We recently had the pleasure of meeting Mandy, the host of PhilosophyofHealth.org, who discusses navigating her disability, access to health care, and critiques of the modern health care system, and many other health-related topics. We are reposting Mandy’s interview with her Home Health Aide (also known as a Personal Care Attendants or Personal Care Aide), where the two of them discuss their journeys that brought them together. In the introduction, Mandy gives an overview of the exploitation HHAs experience and the real antagonisms between patients and health care workers.
The Florence Johnston Collective strongly believes that a struggle for human care must bridge the gap between patients and care workers. We appreciate how Mandy and Shyam are working through these questions. We are excited to share Mandy’s and Shyam’s story here on Flo Jo’s blog. Enjoy.
Recently a spate of personal and political hardship (impending divorce, and a healthy dosage of state repression) pushed me from what Freud calls “ordinary everyday unhappiness” to the domain of the crippling neuroses. Despite having a dependable network of reliable friends and comrades, I judged myself to be a burden to those whom I love, and decided to face the heartbreak and uncertainty on my own. Part of this was informed by a juvenile attachment to the stoic philosophy of Aurelius, Epictetus, the hellenophile Nietzsche, and co., according to which external phenomena must wash over one’s visage like waves breaking on a steadfast cliffside. Of course this metaphor, often evoked among in stoic literature, has no place for erosion. And facing down constant nervous exhaustion gives lie to the parable that what doesn’t kill one only makes one stronger; to the contrary, what didn’t kill me left me thoroughly fucked up.
I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, walking the streets with no destination, sometimes for hours at a time, even in torrential rain. Once indoors and alone I would be seized by pains in my stomach and chest inducing shortness of breath and mortal panic. I would summon to mind at once dozens of failures and shortcomings, competing with one another for primacy before becoming at last a deafening cacophonic chorus. I would picture my partner with her new lover and be overcome with grief and rage. The center of my chest became a wellspring of the most intense surges of self-destructive energy I have ever encountered with or without the aid of illicit drugs, and at times I would punch myself hard directly in the head or dig my fingernails into my hands to dull the unbearable onslaught of these hostile emotions.
Not incidentally, I have battled substance abuse for my entire adult life. I have dulled my influx of nervous energy — overflowing whatever scant outlets are available in our society for politically conscious and otherwise creative and romantic people — with booze, downers, uppers, hallucinogens, and the like, since I was old enough to get my hands on these things. Sadly enough it was during times of prolonged substance dependency that I felt myself to truly have a place in the world, as an addict. I woke up with a mission and I fucking succeeded. And being under the influence was the only time I could quiet down my mind sufficient to look at my life with detachment, admit its positive qualities, and like myself. Otherwise I was awash in self-doubt, self-hatred, and associated expressions of nastiness and hostility that continue to derail my adult relationships to this day.