Too Much Information
I’ve always prided myself on being a nerd. If I had a question, I looked it up. I read constantly. Sometimes I feel like the Internet was built for my constant need to know.
But I’ve learned there actually is a thing as too much information. Knowing too much can be uncomfortable, even scary.
My information journey with JRA
When I was a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, we didn’t have a lot of information about the disease. I remember one small pamphlet from the Arthritis Foundation in the waiting room at my doctor’s office with illustrations of inflamed joints depicted with white bone and red haze around it.
We didn’t have the Internet so what we learned was from the doctor because we didn’t know anyone else who was a child patient. At the time, I couldn’t relate to the adult patients. I laugh now to think of it— but they seemed so old and fragile.
I don’t remember this story, but my occupational therapist when I was in elementary school gave my mother all these pictures of painful, deformed joints. My mother said it made her cry. It made her afraid for me. She didn’t need to see that stuff— she already knew I had a serious disease, that I needed to work on my exercises and follow treatment to prevent as much damage as possible. She didn’t need the fear hanging over her when we were doing all that was possible (at the time). It was out of my mother’s hands. More information didn’t help— it only added to her emotional burdens and worry.
Before I had my joint replacement surgeries as a teenager I read about the process, studied examples of the implants in my doctor’s office and felt the weight and smoothness of the metal joints in my hands. I knew that it would be harder than everyone said, that things would veer off the plan. But I obviously didn’t know how until I went through the process (some complications, too much scar tissue, additional surgeries, and a very long recovery). Still, I wanted to know all that I could informationally so that I could prepare myself for what to expect.
I’m not sure if all that study helped, but when I was back at home still recovering and doing physical therapy I found a program on TV showing a knee replacement surgery. I took a breath and tried to watch. Just moments after some pounding or sawing my stomach did a flip. This wasn’t a good idea. Even afterwards, when my incision was closed and my joint solidly in place I literally couldn’t stomach watching. At that moment I realized there are some things I don’t need to know—including the outsider perspective on a view of my surgery.
While I still crave information, I am more aware of my limitations.
I’ll research medications, exercises, diets and so forth. I want to know all the details, including any disturbing side effects or rare issues. I’ll delve into patient stories and read about worst-case-scenarios. But I always watch out for that flashing red light telling me to stop.
When the wall between knowledge and reality fades— when things get a little too intense—then I know its time to back off. Sometimes I ask my husband Richard to research something related to RA so that I can maintain a little distance. I know that he’ll tell me what I need to know, but not too much. I’m glad that he is willing to buffer me from things I may not want in my head.
So, you see, there is really a thing called too much information.
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