Do you ever have those times when you feel you are exactly where you’re supposed to be? They come around a few times a year for me, more if I’m lucky. Those times you feel good in your body, no FOMO, grounded, loved, and loving. The moment you know you are on the right path.
Buzzfeed has been knocking it out of the park lately with illness-related writing. I adored this article about attending a PMDD conference by Chloe Caldwell, and especially like how she organized it by the days of her menstrual cycle. The way she described her emotions after giving a workshop perfectly echo how I feel about my illness-related writing projects: It was a revelation — a “growth spurt” I called it later […] — to realize I can be struggling yet still help those who struggle. Simultaneously.
I know women who’ve been dismissed by their doctors for being lazy and careless and depressed and downright crazy. Was it any wonder that they would start to seek help from sources that assumed that their symptoms weren’t all in their head?
This NY Times article on GOOP and Gwenyth Paltrow fascinated me. I think I briefly subscribed to the GOOP newsletter nearly a decade ago, then shortly after unsubscribed and haven’t kept track of the brand since. Apparently, they regularly focus on wellness, alternative treatments, and autoimmune diseases and other illness. Some think they’re providing a needed service and valuable information, while others view their info as dangerous pseudo-science. I’m curious to hear what our readers think: is GOOP a friend or foe to the chronically ill?
The world beat in your kneecaps with a tire iron, then handed you a scented candle and said, “Believe in your dreams!”
In fact, I’d argue that forgiveness and gratitude and sage-scented blessings from the spirit mother aren’t going to do shit for you until you confront the fact that you were robbed.
“Ask Polly” by Heather Havrilesky is one of my all-time favorite advice columns (another being “Dear Sugar,” though honestly I love almost all advice columns and always have). Even though this recent column was in response to a woman grieving after a divorce, the advice rung true to me for anyone grieving. I’ve had chronic illness for over a decade, but it wasn’t until this year that I recognized, with the help of a therapist, that chronic illness had taken things from me, and I need to grieve the life I would’ve had if I hadn’t become ill. I’m still acknowledging that it’s okay to feel not only sad, but angry. That gratitude and optimism and well wishes are fine and good and helpful, but I also have to face the hard, ugly truth of loss in order to move forward.
There are days when my fibromyalgia makes it impossible to even lift up a cup. I’ve felt just as upset, insulted, and left out by the straw ban as does the rest of the disabled community.
When I first saw headlines about a plastic straw ban, my initial thought was, “Good!” I consider myself an environmentalist, philosophically and as much as I can be lifestyle-wise as an American who doesn’t want to completely isolate herself. I’ve been in favor of plastic bag bans for a while and am horrified by the mountain of plastic larger than Mexico floating in the Pacific Ocean.
But then, I started to see people tweeting that a plastic straw ban would hurt people with disabilities. I googled it to learn more, and found Hello Giggles’ article on the topic, quoted above. Bust also published an article on the #strawban topic, which I learned a lot from. While a straw ban might help the environment a little, it would hurt some people with disabilities a lot, and there are many, many other eco-friendly actions we can prioritize instead. Thinking about straws (of all things!) reminded me how important intersectionality really is. With climate change, humanity as a whole is going to have to make major cultural changes if we want to continue existing. We need to make sure those changes don’t disproportionately affect people that are already disadvantaged.
Do you have a phrase you use to downplay how you’re really feeling? Many of us feel pressure to pretend we’re OK when we’re really not. What do you find yourself telling people, perhaps out of habit, when they ask how you are or how you’re feeling?
The Mighty is a publication/website that calls itself “a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities.” They publish blogging prompts monthly, and the one quoted above stood out to me. A few years ago, I tried to stop saying “I’m fine,” when I don’t actually feel fine. It’s hard!
The Mighty seems like a cool community, and I think they publish writing by a lot of people who wouldn’t consider themselves “writers” (though they do have editorial oversight and don’t publish all submissions). I don’t think they pay contributors. They put out multiple new posts every day, and I bet their content is helpful to many people with illness searching online to feel less alone. I’m curious, have any of our readers published there? If so, leave a comment or tweet us your links!
A reader named Kellene said she keeps seeing stories about Ebola and West Nile virus. She wrote, “I noticed that they’re capitalized. But why? Not every disease is.”
As a writer and writing instructor, I subconsciously knew which disease and illness names to capitalize, but I didn’t think consciously about why some names are capitalized and others aren’t until I had to correct a student and couldn’t quickly explain why their capitalization was incorrect. Grammar Girl explains it well. Essentially, you capitalize a disease or illness for the same reason you capitalize anything–because it is also a proper noun.
There aren’t many places where writers and artists with illness and disabilities can express themselves in a safe, open, and welcoming space. We want Blanket Sea to be that space.
There’s nothing like starting a literary magazine focused on chronic illness, publicly announcing you’re doing it to fulfill a longstanding need, and then finding out a literary magazine on chronic illness already exists. Whoops!
Thankfully we’re all about cooperation and community, not competition. Please, read Blanket Sea and follow them on twitter. They seem super cool, and reading over their site has helped me redefine my vision for Chronically Lit. We’re trying to create something that didn’t exist before, not recreate what someone else is doing, so I’m glad I learned about them early on. Maybe someday we will partner with their editors on a publishing project, workshop, or panel.
“When you handcuff individuals, it criminalizes mental health,” says Sandy Bryant, executive director of the Mount Rogers CSB. “They feel like they’ve done something wrong. They’re already in crisis, so when they have to be put in handcuffs, it increases the trauma and stress. A lot of them talk about how, even if the police officer was gentle and kind, the experience still was traumatizing to them.”
Yes! Magazine is my favorite magazine that no one seems to know about. This article is about the ways in which people with mental illness are stigmatized, and how the state of Virginia is working to destigmatize mental illness, beginning by not using handcuffs when mentally ill people are arrested. Yes! Magazine often offers a policy perspective to personal and political issues, which is so important in our individual-focused world. Their print magazine is also ad-free. Check them out!
Jay Vera Summer is the Editor in Chief of Chronically Lit.