In Sickness

Illustrations by Panteha Abareshi

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.

Please follow Bitch on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and check out this page to keep up with this week’s coverage.

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.

Performance of a Lifetime: On Invisible Illness, Gender, and Disbelief
Kate Horowitz
A Displaced Body: “Sick” and the Elusive Search for Wellness
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
It’s All In Your Head: The Dangers of Disbelieving Female Pain
Caroline Reilly
Released: June 5, 2018
Sick Women: How Women Took Control of Chronic Illness Narratives
Diane Shipley
Released: June 6, 2018
Influx of Illness: Will Chronic-Illness Patients Get Their #MeToo Movement?
Caroline Reilly
Trauma Club: The Chronic Popularity of Illness Lit
Alana Kumbier
Released: June 6, 2018
The Mortal Ones: How Young Women Navigate Serious Illnesses
Evette Dionne
Released: June 7, 2018
Popaganda: Women and Pain
Sarah Mirk
Released: June 7, 2018
No Rest for the (Already) Tired: Feminism Must Center Chronically Ill Women
Anna Hamilton
Released: June 7, 2018
Our Bodies, Our Hells: Why Isn’t Pain a Feminist Issue?
Paula Kamen
Released: June 7, 2018
The Endo Look: Body Positivity Needs to Tackle Chronic Illness
Caroline Reilly
Released: June 8, 2018
Abby Norman on Endometriosis, Healthcare, and the Legacy of Female “Hysteria”
Evette Dionne
Released: June 8, 2018
Checkbox Colonization: The Erasure of Indigenous People In Chronic Illness
Jen Deerinwater
Released: June 8, 2018

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. 



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by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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