I learned the drill when I walked into a doctor’s office. I would name my symptoms, discuss my family history, answer questions about my diet and exercise routine, and they would send me off to get blood work.
I always thought it was kinda funny that was the only information they thought they needed.
I would come back with everything in range–and they would look at me and say, “You’re an athlete, you don’t need to lose weight, your blood pressure and pulse are excellent.”
Then they would give me the look like, “Why are you here?”
As my blood tests kept coming back “normal” and I kept reporting increasing pain and fatigue–the doctors threw out the “catch-all” prescriptions: anti-anxiety medication and birth control.
Before I continue: let me say that I don’t have a problem with these in and of themselves. Even as a teenager though, I knew what I had a problem with: being given something when the doctor had no idea what was going on with me.
I said no time and time again–and to this day I’m really glad for how stubborn I was.
“No, I’m not taking something when you have no idea what is going on with me. Would you like to read off the list of side-effects?”
Whiteness includes a deep mistrust of the body & the Western medical establishment capitalizes off this mistrust.
I’d be very glad to have a Western model of medicine in an emergency, however not for preventative medicine. Not for illnesses that affect every major system in your body.
I listened to my body to know that something was wrong. That I wanted help. And yet the extent to which I paid attention to myself and my own intuition never went beyond just stating that something was wrong. The answer would come from a doctor, or so I had been told.
Well, when I went to doctors and they told me that nothing was wrong, I started to doubt myself at an even deeper level. They told me I was making things up. Things couldn’t really be that bad.
The cognitive dissonance started to get really intense. My body was saying, “something is wrong. pay attention!” and the expert doctor was telling me I was making things up. Who do I trust?
The body doesn’t lie. I knew that I felt what I felt, but what started to seep in was this enormous sense of self questioning and self-doubt.
“What if whatever-I-have isn’t as bad as I think it is?”
“What if no one believes me? Then what?”
“If the blood test doesn’t show anything, then am I going crazy?”
These questions were only the beginning. Because I was told I was “fine,” I still pushed myself to the limit. I tried to keep up with friends, even though I didn’t have the energy.
By my sophomore year in college, I created this life that was pretty routine or I couldn’t make it through the day. I tried to keep my schedule as full as possible so I couldn’t truly feel how exhausted I was, until I crashed at 10pm, had a good night sleep, and started over again.
To be awake and engaged with the world was so difficult & I was so sad.
I was sad because I faked it all day. I didn’t have energy, but I pretended like I did, day after day after day. I was sad because I was becoming a shell of my former self.
One day in college I admitted, “No one believes me, not even myself.”
Whiteness shows up in the health realm as the binary completely healthy/completely sick. We don’t talk about a continuum, even though, “Of course, there is a continuum.”
At any given moment, I am feeling a little bit different in my body, if given the tools of how to pay attention, how to listen to cues, how to genuinely love my body and not just be looking for disease.
I wonder what stories I would have connected earlier if I had been asked about my anxiety, rather than just my family history of disease. Maybe I would have told stories of being so nervous before track meets that I would throw up before I ran. How I heaped tremendous pressure on myself to keep improving, and my anxiety just increased with it. Maybe I would have talked about how running 40-45 miles per week at 14 was too much on my body. That I was actually burning muscle as I ran, causing tremendous pain.
That maybe there was more to health than just being a runner and 105 pounds.
As a kid, I didn’t have big wordy language–but I knew things were interconnected. I would spend hours looking up at the sky. I would take walks at night with my dad and look up at the moon. I would always see the faces the moon was making at me. I was fascinated by the way the moon changed and how it seemed to be in a different shape. I was sad at the new moon, when I couldn’t see it and I thought it had disappeared.
I loved when I learned the names of different constellations and I would try to find them in the sky. The first time I found the Big Dipper all by myself: pure joy. I didn’t know how or why, but I felt connected to nature, to the moon and the stars.
Sometimes we say that we have to fight for our health. I believe this is true on many levels–and the more multiple oppressions affect one’s life–the more that statement rings true.
And if health is about connection–to oneself, one’s body, mind & soul, to nature, to community, to the Divine-then health is also natural. Not always a fight. Sometimes seamless.
There were signs that my body was not well years and years before I ever stepped foot in a doctor’s office. I don’t blame myself, and at the same time, I do wish that I knew how to trust myself, to ask “What’s going on here?” “How do I get help?” “What resources do I have?” “What resources do others have?”
I suffered a lot of pain and illness in my life–because I was told to push through. I thought I had no other choice.
You see, whiteness is terrified of rest. For in rest transformation is possible.
More later, people!