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Growing up, many of us are taught that being sick is a sign that we are not taking care of ourselves. This is just one of many misconceptions about wellness that people with chronic illnesses have to deal with and are forced to unlearn.
in his book Who is wellness for? An examination of wellness culture and who it leaves behind, Fariha Roisinan Australian-born Bangladeshi-born daughter of two, multimedia artist questions the current state of wellness culture that has been colonized and commodified, as well as what wellness should look like in an ideal world for people experiencing chronic illness, mental. disease, or a combination of the two.
Unlike many self-help books on wellness, which are arguably just a commodified wellness culture, Róisín questions the barriers that prevent some people from incorporating wellness into their lives. To be successful in a Westernized wellness culture, your problems must be easy to “fix.” This leaves out people with chronic illnesses and mental illnesses, and people who can’t afford classes and expensive “wellness” products. How do we break down these barriers? Community care is just the beginning.
Róisín spoke with DAME about the process of writing her book, the importance of access to care, and how communities can support wellness, both in ourselves and those around us.
In Who is wellness for?, you wrote about the importance of actively working to replace self-harm, both physically and mentally, with self-love. I wonder if the work of writing this book was an act of self-love.
One hundred thousand percent was an act of self-love. That kind of consistency of really sitting down with myself and having to face so many parts of myself that I didn’t really necessarily want to face. Even if I knew about them, they weren’t things that I really liked, something like my sexual abuse, it’s there. I know it’s there. But do I now want to dig this up to show other people?
It is shameful. It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s slimy. There are so many parts of it. It doesn’t feel like I’m settling into this tidy little box. I think that being a public person, in many ways, is an act and I don’t know how to act. I can only be myself. So the book, trying to bring all of those things out to address not only for myself but for other people, was a huge act of self-love.
Due to intergenerational trauma, people from certain ethnic groups have higher rates of physical decline and Mental illness (including myself, I’m Jewish). How does the pressure of personal responsibility to “fix” mental and physical health conditions ignore the fact that we are also dealing with a history of trauma that is beyond us?
What I’m trying to do with this book is explain that care or access to wellness should be public health. It should be available to everyone. It shouldn’t be a problem if you have more needs or certain needs because you have a chronic illness, because you’re disabled, because you’re traumatized, [or] because you are mentally ill. Those things should not be imposed on you or your family to find a way out. It is the responsibility of the government in many countries, like in Australia, where I am from.
So many more of us need extra care, and we’ve been denying ourselves that for so long, so that only exacerbates the problem.It exacerbates mental health. exacerbates chronic diseases. isolates you Attention is everything, having attention and access to attention. People who care about you, a community that cares about you, [and] a culture that cares about you should be our priority, because of intergenerational trauma, epigenetics, all the things we’ve experienced.
People who experienced that level of trauma are going to pass on that trauma. We are still not taking into consideration what war is, what migration is, it was mass migration. What are the impacts of colonization? How does that really affect the way we relate to each other? We have not yet improved the ways we understand how people’s traumas affect their livelihoods, and we should be concerned.
On the subject of how access to care is an individual financial responsibility in the US, I remember how GoFundMes have been created to support the survivors of the Uvalde school mass shooting. Right now, we’re still dependent on a capitalist system, where people literally have to donate through GoFundMe to make sure these kids get therapy.
I get chills. During the pandemic, it’s kind of a joke where people say, “Is this how we get public health now, through GoFundMe?” Is that what gives us care? It really is, and that’s sad. Mutual aid is powerful, and I think it’s kind of an antidote to capitalism, but ultimately capitalism is the engine that makes everything move.
There is a reason the United States is being challenged on so many different fronts. I think we really have to face the ugliness that exists in this country. This is not the first school shooting. It won’t be the last, and yet we’re still here. So what will it take? I think the only way it will change is revolution.
Turning the tables a bit, how can it be that engaging in wellness practices that have not been colonized by Westernized wellness culture is a form of resistance and self-love?
I will use myself as my own case study. The more I dedicate myself to taking care of myself and also what that means to me, it’s not participating like this as a wellness engine or this Wellness Industrial Complex where I need to buy this serum. I have gone back to a more internal place and gone to the center of myself to really look, why am I sick? Why is my body sick? What is hapening here? My body is trying to talk to me. There is an empowerment that I gained from understanding that my body is really powerful regardless of what it looks like, or regardless of how it may not exist within the bounds of normalcy.
Every day, I have to be very concerned about what I eat. That kind of consideration was something that was really hard for me when I was growing up. I wanted to rebel against that. The more I focus on wellness, the more I focus on caring, the more I focus on investing in myself and not just in an artificial or superficial way, I have found such a profound awakening.
How have the communities you’ve been in changed healing and wellness for you over time?
The older I’ve gotten, the better understanding I’ve had of myself. The more we have the language of ourselves, the more people will be able to ask others to support us with more complexity and in an adequate way. It’s been really deep for me to say, “Oh, I can actually come across as a better version of myself when someone can say, ‘These are my needs and this is what I want from you.'”
It requires effort and care from the community, and I think I’ve naturally leaned more towards people who care about those things. Care is important to everyone and should be accessible to everyone, especially in a community. We should all take care of each other.
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