It’s all over social media. It’s all over the news. It’s all over the bookshelves. It’s a lie. It’s a toxic hashtag. It’s #wellness.
But what about those of us who are sick, and who can’t be cured by fads toted by the latest memoir or blog-cum-cookbook? I hate those books. They make money off illness. They are the entertainment alternative to pharmacies.
There are so many versions of ‘well’, it’s hard to know what we should be aiming for. Body acceptance? Yogic mastery? Paleo? Vegan? Keto? Some complicated combination of all the above? I say none. I say, do wellness your way, in whatever way suits your body. Because this #wellness trend is only making us sicker.
I’ll admit there are some people who really are burnt out and who really do just need a weekend away or a staycation to get their brain resembling something functional, rather than undercooked scrambled egg. And I applaud you for taking the advice, taking the nap, and finding your #wellness.
But the popular cure-all of kale, yoga and meditation establishes a benchmark that not all of us can reach. For those born with or afflicted with a chronic illness that cannot be ‘om’d or Marie Kondo’d away, it sets up an expectation that if we can’t get well and Instagram about it, then somehow not only are we doing life wrong, we’re doing sickness wrong too.
I don’t speak as a squeaky clean social media virgin; I used to be a devotee of wellness channels and would spend hours scrolling through the latest social media solution to what ails me, as well as far too much money on #wellness.
But all that kale/ hemp/ ashtanga/ juicing/ fasting/ meditation/ veganism/ vegetarianism/ egg free/ no microwaving food brought me was a worse depression than I already had because nothing worked. And I knew at the outset it wouldn’t.
My sickness isn’t curable but still, at the end of the trial period- at the point I had been promised I would be feeling all kinds of amazing- my symptoms were still there, I was still here in this sickness, and I didn’t have a story that I could turn into the latest inspirational memoir that people would buy at the airport, read on the plane, and arrive home reassured that their life would change if only they did what I did.
(Kill me if I ever write that book. This article is in retaliation to all kitset cures- they’re IKEA for health- they do not work according to instructions.)
But still, I couldn’t help thinking, what’s wrong with me?
Why am I not better?
#wellness made me crave something that from the outset I had known was unattainable. And I know I’m not alone. For every hyper-flexible yoga coach doing handstand splits on the beach, there’s someone in hospital wondering why they can’t just eat more kale or do the yoga things and be well and healthy, too.
#StillSick doesn’t have the same ring to it as #RecoveryWarrior does it?
But for some, there’s no ‘better’. For some, it’s about coping rather than curing. For some, mindfulness and meditations are not enough. But these people are no less strong than that beach-babe squatting in warrior pose.
As a person in this category, I can say with full gusto and confidence, that it sucks.
It sucks seeing people eat themselves healthy while I can’t eat without an arsenal of medication.
It sucks watching people flex and wrap themselves into impossible positions while my bones feel like they’re splintering every time I try to stand.
And it sucks believing over and over again, ‘maybe that’s it, that’s the thing that will fix this’, only to find once again that I’m still me, stuck in this body and unable to get out.
And then I re-framed my perspective.
I realised that these people were selling me something that worked for them.
Am I under any obligation to be them? No.
X worked for their PMS/ IBS/ OCD. Great. Excellent. But that’s not me, and nor does it have to be.
Those books and fad cures do not decide what wellness means for me.
We need to realise that this life, our health, our wellness, belongs to us and no one can – or should – determine our right to define what it means, looks like, feels like, and decide how to get there.
If wellness means coping and managing a genuine smile because you’re not okay but it’s okay, then that’s awesome.
You cannot expect yourself to measure up to someone else’s definition of health.
Everybody is different and every body is different.
I want to lift up my fellow kale-intolerants who hurt every day and couldn’t do yoga if we tried. We are still warriors. We fight every day to carry on despite never reaching the hallowed halls of hash-taggable health and wellbeing.
If you need it, I am giving you a free pass to neglect that deadly wellness hashtag and design your own health.
This can apply to those who feel pressured to – even if you’re already in good health – become healthier by cutting out meat, even though they eat a balanced diet and don’t have any adverse effects from eating a T-bone steak. Lentils are not mandatory, people!! Free yourselves of hempseed and ketogenic oppression.
Whether you’re a fully functioning human being with all cells, bones, organs and limbs in order, or whether you’re a mess of pain, meds, moods and replaced bits, you are you and that is perfectly satisfactory.
Don’t feel like you’re a failure if kale juice doesn’t transform you into a tanned yoga teacher and Insta star.
Decide what wellness feels like for you and cling to it with every fibre of your being.
We are ourselves. It’s okay. We are allowed to be a bit broken. Whether we are clinically diagnosed, have physical wounds and scars, want to lose weight, need to put it on, have family problems, are lonely – we are all chipped and cracked in some way or other.
We have to stop making ‘recovery’ the be-all and end-all.
Take the laser focus off ‘recovery’ because sometimes it’s okay to just be.
Yes, if you can, get up, get out, do whatever you can to cure whatever ails you. If it’s broken relationships, extend the hand of peace. If it’s loneliness, speak out and gather a tribe of supporters around you who love and cherish you. If it’s weight gain, break out those bikkies and nibble your way out, if it’s weight loss, break open that new packet of sweat bands and crush it.
But in all cases, let acceptance and love be the emphasis.
Love your scars.
You don’t have to love being sick but you can still love you- the person inside who is not sick and who needs to know that they still have value, despite what social media says. We cannot be okay without it and we cannot cope with a lack of okay-ness without it, either.