Can You Hate My Condition, and Not Hate Me?

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Recently, former Mets catcher Gary Carter passed away from a malignant brain tumor at the age of 57, and a lot of the commentary I saw on the subject came down to (or sometimes, was actually stated directly) as, “Cancer sucks.” In other words, “Cancer sucks because it took the life of this person, who we really liked.” They didn’t mean “people with cancer suck,” did they? Quite the opposite, because Gary Carter would still have been Gary Carter without his having to experience glioblastoma multiforme, and we’d have gotten to experience a lot more Gary Carter without it. And frankly, glioblastoma multiforme is something I do not want. It is something I do not want anyone I remotely care about ever to have. I don’t even want most people I dislike to ever have to have it. It is a truly monstrous, painful illness that is almost always fatal, with a treatment course that can only be described as pure torture, which must be undertaken for the person who has it to have even the remotest chance of survival.

In other words, it ain’t fat. Or, for that matter, autism.

You see, nobody actually dies of being fat or autistic. Really. Either condition can possibly exacerbate other conditions, but that’s not the same thing as direct cause. And neither of those conditions, in and of themselves, causes anywhere near the difficulty that is caused by people believing the world would be a better place without those of us who have them. Does that mean all our difficulties are socially constructed? Perhaps not. But we won’t actually know what’s socially constructed and what isn’t until people are willing to make room for us.

Landon Bryce recently wrote a powerful piece for the Autcast site called If You Hate Autism, You Hate Autistic People. It got me thinking: where is the line to be drawn on hating that certain conditions exist, versus hating people who have them? As I’ve said before, although I realize that other people who have experienced major depression don’t necessarily feel the way I do, I don’t think my life has been enriched in any way by it. I’d be thrilled to death if you could just snip out the part of my brain that hates me, so that I’d never have to think about it again. That is, if you could do it without leaving an even bigger mess behind. So far, nobody knows how to do that, so I rely on the Evil Brain Drugs of Doom to keep it quiet.

And that’s just it. Regardless of what the condition is that’s being discussed, whether it’s something benign-but-vexing like IBS, or something people are irrationally boogedy-scared of like autism or “obesity,” or something that’s actually potentially life-threatening, like 50-or-higher-Beck-score major depressive disorder, here are the questions I’d want to ask myself about it:

1) Do I feel that this condition is something I’d be well rid of?
2) If the answer to 1) is “yes”:
A) Can I fix it without breaking something else?
i) If the answer to A) is “no” for me personally, regardless of whether someone else with that same condition could do so, what price will I pay for the thing I break?
ii) Is the thing I’m (potentially) breaking less important to me than the thing I’m (potentially) fixing?
B) Am I saying “yes” mostly because it’s actually a drag on my functionality, or mostly because other people disapprove of it?
C) Does my “yes” mean I’m required to go to any possible length to try to fix it, over and over and over again, just so people around me can be more comfortable?
3) If I can’t definitively answer “yes” to 1):
A) If I could fix just the aspects of it that cause me the most functional difficulty, without breaking something else, would I be satisfied with that?
B) What are my limits on what I’ll do to achieve that? (And yes, I’m allowed to have them!)

It seems to me that questions 2 and 3 are not being taken seriously in this world. And I want to do whatever I can do to fix that — without breaking something else, of course.

And if question number 1 returns a definitive “no,” regardless of the condition, then that’s the end of that.

But really, it’s up to the person who has that condition to decide that. If you love and respect me, then let me tell you which is which. If I have something that’s truly imminently life-threatening, it’s certainly understandable to hate this thing that could take me away from you, and I probably won’t be all that happy about it myself. If I have something that causes me hideous pain, I can understand you hating this thing that makes me suffer, and I can’t blame you there either; I am terrible at handling pain. I’m pretty sure Gary Carter, wherever he is, doesn’t mind people saying that cancer sucks, I’ll bet he wasn’t too fond of it, either. But he probably would have a problem with people saying he should have tried every woo-woo treatment in the world to try to get rid of it.

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7 Responses to “Can You Hate My Condition, and Not Hate Me?”

  1. wriggles Says:

    where is the line to be drawn on hating that certain conditions exist, versus hating people who have them?

    This is a fascinating question. When you define people as disease you cannot feel something about one that you do not about the other. You should just never do it as it is inherently incorrect, a person cannot be a disease and vice versa.

    It comes down to the solipsism of “normals”, or their representatives who start from; you’re not like me i.e. not normal=disease or everyone is normal, like me (underneath) therefore, fatness/ autism is happening to a normal person and is therefore a disease.

    Rather than either being on the spectrum of human function that has ups and downs like any other.

  2. Twistie Says:

    As it happens, I have two brothers who both suffer from depression. One uses the evil brain drugs of doom because he feels he functions better when taking them and the benefits outweigh the side effects. The other chooses not to take the evil brain drugs of doom because he fears that taking them will change who he is and he’s unwilling to take that chance.

    Me? I hate depression. I think it sucks sweaty donkey balls. I would do a hell of a lot to save both my brothers from the suffering it causes. But I (a) do not hate either one of them due to depression, and (b) absolutely respect their individual choices in how to handle the condition.

    I’ve also known people with various cancers. Some chose to fight by any means at their disposal. Others by conventional means only. One or two have decided to forego treatment and just do their best to enjoy what time they had left. In every case, I hated the cancer. It sucked. But whatever they chose, I did my level best to support them no matter what I personally thought of their choices.

    Now, if more people would show me the same respect in regard to my waistline, I’d be a much happier person.

  3. ann Says:

    I think disease sucks. I hate it. I treat it every day as a doctor. I hate diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, IBS, fibromyalgia, all of it. Suffering does not improve life. it sucks. I do NOT hate my patients who have any of these conditions. that’s not totally true. some of them are schmucks who I don’t like, but I don’t hate any of them. disease sucks. that’s it.

  4. AcceptanceWoman Says:

    Brilliant, as usual.
    I don’t have the right software to do it, but I want to make a fancy flow-chart decision tree thingy from your questions (all paths would lead through, at some point, “do your best to love and accept yourself as you are”).

    I am really struggling right now with all of this — I’m having sleep problems that came on after some recent weight gain, and I’m hesitating to explore options because I know I didn’t have the problems to this degree when I weighed somewhat less. Sigh.

  5. redheademerald Says:

    Cancer absolutely does suck. I’m coming at that from several viewpoints: my dad died of lymphoma, I work as a tumor registrar, and the husband of a close friend of mine went in to have a lung removed last week (still awaiting news, fingers crossed he’s OK). Lung cancer is one of those instances where people assume that the patient ‘brought it one themselves’ – you don’t tend to get this with other cancers, but you certainly see it with type II diabetes now – which is another way of identifying the person with the disease: you invited it by your actions, you’re a collaborator, so you don’t ‘deserve’ compassion or, as far as some people are concerned, treatment. Despicable and disgusting, but unfortunately, an all too common attitude.

    Your questions are intriguing to think about, and, AcceptanceWoman, I’d love to see that flowchart. I suffer from both depression and anxiety, and my pathways would be different for each: I suspect the world in general would find my depression more ‘inconvenient’, but the anxiety is, for me, personally, the one I’d go further to fix.

    Along the lines of breaking things to fix them, I heard a radio program today which discussed the use of psychosurgery to ‘treat’ mental illness (or sometimes just inconvenient personality traits) in the 30s and 40s. Someone asked a modern surgeon what he’d say might be the treatment on which we’ll look back in fifty years and go ‘What were we thinking?’. He said chemo for cancer might be seen in that light. I’d unreservedly say WLS is a far more likely candidate.

  6. Patsy Nevins Says:

    Fat is different from illness,though, in that it is generally a natural genetic variation in body size & NOT a disease. So I don’t think anyone has the right to hate ME OR my fat. I have cerebral palsy, which is not a disease but a birth defect, & I don’t think anyone has the right to hate me for that either, though plenty of people have, nor do I really believe it is necessary to hate cerebral palsy. I was born with my disability, I am 62 years old, I have no idea what it is like to be able-bodied, nor do I know if I would be the same person or have grown the same way if I had been born able-bodied. The diseases which genuinely cause great pain, suffering, & early death, such as cancer, are terrible things which need to be eradicated & I do hate those diseases, but not the people who have them. The people whom I dislike I dislike because they are jackasses, not because of any health conditions they may have. I am developing arthritis as I age & it is definitely not my best friend, but I can deal with it, I do pretty well living my life as I choose on a daily basis. One thing I DO know after 62 years of living & 32 years in fat acceptance is that my fat is part of me, mostly genetic, that it is benign, not damaging my health & in fact as I grow old most likely protecting my health, & my fat is NOT a ‘condition’, so I don’t want people to hate me OR my fat. I also know that overall I am doing pretty well & am very lucky, including lucky that all the abuse I have endured & all the issues with which I have dealt all my life have not caused me (yet anyway) to need pyschotropic medications. And I DO know that it is luck, not an indication that I am somehow a better person than someone who does need drugs. People have to do what they need to do to enable them to be as healthy/functional/happy as they can be & life the best life possible. I hate & distrust doctors, have no faith in the mainstream garbage they accept as faith, especially about fat, & avoid them like the plague, but then, I have been lucky enough to be healthy enough so far to mostly avoid doctors. My luck may at some point run out as I age. I feel especially lucky & wonder about the fairness of life when I watch my 33-y-o daughter-in-law, who has battled one kind of cancer or another most of the time for the past 10 years & has to have a colonoscopy Tuesday to find out if cancer has decided to show up there as well. So, yes, I really HATE cancer, but not the people who have it, & I don’t hate fat OR the people who are fat.

  7. LittleBigGirl Says:

    It seems you have dug down to the root of the FA movement with this post. People who ‘hate fat’ often treat fat people horribly, and people who hate being fat often end up hating themselves.
    There is no logical reason to hate fat. If it were a proven detriment like cancer then you could be concerned about it, but the “hatred” of fat we witness is more often than not based on social bias about aesthetics and beauty, only now with a new layer of misinformation about health to protect the haters from accusations of shallowness.
    I have never heard anyone say “I hate fat(ness)” – it is always “I hate fat people.” And it is always hate, or disdain, or pity, or some other egocentric and selfish emotion – not concern.
    When many people say they hate fat, they are really saying “I hate people that I assume are lazy and greedy who don’t try hard enough to live up to my preconceptions of an individual’s worth.”
    Some people just aren’t happy to simply stand, without a neck to put their foot on.

    FWIW, I have depression and I am a trauma survivor with PTSD. My greatest struggle with those conditions is the feeling of being “broken”, “flawed” or of weak character because I cannot simply will myself “normal.” I do not hate myself because I have depression but sometimes my depression makes me hate myself. So I hate my depression right back.
    I cannot separate myself from my fat, so I must learn to accept it so I can accept myself. If other people cannot accept my fat that is their problem in addition to being none of their fucking business.


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