As a chronically ill person I constantly struggle against the belief that I’m not worth as much as a healthy person. I write here about my disability from time to time, but I don’t know if I’ve ever explained how much it affects me day to day. Pain and fatigue are perpetually with me, and have been for about a decade now. I have to spend a lot of time in bed. When I’m not in bed it’s with the understanding that I will have to buy back that time with being stuck in bed even more than usual. This isn’t “in bed” in the fortune cookie sense. My sleep, my concentration, my coordination, and my brain chemistry are all disturbed by this illness. It’s tough going, having this body.
Some days I can’t walk normally. Some days I can’t drive. Most days I can’t work because the pain and exhaustion are impossible to power through. The tireder I get the more confused and clumsy I become, until my body shuts down despite any and all efforts. All this is frustrating and depressing, both chemically (because the illness makes any physical, mental, or emotional balance uniquely delicate) and situationally (because, um, obvs). It’s overwhelming to think that this is my life from now on, but as time goes on I’ve had to become more and more resigned to that possibility.
Apart from the obvious difficulties I have just, you know, living– at all– I wonder a lot what I actually offer as a partner. Intellectually, I know that I have a fairly interesting personality, and to some I’m even compelling. I love furiously and unstintingly. I look okay if you’re into pale girls with crazy hair. Sometimes I suspect I’m actually pretty great in bed. So I do see what I offer as a lover, but I worry more about the partner part. I may never be able to contribute much income to a household. I’m poor and sick– hell, if anyone out there has excellent health insurance, will you please marry me immediately? Because I’m too destitute to get consistent and adequate treatment for my illness, and I know how to make delicious homemade toum, so I think we could call it an even trade, right? And while I really like the idea of growing old with someone, I might very likely die early. And there are days when I can’t do anything. It’s boring and it’s not fair to the people around me. I hate it.
As an added bonus, as someone who’s been abused and raped, I still constantly struggle against the belief that the reason these things happened to me is because I’m intrinsically worthless. That’s just something the human mind tends to do after going through trauma of that flavor.
Of course, there’s more to it than all that. I think that would be enough, but there’s definitely more. I hear people say they feel worthless all the time, even though they’re healthy and don’t share my history. Is there a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for self worth and some of us are deficient? Is our society so fucked up that it’s working against our birthright of feeling like we matter as much as anyone else? Do we all just need to do a lot more cocaine? I hear cocaine makes you think pretty highly of yourself.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are people to whom I’m worth a hell of a lot. I’m so lucky that way. Sometimes I just wonder how that even works, considering. And I worry what will happen if my health gets much worse. I don’t want to be a burden, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to assume one if they could avoid it.
I know on a very fundamental level that I have innate worth. I’ve peeked through tears in the fabric of consensus reality and realized what a joke all these details are. They’re not what define me; they’re cobwebs in the doorway that is myself. Even if I can never brush them away they are not structurally important, except to arthropods. But still, I wonder what I’m worth on a more surface level if I can’t achieve even modest economic success, or have a “normal” life, or keep up with the cool kids, and that’s harder to answer. What am I worth? I can tell myself “That’s easy. I’m worth the whole fucking universe!”, but sometimes I’m stopped short. What can I say? I’m greedy enough to want more than the universe. I want the world too. At least a nice, comfortable chunk of it.
I would gladly share.