Gravity's Rainbow

botany, shoes, books, and justice

March 2, 2018
by sarcozona

Pain obliterates identity, but the loss of identity in chronic illness isn’t simply a function of pain. It is also a result of constant gaslighting about the experience of your own body. Pain is a mysterious and terrifying force. It makes sense that pain destroys us. Being told by a loved one that you are faking because you’re lazy doesn’t. That does more invidious, insidious damage.

[P]eople who experience subjective symptoms that cannot be objectively confirmed by biomedicine often have their experience contested by medical professionals, employers, friends, and family. They experience a kind of “double disruption” in their lives. Not only does chronic illness disrupt their taken-for-granted world, but the skepticism that so often accompanies these illnesses can lead to a breakdown of the normal experience of self, leaving them feeling marginalized and alone. Since women are systematically less likely to be believed when they complain about pain, this experience is highly gendered. As sociologist Kristin Barker argues, when the world refuses to acknowledge and validate suffering, people can start to question their own sanity. Which is to say, persistent delegitimation—the experience of living among relentless doubt— can break down one’s voice, one’s sense of self, one’s very identity.

Joanna Kempner in Not Tonight

Not Tonight

My library finally got Not Tonight for me yesterday. 15 pages in and have 5 post-its sticking out of the pages already! I’ve been making notes in pencil since it’s a library book – I think I’m going to have to do a lot of erasing before I turn it back in!!!

What’s this book about?

How do our entrenched ideas about mind, body, gender, and legitimacy shape what we believe about migraine?

[I]f biomedicine has discovered that migraine is “real,” why does it remain so easy to ignore, dismiss, and delegitimate? Has the “discovery” of the brain in migraine really erased the idea of the hysterical patient that is so deeply embedded in doctor-patient interactions about pain? In this book, I argue that the recent biomedicalization of migraine is not powerful enough to erase centuries of sexism in culture and in medicine. If anything, the transformation of migraine from a disorder of the mind to a disease of the brain has reified some of the same stultified ideas about gender that always made life difficult for both men and women in pain. The result has important implications for how we understand whose pain and suffering is taken seriously and whose is ignored on an individ­ual level, at the clinic, in the annals of medical journals, and by policy makers.