My intense stress may have been less than others’, in other words, but that didn’t diminish how my body was internalizing it.
And so, instead of acknowledging — then or until recently — the effects of that structural stress, and connecting it to my hair loss, I did what so many of us learn to do: 1) conceive of it as a personal failing and 2) conceive of it as a personal failing remedied through consumerism.
My body has severely expressed its anger over the situation over the past two plus years. From little things like irritating dermatitis flare-ups to constant indigestion to heart issues, my body is trying to tell me something is wrong.
We’re bad at talking about this stuff because a lot of the causes are intertwined and intersectional…But we’re especially bad at talking about it because of a collective tendency to treat ailments as personal.
It’s our structures — the units of community and family and care that are supposed to catch us — that are fundamentally unwell.
So we can navigate this alone, as so many of us have…But on a societal scale, I also know this: we recover together — or not at all.
The current societal response of saying everyone’s responsible for protecting their own health is ableist and short-sighted (it literally costs more to not offer universal health care): we operate as a society and need each other, no matter how much some like to think of themselves as independent. They need workers at the ports to transport goods they buy, they need the workers at the factory to make things, they need waiters to serve them at restaurants. And that’s just looking at the direct dependencies. As a society, what are we missing out on by excluding everyone with cancer and chronic illnesses from participating in society because we’ll do nothing to help protect their safety? I think of an Eons show I watched recently sharing examples of early human groups caring for disabled and “non-contributing” members of their group, in some cases for years. Economic contributions and service aren’t the only ways we need each other, they aren’t the only value we offer our community. Something we seem to have forgotten for the time being.