I’m at the stage of having new glasses where they keep slipping down my nose, and I keep pushing them back up, in a futile attempt to make them stay were they ought to be. I’ll have to go back to the store and get them adjusted. This always happens, and it’s irritating. I don’t understand why the store opticians can’t fit them to me right the first time; they are professionals after all. I’m irritated at myself for not noticing and insisting on a better fit while I was still at the store.
I find myself irritated in this way a lot lately, and I know it’s because I’m always tired and always in pain. I remind myself of this, and also that I’m doing important work that not always rewarding. Other people with fatiguing, chronic health conditions like mine sometimes use a term called “health work”. This is satisfying, empowering language creation; I’d like to know who came up with it so I can credit them. For example, for an abled, healthy person, going back to the store to get their glasses adjusted might be a simple errand that costs them basically nothing other than time. For me, it’s about a third of a day’s energy. Besides the physical energy expenditure, this errand is yet another in a long line of tasks of things I have to do to take care of my health. For the chronically ill, this list is never ending, often frustrating, and will never actually make us healthy.
This term is similar to Second Shift for the Sick but is more flexible. Health work is not confined to a shift; it’s often constant and on-going. There is no off times or vacations.
Health work can include remembering to take medications, remembering to schedule and go to appointments, refilling prescriptions, getting medical tests, the emotional work of dealing with illness, cleaning and maintaining assistive technology, doing exercises, cooking, and eating. In short, in can be in all areas of our lives.
This term honors the work that disabled people do to take care of ourselves.