Looking Past the Illness
Our society is obsessed with the idea of binary: male/female, white/black, straight/gay, fact/opinion, heart/brain, healthy/sick. While this proves problematic in several ways, the main issue I see with this system is that these things only exist in opposition to their counterparts. If you’re not a boy, then you have to be a girl, if your not straight, then you must be gay, if you’re not healthy, then you’re obviously sick. It denies everyone the right to be in the middle, to exist along the spectrum and, if you do, you are automatically deemed an “other.” Worse still, it defines people through subjective, socially constructed categories in which they have had no say in creating and through which they cannot escape.
Sometimes, people are able to use these labels to their advantage. They create platforms for themselves, highlighting the part of them that’s different in order to give a voice to others like them. But, more often than not, people who cannot conform, are viewed only as the stigma which makes them stick out.
People with eating disorders, or another chronic illness are often labelled as just that: people with a disease, people who are not healthy, people who need help. Their other characteristics and attributes are ignored completely. This goes for every type of disease, especially ones that are visible. People who have their head shaved due to chemotherapy are automatically viewed with pity. It is so important to look past these arbitrary boxes that society has constructed in which we become so fixated. It is so important for us, as humans, to look at other humans as what they are: humans, people, adults, children, teenagers NOT an eating disorder, NOT someone with EDS or POTS, NOT someone who has a feeding tube or someone with a neck brace, NOT someone who is “sick.” Once we can look past these trivial differences and see people for their whole being instead of just one small aspect of themselves, people who suffer from disorders such as these can start to recognize themselves as not just someone who is sick, but someone who is also smart, and creative and empowered and athletic and so many other amazing things. No one is just one thing. We have to remember that.