What do you hide from the world?

Greetings new followers, as well as the faithful readers who always patiently await my return! Like Spring, I do eventually show up, full of hope and the promise of renewal.

So what prompted me back here today?

Oddly enough, it is the intersection of a fiction book I am reading for the local library book club, an upcoming meet-up I will be having with a group of medical students, and a presentation by a physician who is an artist/creator.

The title of the book I am currently reading is “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett. I’m only half finished the novel, but it is providing me pause for thought. Without giving too much away, the story is about twin black sisters who, though inseparable as children, decide to live in two different worlds, one black and one white.

Midway through the book a Trans character is introduced. At that point I became fascinated with the thought of how people, though not necessarily to the extent of assuming another race or transitioning gender, live in a world that does not accept who they really are.

While mulling it over all week, I also asked myself what parts of myself do I hide from others? My initial response was nothing. I consider myself to be an open and authentic person.

Then I got the meeting reminder. This week I would again be with a handful of medical students I am matched with to continue the exploration of what it is like for me to be a patient in the context of a chronic illness that affects me on a daily basis.

“Society and Illness” is the topic this session. Possible discussion topics we were provided with include: how illness affects patients in society; how/when patients choose to talk about their illness; physician’s assumptions and biases which may affect patient interactions; visible vs. invisible illness and stigma.

Boom! There was my answer. What I hide from others nearly every damn day is having chronic illness. Since I am revealing this fact on a blog site that thus far has been primarily about my illness, it seems rather contradictory and illogical. I won’t blame you if you do not believe me, but it is in fact true.

The world we live in, though admittedly changing, is still a white, cisgender world. It is also a world for the strong and healthy. There is no favour to be won in society by admitting to chronic illness or invisible disability. Revealing illness seems akin to admitting weakness and vulnerability. Alternatively, disclosing and discussing illness may be viewed as attention seeking behaviour.

So why did I start and continue this blog? That is a question I seem to cycle back to, time and time again.

Initially my motivation was to share my experiences of illness with others so they would feel less alone in their struggles. I find reading about the medical adventures of other patients informative, fascinating, and validating, so thought I could reciprocate with my own stories. I also hoped sharing creative expression as a method of “healing when cure is not to be found” might be helpful.

Last night, I attended a workshop by Dr. Kevin Dueck, an Ontario primary care physician who also works in emergency medicine and addictions. In his presentation “Staying Human in Medicine”, he talked about art, story and creation being an outlet and means to process events, explore feelings, and personal expression. He shared some of his own creative work.

(Dr. Dueck’s writing can be found at http://www.Abootmedicine.wordpress.com)

Dr. Dueck was, of course, speaking from the physician perspective. He talked about the secondary trauma ER docs experience, the patient suffering they witness, the issues surrounding medical hierarchy, moral distress and the barriers to executing the care they wish to provide individuals, and of course the culture of toughness within the medical profession. He talked about sublimation as transformation rather than repression.

And that is when I realized why I continue to come back to my blog even after long absences. It is also why I return to themes of living with chronic illness, even though that was not my first intent. Here, I do not have to repress, censor, ignore, or pretend. I can transform, rather than repress. This is a place for me to create and connect with those who are willing to accept.