Stop shaming people who need meds


In which I go off and lose a few friends …

Here’s a trend I’m getting right sick of (pun intended): Those who shame people who need medication.

I’m not even talking about mental health medications, though those are certainly included. I’m talking about people who post shit on social media about how a diet or vitamins can cure all manner of health issues, and you shouldn’t be taking all those bad medications anyway.

Do you have any idea how incredibly insulting that is?

Yes, a vegan diet has been shown to help with inflammation … some. It can reduce inflammation over time, but it can also cause deficiencies in important vitamins essential to bone health.

If you want to be vegan, go for it. Nobody is stopping you. Want to waste money on ridiculous supplements that give minimal results at best? Sure.

(Note: Some supplements have been clinically shown to help with certain ailments, but a lot of it is just woo.)

When I see someone say that going vegan cured his or her arthritis, my response is: How lucky you are to have such mild arthritis! Come spend a day in my body, then talk to me about a fucking diet.

Oh, he should just eat better.

On Instagram last night, I saw an ad for an app that manages your medications. It showed an illustration of a bunch of pills and touted a program that you use to show your doctor all your medication and dosage. All the comments under it were “Such a sick society!” and “Just go vegan!” or similar. Some people need medications – THE HORROR!

They’re shaming people who are unlucky enough to have a medical condition. It’s equivalent to shaming a person in a wheelchair. Nobody chooses to have a disease or be born with a birth defect. It’s true that some diseases are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, but shaming those people does no good, either.

Are there people who are taking medications they don’t really need? Sure. Are there people who can benefit from a better diet? Of course. Does that mean that diet can fix all medical issues? No. Just no.

To those people, I say this: You don’t know my medical history, and you don’t know what my body needs. So shut the fuck up!

I’m an intelligent, educated person. When I’m prescribed a new medication, I do the research, ask questions and make an informed decision with my doctor about whether that drug or therapy program is right for me.

There are people who are not as health literate as me, and they may not educate themselves as well as I do. But, guess what – that’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, TOO!

Why you’re being hurtful and ableist

When I was an undergrad, I took a documentary photojournalism class. For my final class project, I spent a lot of time shooting pictures of a couple who were both in wheelchairs and raising two children. The wife was in a wheelchair because of severe rheumatoid arthritis, and the husband had hemophilia and AIDS. This was in 1996, before the time of biologics for arthritis, and people with AIDS weren’t living quite as long as they are now (thanks to science!).

I had just been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which is similar to RA. I saw this woman struggle just to get through her day. Her hands, legs and feet were twisted and swollen. They showed me all the modifications they had made in their apartment just so they could do things like open doors and turn out the light at bedtime – simple, daily things we all take for granted.

Deep inside, I was terrified. Already, some of the NSAIDs I had tried didn’t work. At age 25, I was hurting like an old woman. Would this be me in 20 years? I grew up around arthritis (my whole family has it) but I’d never seen it like this.

This lady was incredible. She had been a strong advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act and had even gone to the White House at the invitation of President Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, she didn’t live long enough to see the advances in arthritis medication that would occur within just a few years. Her husband murdered her not long after I graduated. I wonder what her life would have been like on Enbrel or Humira. I started Enbrel around 2000, and it completely changed my life. I’ve moved on to other biologics, but the difference in my life from before is unbelievable. Without biologics, I’d likely be in the same shape as that woman I photographed.

Specialty medications have brought forth so many amazing innovations, including a cure for some types of hepatitis C. Yes, they’re expensive (and that’s for another blog) but if you believe that doctors and pharmaceutical companies just want you to be sick so they can make money, then you’re just a crazy conspiracy theorist, and I can’t help you.

Perhaps a little Xanax will help.

Yeah, it is, sadly.

One more thing, mental health meds have also changed lives for the better. Those who need them really need them. You can’t just will depression, schizophrenia and psychosis away. How about we leave them alone and let them live the productive lives they are able to with medication?

In fact, why don’t we all just mind our own business for a while, OK?

Here’s a great article by my friend Don McNay about fat shaming.

Here’s another good one about the dangers of fitspo. I’ve mostly enjoyed fitspo and its ability to motivate me. But when my arthritis is flaring up and I’m in pain, reading fitspo is mostly hurtful.


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