It is a sad truth that being sick, whether it be an acute or a chronic condition, does not instantly canonize someone into sainthood. Often, the opposite is true and the bitterness and shock of illness, and the treatment we receive due to illness, can sour a person’s outlook and turn us into people we don’t want to be, people we never thought we could be. In reality, sickness isn’t just a battle for our health but also a long struggle to retain our humanity. Negative emotion can be a dominating aspect of chronic illness and often that negativity can be focused in the wrong places. While we may feel rightfully hard done by, we can inadvertently let those moments of despair and hate – those moments where we really think how unfair it all us – spill onto our relationships.
Which begs the question: Why is it so easy to fall to hate and bitterness while sick? Do we, despite our symptoms, need to hold ourselves to a higher standard? While our treatment by others and the ingrained ableism of the systems that are supposed to protect disabled and sick people might inform a certain guarded nature, do we not have just as much responsibility to others as they do to us?
It can be easy, when your mind is resting so heavy on the prospect of lifelong illness, to forget about basic kindness. By nature, sick people often have to be single-minded. Passions, relationships, prospects, they can all fall behind that one great priority we hoped to never have: our health. So, when it comes to examining what might be affecting our health in a negative way – or a perceived negative way – we can often lose sight of the specifics in favor of the general and make blanket decisions without considering the individual effect of our actions. It is also easy to hide behind our symptoms and the effect they’ve had on our lives, and in doing so, create a kind of wall of sickness that separates our behavior from our person. As a result, we allow ourselves an extra level of privilege and entitlement, and an avenue out of responsibility – i.e. it wasn’t me, it was my illness.
This is not only wrong, it is hurtful. We are victims enough of misfortune and, especially medical, mistreatment without amplifying that by acting like we are victims also of a kind of symptom-driven animism. Our illnesses do not hold Voodoo dolls in our likenesses that allow them to influence…