To the Friend Who Told Me 'There's Always a Way' to Lose Weight, Even With Chronic Pain
I’m here today near tears. Today was a slightly-worse-than-normal pain day. It wasn’t quite a full-blown “bad” pain day, but it was bad enough. That isn’t the reason for my sadness, though.
I have a friend who is an amazing artist and, every now and then, offers profound statements. Today, he stated something to the effect of “people don’t want to put in the work when it comes to losing weight and they’ll do anything besides those two things!”
I was taken aback at this generalization. I calmly asked him what his thoughts were on people who weren’t able. His response was tagged with a heart and simply said, “There’s always a way.”
I began to write out a response and quickly realized that he and everyone else commenting were of the belief that there is always a way. I was going to ask him how he could say that knowing there are people who literally cannot do conventional cardio workouts, yoga or even have the ability to walk. I was going to tell him that what works for him doesn’t work for me or people like me. I was going to give him a full run-down of my day-to-day litmus test of pain. I was going to tell him some of the choices I have to make every day, like deciding whether or not to shower or do the dishes or even get dressed. I was going to tell him that his now-public expectations were unfair to someone who winces when they are touched, who has a hard time walking due to the pain in their feet and a hard time standing for long periods due to the excruciating pain in their spine. I was going to tell him about the disorders I have in my spine alone. I was going to mention the F-word: fibromyalgia.
I thought better of that based on the comments from him and others. I immediately felt singled out and alone. I immediately recognized the “all or nothing” mentality. It’s a mentality I see in able-bodied people regarding disabled people. I see it in wealthy people regarding the poor. I see it in the young regarding the elderly. There was absolutely no point in me saying anything. I would not be heard.
Today, I’ve received yet another lesson regarding certain people. It isn’t just about them having their minds made up. It’s a very egocentric mindset that does extreme amounts of damage. It’s the mindset that says, “It worked for me and is therefore the ultimate empirical truth. Anything else does not exist in my world. I believe this about everyone.”
The harm this does is beyond sight. It dissuades open conversations regarding important aspects of individual lives. It is the same mindset of the multitude of doctors I’ve seen over the years who tell me that “fibromyalgia isn’t real” and that I’m “too young to be this sick.” They refuse to acknowledge it because they haven’t experienced it themselves and, by that very fact, are demonstrating a complete lack of empathy or false empathy.
I’m still not sure what to do here. I appreciate this friend’s artwork, but his extremely exclusionary viewpoint is destructive and willfully ignorant. I can say this because I live the destruction and am victim, like so many others, to the statements that are absolutely willfully ignorant. It is willfully ignorant to refuse to believe something without actually verifying its existence externally from one’s self. That is happening here and in too many other scenarios.
I think for now I need to continue speaking up about the single-minded thinking and willful ignorance that I’m seeing. I think we all do because this kind of thinking is dangerous. This is how ableism continues. This is how ignorance flourishes. This is how hatred and bigotry thrive. We have to speak.
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Thinkstock photo via artlazareva.