The Culture of Fear and Invincibility

I went to a workshop on reproductive solidarity, and one of the big themes was how health issues like STIs and abortion are throughly stigmatized–even by those who are educated and consider themselves progressive. I think all disease is stigmatized, though of course STIs and the like have the added stigma of slut-shaming.

We operate in this imaginary sense of invincibility (because, ‘MERICA) so when something does happen to our bodies, the culture of fear takes over and it must be the worst case scenario.

This is why if you get diagnosed with anything potentially crazy, don’t google it. Seriously. Turn off the internet for a week or so until you figure out what your doctors think you should do, process the doctor-info, then if you google anything, be VERY SPECIFIC.

All the doctors you’ll see will probably be unimpressed by your problem, because they see it all the time. A friend in medical school agreed that that’s one of the hardest things in finessing bedside manner: doctors have to both reassure the patient that a given thing is totally manageable while also not devaluing or discrediting the patient’s probably frightened reaction.

It is a big deal, at first, and then it might become just a deal. Maybe there’s some things that don’t really work out for your individual body, but who cares?  If there’s one activity you really can’t do, there’s probably 18 other ones that you can do. I still haven’t found a problem where doctors recommend that you sit around.

This is the part where I could tell you about my issue, but I’m not going to do that, because I don’t feel like defending my own personal issue. The worst case scenario of any given issue takes hold on other people and they start seeing you as more tragic. Being pitied is terrible, but worse, you get the sense from others, “Well, at least I’m not you, because your life sucks.”

This is half of the problem of getting diagnosed with something chronic and weird: you spend a lot of time being like, “No, dude, I feel fine, I SWEAR,” but then other times you do need to respect the shit that got handed to you and maybe opt-out of a certain activity. And then you feel like a wuss.

We need to acknowledge our vulnerability, but at the same time, do what you can and work around it. As inelegant as the analogy is, a three-legged dog doesn’t seem to care about their obvious issue. They just keep doing dog things on three legs instead of four and figure out how to make it work. Humans seem to lack the capacity for figuring out how to just make a thing work out okay; the best we can do for any disease is sell it as this tragic hero/heroine, fighting off whatever problem you have.

Can’t you just have a thing? What if you’re not fighting anything?