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.