Nerves and Privilege

I have watched the BLM riots in the US (and our own protests here in Canada) through a haze of pain. I fought the dandelions this weekend, and while my back lawn is dandelion free, my sciatic nerve declared enough. When this happens, the nerve feels like it is on fire, from your hip to your heel, and then in bizarre sort of sympathy, every muscle in your leg spasms. I woke up on Monday and had to crawl to the bathroom. After several hours of that, in which I could not sit, stand, or walk, I called an ambulance. I crawled down my stairs, they more or less carried me out my front door, and we proceeded to the Emergency Room.

Eventually (In a period that was really very brief, but did not feel brief) the doctor came into my room. He poked and prodded a bit, then chuckled knowingly. It turns out that there are two kinds of people in this world – those who have had sciatic pain and know that it is crippling, and those that haven’t and have no idea how a nerve could cause so much pain.

The doctor was the first kind – he told me what happened to him when his sciatica acts up. Twenty minutes later a very nice nurse was plunging a large needle of morphine and gravol into my arm. She was handing me a bottle with Percocet, and a prescription for a bunch of muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories and pain killers.

Which takes me to the privileged bit. As much as J. thought I was a bit crazy for going to the hospital (He’s in that second, no idea what sciatica is like, group), neither of us thought for a minute that it would be unsafe. I may have looked like absolute hell, but I had the colour of my skin and an educated woman’s voice. The system was built for my kind of person. I knew I would be treated kindly and equally.

As I lay on that bed, scrolling through twitter, I thought about what an Indigenous woman in my position might experience. Would she be treated with kindness?

When I very firmly insisted that I needed a wheelchair to move, I was given one. When I told them that no, I needed some help getting undressed, the nurse checked with me as she touched me. When I told them that I do the exercises and this was brought on by gardening, I was believed. No one thought I was an addict. There was no question of drug-seeking behaviour. When I made a joke about solving this with an amputation, no one contemplated sterilizing me at the same time.

Those are the benefits I know about. Those are the things that marginalized voices have told me I am privileged in. I am privileged in other ways, ways I do not ever see because this world was designed for me. I don’t have to see or live the hard way. I was in pain, and a system designed for me fixed it.

There are those who cannot breathe. They cannot breathe from the weight of colonization, the weight of prejudice, the weight of systemic oppression, and abuse. They cannot breathe in the tiny bit of crappy space we gave them on reserves. They cannot breathe because we stole their parents and grandparents and tried to “kill the Indian in the child”.

I have no answers. I should have no answers. I should have the kindness and mercy to move back so that they have space to breathe. And I should listen to what they say when they can.

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5 Responses to Nerves and Privilege

  1. a says:

    It’s hard to find the right thing to do or say. But I mostly think my job is to stay out of the way and boost from behind, while trying to fend off anyone trying to stop the progress however I can.

  2. a says:

    Oh, and I hope your sciatica eases soon.

  3. c says:

    Totally off the point of your post but as someone who has lived with nerve pain every single day for nearly 30 years, and been to so many doctors I’m really in awe once again of the medical system in Canada. In the U.S , as an educated white woman I still am suspected an addict. I vividly recall my dad and I going to the same doctor, the same week. I, in pain so bad, I hadn’t done more than doze off for a minute here and there for days. He had a sore knee from sitting at his desk. The same doctor told me I was faking it, and gave him a bottle of vicodin. Or perhaps, it’s the difference of male and female privilege because there’s a definite difference there too as there is with POC. I hope you feel better soon, nerve pain is truly awful.

  4. Debby says:

    I have been most discouraged by the facebook posts of people that I know. It shocks me beyond everything to see that in the face of this, in the face of all of this, STILL, still we have those among us who believe that it all would be fine if everyone just shut up and quit talking about it. I believe that it must be talked about, and for (perhaps, in some cases the very first time), we must shut up and listen.

  5. loribeth says:

    My mother had sciatica when I was a teenager & I well remember the pain she was in. I sure hope you’re feeling a whole lot better now. I’m glad you were able to speak up for what you needed — and yes, you have to wonder about those who either don’t have the wherewithall to do so, or who won’t be listened to even when they do… 🙁

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