In Blackest Night – Axioms & Postulates – You Don’t Look Ill
Since my first In Blackest Night post, I have had a number of ideas running wild in my head. I’m trying to blog as soon as I get them but it’s not always possible. Despite my worsening memory, I have been able to hold on to a lot of ideas without jotting them down or recording voice notes (a first for me – usually they vanish into the ether soon after conception).
Fuelled by every day thoughts (and a pinch of paranoia, I suppose), I came upon the notion of “You don’t look ill” and the inevitable rage after hearing it. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about and heard/seen others discuss. When it comes to chronic illnesses and, in my case mental illness, it seems society expects some sort of validation for illness. Yes, there has to be accountability and a level of control when it comes to the benefits system etc. But for your Average Joe who has no medical experience, I’m sorry I don’t meet your expectations of someone who is ill. Could you remind me how I am supposed to look?
It’s probably one of the most demeaning sayings there are. It immediately draws attention and, due to the way people are, brings out the worst in people who are soon to grab their pitchforks and torches and join in on something they have very little knowledge of. It encourages the sheep to follow. Speaking of animals, it does sadly bring in the boy who cried wolf. Perhaps we wouldn’t be in such a bad place if everybody told the truth; there would be no doubt or suspicions, no judgement…but we’re not in the world of “The Invention of Lying” prior to Ricky Gervais scribbling his commandments on some pizza boxes.
The concept of “you don’t look ill” could be the reason a lot of invisible illnesses inadvertently become worse – that deep, psychological need to feel validated drives hardship and deterioration. By worrying that you don’t look ill you, in turn, make yourself even worse. I guess it could be summed up, for those unfamiliar with such problems, as the typical high school reunion scenario where you big yourself up more to avoid embarrassment at the fact you didn’t amount to much – you feel you have to legitimise yourself to meet what society expects of you.
Is that the key? Are depression and other invisible illnesses by-products of not being able to fit in and that have mental and physical ramifications? I’m no expert but perhaps there is something of substance there. Not that I’m implying that it’s the cause but I certainly think the additional pressure/burdens posed could have a drastic effect on such conditions.
I think it says something that, as a society, we recognise the visually evident impairments of the afflicted – wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walking aids, guide dogs, hearing aids and all the other “identifiers” for illnesses/conditions – yet, just because we cannot see the other types of illnesses, we feel we have to have some sort of proof that Mrs A N Other is actually ill. To be fair, anyone could buy a wheelchair or, heck, even steal one – does seeing that petty thief in a wheelchair change our opinion because they look like they have a disability?
Do we need to add to the portfolio, that merely consists of a blue disabled badge for now, a variety of ‘special’ badges to allow society to differentiate between us? This is starting to sound familiar…something about fascism and yellow stars…
As a person suffering depression, tell me…how the hell am I supposed to look? Unshaven, wearing scruffy clothes and stinking of my own piss and shit? Sorry, I think that description has already been taken by the homeless. Do you see the problem there? Judgement. By trying to validate one category you make a caricature of another because it’s human nature to compare and degrade.
I’d love to think that it could change but, to be brutally honest, I think we are too far gone as a society for it to ever be where it should be. Then again, it’s all just a matter of perspective…whose perspective is the correct one?