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.