Our Colors Don't Bleed, But We Do: Why I Won't Be Walking This Year

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • It's Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis awareness month in May. Maybe I should be happy that I only have one month to commemorate instead of two, but right now, it all feels like too much.


    And this is why I won't be walking for Lupus and/or Rheumatoid Arthritis this year.


    For the past several years, I have done both walks with my aunt and sister. When my aunt asked me if we were going to do them this year, I said "I just can't." It's not that I cannot physically handle it. I can. But I can't handle it emotionally.


    The last few months, I have been on health issue overload. It has been one thing after another, stopping and starting Methotrexate, and stopping it for good, starting Humira, and struggling with the transition that, that has entailed.

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    I feel like I'm experiencing chronic illness burn-out. So much of my life recently has been taken up with non-stop health stuff, that I just don't feel like parading around, wearing it on my sleeve, for all to see. It feels a bit like adding insult to injury.


    And it's not just this personal stuff that has me feeling this way.


    I feel like these walks make me question what these groups hope to accomplish.

    Of course, there's the obvious. These groups want to raise money to find a cure for their respective illnesses.


    I know I've talked about it before, especially as it relates to the pink-ification of breast cancer, but I really am starting to find these color-coded awareness campaigns to be a bit off-putting.


    Recently, the Mackinac Bridge Authority decided to "Light It Blue" for Autism awareness (http://www.mackinacbridge.org/index.php?action=archived&artid=228).


    Why pick one illness or condition over another? Most likely because someone on the board of the bridge authority knows someone close to them who has autism. In fact, the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan has a child with autism, and was a large impetus behind this movement.


    I think it's great that they are raising awareness. But will anyone who does not know what's going on have any idea why the bridge is blue, other than to look pretty?


    It's impossible to make sure that every illness has someone at the top, who can make decisions, representing it.


    This is the problem. We divide ourselves by condition. And then we associate colors with them.


    In sociology, we talk a lot about color-blindness. And we often question whether the country and world would be a better place without a differentiation in the color of peoples' skin.


    So I have to wonder what the effect of color-blindness would be on color-coded awareness campaigns.

    Each condition is it's own, yes, and it deserves that recognition. But what about people who don't have a diagnosis, or those who are one in a million to have their condition?


    Where is the solidarity in this? How do we stand together when we are color-coded apart?


    We are human. We all bleed red. I don't bleed purple and blue because I have Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I try to stand up. I try to educate. But advocacy can be exhausting. Wearing purple and blue won't mean much to others. And walking for my cause with people who know about and experience it seems counterproductive. We all already know the ravages of these illnesses. Now we have to get the rest of the world to understand them, as well.


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    I'm not sure whose cause I'm supposed to be celebrating, mine or someone else's. It feels a bit disingenuous sometimes to only scream for your own cause. So this year, I'll be standing by on the sidelines, trying to figure out where I fit in, and how I can make the best of the advocacy efforts that I do put out there.


    And don't forget to enter our Awareness Contest this month!

Published On: May 15, 2012