We all know someone with a chronic illness. Given that 117 million people in the United States live with one or more chronic illnesses, we’re more than likely encountering someone in our workplaces, our homes, and our everyday lives who is navigating the ins and outs of sickness and the pain that accompanies it. Chronic illnesses are especially pervasive among women, and thanks to medicine’s long history of paternalism and ambient sexism, doctors regularly dismiss or disbelieve women who suffer with unexplained pain.
Further, chronic illnesses that disproportionately affect women are understudied: Though 70 percent of those impacted by chronic pain are women, 80 percent of pain studies are conducted on males—sometimes human, sometimes mice. When men and women both have abdominal pain, men wait an average of 49 minutes before being treated while women have an average wait of 65 minutes. And women in chronic pain are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness and given psychotropic medications (including sedatives) than they are to have their actual pain addressed and treated.
Today, we’re launching a weeklong series about chronic illness—and what the misdiagnosis, disdain, and marginalizing of people with chronic illnesses reveals about our culture. From June 4 through June 8, we’ll be publishing a new story every day, as well as resharing previously published pieces that touch on this phenomenon.
We’re kicking off the series with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s interview with Porochista Khakpour, whose new book, Sick: A Memoir comes out tomorrow. “In Sickness” will also feature essays from Caroline Reilly, Anna Hamilton, and Jen Deerinwater about what it means to exist in a world that still doesn’t know how to treat people who are chronically ill. And all of these stories will be illustrated by Panteha Abareshi, a brilliant illustrator and artist who lives with sickle-cell thalassemia.
To be clear, our commitment to highlighting and hiring people with chronic illnesses won’t end after this series does. Bitch understands that in order to effect change, we must continue covering this issue, and giving space to people with chronic illnesses. And as long as people with chronic illnesses are misdiagnosed, treated poorly by their doctors, and discriminated against in every elements of their lives, we will be here and fighting.
About the Illustrator
Panteha Abareshi, is an 18-year-old artist and illustrator. Her work focuses on experiences with pain in all its forms, as well as perspectives and struggles with modern notions of love and intimacy. Her work communicates a better perspective on how we perceive, understand, and frame pain. The women she draws represent struggle, and vulnerability but they also epitomize strength and power. Panteha lives with a combination of severe sickle cell zero beta thalassemia and debilitating clinical depression and anxiety.