So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

01 October, 2009

The Invisible Woman

A few weeks back, I think it was, now, there were a number of people blogging about invisible disabilities and the sorts of effects they have. And I considered rattling around and doing the questionnaire, a bit, but decided against it for a variety of reasons.

I did want to highlight Erynn Laurie's post about things people say, though.

One of the things about these ... things (okay, must stop being word-clever or I'll sound like gibberish to myself) is the way so many of them wind up wedging themselves into the mind. Invisible disability can become even invisible to the person who has it.

And there's an entire fucking industry of cultural crap designed to keep it that way.

Have a look at this article, which a friend linked recently.

Do you see what I see?

In case you missed it, what I see is this paragraph:

In the past, researchers have raised allegations of ghostwriting in articles about quality-of-life drugs like antidepressants, painkillers and diet pills. But the situation has become more serious this year after a few editors said they had discovered ghostwriting in manuscripts about life-and-death products like cancer and hematology drugs.

Yeah, those antidepressants and painkillers. Not life-and-death at all. It's not like people commit suicide for their lack or anything like that. It's not like they can make a difference between soul-sucking misery and a life worth living, or even the possibility to live it in anything resembling a half-functional way.

And you know why people can write paragraphs like that?

Because people who need antidepressants or painkillers are socially constructed as weak. Our disabilities are personal failures, quirks of neurology that any proper person would have been able to handle already, really, honestly, would you shut up and stop whining?

I know someone who begins every comment on their struggle to get their invisible illnesses treated with a comment about how they're such a whiner and it's all in their head and they need to pull up those bootstraps and stop being so pathetic - and I don't know how much of that is serious belief and how much is voicing those gremlins so they can function. And for all that I wish that that little voice would stop plaguing that person so loudly, I ...

... can't say that I don't have it too.

I mean, I can claim that I'm too disabled to be able to stably hold down an office job. But I know I did it for a while, right? Enough to pay the rent, even though I slowly whittled myself down into someone who couldn't engage with anything she actually valued because every last bit of me was spent on keeping that job and doing it reasonably well. That's not an inability to function. "You know, deep down, you're just a lazy ass, not someone who genuinely can't handle that."


Half of what I do sometimes is justifying. It's okay that I don't chase Corporate America, because I have written so many words today. It's okay that I don't put on my pink-collar drag and go answer phones until I want to scream because I took some time to teach someone or help them out of a bad spot. Lately, it's okay that I don't do that because it's not like I could bring in enough income to pay for childcare anyway, right?


Because it's invisible, and not even the sort of invisible that other people would believe is real if they knew. I don't have a heart condition like my brother; that's a real disability. I'm just ... touched in the head. A little blue. And I should get over the stuff that I haven't gotten over, I'm such a useless whiny bitch sometimes.



mamacrow said...

oh gosh (((HUGS))) because I totally get every word you said. Very well said, by the way.

Eve said...

Oh, wow! I have definitely felt that way during my struggles with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Thank you.

Cereus Sphinx said...

Yes, thank you for saying it. In a clear way as always.

You know, you actually helped me get over some of that yourself, both your amazing posts on the subject and something a little quirkier.

See below post:

I can explain more if you'd like.

Graydon said...

Somewhere in "The Right Stuff" there's a discussion of mortality among fighter pilots in the 50s and 60s; risk of accidental death was around 1 in 4. (This does not count _combat_ death; that's not an accident, the way the Air Force does stats. Throw that in and you've got worse odds. This is just the "well, damn" values of bad luck that kill you.) Tom Wolfe made the point that, culturally, all the pilots would put on the appropriate uniform and go to the funeral and talk about how that wouldn't happen to them, because they were not going to lose their focus at a critical moment like that, or if the back half of the aircraft they were flying fell off, they had a plan, and so on.

Much of the response to invisible disability is unconscious narrative of that character; it's extra-toxic in connection with the whole mind-body duality nonsense, or the notion of directly effective change due to will (which is also nonsense), but under the whole "must be wicked to deserve such pain" idea there's a great deal of fear.

I don't know if this helps with side-stepping all the "deserves" memes, but I found that it helped quite a bit to realize that the basis of all the "you're just whining" statements was not merely contra-factual but so extremely philosophically suspect.

Kristin said...

A-fucking-men. Thank you for saying what so badly needed to be said.