People who live with chronic pain or illness become experts in details. They will know if the muscle involved in a current episode is the erector spinnae or the sacroiliac joint; they will have more than one go-to technique for masseter massage. They will have tried all the remedies. They will have read the latest research. They will be proficient, indeed accomplished, translators of obscure terminology and references. Many of the people who live with chronic pain—like migraines—are women.
An essay I would like more people to read is called The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain, by Leslie Jamison. Another is this one by Serena Williams, on how she almost died after childbirth.
We often do not trust people—especially if those people are women, and especially if those people are black women—to be reliable narrators of their own pain, their own bodies, their own experiences. This mistrust is embedded in medicine and in science, and of course in media.
We trust women so little that all around the world we contort ourselves into hateful knots the better with which to bind them.
"No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife." –Zora Neale Hurston (and always, NS)
The breath continues but the breathing
Is this the way death wins its way
against all longing
and redemptive thrust from grief?
and pain becomes the only keeper
of my time
— from First Poem After Serious Surgery by June Jordan