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Obesity as an illness of metaphor

Photo by melliegrunt / by NCND 2.0 CC

I’ve been reading The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom, a well-researched and fascinating book about pain viewed through the filters of history, literature, science, religion and the author’s personal experiences. Of particular interest to me was the idea that disease is sometimes seen as metaphor. For example, a common 19th century belief about consumption (a.k.a. tuberculosis) was that it was a “spiritualizing struggle between the body and the soul, in which mortal flesh was slowly consumed in a way that heightened both beauty and creativity.” This view seems sort of silly now that we know tuberculosis is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis. Similarly, cancer was once seen as a sign of repression, and HIV was originally viewed as punishment for homosexuality, both of which have similarly been proven false after the mechanisms of the disease were discovered.

This is when it occurred to me that obesity is still seen as a disease of metaphor.

Obese people have been assigned many traits by mainstream culture. They’re weak-willed. They’re lazy. They don’t […]

Less than a year away

Yesterday was my 29th birthday (thanks in advance for the well wishes), which means a year from yesterday will be…the one year anniversary of my 29th birthday! Actually, this is more commonly referred to as your 30th birthday and while I know this is considered a BIG DEAL, I am not all that concerned about it at this moment.

I figure people freak out over their 30th birthday for two reasons: 1) They look at their lives and are unhappy with what they’ve accomplished or failed to accomplish. 2) They fear old age, illness and their ultimate mortality. As for number 1, I am pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished at this point in my life, so no worries there. As for number 2 – HA! Illness? Old age? We are old friends. We have drinks every Friday night together.

I am always befuddled when a 28-year-old friend of mine tells me, “I found a white hair today!” as if this is shocking information. I found my first white hair when I was 21, and my older […]

My body doesn’t have a warranty

I was 21 years old when I looked in the mirror in the computer science building’s bathroom and saw the first grey hairs growing out of my scalp. It was that same year that I started to see small grey flecks of dust in my vision when I looked up at a clear blue sky or at a white wall. My eye doctor told me these were floaters, little blobs of protein that develop in the fluid in your eyeball. Near-sighted people like me get them quite frequently.

A couple years later I woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to scoop my gallbladder out with a spoon. The surgeon did it with a scalpel and a tiny camera instead, and I was only 24. Then my knees started to hurt when I climbed up the stairs. By this point I’d also lost track of how many cavities I’d had filled, caused by too much Mountain Dew and too little dental floss.

A friend my age told me over dinner she is fighting acid […]

A sickness I can name

I have a cold and I’m rather enjoying it. I sneeze and people say “Bless you.” My throat is sore, so I take cough drops. When people see the wastebasket full of tissues, they know I have a cold. It’s visible and understandable. Everyone has had a cold. They know what that feels like. They know what to do. Take Vitamin C. Keep Kleenex handy. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. It will pass eventually.

It is not like my headache, which no one can see. They might notice the zoned out look in my eyes or notice me rub my temples, but otherwise my chronic pain is invisible. When I try to explain what is wrong with me, they don’t understand. They’ll say, “How are your headaches?” using the plural. They don’t get that the headache never goes away, that it’s just one headache, not many. They try to empathize, but they don’t really know what it’s like, and I’m thankful because I would not wish the experience on others. They can say “That must […]

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Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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