The performativity of medicine.
I’ve had a few blood tests recently. I got an email from my brother, who happens to be a doctor, suggesting that we (me and my other brother) get our bloods done. He listed a few symptoms and one resonated with me.
You see, for a while, I’d been feeling wiped out. I put it down to a post-lunch slump that you get when you reach a certain age. But looking back on it now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s been there for years.
Off I went, explained my symptoms to the doctor, and, a week or so later, went in for the results.
My tiredness was explained by my chronic lack of Vitamin D. Fortunately it’s easily remedied with supplements and sitting in the sun for 15 minutes a day!
He also said my blood sugar levels were high and that I was pre-diabetic. He explained that this diagnosis meant that if I took no remedial actions there was a good chance I could actually become diabetic.
However, just to be sure, we needed more blood and the HbA1c test.
By the time I went back for my second results the original doctor had left. The second test confirmed the first one, and my blood sugar levels were high and pre-diabetic.
She decided to take my blood pressure – ok – and weigh me to work out my BMI. She tapped in my height and weight and told me I was morbidly obese.
I looked at her and said: “Do you really think I look morbidly obese?”
Anyway, we had a chat about possible changes I could make to my diet and agreed to meet again in 3 months to see if the dietary changes have had the desired effect on my blood sugar levels.
Later that day the doctor called me. She was really sorry but she’d made a mistake – I wasn’t morbidly obese, after all.
I’ve made a number of changes to my diet. I eat less. I eat less pasta, bread and rice, replacing them in my diet with lentils and beans. Milk’s gone, and I’ve cut out sugar – I still had a teaspoon in my tea or coffee. I’ve stopped drinking fizzy drinks. And I’ve cut down on the alcohol. I took advantage of the bounty of summer to eat more fresh fruit and veg, with lots coming from my garden
The result is: None of my trousers fit me anymore and I’ve moved two belt holes; I’ve lost over a stone, around 16 pounds or 7.25 kilos since August.
What I’ve done is enacted or performed the ideal pre-diabetic “identity”. Since being cast as pre-diabetic by the first doctor, I’ve been acting, if you like, as if I am pre-diabetic, and have accepted and reproduced this identity through my dietary changes.
This is what I mean by the performativity of medicine. Unless I perform or enact “pre-diabetic” it’s just a word.