Cheryl Went the Other Way. On The Path Not Taken.

Recently I met Cheryl, a member of my adopted community here in the Middle of Nowhere, Cannabis Central, USA.  Cheryl is a bit older than I am, used to be a writer of religious texts.  Even had one published before self-publishing was a thing.  A bona fide published writer.  Writers are a weird bunch (obviously) and Cheryl is certainly weird, and was probably a bit (way) off even before she got sick — like me, Cheryl is seriously chronically ill.  I haven’t asked about her diagnoses but like many chronically ill people and especially chronically ill women, she likely has more than one illness, and it is likely that at least one of her afflictions is an autoimmune disease.  As I am learning, these illnesses, for whatever reason, tend to travel in packs.  I personally only have one that I know of — Crohn’s disease — but since moving residences 2 weeks ago and finding myself unable to get out of bed much and wracked with head-to-toe pain and crippling fatigue ever since, I am once again wondering if I have another one although I have learned through reading other Crohn’s patients’ testimonies online that Crohn’s all by itself is enough to render anyone the barely-walking dead and that is indeed how I feel.  Cheryl, on the other hand, has been buried under her particular prison for years.

Just recently I mused in this space that pretty much any outcome would have been a better outcome than the one I am living now, having become seriously chronically ill and then having “lost it all” paying out-of-pocket for medical treatment, first paying for 2 years of the medicalized torture that is Western medicine and its woefully inadequate “treatment” for Crohn’s disease then abandoning that to seek real healing and real relief using medical cannabis (or medical marijuana) in a cannabis-legal state.  And I still think I was right about that, and that there is probably very little that’s much worse than feeling like death and (therefore) being mostly unable to control my outcomes in the context of capitalism and patriarchy — overlapping political systems (or just one system, really) under which I exist to be used for my labor first as a female and then as a worker but where I can no longer reliably work.  I can no longer reliably work, so I no longer qualify for the perks that working people earn for their compliance — trinkets, moments of leisure, food, shelter, medicine.  Cheryl, on the other hand, continued down the path I left and now earns her keep as a professional patient, letting doctors hurt her for money.  I wrote about that phenomenon previously here.

My readers mostly know how I’ve been doing on my path, facing looming homelessness and unable to qualify for disability or need-based benefits because of my choice to abandon Western medicine and attempting to “help myself” financially by starting a small business consistent with my disability.  In my 3-plus years of treating myself with medical cannabis I have found unlikely but profound relief from my most terrifying symptoms and feel about 50% better than I did, and am no longer getting worse, but now have an essentially undocumented illness and have complicated my finances to the point that I am beyond state-sponsored help, or anytime soon.  Whereas Cheryl went the other way: being a compliant patient and a good woman, she continued to swallow Western medicine including its poisons and its female-hatred as required and now has all of her suffering subsidized by the state — she qualifies for free Western medical care and both disability and need-based benefits.  She has a (rented) home, and a modest savings, and will likely be “taken care of” forever, whatever that means for a chronically ill woman in capitalism and patriarchy.  And therein lies the rub.

For all of her compliance and doing everything right, how has Cheryl fared?  Just about as well as can be expected: she is still sick, has gotten no relief from her suffering, or not for long, and has only gotten and is still getting progressively worse.  She should probably be in a nursing home (or dead) by now and likely would be if not for our mutual friend who takes care of her — out of the goodness of her heart this woman fields Cheryl’s frantic calls and texts, does her shopping, provides company.  And because I like and appreciate our mutual friend so much, who has also graciously helped me in my most desperate hour, I have helped her take care of Cheryl when she couldn’t, fielding some of the calls and texts, doing a bit of the shopping.

I am too sick to provide company though and have a rather primitive dislike for Cheryl.  Does my lizard brain assume that whatever the hell is wrong with Cheryl — and there is a lot — is contagious, and is it therefore telling me to run away?  Probably, but Cheryl is also so unbelievably trying, so unabashedly pathetic that in my own weakened state she is simply about 10,000 times more than I can take.  I do understand her though, unlike our mutual friend who has voiced to me many times that she thinks whatever is wrong with Cheryl can’t possibly be as bad as Cheryl says.  Actually, I know it’s probably worse, and that Cheryl likely doesn’t talk to her about it or about anything when she is at her worst because she mentally and/or physically can’t.  Our mutual friend thinks she herself knows what it’s like to be seriously ill because she had, and recovered from, hepatitis as a teenager.

But what Cheryl and I both know, and what our friend can’t, is that being infected with a pathogen as a healthy person is nothing like being chronically ill with an incurable, untreatable and progressive disease.  For the sake of our friendship I do not vigorously defend my or Cheryl’s position but I also do not shamelessly agree with her when she demonstrates her ignorance by shittalking Cheryl.  The woman needs to vent afterall — Cheryl is almost preternaturally (supernaturally?) irritating, pathetic and a fully patriarchal woman by now, something that would not exist in nature and by all rights should have died long ago before things got this bad.  It is exceptionally frightening in a decidedly premonitory way for any person and especially any woman to watch and it makes people want to run away.

I understand Cheryl because I am Cheryl, or I easily could’ve been had I continued down the Western medical road, but even I have gotten tired of listening to her bitch as she continues to swallow her Big Pharma poison like a Good Woman, of hearing her complain about her escalating symptoms as she downs Big Ag GMO crap and thinks it’s food.  It’s not.  I am tempted to offer to help her with her diet, to get her off the GMO crap and to find a diet that is compatible with her disability (and her humanness) but honestly, who am I to dole out advice to Cheryl?  Unlike myself, Cheryl has a (relatively) permanent place to live, Cheryl has a (supposedly) assured income via disability and need-based benefits.  Even assuming she would listen and try anything I suggested (and assuming she could shoulder the increased expense over time) should I plant the seeds of rebellion/discontent in her now?  To what end?  So she can end up like me, incurably ill and destitute, having spent my entire accumulated wealth chasing an elusive and unsustainable so-called alternative treatment for my incurable and progressive disease?  And where suicide — medically assisted or otherwise — will likely be my eventual and only escape from my intractable pain and symptoms and the rather inevitable homelessness and/or incarceration for the crime of being a sick woman in capitalism and patriarchy?

Is that end an objectively better end — or even any more or any less suicidal — than the one Cheryl is likely to incur on her own, or more accurately, as a sick woman who has left her fate up to capitalistic and patriarchal institutions: as Dworkin wrote about in Right Wing Women, elderly, sick and languishing in a nursing home, being drugged and raped by the guards?  When Cheryl or any woman dies there, either from medicalized abuse or neglect or both, would anyone consider that manner of female death a suicide?  If anyone did think that would they be demonstrably wrong?  Unclutch those anti-suicide, pro-life pearls (if applicable) look up “proxy” and get back to me.  Synonyms: deputy, representative, substitute, delegate, agent, surrogate, stand-in, attorney, go-between.

Can anyone even reliably identify “suicidal” actions within the context of capitalism and patriarchy for that matter, where workers are putting their lives in the hands of cruel corporate masters and where women routinely place their lives — in every context — in men’s hands?  Seriously, I’ll wait for a definitive answer to that if any is forthcoming, while I concurrently wait for the social media suicide squad to show up at my door for daring to mention the S word at all.

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10 thoughts on “Cheryl Went the Other Way. On The Path Not Taken.

  1. i think it would be interesting to get cheryl high (maybe on edibles?) and ask her more about her publishing and life experience. have you ever considered chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia- they can make mild exertion feel like you did a marathon, but yeah, so does being chronically ill. hey if you don’t want to get hassled for being hopeless in a heartless world just make it sexy, it’s disturbingly easy for females to get validation for self destruction in this necrophiliac culture. i wonder what a biophiliac culture would look like tho….

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  2. As long as I wasn’t stoned I think I might be able to handle interacting with a stoned Cheryl lol. Or maybe not idk. You’re so right that we are rewarded for being self destructive, but only if it follows a certain script, in particular, the more PIV the better. It’s interesting to think about it that way especially against the anti-suicide backdrop we have here in the USA. I guess we are allowed to be as damaged as possible as long as we are still able to consume. Obviously there are cultures that are not as anti-suicide as we are here, but then any government that supports suicide I would have to be suspicious of also. Like in Japan where apparently the state is more or less cool with people killing themselves out of shame for not being perfect corporate stooges. They still aren’t giving out pills to make it easier though so everyone has to agonize over it and risk doing it wrong. And sick Japanese people are still probably flying to Switzerland for legal euthanasia. It’s so fucked up honestly, the way we think about and deal with death in a necrophilic culture. If hypocrisy were fatal none of us would have to think about suicide, death or dying (or somehow living with chronic illness) anymore because we would all be dead from the hypocrisy alone. What the fuck.

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  3. Also, I didn’t expressly state it in the post, but doesn’t it seem like the 2 “paths” available to sick women aren’t really 2 paths at all but one path that’s only superficially different but basically the same? Cheryl and I are both fucked basically, and we are doomed to get worse and will meet terrible ends. If I had gone Cheryl’s way, I wouldn’t have had any relief at all from my suffering (like she has had no relief for hers) but really I’ve only managed to delay the inevitable whereas Cheryl jumped in with both feet by making herself worse with Big Pharma poison. I didn’t have that option as I had no one to care for me once I became ill (and saw that Big Pharma was making me worse) and she did, but what’s the point of delaying it really? I’ve been hoping that I would “buy myself time” and that something would change or someone would show up to save me, but that hasn’t happened. I got as close as one woman moving 1000 miles to be within an hour of me, but she only ended up using me to better her own life and didn’t help me at all. It’s just been one drawn out energy-intensive crazy train to nowhere. Once you get sick, there is just nothing much you can do to avoid these rather natural outcomes — natural meaning supported by natural law, where accumulations vanish and you fall all the way to the bottom if no one is there to catch you. I do still believe in “magic” and unknown possibilities, and I think that the truth has a ring or a vibration to it and that vibrations might possibly alter my outcomes…but the more time passes it becomes less and less likely that any of this matters and that I will simply have to meet the end that’s waiting for me, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it (and I am the only one who even cares to stop it, so that’s not good). Isn’t that the position both Cheryl and I occupy? Women fall all the way to the bottom. That’s what we do when we no longer have any control over our outcomes, and the first thing you lose when you get sick is control.

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  4. i honestly wouldn’t be alive today if i hadn’t found your blog last year. i still struggle most days and actually more on the days i feel half decent- (i think, i should kill myself NOW before it gets too bad again and i’m too weak to protect myself from dr’s and family that will just institutionalize me). but when you said, “we are allowed to be as damaged as possible, as long as we are still able to consume…” i realized damaged goods are also cheaper *To consume* and endlessly feeds the parasitical system. i’ve been depressed and suicidal ever since puberty when i became aware of how stupid, selfish and lazy most people are, but i refuse to make their life easier by shutting up and killing myself just yet. I still have a tiny bit of hope left that i can find a way to live interdependently or create a radfem collective. Which reminds me, I found a pretty active radfem community and huge chat server on Discord for radfem women only that you might be interested in. blessed be and kill the patriarchy. ❤

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  5. My thoughts on the autism post- the connection with autoimmune just “clicks” and is sooo obvious once you point it out. And yes, very telling that no one cared until the boys started coming out wrong, and those poor women now saddled with an impossible task!

    I WANT to believe that the increase in autistic females (and self-eliminating males) is a response to our dire situation but… idk. I feel like autistic women have always been a present minority throughout history. There was a tumblr post that said something like “What if all of the early feminists were just lesbians who thought all women hated men as much as they did” and obvi it was meant disparagingly towards lesbians and feminists but… I think there’s a grain of truth in that. I think replace ‘lesbian’ with ‘autistic’ and ‘feminist’ with ‘significant woman in history’ and there is still something to it. Am I making any sense?

    I also thought your framing of autism as a “lack of absorption” was really good. When I think about it that way, all of the ‘features’ of autism collapse into that one idea. I was reading this account of a women diagnosed in adulthood, and the thing that, like, triggered the diagnosis was that she was annoyed when the post office was closed on Labor Day. They said she “had a rigid framework etc. blah blah” but the thing is- the post office being closed on certain days is also a rigid framework. It isn’t weird at all that she had a rigid idea of what days are for what- it’s weird that she didn’t ABSORB the same framework as everyone else. I could give a million examples like this from my own life and you probably could too.

    On to this post- the point about autoimmune illness ‘traveling in packs.’ I’ve come to think of it all as the same thing. I mean, we only have one body and one immune system to destroy it. I think of it as a spectrum of ‘shallow’ to ‘deep’, with skin ailments being the shallowest, followed by eyes/nose/throat, followed by maybe lung functions all the way to anaphylactic shock, crohns, and I think maybe rheumatoid arthritis is just as “deep.” I fully expect to eventually get crohns or RA, if nothing else kills me first.

    Your description of Cheryl was darkly funny. I don’t see the harm in maybe sharing what has ‘worked’ for you. Talk about your MMJ and the relief that a change in diet can bring. If she’s open to it and if you’re feeling generous.

    It’s none of my business, and I totally respect where you’re coming from about suicide. autonomy in life and death. but fwiw I hope you continue to bide your time as long as you can, chill out as much as you can, love the cats as much as you can. I don’t think I believe in magic or miracles but I do know life can change in ways that we can’t picture in the moment.

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  6. “I guess we are allowed to be as damaged as possible as long as we are still able to consume.” and as long as we are still able to be consumed.

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  7. I appreciate the truthfulness of your blog. No sugar-coating which seems to go hand in hand with conventional medicine. Lots of mind games, too, like diagnosing a woman as over-reacting instead of taking symptoms, especially early symptoms, seriously.

    For many years I had a lot, really a lot, of “little” things wrong with me. I’ve had doctors mock me when I showed up with a list Since I was paying out of pocket, I wanted to get the most from a visit. I learned that they only want you to talk about one thing at a time, or maybe two. Poor diagnostic skills, since the body is a whole system, as you describe.

    Often they just gave me a blank look. Nope, I’m not a hypochondriac, bc it took a while for these things to worsen, and become “real” illnesses. If you can’t get a diagnosis, you must not have an illness, right? This is especially true for women. Things could be helped in an early stage, but there’s just a blank stare. When they get really bad, then they can mobilize, come in with the “big gun” meds or treatments. These cause other problems. Like with Cheryl and as you found, and I found, and most women find. Wonder why they always talk about wars, e.g., the war on cancer? Your body is the battlefield they intend to fight on.

    I got used to finding out what to do for myself most of the time. Often in earlier stages. What foods to eat or not eat. Or the internet forums. Supplements. As a result I’ve been able to keep a lot of it from getting as bad as it would be. But it takes a lot of work and money to maintain a less unhealthy state.

    When I ended up in the ER with allergies, I got a really nasty doctor, very bullying. She didn’t like any alternative approaches and wanted me to take heavy duty meds long term, ones that caused other serious problems. I quietly dropped meds and her and found a different allergist who was more open-minded. Of course, not taking your meds is heresy and justifies bullying.

    Interesting ideas about women and ASD and illnesses, too. Food for thought.

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  8. Hi Lady Love, Nat, sinbigger and Bluejay! Thank you for your comments! I have so, so much to say on these topics and it is so refreshing to see them broached by others as well. So I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting but also to advance my own thinking on the subjects. I have heard from more than one woman that my writing has saved their lives but I am not sure how to process that information. I take it as a positive/gratitude thing as I assume it is intended, but I also do not really want to be responsible for something so massive you know? It’s not as grave as bringing new life into the world, which I am SO SO glad I haven’t done, but I just don’t know. We are all alone in the world to make these decisions by ourselves in the end so I am just unsure what the role of “influencers” should be in this situation, in whatever direction. It should (and probably does in this space) go without saying that I am not intending to influence anyone in either direction, but I do respect those who accept that suicide is an option in life, one of many (or one of painfully few). I respect those who recognize that it is an option because it is one — that’s just the truth of it isn’t it? Even if you are vehemently opposed to the idea, it is still an option. To say it isn’t is dishonest and also painfully stupid IMO. Just because you recognize it as an option doesn’t mean anything except that. Most of us could figure out how to go over a waterfall in a barrel too if we really wanted to, or learn to juggle, or punch a cop in the face. These are our options in life regardless of whether we ever do any of them.

    For me, I recognized suicide as an option from around puberty as well and I always held it very close, never talking about it because it’s crazy to show your hand in most spaces but always knowing it was there if I ever needed it. It has given me something approaching “courage” throughout my life to recognize that I had some control over how bad things got, or how long the pain lasted. It gave me the “courage” (or whatever) to go to law school as a 75% genetically white trash female with no lawyers or other professionals or educated people in my family (except my 100% white trash dad who my 50% white trash mother turned into a doctor) and to move from rural Michigan to fucking New York City for fuck’s sake. And the “courage” (or whatever) to never marry and to try to make a go of it on my own. All of that was completely suicidal now that I think about it, but what was I supposed to do? I am probably autistic and physically could not comply enough to ingratiate myself to anyone who would save my bacon if it ever needed saving. I could not do it, and I fucking tried being relatively normal for years. I tried to get by with normal white trash type jobs and I physically could not eat enough shit to do it properly. Plus, I was always smarter than the people who were treating me like an idiot! I could not abide being treated like a moron. I thought if I got educated that I would be treated as if I were intelligent (for once) but as it turned out, I think being assumed to be stupid is what females have to deal with no matter how true it is or isn’t and there’s nothing that can be done about that. Maybe because of my autism I just couldn’t see or accept that (or at least, I never absorbed it). I accept it now though because it’s the truth.

    And TBH as sick as I am, and as bleak as my future is now (was it ever anything else?) I am actually “happier” now than I was before, taking care of my cats and running a small but successful business that aligns well with my interests and abilities (and now, my disability). Maybe in my case, having energy and intelligence was not a good thing, because with my autism (or whatever) I was just too stubborn (rigid?) to recognize the artificial barriers in front of me (artificial but still very real). Maybe the only thing that could’ve stopped me from being an enormous dumbass and banging my head against the patriarchal wall forever was losing my energy (or intelligence) and now I’m sick so that’s that. I will definitely try to get by for as long as I can, yes. Now that I know that I wasn’t being treated like a moron because I was stupid (or uneducated) I feel incredibly free actually. Now that I’m a lawyer, I have nothing more to prove. Now that I know even that wouldn’t be enough to save me, well….now I know. I’m a seeker of understanding, what can I say.

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  9. @ Cannabis Refugee Now that I know that I wasn’t being treated like a moron because I was stupid (or uneducated) I feel incredibly free actually.

    Had the following insight reading what you said here: It’s hard to fathom that so many people, nearly all men and many women, too, see through this filter that women are morons. It happens every day, all the time. What I can look for is what’s missing in them, some numb dumbness in them. That should be different! Never thought to frame it that way before.

    I never thought I was a moron, but just that what I thought was ignored or silenced so I kept it to myself. My intelligence was invisible, thinking bout it now. Also, as I get older I’ve become increasingly invisible. But not to many other older women, that’s a consolation in some ways, because older women are the best!

    Recent youtube video of a 93-year-old woman who escaped Nazi Germany as a girl and who is now writing lyrics and singing them on youtube, heavy metal? But her life story is remarkable. A figure in the resistance, for instance. But when most people see her outside youtube, they just not-see. Just an old woman to look right through.

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