Our culture has convoluted the meaning of the word “healthy.”
Healthy looks like a thin, able bodied human, and this definition limits a lot of people from being defined as healthy.
While the US has made strides towards inclusivity in some arenas, arguably health is not one of them. There is a particular narrative for health and that standard is impossible for some people to meet, specifically those who are excluded due to illness or disability. The thing about beauty standards is that the number is so low to meet them and they ignore those who can never even come close to the opportunity of meeting them (never mind how some standards are toxic). In the same way, those with chronic illnesses or disabilities (visible or invisible) cannot meet health standards in the same way.
In That Sounds Fun, Annie F. Downs talks about how PCOS has affected her health journey and the way that she interacted with her body. We all understand that at some level. When our bodies are in pain, we don’t interact with our bodies the same way and our emotional and psychological understandings of our bodies differ. Those with chronic illnesses and disabilities have this experience on a greater scale and continually. An average able bodied person doesn’t not have to contend with the same limitations or frustrations that someone who is not able bodied does. There are differing levels of limitations and similarly, standards of health.
Eula Biss’s Pain Scale is an incredible read. It is well worth reading for a fresh understanding of someone’s specific experience with pain and her grappling with the categorization of pain. I’m trying to do the same thing. In a less lyrical way. I’m grappling with this strict standard of health that may be keeping you or someone you love from seeing themselves as healthy.
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As someone who has had a myriad of doctor’s visits, I understand, for myself, how crippling an idea of health that you can never attain is. Being human means coming face to face to your own limits. And that can be an uncomfortable thing. Now I’m not saying that those with chronic illnesses and disabilities are limited completely. I’m saying that holding them to the same standard as an able bodied person would be unfair.
To be healthy definitely encompasses a standard. A child that is malnourished is not healthy and we would not hold them to the same capability as one who is regularly fed nutritious meals. Rather, we meet them where they are and help them. For someone with a disability, this looks like finding resources and getting them affordable care that can help them live with their disability. Their body with a disability is not the same as a body without a disability, and so we should help them be the standard of health that fits them.
Someone living in pain or discomfort, whether physically or psychologically or emotionally, needs love, care, and support. Not pressure to achieve a standard.
To be healthy is not just physical.
Health is physical, is emotional, is spiritual.
In my own life, I’ve often isolated ideas about health and being healthy into neat little categories to work on one at a time. Reality kicked my butt and showed me that my physical health has way more to do with my spiritual health than I knew. And my emotional health has a ton to do with my social health. It’s all connected~
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There are days when I’d sleep in for hours and spend hours binge watching a Netflix show. My physical health was poor because I didn’t have a solid sleeping routine. My emotional state was poor because I didn’t have a morning and night routine to organize my life. My spiritual life was poor because I wasn’t tending to my faith as I lost the energy and desire to do so. My social health was poor because I wasn’t connecting with anyone. All of the pillars of health are connected. Once you work on one, the others are connected.
Now that I have a solid sleep schedule, I get up at the same time and can have a nice morning routine (honestly, I’m still working on that) (physical health). I spend more time reading now that I’ve lessened my TV time (intellectual health). I have energy to hang out with friends, see F9 and eat Thai food (social health). I am tending to my spiritual life by reading the Life devo and Revelation. The pillars of health are being repaired.
Health encompasses all areas of our lives and to be healthy differs across individual circumstances, and one of the healthiest things we can do is let go of the mindsets that limit others and the way they can act in the world.