If you were to view illness and injury solely through the lens of the media, you would assume that the sick and injured are ‘brave’, ‘fighters’, ‘determined’ and ultimately inspirational through our stoical refusal to complain and make other people uncomfortable with the messy details of our treatment and recovery.
Whilst it is fantastic that charities can use this mantra of fighting back to raise vital funds for cancer and other medical research, the refusal to acknowledge the breadth of individual experiences in this narrative can negatively impact on the emotional state of those living with serious illness or disability. If we are not successful in ‘beating’ cancer to run marathons or ‘battling’ through injury to climb mountains, does that mean we are just not fighting hard enough?
If the only acceptable face of recovery is dignified, heroic and uplifting, what are you supposed to do when you feel angry, bitter and defeated? How can you feel comfortable articulating the true answer to ‘How are you feeling?’, when the only answer anyone wants to hear is ‘Oh, you know, battling on’. Accompanied by a brave smile, naturally.
It is not just physically, but mentally demanding to channel your energies into rehabilitation and recovery. There are some days when it is all too much and the only thing you can do is keep your head down and hope for a better day tomorrow. If this is not the part of the story that anyone wants to hear, it can be incredibly isolating.
If the only narratives that you hear are those of incredible success; the amputee who now climbs mountains or the cancer patient who runs marathons, how can you not feel that your own journey is embarrassingly futile and feel shame admitting that you are not a paragon of virtuous achievement?
Yes, this blog is about challenging my own perceptions of my mobility and moving forward with a positive attitude to see what I can achieve; however I could not have written this blog two years ago, when the trauma was still very raw and present. By not recognising the true emotional and physical costs of a serious and life changing illness or disability, adds insult to very real injury.
Note: whilst the title might imply otherwise, I actually think that the This Girl Can campaign is incredibly successful precisely because it empowers women of all levels of activity and achievement to push themselves to their personal limits without judgement.