Resilience

9:53 PM


I should be eating dinner or taking care of chores or doing a myriad of other things, but I'm really pissed off, so I can't go on with my life until I write it all down right here.

So unless you've managed to escape every discussion about the election, you've probably heard candidates' health come into question on both sides of the aisle. And before I get into this, I'm going to try to stay as non-partisan as possible, and no, I'm not telling you who I'm voting for. Because that distracts from what really bothered me about the past few weeks of political news. 

And also, I don't know if either candidate has a serious illness or disability, and I frankly don't care. Which is kind of the point of this blog post.

As I skimmed through the news and tweets on candidates' health, something really killed me about the language being used to discuss this issue. Something about the way both journalists and your average internet troll questioned the ability of someone to manage themselves with an illness. Something about the way someone said to me, and I quote, "I don't want a diseased retard running this country to the ground."

In short, it's ableism.

If you're reading this, and you, like me, have endometriosis, I'm sure you've experienced ableism in one way or another. 

"Should you really be lifting that heavy box?" 
"Hi, Tracy's husband. How is Tracy's health, even though Tracy is right here?
"Maybe you should take a break."
"It must be really nice to take an hour from work to go to the doctor every week."
"You shouldn't be doing that if you're sick."
"You know what, you actually don't look sick to me."

The list goes on... and if you have a disability, it goes on even longer.

What it boils down to is an assumption that you understand an ill or disabled person's ability better than they do. And in that assumption is usually the belief that an illness or disability automatically limits you.

And when that's put on blast at a national scale, it's a very revealing insight to how our society views people with disabilities or illnesses. When words like "incapable," "inept" and "incompetent" are thrown around next to diagnoses from armchair physicians, what does that tell people with health challenges? What does that say to our professors, employers and coworkers who work with us? What signals does that send to people who see the man in the wheelchair, the child with a prosthetic or the woman with an "invisible" illness and don't stop to actually know them?

We spend our whole lives fighting to be treated like anyone else. And now, of all things, the election is setting us back.

This afternoon, I was talking with an endo sister about how I've recently felt that I've been skating by on sheer luck. That I've been able to recover and press on through my illness, and that my education or work have never suffered because of a disease I've carried for 15+ years. But that it's all luck, and eventually, it'll all catch up to me.

But it's not luck. It's resilience.

If there's one thing I've learned by connecting with and talking to people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, it's that they're the most resilient people I've ever met. They're the hardest workers, not only because they "have" to be, but because they want to be. They're the most compassionate and understanding people. They're the first to offer to help. They're problem-solvers, negotiators, ambassadors and forecasters. They're unbelievably patient, see all sides of the issue and, above all, they bounce back faster than anyone from the lowest possible points.

If I were picking a president, I would want a chronically ill person.

There are some who wring their hands and pull their hair and screech, "But I don't want a sick person who could die in office!"

First of all, anyone could die at any point in time ever, so that's a really nonsensical argument. Having an illness or disability doesn't necessarily make you more likely to die than an able-bodied person.

But secondly, chronically ill and disabled people understand their abilities better than anybody. If there were something I could not do, I would be the first person to admit it, and I'm sure others with endometriosis feel the same. If I couldn't do my job, I would know it before you did. I trust that others know their bodies, too. (And it's my sincere belief that if someone can handle a campaign trail, they sure as hell can handle a political office. But I digress.)

Yes, there are low points. And yes, I have days when I can't function as well as I'd like. And there are times I have to tap out and take care of myself. (Why is that a bad thing, again?) 

But I've never, ever let that affect my work or education. And I've never given myself excuses. And I've never left a job incomplete. But on a day when one of those critical armchair physicians was in bed with the sniffles, I was managing a couple hundred people at a work event with a heat wrap for pain, a Tramadol and healthy dose of resilience.

It's not up to you, a person on the sidelines, to decide for people with physical limitations what they're capable of doing. You don't deserve a list of their accomplishments or failures, just because a doctor stuck a label on their body. And no one owes you an explanation for every ache, pain or symptom that their illness produces.

Did your employer ask for your medical records when you got your job?

That's what worries me, though. I worry that the more we fuel stuff like this, the more that a person's health will take a spotlight. What if we start pushing out people with illnesses and disabilities from their jobs, simply because of a diagnosis? What if we take away their autonomy completely, and not just kind of, like we seem to be doing? What if we choose for that person where they can live, travel, do and enjoy? Why do the able-bodied get to speak for everyone else?

Instead of speculating about a person's health when you're not their doctor, why don't you ask yourself why you view people with disabilities and illnesses as inferior to you? What do you know about my life? What do you know about what I can do or can't do? 

Because I'm sure if you filmed me 24/7 like a presidential candidate, you'll see me in pain. You'll see me stumble. And you'll see me struggle once in a while.

But above all, you'll see me overcome.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have two-and-a-half miles to run.


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