Tag Archives: fibromyalgia

Recommended Reading for 19 July 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Hope Is Real: Fibromyalgia Is Not Caused By Men

I remember the invite said that the speaker thinks women have fibromyalgia, because of the stress of men not providing enough for women. This statement offends me to the core and it is just another example of patriarchial bullshit. It is not that I do not think we need each other, we do. People need people in order to survive, but I do not believe that there is one group of people who needs to care for womyn more than another. There are all kinds of communities of people who care for each other. What I take the most offense is it is the language of domination. It is not men who need to take care of womyn, but rather it is people that need to take care of people. I am not interested in someone solely taking care of me, but in being in a relationship where people take care of each other. I am interested in reciprocity

CTV News: Counsellors cite Afghan war for military domestic abuse [trigger warning for descriptions of violence]

“Our anecdotal evidence is that there is an increase in the amount of domestic violence, and in the amount of children who are seeing violence in the home.”

Many military members are now shouldering the residual stress of two, three or four tours in Afghanistan or more, Lubimiv said.

“When a soldier returns home, many have talked about feeling like strangers, not knowing where they fit. And it takes time to close that particular gap. And if there are, on top of that, mental health issues — or if there is already an issue of conflict or discontent in the couple’s relationship — then all of that gets magnified by the new experiences that they each have faced.”

Most troops will work through their issues on their own and gradually reintegrate, Lubimiv said. “But many don’t respond in that way, need additional help or haven’t been identified.”

Wisconsin State Journal: Vets cheer change on PTSD claim

The rule change will have its greatest effect on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans because so many non-combat personnel encounter roadside bombs, and because there are few places not in danger of mortar attacks or suicide bombs.

Even Wisconsin National Guard troops performing administrative jobs in Baghdad’s Green Zone were within range of mortar rounds that insurgents occasionally lobbed in blindly, said Bob Evans, the state Guard’s director of psychological health.

Most of the 3,200 members of the state Guard who had duties as prison guards or support personnel in Iraq last year underwent stress that could lead to PTSD, Evans said.

“I’ve seen people who weren’t even close to the battlefield who came down with PTSD and anxiety disorders,” Evans said.

Anishinaabekwe: We Are a Generation of Healers

We are a generation of healers because we can choose to turn the intergenerational trauma to intergenerational healing. We can start with ourselves and our families. I have been really blessed to have a family that is open and committed to healing. I know many people who have had to completely cut themselves off from their family and do healing on their own. In my healing work I have been able to reflect the inner work I have done on my family. In turn, each individual in my family can reflect the healing that they have done onto each other. I have worked in the Native community and will continue to do so. I can reflect and send the healing I have experienced in myself and in my family into the community. Healing happens in a circle.

Deeply Problematic: Wendy Garland dies after abuse and neglect from family

The death of Wendy Garland is horrific. Her abuse went unnoticed, unchecked because of ableism: societal devaluation of people with disabilities and misplaced trust in abled family members. Garland’s death is a direct result of abuse on the part of her caregivers, the people in her life that some want to canonize and position as her selfless saviors. Parents, partners, siblings and other folks taking care of persons with disabilities can be wonderful, but they are not necessarily helpful: they can hinder, they can neglect, they can abuse, they can hurt, they can kill.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended reading for June 8, 2010

Becky CK at Happy Bodies: Why do we apologize for our bodies?

Why do feel the need to apologize for our bodies’ needs and justify the choices we make about them? As I continue to incorporate body positivity into my life, I still find myself listing off what I ate all day to justify why I’m hungry now, or explaining, in detail, what made me so tired that  I need a nap.

IrrationalPoint at Modus dopens: The “what-it-is-like-ness”

Sometimes people, usually neurotypical people with no sensory impairments, don’t use these, almost invariably because it looks ok to them. They can read it, so they don’t understand that other people won’t be able to.

Cara at The Curvature: Rape Victims Tell of Mistreatment by the NYPD [Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault]

And while all of the details of these women’s identities are not disclosed (and thus any or all of the following issues may have in fact applied to their stories), the accounts do not even begin to explicitly discuss the brutal and specific challenges faced by victims who are of color, trans*, disabled, poor, queer, and/or sex workers, due to the prejudicial hierarchies regarding who are “real” victims of sexual assault.

staticnonsense at I Am Not: “Exceptionally Creative”

Someone I know recently made the claim that Schizophrenia and “exceptional creativity” are “practically the same”.

This stems from a very common misconception that I see, regarding the understanding of Schizophrenia and other schizotypal spectrum disorders (Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Paraoid Personality Disorder and in some cases Schizoaffective Disorder). Specifically, stemming from ignoring the negative effects it can have on ones life in favor of the positive, in order to try to paint the spectrum as nothing but shiny rainbows and glitter.

thingsimreading on Tumblr: i remain forever confused…

i remain forever confused by people who are condescending, derailing and offensive but think because they said it all in a “nice way” that the fault lies with the person who points out what was hurtful in what they said/wrote.

Adrienne Dellwo at About.com’s Guide to Fibromyalgia and CFS: New Diagnostic Criteria For Fibromyalgia

Until we have a diagnostic test that’s based on blood markers or imaging, we probably won’t have a perfect diagnostic test.  (This is true of many diseases, especially neurological ones.)  Still, researchers believe they’ve come up with something that works better — they say when the looked at a group of previously diagnosed fibromyalgia patients, the tender-point exam was about 75% accurate, while their criteria caught it 88% of the time.

Recommended Reading for June 1, 2010

fiction_theory (LJ): The internet IS real life

The problem with impeaching someone’s anti-racism based on attendance at a specific march or even public rallies and protests in general is that it assumes that a) attending such events is a more real, valid, and important means of expressing anti-racism than any other means, specifically online and b) that attendance is a feasible option for everyone.

Marching at a rally or attending a protest is all well and good, but it’s not something that is an option for everyone. It’s quite ablist to ask such a question as though the privilege of being able to attend excludes the antiracist work of those who use other venues.

Mattilda at Nobody Passes: Closer

Somewhere between sleep and awake, a new day and last night and tomorrow, like they’re all in a circle around me but I’m somewhere in bed where I can almost read the sentences except they blur away from me, and I keep thinking maybe sleep, maybe this is more sleep except I don’t know if I want more sleep.

thefourthvine (DW): [Meta]: The Audience

I will not bring up my disability, because I don’t talk about it here, except to say that if that part of me appears in a story, it will be as either a clever gimmick (and a chance for a main character to grow as a person) or a sob story (and a chance for a main character to grow as a person). (No, there will never be a main character just like me. Most of the time I think that’s normal, and then I look at, say, SF and think standard-issue straight white guys must have a whole different experience on this issue. How weird would it be, to have basically all mainstream media written for you like that?)

Ian Sample (at The Guardian online): Bone marrow transplants cure mental illness — in mice

The team, led by a Nobel prizewinning geneticist, found that experimental transplants in mice cured them of a disorder in which they groom themselves so excessively they develop bare patches of skin. The condition is similar to a disorder in which people pull their hair out, called trichotillomania.

lustwithwings at sexgenderbody: Do I Owe Everything I am to The Internet?

Despite their lack of a body, my friends are still quite active in the world of Social Networking which acts on the physical world in much the same way things on our mind do. The contents of the Internet affect the physical world through many of the same processes as the contents of a mind, yet the contents of the Internet as a public mind can affect many more minds, and many more bodies than a private mind.

How Many Straws?

A blue and white lane-marking buoy in a swimming pool.I know that I am not 18 any more.

One of my doctors kindly pointed that out to me recently.

What I mean is that I can no longer demand of my body what I once did. And I know this, as I embrace the things that come with years gone by. Aging is a complicated issue for me, emotionally charged and not something I am willing to discuss right now, but it is important to note that this post is not about aging. It is, however, about the way my body has worn down due to my disability.

When I was 18 I drilled endlessly on the U.S. style football fields, with the careful precision that four years of training an 8-to-5 step — that being my ability to march exactly eight steps in five yards to whatever beat you set for me — will ingrain into a person. I was able (and expected) to teach others under me to do the same all while playing the horn. To this day I can not hear most music without at least tapping my foot. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “Karn Evil 9” will actually cause me to hum along wistfully. Later I did the same at University. Anyone who participated in University Marching Band at Eastern Michigan University can tell you that marching band was not something you just did, but rather worded at, and I worked hard. Hauling that tuba around during pregame was no easy feat. There was a reason music majors received PE credit for marching band.

Before I was diagnosed I was a runner. When I was 18 I had pounded out miles on the track and on mapped out road routes in order to get into the condition I needed to race for years. I was able to sprint out the eleven or thirteen steps, whichever felt right, to take me to the high jump pit and sail over the bar. I wasn’t amazing, but I had determination to demand it from myself. I ran in high school, and I hated it. I loathed it. I had clever names for the malevolent task-masters whom I called Coaches that I went to voluntarily every day after school and asked for work out schedules and whose hands I shook afterwards.

I ran before, during and after my pregnancy (when I wasn’t throwing up), cussing myself out the whole time. I ran in Navy boot camp, filling myself with the urge and the desire to do well. I hated every moment, but loved the feeling of feet on pavement even as my shins cried out in pain. I filled myself with the desire to go one step further, two, one mile, two, as I shoved tears out of me to replace the pain that filled my body (and I usually peed my pants a little at some point, but that is another story).

Eventually the shin pain became a lot worse. It was massive, and no amount of ice or ibuprofin was going to alleviate it. A bone scan later and some Tolkein-esque blathering you don’t care about and I am told I can never run again. Sure, the Navy loved that. I couldn’t get a chit to back it up w/o getting kicked out earlier than I already did, so I had to go back every 45 days or so to get a new one, and I had to be very sure it was a nice sailor-doctor who signed it, because the Fitness Enhancement people were not going to take anything signed by anyone who was a civilian or any other branch of the military regardless of what degrees they had on the wall. So, running was right out, and they weren’t making it easy for me to, well, take care of me.

I became a swimmer, and I was fantastic at it. I probably knew this deep down, having been a natural swimmer since before I could walk. Had anyone told me that I could swim as an option to running in the Navy sooner I would have. I swam thousands of meters a day, until I was exhausted (trying not to notice that my body was telling me this was sooner and sooner each day). I would do kick turns through migraines that were getting more and more fierce despite the amount of over-the-counter meds I was pounding. Go figure. My Fitness Test scores went from Good/Low to Excellent/High.

Until my abdominal muscles gave out.

I finally pulled something doing sit-ups. I went from doing in the high 60’s to barely being able to do the 35 that was required to pass for my age group pretty much overnight. I would get to 15 and the pain would make me yell out it was so sharp. I could almost clock it, too. Of course sit-ups were always first, and this made push-ups impossible. I couldn’t even do the simple 15 I needed to pass. My doctor felt around, and determined that core exercises were out for fitness tests. I was to do them only at my own pace or with a doctor in physical therapy.

Finally the headaches were bad enough that it was too much and my swimming was scaled back. My exercise was restricted so much that I was barely allowed to do 30 minutes a day. I was still not receiving any pain medication other than anti-depressants, which were not working for me. I started seeing a chiropractor, and doing yoga, which I was told was not a “real” workout, but would count for my weekly number of workouts anyway. Even then I couldn’t do a full class because I was in too much pain.

Still, as I gained weight, cornered in by pain and now stuck in a body that wasn’t allowed to move anymore, my new doctors (because they were always changing) said that I just needed to lose weight, if only I would watch my diet and include more exercise into my daily routine, which by now was only limited to half days of work due to pain and 15 minutes of exercise by my chiropractor and PCM, and Hey! How about seeing a dietician?

After my discharge, when my second career choice was unceremoniously ended with me handing over my ID card, I finally settled into a place where I stopped hating my body so much (OK, you got me, I’m still working on it). I am finally on a pain management regimen, I do light exercise as the pain permits, and my body is stable at a weight that hasn’t fluxed one way or the other for a few years now. I had to give some things up (drinking alcohol any more than a few sips being the one that comes to mind mostly) because of those medications. But all of this aside, I have tried to take care of myself. I have followed what doctors have told me to do, I didn’t smoke, I tried to eat right, I wore sunscreen…I even eat very little meat, having been an on again/off again vegetarian. I know that these are not hard and fast actual things that guarantee health, they are just things that I have always followed because some doctor or dietician or another has advised me blah blibitty blah… What I mean is that I have very few of what people generally consider vices.

Recently I had some issues where I have been vomiting in my mouth, acid reflux, heart burn, all kinds of fun stuff. They gave me a nice, handy laundry list of things I need to give up in order to help alleviate the symptoms now that they have prodded around my duodendum with a camera.

Things like coffee, and chocolate, and anything spicy (or tomato-based in general), which are three of my favorite things. All citrus foods are right out, which I expected, but they snuck in things that surprised me, like mint and mint flavoured things, which took half of my herbal teas out as well. Finally, I find myself with no vices if I am to follow all of the doctorly advice to maintaining my health.

Let me tell you that I have not been a pleasant person to be around lately. I depend on that Super Human tolerance for things like caffeine and chocolate (sometimes at the same time!) to fuel things like my snark and ability to write 2,000+ word blogs posts. I have sustained myself on coffee and little else at times. It is often the centerpiece of friendly chats and family gatherings.

It leaves me to wonder, how many straws do we lose before we say “that’s the last one? I can’t take any more!”?

What lines do we draw when we get all of that medical advice, when things that we enjoy or that we once did have been stripped away from us one by one, to balance a quality of life for ourselves so we don’t sit around stewing about what we can or can’t do anymore, and to make sure that we do actually pay attention to the call of our bodies as they try to tell us something (if they do send us signals at all)? Where do we draw the lines between telling our bodies to piss off because we need that comfort, that thing that helps us get through the day when we feel like everything else has been taken from us?

Or am I making mountains out of molehills here?

Photo credit: ashleigh290

A Conversation With a Pharmacist

[Scene opens with a loooooooong wait in the pharmacy before my number finally “pings” on the digital number-pinging thingy, as I struggle out of my chair, and hobble up to the pharmacist’s window, and hook my cane on the window ledge for emphasis as I hand over my ID and number slip, wincing in the fluorescent lighting on the other side.]

Army Medic Pharmacist: One moment.

Me: No problem, Specialist. (I am well aware that two of my three expected prescriptions require me to wait as they are counted, twice, some other fun stuff, though I no longer have to run around to get them, and have to be signed for, so I amuse myself by reading the literature he hasn’t bothered to hand me yet.)

[AMP returns with the Civilian Pharmacist]

Civilian Pharmacist: You have taken pregabalin with topamax before?

Me: Yes.

CP: What about this antacid?

Me: No. But I assume it is the same as my previous one.

CP: Yes.

[I sign for one med. CP hands me two bottles.]

Me: There should be a third script.

CP: No, only the two.

Me: There should have been a vicodin script as well.

[CP raises her eyebrows at me]

CP: You are on pregabalin.

Me: Yes.

CP: That is a time released pain medication.

Me: Yes ma’am.

CP: You don’t need vicodin with a time released pain medication.

Me: With all due respect, ma’am, I usually have both.

CP: Well, there isn’t a script for it, and I don’t think you need it.

Me: Well, ma’am, there should have been one, and I am going to ask you to call my provider about it.

[Staring contest ensues between Me and CP. I win. CP picks up phone and asks AMP for Dr. Awesome’s number. I can hear Dr. Awesome on the other end apologizing for forgetting the script, that the computer wasn’t working right when I was in her office, which it wasn’t, and that she forgot to put it in before leaving the office, and would put it in the next day she was in.]

CP: Dr. [Awesome] apologizes for your inconvenience. You can pick up the script on Monday.

Fin.

A Saturday sketch

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)

I noticed something was wrong in the earliest hours of the morning, when my husband had disappeared from bed but I did not hear anything going on in the bathroom and could not see him anywhere.

Around 8, he got up to go to the bathroom and I lifted myself out of bed to use it after him. When he emerged, he was very clearly not well and said, in a seriously distressed tone, “I just had the most awful night” and stumbled around me back to bed.

It’s not emotional, he clarified as he curled up awkwardly on his side of the mattress, it’s just physical. He had problems feeling seriously sick to his stomach, which never culminated in anything, just churned on and on without relief, and had serious sharp pains in several places — shoulder, lower back, knees — and a generalized all-over ache that left him feeling miserable, unable to find a single comfortable (nay, just non-miserable) position no matter where he stood, sat or lay.

“This is how I imagine you feel every day,” he moaned, as he tossed his body into a different awkward position in an attempt to find some relief.

He needed the still, quiet, restful sleep so badly, but hurt too much to stay lying in place in bed for more than a few moments, and the pain was too distracting to be able to actually fall asleep — and precisely because of this, he was in no condition to be anywhere else but in bed sleeping. A familiar situation for me.

A few minutes later, already in his thirtieth position attempting to achieve some state of rest in bed, he pushed over to where I sat on my side of the bed and asked, “How do you do this every single day?”

Staring at my nightstand drawer, I smiled a bit and replied, “A lot of medicine. And you to help me.”

Meet a Contributor: Annaham

So everyone can get to know our contributors a bit better, we’ve decided to run a series called “Meet a Contributor”. Each Contributor will be interviewed by the others in turn.

Annaham

[Description: Black-and-white, low-angle photograph of a smiling white woman with shoulder-length, light brown hair. She wears a tank top with a long-sleeved print shirt over it, and a necklace that depicts Kali. Her arms are crossed.]

Greetings, FWD readers and commenters! I am Annaham; I am a feminist in my 20s with several disabilities, most notably fibromyalgia (it seems to be the one I write the most about, anyway). I have a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of California, Davis; currently, I am getting my Masters’ in the same discipline at another fairly large public university in California. My focus is feminist disability theory, and I have a particular interest in disability narratives — particularly autobiography and representations/narratives in nontraditional formats — and how they intersect with feminist theory, as well as gender, race, class and sexuality. My other interests, academic and not, include cults and New Religious Movements, the body, visual art, cinema, popular music and performance art. In my spare time, I like to listen to music, read entirely too much, draw cartoons, occasionally blog, and watch ridiculous reality television.

Meloukhia: You are frequently in San Francisco! Where is your favourite place to eat there, and why? (Further to that: Do you have a favourite overall vs, say, a favourite cheap eatery, favourite fancypants restaurant, etc.?) Since I am both a vegetarian and pretty frugal, I highly recommend Ananda Fuara, a vegetarian and vegan eatery which is near the Civic Center in the city. I don’t go there for the ambiance, of course, but the food is incredible and many of their menu items are under $10. The waitstaff will also go out of their way to check ingredients if you, like me, have severe food allergy concerns. As far as fancier places go, I quite enjoy E & O Trading Company for a full meal, and Cako Bakery for the greatest cupcakes in Northern California.

Lauredhel: Annaham, you like shiny things. Would you dress head to toe in sequins, or glitter? Please show your work. Glitter would probably flake everywhere and make a huge mess, so I’m going to have to go with sequins. Were this sequined Rodarte for Target dress offered in full-length form, I would absolutely rock it (although I might have to get one if I can find it anywhere, just on principle, because it’s SEQUINED and features a ribcage).

Chally: What’s your favourite quote or saying? This changes frequently, but right now, my favorite quote is from extremely hippie-ish author SARK: “You are enough. You have enough. You do enough.” This statement is something of which I need to remind myself regularly–even if it is rather simplistic and definitely does not apply to everything (or everyone!) at all times.

Anna: If you had to go far far away from civilization and the internets for a hundred years, what five books would you bring with you, and why? Afterwards you get to come back and find out what you missed! Holy hell on toast, what a difficult choice! I have a huge list of books that I would consider “favorites,” so I’m just going to pick five from the list: Outlaw Culture by bell hooks (because reading it makes me happy to be alive, quite frankly); Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (mostly so I could read it again and again…and again until I could understand all or most of it) ; Verses by Ani DiFranco (this collection of some of her lyrics is nothing short of exhilarating–and beautifully designed); Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (I know, it’s such a hipster/NPR liberal-cliche book to pick, but the guy really has major talent); and, finally, The Rejected Body by Susan Wendell (I cannot recommend this book highly enough — it helped me tremendously in claiming a disbled identity, and is kind of like philosophy, feminist theory and a disability manifesto all wrapped into one, with amazing results).

Thank Cthulhu that I’d get to come back from this hypothetical deserted island, because I have a feeling that after a while, I would get so bored and/or lonely that I’d start acting out meticulously-planned, one-woman versions of each episode of Lost to stave off said boredom and loneliness.

Amandaw: I want to hear more about Winston. How old is he? How did you get him? What is his favorite treat? What sort of silly doggy things does he do? Winston is 10, though he looks (and acts) like a puppy and is quite regularly mistaken for one. He was originally my family’s dog (along with our other Yorkie, Frank, who died in 2007), but after I moved into a place that allowed pets, he pretty much became my responsibility (not that I mind)! He loves cheddar cheese most of all, but will eat almost whatever you put in front of him, so long as it’s people-food. He also does many silly doggy things, but my personal favorites have to be his extremely loud snoring, and his propensity to squeeze himself next to my butt or under my feet as I sleep, or climb onto my shoulder and perch there while I’m sitting on the couch. Many of these things can be annoying if they don’t come at the right time, but I can’t stay mad at this face for long:

[Description: The photograph is of a small, large-eared Yorkshire Terrier’s face and upper body in front of a couch; the dog has the traditional Yorkie coloration of varying shades of blond and light silver/grey.]

Kaninchenzero: What-all are you studying and what about it interests you? As I mentioned in my introduction, I am currently pursuing my MA in Women’s and Gender Studies, with a focus on feminist disability theory. There are many, many things about the topic and the field at large that interest me, but most of all, I am interested in it because it has helped me make sense of a lot of things about my life, and I believe — like bell hooks — that social justice and theory, if made accessible and relevant to a wide variety of people, can be life-changing.

OuyangDan: You may answer in poem, prose, photo, interpretive dance or any other medium that you feel appropros: How did you get into cartooning? Is it a creative outlet for you? Just something you goofed around with one day and enjoyed? Hilariously enough, I was going to draw a cartoon in order to answer this question, but since I’ve already got multiple images in this post, I ultimately decided against it. It is a creative outlet for me; mostly, I use it to gather my thoughts and represent my everyday experiences in what is hopefully a funny and/or interesting manner. I’ve been cartooning on-and-off since around age 10, and it’s been an excellent medium to stick with, since one may not have to practice it every single day in order to say what one wants to say (unlike, say, life drawing, which is a type of drawing that I have always been spectacularly terrible at doing). This is not to say that I am against self-improvement or self-discipline when it comes to art — quite the opposite! — but since I have chronic pain that tends to flare up, it is nice to have a creative pursuit that is somewhat “forgiving” in terms of how much time and energy I can put into it without exhausting myself. Sometimes, I wish I could devote more time to drawing “realistically,” but life happens, and I already have so much that I want to put into my cartoons that I would never get any done, were I to devote untold hours to learning to draw “well” or “realistically.”

Inertia

Asking for help is something I have never been good at. It’s rather like standing in front of a car hurdling toward you, intending to push it in the opposite direction. It requires an enormous amount of resistance. And I’m almost certain to come away with some sort of injury.

Lying in bed the other night, I had a realization. I seem to have two modes of being: at rest, sitting or leaning or lying in one place, unmoving, still; or in motion, pushing, moving, rushing, doing, working, over-working. And it is very, very difficult for me to move from one state to another. It is not as easy as just get up and go or sit down and stop. It would be expected, with my disabilities, that I would have trouble getting up from a state of rest to start doing, but wouldn’t you think it would be easy to just stop myself from doing and rest?

But it’s not. I find it very, very difficult to stop moving, working, doing when I am already doing it. Very difficult. In fact, I actually have to work at stopping working. It’s like once the do switch is on in my brain, turning it off is about as easy as pushing that hurdling car. I get to a point where I don’t even notice that I am doing; my consciousness turns off and I am pushing forward on autopilot, working from habit, memorized routines, just going and going — and my awareness has been switched off, perhaps as a way to avoid feeling the pain?, but that means I don’t know when it’s time to stop. I don’t know when I’ve reached the critical point, when I’ve done too much, when I cannot do any more — often, I don’t know until my body just stops doing and I am confused inside it, trying to make it move and being denied, and it takes time for my consciousness to boot back up, to kick on and make me realize oh — I need to stop.

It has come to a point where I’ve learned that I need to stop before it feels like I need to stop, because my body and brain simply do not have the ability to sound the alarm for me. Even when my body can’t keep going anymore, no matter how much I push it, it still doesn’t feel like I can’t keep going anymore.

So I’ve been teaching myself, over the years, to force an override at a certain point — not based on what I’m feeling at the moment, but based on predetermined amounts of time/work that I believe is what I can handle on the balance. It’s hard, because I’m so stuck in that inertia of doing that I often don’t even remember to keep track of the amount of time/work that has passed, so I might forget for some time after I’ve reached that point, and then try to abort belatedly.

Either way, even when I’m “being good” and recognizing when that predetermined point has come, the act of overriding my natural inertia — my natural tendency to keep moving — is not as easy as flipping a switch. I actually have to go through a process of convincing myself that yes, it is time to stop, and yes, I really should stop, no, I should not keep going, and yes, it is okay to stop, really, it’s okay, and yes, I need it — and so on (and on, and on, and on). And then even if I am convinced, I have to try to push in the opposite direction of my body pushing to go and do. And pushing your body to stop pushing is about as technically-impossible as it sounds.

Now, convincing myself just that I should stop doing is a difficult enough thing to do. But add in a sense of pride… and a sense of guilt… and suddenly convincing myself that I should do (or stop doing) something doesn’t seem like such a hard thing in comparison.

***

I am one of two clerks working on our program at my office. Last week, for three days, my partner clerk was not there — it was just me running the show. And I happen to think that I am knowledgeable and capable enough to do a pretty good job of it. The problem is that we are severely short-staffed — the two of us in our corner of the building are already balancing a workload that should require four or five clerks. So when one of the two is gone, well, things move from chaos to crisis, so to speak.

I have an amazing supervisor. I absolutely adore her. And she was keeping an eye out for me. She kept coming back and asking if there was anything she could help with.

And for that first day, I kept saying no. And I thought it was legitimate! One of the main assignments is something she is not supposed to do at all, and another couple are things that I just thought would be more complicated to have someone else do than to do myself. So I said no.

And then my husband poked a little bit of fun at me — he works at the same office — saying that my supervisor had been talking with him (casually) and mentioned that she kept trying to offer help, and I kept refusing. And they shared a laugh, and he said yeah, that sounds like her. She’s not very good about asking for help when she needs it.

And I needed it. I just couldn’t convince myself inside that I needed it, that it would help, that it would be OK to ask, and so forth. I was already so overwhelmed and using so much energy, and I watched that car hurtling toward me and knew I did not have the strength required to push it the other way. Not on top of everything else I was doing. I did not have the capacity to make myself ask.

Because I’m not supposed to ask for help. That means admitting I can’t do my job. It means admitting my disability does make me less capable than other people. It means admitting my disability does exist and does affect me. And I’m not supposed to ask for help, because other people can’t spend their time and energy doing something for my sake. It’s not fair to them. I don’t deserve that, to have anyone other than me devote a single second to me. Other people would deserve that, but I am not deserving. If I ask for help, I am telling that person “I am worthless. Useless. I can’t do anything right.”

Asking for help means sending the message to the people around me that I am actually not as good a worker (as good a person) as I keep insisting to them that I am. That actually, I am inept and incapable. That I can’t do anything right, that I do mess things up.

Asking for help is asking for special treatment. Asking for help is asking other people to pretend like I deserve the same consideration as everyone else, and deserve to be considered just as capable as everyone else, while also demanding that they treat me differently, do special things for me that no one else gets to have done. Everyone else has to stand on their own, and here I am demanding that all these people prop me up and say that it’s just the same as that person over there standing on their own.

Every single time I need help, I have to fight these thoughts. Even if I don’t actually think them consciously. Every single time I need help I have to take time and energy to refute all of these thoughts to myself. I have to take time and energy to prove all those thoughts wrong. And that takes quite a lot of energy.

So I don’t ask. Even when I need it. Even when I know I need it. And even when I know, intellectually, consciously, that it is OK to ask for help, and that I should ask for help. I still don’t ask.

Because by the time I’m needing help, I’m already at my limits. I certainly don’t have any energy left to deal with that hurtling car.

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)

http://amandaw.tumblr.com/post/273729603/snow-is-predicted-for-the-valley-floor-here-in

How to Be a Good Doctor

Update: It was pointed out, correctly, that part of this post contained a statement that made a generalization based on age. That statement has been removed and the post updated with this message. It’s not feminist, and it doesn’t belong here. I’m sorry.

I actually had a really good experience with a physician recently. Like outstanding. With a specialist even — an endocrinologist, so if anyone in the northeast Texas general area needs one, I can recommend him without hesitation. I was kind of nervous; I’d seen an endo before when I was starting my transition but stopped because he was a really huge jerk. (My GP wasn’t entirely comfortable with writing scripts for hormone replacement but has been willing to for a while now. She’s also recommended and trans- and queer-friendly.)

Accessibility was poor to okay: I could have done with a chair by the reception window while waiting for them to copy my ID and insurance card. To get from the curb cut by the reseved parking to the front door, one has to go down the sidewalk across the front of the patio to where the ramp up the patio is. At least three cars were parked so that their noses stuck out over the sidewalk. If you couldn’t squish down to 18″/46cm wide, you couldn’t get through there. The doors were all unpowered and the front doors were on the heavy side. I didn’t see Braille signs at all. There was, blessedly, no music and no TV in the waiting rooms. The exam room was freezing; fortunately for me I’m tall and the ceiling was low and I was able to close the air conditioning vent but that’s not a widely available option. There were wide spaces around the furniture in the waiting room that looked like they’d easily accommodate wheels and other assistive devices. Some of the furniture was squishy but some wasn’t and the non-squishy furniture had arms to push up with.

They got to me right about when my scheduled appointment was. They weighed me, measured my height — 202lbs/91.5kg and 5’11 3/4″ (yes, they really measured me to the quarter inch ((sheesh)) and yeah I’m that tall — people comment constantly on how nice it must be which it kind of is except when I’m trying to buy clothes: for all that they love models my height designers apparently don’t believe women don’t come my size and shop at Target)/182cm — with my boots off, and they did bring me a chair for getting them on and off without my having to ask for one.

We waited in the exam room less than ten minutes. Maybe five. The office had mailed me a new patient packet with all the usual stuff to fill out (and the usual uninclusiveness of gender- and sex-variant people on the form, sigh *tick* F). The doctor apparently had spent the five minutes reading and absorbing it because he came in and introduced himself and greeted the wife and me as Mrs. and Mrs. Brown. It felt really good because NO ONE DOES THIS even the people who know we are legally married. Holy shit. The wife explained that I had an autism spectrum disorder and was not having a good day communication-wise. Also that even though I was not talking much today I was plenty smart (which is a construction I’m unfond of) and could understand doctor jargon (this I’m fine with — it’s a skill, not a definition of a person). He told us that on Mondays he had a resident following him around and would we mind if he joined us for the exam?

I’ve had doctors ask this badly before. Often it’s with said resident already present so refusal is an explicit personal rejection and difficult for even a lot of neurotypical folks, never mind those of us with moderate to severe social anxieties. This doctor asked it with the resident on the other side of a closed door. It really actually felt like I could have said no and it would have been okay.

He liked that I had typed up a list of all my surgeries and meds, the dosages, the schedules for taking them, and what they’re for — it’s a long list, twelve prescription meds total — and expressed sympathy that I needed them all. Even though my wife was helping me communicate, he mostly spoke with and to me. Once when he was looking at his notes he missed that I was nodding in response to his question and he apologized for not watching to see my response. When he was working out what labs to order, he noticed what insurance we had and apologized that we couldn’t use the lab in his office but would have to go to the one (not far away) that our insurance company had a contract with or we’d have to pay for the lab work. A DOCTOR. I’ve never run into one that noticed this stuff before, never mind knew what to do with our insurance company.

In short he seemed to be respectful of all the ways I was different: physically impaired, neurologically variant, queer, trans, everything. And genuinely respectful, too, not in that fake-ass “I don’t see the ways people are different from me” bullshit. [Age-based generalization removed by the author.] It was a really nice part of what’s been a string of mostly crappy days.

I’d really rather not have anything endocrinologically jacked up (and given the pattern of other Stuff that has been tested for, I’m not expecting that anything will be very wrong here either). But if I have to have something like that, I’m glad I know who to go to. ‘cos expertise is one thing. Respect like this — on the first time seeing me, on one of my bad days? — is rare. I wish I could drag all the bad doctors I’ve been to and gritted my teeth through seeing to make them watch this young man do brilliantly with a patient who is admittedly not exactly the most conformative person ever and yell “See? This is how you do it! This is how you make all your patients feel like you care about them.”

Cross-posted at Impermanent Records.

Disability Is …?

(Originally posted July 2009 at Feministe, three rivers fog.)

We had a really good discussion about nondisability. It got derailed, a bit, because it depended on our ability to reasonably define disability. And it’s a subject that has come up in every discussion we’ve had these couple weeks. What is it?

I advocate an intentionally overbroad definition of disability. And I definitely see a tendency, with certain medical conditions, not to identify — on that inner level, what “feels right” — as disabled.

I support every person’s right to self-determination, to define their own experiences, and to identify however feels most right for them. I do not want to try to pressure people into identifying in a way they do not feel comfortable. But I do think that part of this tendency, this reticence, is rooted in a sort of ableism. Not ableism as in “internalized negative feelings about PWD” — but ableism as in “a certain understanding of how the world works and how society is/should be structured” … or, you might say, a certain model.

I want to explore a few things — explore our assumptions behind the word “disabled.”

1.

Think, for a minute: visualize a disabled person. Just a generic idea of a disabled person. What would you say are the requirements to qualify as disabled?

Do you have to be disabled — in a dictionary definition sort of way? Disabled, unable, incapable? Unable to work, or unable to participate in social activities, or unable to take care of oneself? Is there a certain level of un-able-ness one must reach to qualify as disabled?

If so, what do you call the people who don’t reach that level — but who share many, if not all of the exact same problems with accessibility in society, who face the same obstacles in their path, the same ignorance and hostility? The people who have the same condition, but face different accessibility problems because they are trying to navigate the workplace, living independently — who are able to do these things — but who still have to fight with the outside world to be able to live their life how they want to?

Are these people disabled? No? Are they abled, then? Are they privileged over the people who meet that level of un-able-ness?

Am I “temporarily able-bodied” because I can push myself enough to work full-time?
Because I can walk? Drive? Prepare meals? Go to sports events and concerts?
What about the fact that I still have to fight with my doctors over medication? That I still have to approach HR at work to tell them about everything I need to be able to work there?
What about the fact that without the drugs I am taking and my TENS machine and my access to health care and workplace accommodations and accessible parking, all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to do those things anymore?

Is my disability about my inner feelings when I get home and slouch in pain — is it about what is going on in my body? Because I still have pain, whether I am well-treated and working or untreated and housebound. I still have fatigue. I still struggle when I stand up from a sitting position, still need help getting out of the car if I haven’t taken at least a few painkillers already that day. All that stuff is still there.

Or is it that my disability something beyond me — not having to do with me at all? Not defined by what is going on inside my body, but defined by whether society is working with my body or working against it?

2.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. A lot of us people who do fit the classic dictionary definition of “disabled”don’t feel “disabled” either. We don’t always feel un-able. We feel like “just people.” Normal people living a normal life, just happen to have some sort of neurological or physiological difference, but that isn’t our defining characteristic or something that is always forefront in our minds, it’s just one part of us that doesn’t always make that big a difference in our life at all.

3.

Remember, briefly, the social and medical models of disability.

Under the medical model, a person must justify their claim to disability. A person must fit neatly into a narrow diagnosis with a Latin-based name. The person must be cleanly categorized. Their experiences must fit a prepared check list.

The medical model says that your body fails to be normal in this particular way: so we must devise a way to force it to be normal, and that will solve the problem.

Naturally, such an approach to disability will wind up excluding a good many people who don’t fit those boxes cleanly, who appear close to normal — and that just can’t be right; there must be a logical explanation, like that they are over-worrying, imagining things, that they like being sick and want the world to treat them with kid gloves. After all, there is no proof that they deviate from the normal — so they have failed to justify themselves as different.

The medical model, in this way, denies community and services to people who still face considerable obstacles to full participation in society because they have failed to prove that they deserve that “special treatment.” They have failed to prove themselves as disabled enough. They aren’t “other” enough to be Othered.

The medical model imposes strict and narrow definitions — which become boundaries which must be policed.

What do you do when you’re caught in the middle? Different, but not different enough to be Othered, but still needing services (benefits, accommodations) which are only given to Others.

4.

Informed by the social model, “disability” becomes a marker not for condition (mental or physical) — not for “what I feel inside, what I experience inside” — but instead for the fact that our condition is maligned or neglected (or both) by the rest of society.

Disability is not a matter of my condition, but a matter of the group I am assigned because of that condition.

Perhaps it could be said as such: Disability is not a condition, it is a status.

5.

The classic analogy to explain the social model is this:

Many sighted people have less-than-perfect sight. If assistive devices — glasses or contact lenses — were not so widely available and accessible, many of these people would be prevented from full participation in many aspects of society.

But because society sees fit to prioritize this assistance, to make sure glasses/contacts are widely available and accessible so that every less-than-perfect sighted person can have clearer vision — because society decided that no person should be blocked from access because of hir different vision — this condition is no longer a disability.

This is a useful thought experiment. But it is not a perfect analogy. Many blind people still face considerable access blocks. This only really applies to people who are sighted, but whose sight is not precisely “normal.” Perhaps because society can, for the most part, bring abnormally-sighted people to normal-sightedness, whereas it cannot do the same to blind folk.

There’s a lot to explore here.

6.

The word disability isn’t perfect. I don’t know that I would choose it, were we to start over with a blank slate. Nor do I know that most people who are active in the disability community would choose it.

What I do know is this: people who don’t feel, literal-dictionary-definition disabled, embrace the word and run with it. They can make it something all their own.

Queer is a less-than-perfect word when you consider its literal definition, too. Yet the queer community has decided that they’re gonna take this thing and make it into what they want it to be. And they’re making something pretty damn awesome.

I don’t feel dis-abled. I feel people-are-willfully-ignorant and access-to-good-care-is-restricted-in-unnecessary-ways and the-medical-industry-has-no-respect-for-me. Among other things.

And I’m sure other disabled folk feel why-isn’t-there-a-wheelchair-ramp-for-this-public-use-building and nobody-has-to-accommodate-my-needs-until-they-get-sued-why-don’t-we-have-an-oversight-board-that-makes-them-do-it-right-from-the-fucking-start and you-aren’t-providing-alternatives-so-I-can-access-your-lecture-even-though-I-can’t-[hear-what-you-speak/see-what-you-write/be-there-in-person-at-all]. Among other things.

People who identify as disabled (or are identified as such by society) don’t necessarily always think the dictionary definition of the word applies to them. There are disabled people in wheelchairs or braces who still work, still have families, still go to parties. There are disabled people who appear totally abled yet can’t work, can’t perform certain self-care, and so on.

The word “disability,” in the disability movement right now, already refers to a great variety of individual conditions, abilities, approaches…

And for the most part, when a person appears whose condition challenges the current boundaries of abled/disabled, the disability community is completely ready to revise their assumptions and welcome that person (and hir companions) into the movement.

Because, here’s the thing…

7.

The disability movement has a lot to offer to a lot of different people — not all of those people who may identify as disabled.

And this is part of why I do not want to pressure people to change their identification. They don’t have to identify as a disabled person, or a person with a disability, to still become a part of the disability movement, to benefit from it, to help move it forward.

What I am wanting to do is not change people’s minds about how they individually self-identify. What I want to do is explore the cultural phenomenon that is certain groups rejecting the label of disability.

Anyway: the disability movement is working hard to change the way we approach the world. From an approach that excludes non-normal people to an approach that stops INcluding by certain standards and starts just treating all persons as fundamentally human, period.

Under the current system, when a woman becomes pregnant and plans to keep the child, we expect the child to be free of disability. What’s that refrain from the supposedly-gender-enlightened? “I don’t care whether it’s a girl or a boy, as long as the baby comes out healthy!

When we encounter a person, we expect that person to be abled. When we imagine a “person” — just a generic, default person — we imagine that person as able-normative.

Currently, things go like this: 1. World expects “normal.” 2. Non-normal people come along. 3. Oops!

What disabled people want is more like this: 1. World is prepared for any number of different things. 2. We come along. 3. Hey, we were expecting you!

This approach is what defines the disability movement. We want to change the world so that the world stops treating us as unexpected — and therefore a disappointment — and therefore has not prepared for us — and therefore we have to constantly fight with the world to make it change every little individual thing it has set up wrong.

This approach, applied broadly, has benefits for so many more people than only the classically, dictionary-definition disabled.

This is the world I want to live in (bold emphasis added)…

My body isn’t the enemy, I realized.

It’s not my physical self that creates all my problems.

It’s all the external expectations of it.

Disability isn’t the result of individual defects, deviations from the able-bodied norm. Disability is the result of a society that fails to accommodate these differences.

What if we saw these differences as variation, not deviation? After all, we fully expect our children to be born with any number of different eye colors. Why is it any less when it comes to physical and mental abilities?

Can you shape a world in your mind where there is no norm? What does it look like? How does it differ from the world you live in today? What do you expect of people as a whole in order to support those currently disadvantaged?

The more I think, the more confused I become. It seems impossible to structure society so that everyone is brought to a similar level of ability across the board. But it does seem possible to structure society so that those fully-abled work to make up for those straightforwardly lacking, and everyone works with each other in full expectation of a wide range of ability across the populace, and all of this is seen not as hassling and burdensome, noble and heroic when someone takes it on—but as mundane, everyday, simply expected, no different from separating out your recyclables or driving on the right side of the road: something that everybody does, because it isn’t that hard to do, and it benefits yourself as well as those around you, so it’s stupid and even outright reprehensible not to.

That is the world I want to live in.

[Reading back, I cringe at the use of the words “straightforwardly lacking.” Proof that we are all still learning, still building.]

What if things did happen that way? What if we just rushed to give, knowing that those around us would rush to give back?

and in this POV, the centering of individualism falls apart — because that’s not what life is about. life is give and take, push and pull, you do this for me (that i don’t do well/don’t like to do, but that i want/need) and i’ll do this for you (that i do well/like to do, and you want/need).

disability, really, when you get down to it, is the ultimate unraveling of that ball of individualism — it FORCES you to look at all these little things that go into the living of a life, and realize that not all of them are yours to do or yours to control — and also to realize how many of those little things YOU affect for OTHER people’s lives — and to finally give up, and fall back into the arms of the community.

it means you have to stop looking at things as “mine, yours, this person’s, that person’s” etc. you have to stop keeping the damn tally — and just rush to give, knowing that those around you will rush to give back…

so many people are afraid to admit that ultimately, they DO depend on the people around them, and their accomplishments are not solely their own, and the things they do, affect people besides themselves. but it’s all true! and it’s not a bad thing, if you look at it the right way.

This is everything we are trying to change.

And when we are successful: it will be good for so many people. It will benefit a great many, people who might not consider themselves part of this movement, but who will see their life become substantially easier or better, because this movement has destroyed the system that puts obstacles in their path.

8.

There is a lot people can learn from the disability movement — even if they don’t consider themselves a part of it.

This is why I, and others, explicitly tie our disability activism to our feminism. Believe it or not, there are things that non-disabled feminists can learn from disabled ones about how to refine, how to better our (not their, OUR) feminist movement.

There are things the disability movement is accomplishing that the feminist movement has fallen short on. Things that disability activists are paying attention to that feminists have forgotten.

And it makes a difference in women’s lives.

9.

There are substantial immediate benefits to individuals, as well. Many of you who do not feel “disabled” nonetheless benefit directly from the Americans with Disabilities act and other non-discrimination legislation. And that’s only in the realm of the state (legal sense).

Consider the pharmaceutical industry. The alternative medicine industry. Consider protections on health insurance that prevent companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions or prevent them from denying certain treatments.

These are all things the disability movement has had part in. Often, the disability movement has been the sole force pushing for these things — when other movements fall short, and forget us.

And there is, therefore, substantial benefit to involving oneself in the disability movement. Because it is working for you. So it will do good for you and for us if you directly engage with it — help it refine its purpose — help direct its actions — help challenge preconceptions.

If you will stand with us, if you will be — a friend, or a family member — whatever role you feel comfortable taking, we will stand, sit, lean or lie beside you. We will be there with you, however you identify.

We want more people to engage with us — on an honest, good-faith level.

Some of those people will find themselves beginning to identify as a part of this movement, as a person with a disability. Some people will not, but will remain our friend, our ally.

No matter which: we are happy to have you.

***

ETA: I really should have included a link to this post from Joel at NTs Are Weird — from the perspective of the autistic community. I ain’t the only one beating this drum! I remember reading this post a long while back, and it has informed my politics a great deal. And I think it is necessary reading for anyone engaging with the disability movement. And he does a great job wrapping up the many elements of this post! 😉 Take it away (bold emphasis mine):

Welcome to the disability community! […]

Yes, that’s right, you’re DISABLED. Yep, you can pick that word apart and tell me why you aren’t, but, trust me, you are. And, no, I don’t mean that you are less or more functional than anyone else. I mean that you are part of a community defined by society’s institutions and programs, a community formed because of our minority status and the fact that society expects certain strengths and weaknesses, and anyone who doesn’t have that same pattern of strengths and weaknesses is going to have trouble in this society.

Yep, that’s the social model. It’s not the “OH MY GOD, I AM SO BROKEN AND LIFE SUCKS AND I WANT TO BE NORMAL BECAUSE EVERYTHING WOULD BE WONDERFUL AND I WOULD HAVE LOTS OF MONEY AND A GIRLFRIEND AND A NICE CAR” view of disability. But it is recognition that we have trouble in society as it is currently set up. You’ll also notice that it is not a view that accepts society as a static, unchangeable, and morally good entity, but rather as an institution that can and should change – even when people have a hard time seeing how it could.

In addition to this, I want you to know that there is “nothing new under the sun.” You don’t need to reinvent disability theory […]

One example – although the victory isn’t yet fully realized – find out why there public transit has to at least make *some* effort at accommodation in the US. Yep, I know it still sucks, and there are tons of problems – I’m not saying anything different. But I can assure you of this: Without good advocacy, there wouldn’t be a wheelchair lift on any bus except one owned by a nursing home – and even that one might not have one.

Find out why people with cerebral palsy can go to US schools today, even if their natural speech is hard to understand, thanks to assistive technology and good law. Sure, schools, technology, and law aren’t good enough yet, but they are way better than they were 40 years ago. Why?

Better yet, learn how you can make a bus in your city more accessible both to yourself and to someone with a different kind of disability. Learn about your schools and what can be done to help others with disability. Not just autistic people, but people with all types of disabilities. Do you know what you will find if you do this? You’ll find out quickly that it also helps you, even if that wasn’t the goal of the movement.

For those of you who are already doing these things – thanks! It’s good for us to stop reinventing the wheel once in a while.