Why I don’t support awareness raising.
Here is something I hear all the time,
“It’s all about awareness, we just need to raise awareness“.
I always just itch to ask, “why?”.
Why do you want to raise awareness? What will it do? I mean literally. Yes more people will know about the specific disease but what then? Here’s the thing, there are too many illnesses, we can’t possibly be aware of all of them at once!
I don’t know how much you carry around in your head every day but personally, I have a limit, and there are already big sections dedicated to what I’m reading and writing, what Linus is saying (because he is most important in my world) and what I plan to eat later on. As well as complex philosophical questions about life, meaning, the universe and such, naturally.
So, not to be mean, but there isn’t that much space left and I certainly can’t consciously think about every illness I’ve ever had my awareness raised about. I’m not sure I can fully understand all the illnesses of all the people I work with every day.
I think lots of people have an underlying (and maybe unexamined) belief that if there is more awareness about their condition then maybe there will be earlier diagnosis, people will recognise the signs and say, “Ah hah! It must be that little known autoimmune condition, quickly, to the doctor!”. Personally, I don’t believe this. There are simply too many conditions (see above).
“There is a commonly held belief that if enough people know about an injustice, it will stop” – Rod Coronado [click to tweet]
When we have a chronic or serious illness we can feel how bad it is and perhaps before this we hadn’t known we could feel this bad. Maybe we feel cheated out of our previous health and like someone should have warned us that this was possible, perhaps we could have done something to prevent it.
There is anger, strong belief, and arising from our incredibly personal injustice the hope to prevent others suffering as we are and save them the pain. Nothing makes a greater campaigner or evangelist.
We feel strongly and sometimes surprisingly about how bad our illness is. It can seem terrible that the world just carries on when we are focused inwards and are aghast at what is happening. Illness can make you very insular, it can be difficult to see a world beyond your pain and boundaries. There is understanding that there are other conditions and struggles but ours is personal to us, it seems more important and awareness raising all makes sense.
Breast cancer, for example, there are runs and ribbons, everyone has heard of it but how many people actually do breast self exams? I mean often, daily touch, look and check (TLC) and full self exams.
Once you are aware, what are you supposed to do? Few will jump into biochemistry research and well, maybe some prejudice will abate, but the illness is still there. I feel sometimes that there is also competition involved.
If there are so many illnesses all competing for money, time, and attention then who will win and loose? (Answer: you and I often loose and those with illnesses and those who may live with them in the future or their loved ones. I don’t know who wins.) Some awareness raising comes across like self justification or defensiveness, “I know my illness is invisible, but it is really bad, REALLY, as bad as so and so.”
The thing is, I don’t disbelieve you. But I feel your justification is wasting precious energy. Why are we trying to convince people that aren’t open to begin with?
So, what’s the solution?
I believe the answer is not awareness but attitude. [Click to tweet]
What would happen if people changed their attitudes around illness and health?
What if we stepped back from fear and embraced our own wellness possibilities?
What if we took responsibility for how we care for our bodies and how we treat others around us? A genuine attitude shift about illness and disability would wipe out massive prejudice for people. The condition doesn’t matter if people’s attitudes change.
This is the wellness revolution I am looking for, but you are just one person so how can you change the world? Well, shift your views and you shift the world. Health is your responsibility. Unpacking our invisible knapsack of prejudice and fear around illness and coming to the struggles with an attitude of possibility. The specific conditions are just the details, I believe we all have access to healing, to living well, to blazing our own trails every day.
Part Two on the how-to next week. In the mean time, do sign up to my newsletter list to make sure you don’t miss it.
Consider these questions, begin now.
This post is dedicated to Erika Lyremark and The Morning Whip for teaching me to discover my viewpoint and get behind my revolution, without fear, The Morning Whip is signing up right now, if you want to try it for free, come to the Week-Long-Whip-A-Thon, happening now!
Disclaimer: I know lots of people dedicate time, energy and lives to awareness raising, I am not writing to denigrate their work. This is just my opinion, I could well be wrong and I respect your efforts and value you as an integral part of the world I love.