Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Out of the Chronic Closet

You are not obligated to hide your illness to make other people comfortable

I came out today in the Daily City target, and it felt amazing. A large part of my illness is that I go into states where I lose, to varying degrees, speech and muscle control. Depending on the degree of loss, I have tics, for lack of a medical or diagnostic term, that I can suppress with difficulty. For example, it feels good to moan or repeat sounds. It also feels good to rock back and forth or to tap my hands in a certain way. In combination with the dazed expression on my face and lack of coordination and/ or speech, I look like someone with a serious mental disability. I look like a "retard." So, in public, I hide it as much as possible.

Until today in Target. I had read the above quote (the full quote is below) and it occurred to me that I didn't have to hide. It meant people stared. It meant I made them uncomfortable. It meant they wished I was different. I could not have cared less. It felt wonderfully free to just let myself be as sick as I actually am. It was so much easier than hiding!

It felt much like when I was in my early twenties and dressed like a dyke in a very small town where the women all had fake tans, nails and boobs. Where Tri-Tip is God and so is Jesus. People stared. People were uncomfortable. Some people were mean. I could not have cared less. I was me and they were them. People are different; get over it.

It felt much like the times have I shaved my head too. People stared. People were uncomfortable. People told me I would be pretty if I were different. I could not have cared less. I loved my shaved head. I loved defying my gender role in such a public way.

I think, as women, we often put other people's feelings before our own. We are socialized to do just that and it becomes "natural" behavior. Well, there is nothing natural about trying to hide who I am. Partnered with a woman or a man, bald-headed or long-haired, healthy or sick...this is me. And with that, I'm out.

How do you hide? In what ways do you make yourself uncomfortable for the sake of other people or for cultural norms?

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