I’ve blogged quite a bit about pain and the various ways in affects our sensory perception, as well as visible and invisible pain. The one question I keep coming back to is this: is it possible to find wellness with daily pain?

The capitalist “wellness culture” model would have you believe that no, it’s not possible, that pain is incompatible with wellness. Certainly the prevailing wisdom is that those who live in pain have some lesser degree of health and wellness than those who do not. Except, this is an ableist take. (Ableism is discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.) And if you’re in the wellness space and not talking about people like me, those of us who have chronic conditions (without or without pain) and/or neurodivergence, then it’s also a big red flag to me, too. Because if you’re not talking about us, you’re leaving us out. Guess what? That’s ableist. (And quite possibly ageist, fatphobic, and a host of other things.)

I believe it is possible to find wellness with daily pain. My wellness, my “good days” may not look like yours, and that’s okay. We’re all individuals and each of us has a different baseline for our body. This means that even for two individuals with the exact same conditions, diagnosed at the exact same times, and receiving the exact same health care, their wellness, their “good days”, and yes, their baselines will be different. We need to embrace these differences.

Within the chronic illness community there is a lot of talk about dynamic disabilities and dynamic abilities. The truth is everyone–neurotypical and able-bodied included–have different levels of functioning on different days. That’s NORMAL. That’s HEALTHY. That’s what being HUMAN is all about. And yet, why do we then say that chronically ill, disabled, and/or neurodivergent people have some lesser standard of wellness? Because let’s face it, our culture and society as a whole is biased against those of us who aren’t neurotypical and able-bodied.

We need to embrace the fact that wellness is dynamic, wellness is a spectrum, and each of us gets to determine our own points on that spectrum and what it means for us.

Doing this doesn’t mean that we’re giving up or somehow not trying to reduce our pain levels. The truth is the cure narrative in many cases is false and can be dangerous to pursue. A chronic illness means that it’s chronic–you’ll live with it for the remainder of your life. There may be things that can reduce symptoms or make them more manageable, and there may be times you forget all about them. But they won’t magically go away forever and ever. Neurodivergence is a developmental state; it’s not an illness or a disease process. This means that neurodivergent individuals should learn about themselves, learn how to live with their developmental differences, and even, yes, embrace them if possible.

Wellness is a spectrum like so many other things. I think it’s time that we start to determine our own places and our own definitions on the wellness spectrum so we can celebrate our own unique individuality instead of relying on outmoded and harmful concepts that center the able-bodied and neurotypical. Don’t you?

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