Imagine if the truth about our own bodies and needs was trusted. If we weren’t expected to hand over our power. If medical pathologizing wasn’t the only way to have our health needs seen as legitimate.
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, since a friend told me that people like me need to go to the doctor and get diagnosed, and then she knows how to treat us. I was mystified that my friend told me that truth has to pass through the filter of mainstream medicine and get named by a professional. Then she would respect my needs and treat me with the consideration I deserve.
I was mystified because even this kind person with good values who I had felt close to at some point couldn’t just see me as I am and love me how I need to be loved. It would have been access intimacy–it could have been beautiful. Access intimacy is not based on summarizing, pity, guilt, or anything a doctor says, but on joyful respect that comes from deep understanding. How sad I felt–if even this kind lady needed differences medicalized, my goals of disability justice were hopeless.
I didn’t give up on disability justice, but I think of that conversational moment often. Then today I was thinking about doctor’s notes.
A friend who lives in another country had a death in the family–her spouse died. In order to not have to go into work but maintain her job, she needs a doctor’s note. So she has to present her moods and experiences to a doctor, who gets to decide whether my friend’s needs justify another two weeks off work, or however long. My friend has to go to this doctor again and again, to get his approval of her overwhelming grief.
Wow–how did doctors get that much power? Why isn’t my friend trusted, to explain how incapacitated she is by her own grief? Are you ok with a doctor who might barely know her deciding that?
I guess if you’ve only been treated fairly and respectfully by competent doctors, you might think that’s ok. What a life that would be. I’m a fat, queer, crazy, disabled woman who’s poor and socially different. Doctors who respect me are few and far between.
mental health days
I first heard of taking a mental health day off work or school as a joke. “Why did so and so call in sick?” someone at work asked.
“Oh, she was just taking a mental health day,” the other person said, snickering. “She just wants to go to the movies and get her nails done.”
It was an insult–the person who called in sick was considered just lazy. As if mental health doesn’t matter–as if we should keep working until we fall over dead, or work ourselves into crisis. Is the time off justified then? Wouldn’t it be better if we could take time off before the stress-induced emergency?
As if stress was weakness, and if we had enough willpower, we could live a stress free life. Or if we exercised enough and ate enough salad, our stress would disappear, and we’d never need to take time off work or school.
I envision a world where people are trusted to take mental health days and write their own notes about grief. If my truth didn’t need to pass through a doctor-filter to be true. If differences were respected by default.
I’d love if my self-knowledge, which I work really hard to uncover, was trusted. I spend all my time with me, the expert of myself.
What are your needs, in friendships and family relationships? Do your needs feel standard, or do they seem unusual? Are your needs variable, in different relationships? Do you know your own needs? Could you list them?
Are there some needs that are always there, and some that are more specific depending on the relationship type? Who meets you where you’re at and shows up for you? Do you treat them that way too?
Who consistently hurts you, crosses boundaries, misunderstands you, invalidates you? Can you get away from them?
Hopefully your life is filled with people who are kind, really listen, and will be real with you in a loving way. I’m working on getting my life more like that. Saying no and setting boundaries requires energy I don’t always have. But bit by bit, I make progress on the life I want to live.