Dishing out Chronic Pain Attitude

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

July 19th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

OK that’s it, I’ve had it. Enough with the obtuse morons careening around mindlessly in their cars and on their feet, nearly slamming into me again and again, sending me into repeated setbacks of pain. Just when I’ve pulled myself out of the pit of the last setback, I might add, and am enjoying feeling good. It’s enough to make a gal revolve her life around the internet and telephone. Wait I’ve already done that. Which brings me back to my opening statement: I’ve had it.

Women’s self-defense classes expose how female socialization, coupled with the nature of garden-variety violence against women, sets women up to be victims. The social acceptance of harassment makes it incredibly uncomfortable for women to call a spade a spade and respond to harassment as a form of assault — whether verbal, visual, or physical. If women are going to judiciously protect our body space, we have to step outside our own comfort zones and those of everyone around us. We have to be willing to cause a scene. Doing so takes training, practice, a heavy dose of ovaries.

Similarly, the mindless rush-rush-rush and mine-mine-mine culture of our society makes navigating through life somewhat equivalent to Dante’s Inferno for those of us with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, CRPS, and other conditions that make us rilly rilly sensitive in not only our bodies but the energy fields around us. Not only are most people simply obtuse, but some actually play power games with energy fields (which you can never, ever call them on, right? Because since it’s energy, it can always be blown off and made to seem as if you’re nuts).

In addition, when we do speak up and ask for space, no matter how gracefully, people often get all up in our faces with judgments and blatantly irrirated body language. Whic makes it exhausting just to leave the house.

New Age bullies would like to claim that those of us in this predicament bring the energy-field-slamming drama on ourselves — that something in us “attracts” this behavior. Here’s the thing: Yes, it’s absolutely true that the more aggressively we take up space, the more people will give it to us. But here’s the rub: That’s not always the case. Especially when it’s a woman taking up space while passing a man who assumes, no, demands, that the woman step aside. And is willing to crash into her to stake out his right to her territory.

As people with hypersensitive bodies, we can’t afford to take the chance of claiming our space and having people not almost slam into it, but actually slam into it. Whatever pain we may feel when our energy field is steam-rolled over is nothing compared to what we will feel when we’re actually physically hurt.

Anyhow, tonight was the last straw. I was about to enter an aisle, but a woman was walking down it, at an angle and speed that made it unsafe for me to try to get in there. So I patiently waited at the refrigerated section between that aisle and the next aisle over, giving her ample space to pass. What does she do? She nearly slams into me. With oodles and oodles of space to her other side. 

I had the distinct impression that this gal was pulling some kind of power trip. There was just something in her trajectory and gait and energy that felt as if she was enjoying taking up not only her space but also mine. Perhaps it was a twisted reaction to my being patient and non-confrontational about space. Like the classic nice-guy-gets-pushed-around. 

As soon as I saw her about to collide with me, I moved directly at her, and whadda ya know, she yanked her arm just enough out of the way to miss colliding. But she still did energetically hit me full-force, because she already was so close by then. So the interaction still cost me: The near-collision sent a shock wave through my just-massaged body and unhinged something in my elbow, then shoulder, then shoulder blade. It was difficult to carry the groceries to the car and upstairs, difficult to slice the bread I had for dinner, and impossible to type for a few hours after.

I’ve decided it’s time to put my feminist self defense skills to use as a feisty fibro-like chick: I may not choose to use my body combatively right now, but I can certainly use my voice. And it may take my energy, but I intend to make it fun. I will be blatantly socially unacceptable. Hell I might bring 3×5 cards with educational information on them and hand them out to every space bully I pass, as well as the people around them.  I intend to dish out some chronic pain attitude and write about it. So that, as the saying goes, I”ll never have a bad experience, but just good material.

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