WebMD Checkup: Joan Didion
Novelist, journalist, screenwriter, and National Book Award-winning memoirist Joan Didion answers questions about love and loss.
How are you taking care of yourself?
By sheer will, making lists and doing what I need to do and remembering that I
will be useless if I get sick myself.
What kind of support system do you have?
I've been blessed by great close friends and family, people who have stepped
forward without their or my asking. What is fairly useless in this kind of
situation is the friend who says (and I used to be guilty of this myself),
"Let me know if there's anything I can do." In fact, you won't let him
or her know, ever.
You and John walked Central Park every morning. Do you still walk, and
has your route changed?
I still walk in the park, yes. And yes, my route has changed, which sometimes
makes me feel a little loose in the world.
What is the best health advice anyone has ever given you?
Once, a long time ago, before MRIs, when I was having some neurological
symptoms and had received an exclusionary diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a
friend --- a doctor, someone who had received a similar exclusionary diagnosis
--- advised me to keep regular appointments with a neurologist even in the
absence of symptoms. That way, he said, "You can forget about it." This
worked. The symptoms subsided. I saw a neurologist regularly and never gave it
a thought in between.
What is your best health habit? Your worst?
"Best" and "worst" when it comes to health habits depend on
who's doing the ranking (some might say I had all bad habits), but I would say
my most useful habit is to consult doctors early and fast and, as above, not
fret about it in between.
Are there positive attributes to aging?
My own experience with aging was that I became a little more forgiving, both of
others and myself. Once life forces you to accept that there are some things
(death, illness, aging) you can't control, you tend to relax a little.
Of the five senses, which one do you value most: sight, smell, hearing,
taste or touch?
I suspect that I would find loss of touch more isolating than that of any other
Is writing key to your overall health?
Writing is the only way I process experience. So yes, it's key. But I think
most people would find "working" --- whatever their work is --- just as