The Incredible Shrinking Phallus


Meditations on privilege

Naming pain

The first mental health carnival is just starting. The theme is diagnosis, which is good, because it is something I have been thinking about a lot as the days get shorter and my nights get so long.

I’ve been depressed for more than a decade. Which makes my heart hurt so badly every time I think it. But then there’s a little shrug and I think, “yeah, that sounds about right.” Starting when I was about twelve, the crushing sadness set in, with OCD, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide attempts. It’s hard for me to remember a lot of the past eleven years, and chronology is especially difficult.

Lately, it has been coming back, but it feels too like there is something else in my head. The feeling of inaccessible thoughts isn’t new, nor the discomforting sensation that there is absolutely nothing in my head (I can go hours without thinking a discrete thought, doing nothing more than repeating a line or two from a song that doesn’t hold any particular significance). But these same old feelings have never felt quite like this.

Lately, my body hurts, for no good reason. A burning pain in my joints, especially my fingers, my wrists, my elbows, my ankles. I wrap them because that makes them feel better and reminds me not to lift too much, but I never know what to say when people ask what is wrong. I don’t know what is wrong. I just know it hurts.

So I spend a lot of time now Googling. Is the fogginess how my newly testosterone-wired brain is dealing with a lack of testosterone and interpreting the first huge depression I’ve had in a few years? (Is this the first huge depression I’ve had in a few years? Each time, it feels new and worse.) Do I have post-concussion syndrome from a decade of beating my head against walls and with my fists when I start to panic– injuries that make my ears ring and my vision narrow and go dark? Is the pain being sad enough that every little thing happening in my body feels magnified, so the normal aches and pains become unbareable? Is it lupus? Fibro? RA? Am I imagining it all?

The problem with the urge to name is that the diagnosis becomes the only justification. It’s not enough for me to forget what you just said because my brain is foggy. Is it enough if it is foggy because of TBI? I couldn’t stop crying yesterday. Par for the course for someone in crisis mode, but I would have felt even more selfish for doing it if I couldn’t justify it with my depression. The problem with that is that it can bring us quickly into a sort of essentialism where the problem isn’t the problem, the diagnosis is the problem. Where it’s not enough to feel or experience

Filed under: Disability and Ability