We live in a society where people think that if you’re for one thing, you’re against another.
It’s also a world in which people think that by discussing your own journey, you are somehow dismissing theirs.
We are divided on many issues, we still think in cliches, and we still see in stereotypes. But we act like we don’t.
People act like one person speaking out about an issue means they are trying to speak on behalf of an entire group, or that they automatically agree with that entire group’s values.
But … no.
I don’t that’s how it is. Everything is not about competing, comparing, or dividing. Not everything can be put in tiny little boxes or filed under broad generalizations or assumptions.
It’s becoming so that you can’t speak out about anything without fear of offending someone or elevating yourself to some pedestal or platform where you are suddenly bearing the responsibility of being the mouthpiece for an entire group of people.
Not everything has to be in absolutes. And we should cut back on the assumptions.
So, please, let me say this. I don’t think that I am more important than anyone or that my story is more worthy of being heard. I wrote my books because my writing is my passion and, I feel, my calling. It doesn’t mean I’m an expert on all-things-illness or that everything I do or say is “correct” or representing all people who are sick or living with a disability. I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone but myself, and my words reflect only my own personal experiences and values.
While I advocate for people who are sick or disabled, I don’t deem myself to be anyone “special” within that group. I can relate to some people’s journeys, and others, I cannot.
I see both sides on a lot of things: I understand, for example, why it is maddening that Hollywood casts able-bodied characters to play disabled roles. But, at the same time, I am glad to even be seeing differently-abled characters being represented on TV. I know there are holes that can be poked in that argument, and improvements to be made. I understand how some could be offended by the choices these productions make, or the lack of intersectional representation within these handicapped characters, but progress has to start somewhere.
On a different note, I can understand that there were flaws with the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare.” I know that some people had trouble paying premiums and I know that some doctors felt a lot of extra pressure and strain due to certain challenges it imposed. But I’ve also heard several stories about how impactful and even life-saving the ACA was for some people. It wasn’t perfect, but it could have been fixed. So I am now sad for those who are in real fear of what it will be replaced with and how they will be affected. Again, with this issue, I see both sides. (Though, one side much more than the other.) And that’s okay. I don’t need to be berated or made to feel guilty for feeling that way when it is an issue very close to my heart as a patient and patient advocate. I’m not trying to “push” my views on you. I’m just sharing my opinion (as one does on their blog and social media pages.)
Let’s see … what else?
Oh, I’ve been attacked for being a fan of some natural treatments. Well, to set the record straight, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-pharma or “against” doctors. I’ve stated that I’m personally not a fan of the word cripple, and that I don’t like using my handicapped parking pass. That doesn’t mean that I’m “against” people who prefer words like crip or cripple, or that I judge those who use the disabled placard.
We are all entitled to personal preferences, and just because I have a somewhat-public platform doesn’t mean that I am always a voice for “the people.” Just this one person: me. And if you are encouraged by my voice, please keep listening. Keep reading. Keep engaging with me and I will do the same.
Here’s a big one that many of us who are active on social media encounter frequently: over-sharing. It is polarizing. I understand that selfies and daily posts can seem narcissistic, shallow, or attention-seeking. But, here’s the thing: many people with chronic illness or disability are very isolated. Social media may be the only place they can connect with someone who understands their experience. (Some of us also use social media to say, market our books. *Hint Hint!*)
… So if I post a photo of my new knee brace or my cast, it doesn’t mean I want pity, or that by me sharing my story or my frustrations that I don’t realize that I could have it worse. Trust me — I do. I know that.
I thank God every day that my situation isn’t worse — even though it isn’t always good.
In my books and on my blog, I write about gratitude and positivity all the time. Posting because it’s cathartic for you isn’t whining or complaining or being negative. It’s being human. It’s being real. It’s venting. Maybe it’s having fun with it, or making something negative into something … well, just … normal. I think some people in my family have an issue with my constant social media posting .Well, too bad! Haha.
Some people may post photos of their cars or their travels or their kids or their delicious meals that they cooked, and some of us … well, we post a selfie while hooked up to an IV or while we’re on crutches, becuase as much as that isn’t glamorous or appealing to some people, that is our life. Healthy people share their lives — and we’re allowed to, too. It’s okay. (*Note: I also post a lot of pictures of my pets, my husband, clothes, and memes. Haha.)
By no means does this mean that I judge those who choose NOT to be public about their health woes. I know people who are privately battling cancer and infertility and neurological conditions and mental diseases who rarely, if ever, mention it. And that is fine. It’s great. It’s what works for them. But that doesn’t mean that their approach is right, or somehow morally-superior, and that my approach — and the approaches of many others like me — is inherently wrong.
A lot of it boils down to personality. I’ve always been a writer, a talker, and a sharer. In elementary school, I would pass notes to friends detailing everything from what I did that weekend to my first training bra to what boy I had a crush on. In middle and high school, I brought photo albums into school and shared pictures with friends the old-fashioned way. When I was young, I would talk with strangers in AOL chat rooms about music and life and whatever else I felt like sharing. As an adult, I wrote a memoir, for goodness’ sake. Of course, I have no problem laying it bare.
Honestly … I never mean to offend or provoke anyone. I actually enjoy starting dialogues and I like respectful debates. (What I don’t like is name-calling, vulgarity, trolling, and disrespect. Or being told to stop commenting on my own page, lol. But I don’t mind an *intelligent* debate.)
I mean … social media is so incessantly-offended and easily-provoked. I’ve discussed this bully/troll culture before and mentioned that it IS okay to be offended, sometimes. About the right things. Within reason. But it isn’t really okay to be so nasty about it. And I can tell you this: there isn’t a need to be defensive or competitive with me. I’m not out to get you. Promise. I’m the least combative, least aggressive-or-passive-aggressive person you will ever encounter, and probably one of the least mean-spirited. Most who know me in real life know that I am usually, if not always, well-intentioned.
Everyone is entitled to their own points of view, and because someone’s point of view differs from yours, it doesn’t mean that you get to attack them.
Just last week, I stated that while it was totally and completely fair (and in some cases, warranted,) to criticize Kim Kardashian about a lot of things, that I personally felt that it really wasn’t fair to make fun of her psoriasis (which is an autoimmune disease, not just a rash,) or say that she deserved it, or that it was because of karma. (The issue of karma causing illness? Whooo boy. That’s a whole separate topic for a whole separate blog post. That one got my gears grinding lol.)
This goes back to one of my original points: in that case, just because I was “against” mocking someone for a disease or making fun of an illness, and just becuase I don’t think people/karma cause their own health problems, doesn’t mean I was singing the praises of the Kardashians. Being against one thing doesn’t mean you’re cheerleading another.
Everyone reads too much into things.
Just because I saw a lot of potential in the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mean I was a diehard Hillary Clinton supporter. I didn’t vote Trump, but I *have* voted both ways, and I wasn’t some Hillary fangirl who thought she was God’s gift to politics. In fact, no, I didn’t. But did I also defend HER whenever people were starting rumors about her health? Yes, because I think that making fun of a person’s health problems is extremely callous and inappropriate.
Just because I posted a picture of myself in my knee brace and foot cast today doesn’t mean I was necessarily complaining or opening myself up to a competition about who has it worse. I was kind of having fun with it and joking around, truth be told.
Just because I applaud certain shows for showing disabled characters doesn’t mean I’m speaking for the whole entire disabled community or that I don’t recognize that we could do better. I know it could and it needs to shift in the right direction. (Some TV shows and movies are already getting better at this. Hollywood has a long way to go in terms of diversity, intersectionality, and equity, though.)
Nothing specific even happened today to provoke this blog post — it’s just something that I’ve been thinking about.
Me saying or doing one thing doesn’t mean I’m criticizing or applauding another. My journey and my plight is only my own. It could be a lot worse, but it could be better, too. So please know that I share in part because I feel compelled to. I feel that God has given me the gift of writing and speaking, and a heart for helping others. I feel called to share my story — mostly my medical journey. (Journey — another word people hate in regards to illness … but, #sorrynotsorry, I use it.)
I also share, in part, because it helps me as much as it helps you guys. So let’s try to remember, in today’s heated political climate and divisive nation, that not everyone is out to get you. Not everyone is trying to pick a fight or compete. Not everything is a controversy or worth arguing about. Sometimes we have to make like Elsa and let it go.
While I don’t think we should be on the defensive all the time, or assuming the worst about people’s intentions, I will say this: there is a balance that needs to be met. Yes, as a society we have become overzealous in the criticism and very quick to judge, point fingers, place blame, and cry foul. We want to see the worst in people and we judge people’s intentions quickly and sometimes unfairly. I’ve probably done this myself. In short, we ARE too sensitive sometimes.
BUT … I don’t think that being politically-correct is necessarily bad, in general. Again, sometimes it’s okay to be offended. People who are confounded by the idea of political correctness likely have the privilege to have never been oppressed or ostracized or made fun of or overlooked or unjustly treated becuase of something beyond their control, be it physical ability, health, race, gender, or sexual orientation.Not everyone can say the same. And the overreaction of some who despise political correctness can be cruel.
Not everything is political and well … just like not everything is about me, not everything is about you. Words can have impact and shouldn’t be strewn about liberally because you don’t see the person on the other side of the computer. Just the other day, because I said that even celebrities deserve a right to empathy and privacy about their health issues, I was called a “libtard” (charming) and a “special snowflake” (if that means I have a heart, then, yes, I’m a snowflake. What an insult lol.)
But, here’s the thing: most of what people call being “too-PC” or “overly politically correct” is just being a decent person. Kindness, compassion, sympathy, and empathy will get us far. Maybe we’ll disagree on politics or celebrities, or the word cripple, or how many photos to post on Instagram, but one thing we should be on the same page on is that: kindness.
Empathy is so important in our daily interactions but perhaps never so important as it is when dealing with people who are sick and suffering.
And so for those of you who live your lives with love in your heart, no matter your stance on politics or healthcare, selfies or terminology, disabled TV characters or stars who have fallen ill, I thank you. Thank you for keeping that love in your heart. It is so important, especially now, and especially for those of us who fight health battles every day.
We may not have to agree on every issue, but kindness and loving one another are what this world needs more of. Let’s get to it. Let’s heal ourselves, and heal the world — even if, well … even if our bodies WON’T heal.
PS: Want to watch a great and inspiring video about NOT judging people online that ALSO pertains to body image and autoimmune illness? Check this out.