A Common Mistake

For a full week my self-diagnosis was simply that the spring rains, along with my age, were making me achy and listless. Sure, my skin was extremely sensitive to the touch and my joints hurt but I am, after all, 50 years old. It just seemed like a no-brainer and so I muddled through the week, doing my best to get to my computer and work and make an effort at laundry and cooking.

Cleaning was out of the picture but it was, as I’ve mentioned, quite rainy and I was 50 so it made sense that my body — previously known to have predicted a rainfall here and there due to bursitis — was responding to the damp weather in a new and unpleasant way.

Then, by the end of the week, my husband was no longer buying into my self-diagnosis. The pounding in my head was so intense that I couldn’t bend over lest it would surely explode. For a few days I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow as a 103 temp had its way with me.

By the time my husband took me to the doctor I was ravaged by the flu (no, not swine). I had pushed myself just enough to make matters worse as I continued to buy into my own self-diagnosis of rain and age. I had refused to recognize things that didn’t fit with my diagnosis and paid the price.

Even now, as I slowly recover, I can see where it all fell apart, and I can’t help but think how very common my mistake is in the general population.

On the one hand, self-diagnosis can be a good tool — whether for physical or spiritual awareness. It can allow us to gather information about ourselves that only we are privy to because it is intimate and deeply personal first-hand knowledge. Other than our Creator, only we know what exists in the depths of our hearts or in the day-to-day workings of our bodies. One of the best tools for spiritual self-diagnosis is a daily examination of conscience. But even this can only produce results if we are able and willing to render an honest answer to each question.

Which means that self-diagnosis can also be devastating — whether for physical or spiritual awareness. That is because the key to success is having an objective frame of mind — something which very few of us really have in regards to ourselves. Additionally, self-diagnosis must also fall under some sort of authority. For instance, I can decide it is rain and age but only if I have some medical guidelines that such a combination can produce the results of body aches, sensitive skin, headaches, and high temperatures. Sadly, we are able to talk ourselves into just about anything in wanting to make a case for our view, opinion, or perspective — regardless of what the medical or spiritual experts may say.

During my bout with the flu I was doing my best to watch the Notre Dame commencement. I don’t know what I expected to see but I braced for the worst. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I remember thinking how proud Father Jenkins was of this event. He seemed a bit smug but I thought anyone who was able to walk and talk at the same time was just mocking my condition. His smugness, I decided, was all in my head.

Finally, not able to keep my eyes open any longer, I fell fast asleep. My last cohesive thought that day was that Father Jenkins had been self-diagnosing far too long, not willing to recognize authority. I completely recognized the symptoms.

Cheryl Dickow


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • goral

    Thank God you’re better Cheryl, and you’ve drawn some more wisdom from an
    adverse situation.
    I’m afraid your comparison with Jenkins ends at self-deception.