This week’s theme is the social impact that endo has had on my life.
I’ll get to this, I promise.
As some readers might know, I hurt my foot about… a week and a half ago (at least at the time of my writing). I was running, stepped on something funny, my toes were not happy. Now my foot is painful, bruised, and swollen — but healing.
However, my kids have also been working on video research projects, meaning they need space — separate enough so they don’t interfere with one another’s images or sound, open enough that I can keep an eye on all of them at once. Meaning we were on the practice athletic fields, where I could see them all at once but where I had to walk and walk and walk
and walk to get from group to group for actual feedback.
On an injured foot. Not my brightest moment.
Our class schedule is set up so that each group filmed twice over the course of three days.
At the beginning of Day 1, I honestly thought it would not be a big deal. “Hey, it’s just walking.” You know, something I routinely do not need to consider as muscular effort or energy expenditure during the course of my day.
By the end of Day 2, I was asking my kids to keep to the front half of the practice field (still fine for audio, not so clean for visuals).
Sheepishly, I pointed to my foot. “I can’t actually walk that far all day.” I needed an accommodation.
Here’s the thing. This was pretty much the ideal circumstance to be a person asking for an accommodation. I mean:
- It was a visible injury. One of the pieces of support tape extended above my shoe. Or, had I taken everything off my foot, there would have been the aforementioned bruising and swelling to show them.
- It’s a exercise-sustained injury — a pain issue that’s relatively easily understandable as well as one that’s coded relatively positively. I don’t mean that people are all like, “Yay! You hurt your foot!” But I do find that people are more likely to view such an issue as more… noble? forgivable? … than pain from some other causes.
- It is exceedingly likely to be a temporary issue and one that required only minor accommodation.
- Let’s face it: I’m an adult teacher in a classroom of secondary students. There’s an inherent power dynamic there that works in my favor.
And yet, despite that not a one of them seemed miffed that I asked them to alter their behavior for me, I felt really awkward and self-conscious in asking this from my students.
Compare that to endo:
- It’s an invisible condition. From the outside, there’s no proof that it’s happening.
- It’s often misunderstood. Moreover, endo is part of a broader category — period pain or “wimminz troubles,” depending on how you want to look at it — that are coded more negatively by society. In other words, more people who are likely to dismiss endo as exaggeration or “low pain tolerance,” to judge people with endo as weak, needy, lacking.
- It is exceedingly likely to be a long term issue and one that may require a variety of accommodations.
- Most of the people I need to ask are friends and partners — social equals — or employers, supervisors, or health care providers — situations where the power dynamic is skewed against me.
If self shame at feeling physically less than happens in the most innocuous of situations, how much more self shame happens where there’s additional pressure and stigma?
It’s tough admitting that I hurt, that there are things I cannot do — or cannot enjoy — because I hurt, that these limitations are long term and may be permanent. When I do so, I feel vulnerable, deficient. People could choose either not to help me or to demean me while helping me, and I might not be able to do anything about it. I mean, I don’t think my friends would — because there’s a reason I choose to have those people in my lives — but not everyone with whom I must interact socially is a friend.
To admit pain, vulnerability to an unknown entity, an unknown response? That’s scary.