’s exam time twice because she was (you guessed it) sick. This morning she showed up for her rescheduled exam appointment fresh-faced, smiling and ready to go (no Oxford comma…ha). Then she found out who the other teacher sitting the exam was. Evidently not someone she likes very much.

After listening to (and refusing) her demands to have a different teacher or at least postpone her test again, I went to go take care of something for five minutes. When I got back, the student was crying and clutching her abdomen and she was surrounded by friends attempting to comfort her. Apparently, in the previous five minutes, she had developed an upper urinary tract infection and was in too much pain to take the test. She had to leave school and go to the hospital. Here we go again, I thought.

But the thing is, I’m not entirely sure she really is faking it. She was absolutely fine only minutes earlier, but it’s possible that she really did spontaneously develop the symptoms of UTI in response to the stress of having to take the exam. Psychosomatically, that is. I’m certain she started feeling better as soon she left the school building.

I have some personal experience with this phenomenon. Years ago I had a job as a sort of telephone sales representative. It was easily the worst job I’ve ever had in my entire life. The people with whom I was forced to work were so loathsome, the work itself so abhorrent, that the very thought of having to go to work caused me to develop a sore throat and migraine headache. I’d call the office in the morning, genuinely feeling like complete shit, and inform them that I was too sick come in. Shortly after hanging up the phone I’d start feeling better, and by lunch time I’d made a miraculous recovery.

Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing about what kinds of psychosomatic experiences any readers have had or currently have.

(By the way, I ended up getting fired from that job so everything worked out.)

10 thoughts on “She’s a little bit psycho(somatic).

  1. Good grief woman, and by that I don’t mean the author, but this crazy lady. Back in my day, if you didn’t show up for the exam, you failed. Of course if you were actually in the hospital or dead, you were excused. I think after two tries of trying to accommodate this lady, you guys should just fail her. Are you allowed to fail people? I can just see that when she gets out into the real world she’s going to show up the first day at work and then go “sjukskriva sig” for stress. I guarantee you! Mwhaaaaa

      • LOL, true. And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make fun of any illness. It’s just that sometimes guys don’t deal well with crying women, especially when they seem perfectly functioning one minute, and crazy the next. Not my intention.

    • Ooops. I hope my comment wasn’t perceived as accusatory.

      Dee and I were talking about gerontology and the mind-body connection the other day. It’s amazing how everything becomes a tangled mess, particularly when you’re dealing with chronic illnesses.

  2. Urgh. The Oxford comma! I was taught to write with the Oxford comma and every single time I would give my mother something to proof (for all her many faults, she is really good at that), a battle royale would ensue. She said I should marry a comma as I seem to love them so much.

    Unfortunately, my comma woes do not end there. If I recall correctly, we were supposed to put a comma before a quoted passage. Now it appears that we’re no longer using this methodology? Dock’s opinion is that it is not modern. :/ Your thoughts on that, please?

    In so far as psychosomatic conditions are concerned, many mental health professionals fully embrace this issue. It may come as a surprise that it is not viewed negatively in community. It is a real challenge.

    There are two instances where I can recall issues with my own fault. Everyone knows that my stomach will revolt if I’m in a foreign situation, stressed or upset. We treat this with different therapies – pharmaceutical, lifestyle, diet and homeopathy. While I’ll never escape GI woes, it is much more manageable as I can take preemptive measures if I know I’m going to have an unusually challenging task at hand.

    Believe it or not, while PUPPP is considered an actual condition of pregnancy, my therapist was wondering if it was psychosomatic since it lingered after I delivered (hello…the hormones take a while to fade). I have been waiting for another rash to flare up but after managing Kate’s death without any issue, I’m siding with the OB.

    Public speaking, no matter how intimate the group, is daunting! Public speaking in another language, particularly from the student’s perspective is even worse. The only way I could make it through Orals in college was to – so not kidding – have a drink before class.

    What sort of relationship do you have with this pupil? Is it something the two of you would feel comfortable discussing? I have this sneaking suspicion that if you spoke to her about it, she may have a very positive response. Perhaps it will foster feelings of genuine concern and mitigate some of her insecurities.

    Just my två kronor.

    • I think maybe you can recommend to her that she blogs about her stress hehehe, I know just the place! 🙂

    • To use or not to use the Oxford/Harvard comma. Dock is right in that it’s considered old-fashioned. Books of modern English usage don’t really encourage their use anymore. However, it’s still perfectly acceptable to use them in my opinion. It’s hard to get out of the habit. I still find myself automatically putting a comma there.

      As for this student, she’s actually one my mentor students, which means I’m responsible for making sure she gets the information she needs and gets everything done on time, among other things. One of my duties as mentor is to have conferences with her and her parents if needed. I’m going to try and schedule a conference for next week of possible. If not then it will have to be after Easter Break.

      • Let’s hope you can get some positive results out of a one-on-one with the student. Adding parents to the mix, while a necessity, doesn’t lend itself to the best outcomes. Particularly if there is trouble at home. 😦

  3. stress can be a nasty task master, making the strongest of people wither and fail at the most in opportune moment. Perhaps she blamed it on a UTI because she knows nobody is going to question her about it or maybe she is a little Princess throwing a hissy fit…either way you do need to get to the bottom of her problem, I imagine that isn’t going to be easy as she could become very defensive, so tread carefully and good luck.

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