I'm a Health Writer, But It's OK That I Struggle to Take Pride in My Heath Conditions
“Some days, I want to scream,” I typed, fearful of how my friend would respond. But I pressed on — albeit hesitantly — until the text box on my phone filled with a litany of complaints.
“I get so tired of my body not doing what I want it to do.”
“I get tired of having full use of only one hand.”
“I hate hiking because I always lose my footing going downhill.”
“I hate feeling self-conscious about being barefoot around other people.”
And then I pressed “send,” wondering if my friend would judge me for having days when I absolutely despise living with multiple health conditions despite openly writing about them on the internet.
It’s those days when I feel like a living, breathing dichotomy. I’ve been disabled since birth, and I’m mentally ill. I’ve spent five years writing about embracing my medical life and encouraging others to accept their health conditions, but sometimes, I feel my own internalized ableism taking over. I feel angry at myself for not being able-bodied, frustrated with myself for struggling with anxiety and depression, and unhappy with myself for simply not being the most healthy, “productive” member of society.
I cry and I fret and I hurl self-loathing insults. I want to be anyone but who I am — anyone who doesn’t know medical jargon or has never needed to be on medication or who doesn’t have a clue that a tibialis tendon is a real body part and not something surgeons shout about on “Grey’s Anatomy.” I want to escape from my life — my >medical life — until the storm finally settles, and I finally feel OK with being who I am.
And then I carry on with life until the inevitable happens — I get frustrated with my body and annoyed with my mind, and yet again, I break down about how much I wish I were healthy.
Cry. Rant. Self-soothe. Repeat in a few months.
I constantly live with the pressure to not feel this way. I write about my health — sometimes in extremely positive ways. As a contributor editor for The Mighty, I even edit others’ health stories — but how would writers feel if they knew their editor hated living with her own health conditions some days? Some people I know and love have gently steered me towards the disconnect between my writing and advocacy and my self-image, and I’m fully aware I’m not exactly a glowing representation of unconditional love for my own disabled body and mentally ill mind — even though I write about the journey to reaching that point. I feel like a hypocrite for encouraging others to love themselves with their medical conditions and still having days when I absolutely hate the way my own health affects my body and my life. But maybe that just makes me human.
As Disability Pride Month draws closer and closer, I find myself questioning how I can so easily rant to a friend about my health one day and celebrate my body, mind, and community just a week later. How can anything I write about learning to love my body, accepting my mental state, or putting health challenges into perspective ring true when I’ve shown others that some days, I’m just not there yet? How do I share everything my disability has given me and still mourn everything it’s taken away? How do I celebrate the years of work the disability community has put into fighting for equality and know that I sometimes treat myself like a second-class citizen because of my fraught relationship with my body? And how do I expect anyone to take me seriously as a health writer who absolutely hates certain aspects of her health?
I wish I could wake up tomorrow on the first day of Disability Pride Month and feel proud of how much my body’s survived and my mind’s fought through. I wish I could look at myself in the mirror and see the resilient woman who carried herself through a childhood in the medical world, an adolescence fraught with low self-esteem and negative body image, and a young adulthood marked by a series of mental health struggles. I wish I could recognize just how much life with a disability has taught me about respect, kindness, and empathy for others and forgiveness for myself. But writing about my health doesn’t mean I’ll be able to easily take pride in it — and maybe that’s OK.
Being a health writer doesn’t make me immune to the self-loathing, anger, frustration, and internalized ableism that often accompanies life with a health condition. I write about my health, I struggle to embrace my medical life, and I wonder if I’ll be able to muster up a shred of disability pride to get me through July. But for the first time since I first started sharing my health story, I’m meeting myself where I am emotionally — and I know that’s just fine.
Getty image by FreshSplash.