Health

Update: despite multiple tweets and emailing Shane/CBC directly, I never got a response.

Apparently my post about the accessibility of "car-free" and transit for people with chronic illness has now become part one of a series of posts on chronic illness and urban life. I caught something interesting on the CBC the other day. Shane Foxman did a small segment covering a protest held by the Raging Grannies calling for public washrooms in the transit system. You can watch the short video segment here. At the end, he asked for feedback, so here it is.

Public Theater
Photo by Susan Sermoneta

Dear Shane,

The thing that struck me most about the segment was how you seemed to think this issue was funny, or not so much funny, but a bit of a joke. Several of the people interviewed on the issue brushed it off, saying "just hold it" or "be more prepared" or some variation of that response. That indifference was the main sentiment of the bit was baffling, and something I could only chalk up to either complete ignorance, or less offensively, lazy reporting.

Fact of the matter is that the lack of public washrooms in Vancouver, and specifically in the transit hubs and skytrain stations, is an enormous barriers to a large variety of people. The elderly, people with bowel and bladder problems, and of course children, all have varying abilities to "just hold it". It's not a joke, it's not funny - it has a severe impact on peoples' lives.

The Punk Singer - documentary cover imageHave you seen the documentary "The Punk Singer" yet?? It's on Netflix right now, and I loved it. A lot.

Some of you, particularly music lovers, will know who Kathleen Hanna is - she was lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and currently fronts (The) Julie Ruin. She was also one of the founders of the Riot Grrrl movement, which teenaged me growing up in Saskatchewan miraculously had some tiny window into, thanks to lots of MuchMusic, Sassy, and zines.

I was familiar enough with a lot of the bands and history covered in this documentary, but I also learned so much more about everything and how it all ties together. I was enthralled watching through the first two thirds of the movie that detailed the movement and music history, and Kathleen's role in it.

But then the film takes a major turn - one I had no idea was coming, when it reveals that Kathleen Hanna has been struggling for several years with severe chronic illness, eventually to be diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. She speaks so candidly about how the illness has changed her life - it was actually hard for me to watch parts of it, because I related all too much... I found myself tearing up as she said many things that I've been feeling, and that despite my best efforts, I've continued to habitually minimize and hide behind a brave face.

I discovered this video by Hank Green (of Vlog Brothers fame) last night, and had to share it here. I used to watch Hank and John Green's videos religiously, back in the Brotherhood 2.0 days (this will all be gibberish to the non-Nerdfighters out there). But then there was just so much stuff on the internet that it became impossible to keep up on everything I wanted to read and watch, so I just catch the odd video here and there... All this to say, somehow I missed this video. 

Last night I was feeling super duper down on myself and life because of how shitty and sick I've been feeling lately, and was reading some internets, and down the internet vortex I went, and I ended up at this video, and sometimes the internet is just wise and leads you to exactly what you need in that very moment. I hope you'll watch it, because I relate a ton to what he says.

I've been biting my tongue on this for so long... I know how some of it is going to sound. No, really, I know. People just don't say these things, or maybe they don't think about them or realize at all. It's very real though. There is a hierarchy of illness, and it leads to massive inequality among people who are sick. It leads to unthinkable hardship for those who have the "wrong" kind of illness. It's like some form of sickness-ism (discrimination of sick people based on exactly which type of illness they have).

My friend Stephanie summed up life with ongoing illness so well:

"It's very upsetting to wake up day after day with hopes and plans and dreams and be completely unable to do any of them."

I quoted what she'd written on Facebook, followed by my own addition:

I often think about how lucky most people are to just be able to do what they want without such immense and non-negotiable restrictions. I don't think I even remember what that's like anymore.

That I can usually cope with. What's hard to cope with, what makes me really sad, is how people who haven't been through this can't understand it. They still believe somehow it's a choice. That if I really wanted to, I could just do things. That the barriers are only psychological (and I don't mean mental illness, I mean lack of will or motivation).

I will never be able to understand how anyone could truly believe that someone, that I, would choose to live like this.

But this problem is a symptom. I've been thinking about why this mentality exists, and that's my conclusion - it's a symptom... of the hierarchy of illness.

It's been a while now since I've come out of denial about my illness. I've had some time to at least begin to grieve the losses that have come with it. Friends, family, future plans, hobbies... my loss list is long and detailed. I have also been able to receive some gifts from my illness - it's not all loss. But the gifts don't make the loss any less real, any less difficult.

One of the bigger things I've lost is my ability to be gainfully employed. I haven't been able to work even part time in over two years. All the shame, judgment, and social implications aside, there is something that feels degrading about having my daily purpose and to an extent, my financial independence stripped away. These have probably been the hardest for me to adapt to. And yet, adapt I must and I will!

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Me, at peace, making art in my home studio, 2013
I want to maintain this elusive calm in my work life

Update March 2015: Strange twist... I finally saw my (old) immunologist who I trust very much, and without getting into all the details, it turns out that the "allergist" who did the test that led to my supposedly being glycerin sensitive wasn't actually a certified allergist at all. The test that was done was not standard and the reaction was simple skin irritation (not an allergic response). After about 10 months of avoidance, I've started using glycerin-containing products again with no problems.

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Delving into the waaaaaay obscure health topics here folks, this probably won't interest most of you. But some of my most obscure and specific health posts are the most viewed ones on here by a long shot, so I know that people are looking for this info. I wished so much that I had access to a post like this, so I spent some time writing it up for whoever is next to be in this sticky situation.

A while back, I attempted to get some allergy testing done, and came out of it not even having had the tests done, and instead labeled with a glycerin sensitivity. I'm going to save all the sordid details of this, maybe for some other time (I still have to go through some further investigations to figure out what's going on), but the long and short of it is that since then I've had to remove glycerin containing products from my life as much as possible. (The only things I haven't found replacements for and am still using are quite ironically my antihistamine pills, Reactine, and cortisone cream. There is a "Cortate ointment" petroleum based alternative, but I don't find it works as well.)

You would not believe how many personal care products, soaps, and medications have glycerin in them, it's RIDICULOUS. Not exagerating, probably 99% or more. It's safe to say I have been slathering myself in copious amounts of glycerin for most of my life - which is hopefully a good sign that my sensitivity isn't terribly severe, but it may have been impacting the overall burden on my body. It's extremely hard to find products that don't have it, and it's not only inconvenient but incredibly expensive, suddenly having to replace everything you own with more obscure and pricier products.

Health is not binary. People who are chronically and/or mentally ill may indeed be "sick" (a term with a huge amount of complexity in its own right), but we are not on any given day A) sick or B) not sick. These conditions can be lifelong or last many years, going through flares and remissions. But we are not just "sick", we are people with hobbies, partners, friends, and if possible, jobs. Our illness(es) may feel all encompassing at times, but they are not us. They are only a part of us - people who are just as complex and nuanced as any. And yet, it seems at times that there are absurd standards, perceptions, and expectations about what someone who is "sick" looks like. This only exacerbates our already complicated relationships with our bodies.

BB Day 18 + 19IMG_8603IMG_7997IMG_7513

Most of you regular readers can skip this post unless you're just curious - it's time for another update on my throat issues. I know there are tons of people out there struggling with LPR (hello!) and they seem to find their way to my blog in numbers that are pretty astonishing, so I wanted to share what's been going on lately. If you want to read further into my experiences with this, the next most recent post was at the end of 2013 and is here, and my first post from the start of 2013 is here.

The day has finally arrived... 

Issue 2 of Chronically Yours is finished and for sale!

It's taken me a whole year to get this issue done... I've been kind of preoccupied, ironically, dealing with my health and wellbeing! Slowly, but surely, I've been working away at it, and after a little stapling party, it's done!

Most of my usual blog readers can probably skip this post - it's an update about one of my health conditions that will probably be totally boring to most of you, but many of us who are dealing with this tricky condition have found it helpful to share our experiences. 

This is a follow up post to my initial post about LPR and laryngeal granuloma. If you want the full history, or to read the many comments and updates from other people dealing with LPR, please start there!

[EDIT: there is now a second update here.]

My previous post left off nearly a year ago - how time flies... 

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