I Sing the Body Electric, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Which Would You Choose?

If you were looking for a way to consider your medical situation, which would you choose?

~From the cover of a book handed to me at the doctor's office, the subtitle of Women and Autoimmune Disease:

~Or, from the text of Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor:
    "My point is that illness is not a metaphor, and the the most truthful way of regarding illness–and the healthiest way of being ill–is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking."

Here at the end of a long day that included the seven little salmon-colored methotrexate pills, a newly-reduced dose of prednisone (5 mg), more of a reaction to the former than I've had for a month and no idea whether the pain I'm experiencing could possibly be such a quick reaction to a lower dose of the latter, I'm thinking I'll choose Sontag.

Which is a tough choice for an English major who loves the metaphors…

(P.S. Think the author of the first one would use that kind of phrase in a book about Men and Autoimmune Disease?)

16 thoughts on “Which Would You Choose?”

  1. Re the P.S.: Of course not. It would be “50 Ways To Kick Your Body’s Ass And Bend It To Your Will.”

  2. i noticed the side quote on an earlier visit to your blog today and thought it wise: “Useful metaphors for RA are those that don’t hold us at fault.” M.E.A. McNeil, Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed – sounds as if you are intentionally choosing a healthy outlook – sing on, Songbird

  3. Another way to say that first subtitle is, “you are weak and your body is weak and you cannot trust it! Live in fear!” What Horse Hockey. If the book is yours to do with as you wish, I’d suggest a big Magic Marker to write derisive things on it with. If the contents is no good, you could ceremonially burn it in the back yard. 🙂
    Hmm, thinking of illness non-metaphorically. How do you do that? It sounds like a very simple way of considering. “It is” rather than “what is it?”
    Could that be helpful?

  4. Being the pragmatist that I am, I agree it’s not the greatest title, but isn’t that the definition of autoimmune disease, when your body starts working against itself – literally? As for as how to deal with the disease emotionally and mentally – it’s of no help at all.

  5. It’s hard to believe any subject/body could be more demonized in a gendered way.
    Instead of “unknown” we get “mysterious,” where lack of knowledge gets blamed not on the scientists but the thing itself, which seems to partake of dark magic and the moon.
    Instead of *a* body or *the* body, it is *your* body, because women’s relationships with their bodies are intrinsic and naturalized, outside of the somewhat *dis*embodied Platonic masculine norm.
    Instead of a chemical autoimmune “response,” it is a “betrayal,” the body as femme fatale, as secret double agent.
    I’m not sure I agree with Sontag that a “healthy” response to illness is de-metaphorized, since metaphors are the air we breathe and the meaning we make. Without them, experience is reduced to a literal and two-dimensional plane, and who wants to exist only as their pain? But certainly there are more holistic ways to analogize illness, and particularly autoimmune illness, than blaming the victim. Sheesh.

  6. I meant “demonized in a more gendered way.” And prayers for your healing.

  7. m-l r, the problem is the coloration of the words, which is a subtle distinction and yet not.
    Elastigirl, that book is SO helpful. I’m going to write about it tomorrow.
    Simpleton, yes. So much yes. And thank you. I am working on my own helpful metaphor, because I’m like that, but it’s a relief to be invited to dump the unhelpful ones and to hear others agree this particular use of words is in that category.

  8. Sorry, I’m on a tear today. I’m sick of any form of blame the victim. It’s like blaming a woman for rape because she wore a short dress, or vanishing women in burkahs so they won’t tempt men. Yes, an autoimmune disease is the body gone awry, but why? I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroditis just before my cancer diagnosis and read a lot about autoimmune diseases. More women than men, but men still get them. One idea is that because we bear children whose genetic makeup is different from ours, our bodies become less able to distinguish what is “us” from what is not. On the other hand, illness is illness. To make it more than random, chaotic is to blame the victim. But we want to make it not random, not chaotic, so we can control it, so we can stay healthy, so we can avoid the death threat, or the permanent disability and pain. As you can tell, I’m still stuck in anger.

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