Or What Is Secondary Gain?


Monday night my throat closed up as if someone were very deliberately trying to choke me. My temperature spiked up to 102º. For two days I was pretty miserable

Today the choke hold loosened a bit and so far no fever. Probably because of heavy Tylenol dependence, but whatever. My doctor wanted me to take something for what ailed me. Being home alone, I had to run to Wegman's to pick up the script. As long as I had to drag my sick self to the pharmacy I was going to make it the best trip ever.

Therefore, along with the medicine, I bought the essentials. My husband had already provided the chicken soup and orange juice so I didn't need that. My throat was crying out for something cold. That called for rainbow sherbet, a big box of popsicles and an ice cold diet Coke. At the check out, aka Impulse Buy Lane, in my weakened state I couldn't resist a copy of People magazine. Already I was feeling so much better.

When I was a kid I'd fake sick hoping I could stay home and be pampered by Mom. This was in the days when kids actually got illnesses like the measles and mumps. When it was real (no way did she fall for the lame "I don't feel so good" whine) she would tuck me up with blankets and pillows, coloring books and even the TV sometimes. My meals came to me in bed and (and this was the best) I got to wallow in all that warm mommy attention. For the middle kid of five that's heady stuff. What am I saying? For ANY kid that's heady stuff.

Psychologists have a name for this. It's secondary gain which is defined as: Interpersonal or social advantages gained indirectly from organic illness, such as an increase in attention from others. 

Secondary gain is innocent enough but like most good things it can be overdone. A little overdone is just annoying. A LOT of overdone is called malingering. Psychologists have a name for everything. But I digress.

Back home I unpacked my booty, served myself up a cup of sherbet, opened my diet coke and, with a sigh of contented exhaustion, curled up on the couch with my People.  When we're not feeling well sometimes the best attention is the attention we give ourselves.