17 February 2012

Disability and Identity

Blogging about disease is by definition bad form.  Here's the first definition of "patient" from the Oxford English Dictionary: "Enduring pain, affliction, inconvenience, etc., calmly, without discontent or complaint; characterized by or showing such endurance."

I've been blogging about disease because I take issue with the prevailing medical and social models that suggest that a person is either sick or healthy, and that health is necessary for well-being.  I want to challenge this paradigm, to demonstrate that it's possible to live, and live well, with permanent impairment and/or chronic illness.

But the very definition of "patient" gives me a sense of unease about doing so.  I feel as though I'm violating social expectations of cheerful endurance by raising the issues in public rather than remaining stoically silent.

And yet, I carry on.  I think it's important to make the point that illness is a part of life.  It shouldn't be the defining feature of identity for someone who lives with chronic illness or impairment, yet social convention makes it a defining feature by placing the disabled and diseased into a separate social category.  

In fact, we have multiple other identities, shaped by profession, ethnicity, race, class, and gender.  Social paradigms need to shift so that we can see -- literally see! -- beyond markers of disability and engage with others as human beings.