Jessica Kellgren-Fozard presents her thoughts on the “warrior narrative” and why she believes that, for individuals with chronic illness, it can negatively affect their mental health.
Jessica, who dedicates a portion of her channel to discussing disability and chronic illness, begins the “polite, but sarcastic” video by explaining the warrior narrative. According to her, living with a chronic illness, and thus being permanently unwell “doesn’t make me an inspirational warrior. It just makes me, Jessica”.
The type of language we use when discussing someone with an illness, whether it’s a chronic condition or a cold, often portrays them as warriors. Words, such as “fighting” or “battling”, have strong connotations of war. Someone might be fighting off the flu or battling cancer – these are all words that suggest some kind of heroic, but difficult struggle.
As Jessica explains, she is often told that she’s strong and a fighter, which perpetuates the false belief that those with chronic illnesses can overcome anything if they just try hard enough. This, for some, can be an uncomfortable narrative.
“On the days when I am overcome by pain and I can’t get out of bed, I don’t think it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough,” she explains.
Jessica also makes the important point that maintaining a constant mindset of engaging in a battle you can’t win is incredibly detrimental to a person’s mental health, “I used to feel like I was trapped in a body that I was fighting against, but all I got back from others was encouragement to keep going, rather than acknowledgement that the fighting itself sucked just as much as what I was fighting against.”
For those with long-term chronic illnesses, there is no “after the illness”. Unlike someone who undergoes cancer treatment and recovers, chronic illnesses, like Jessica’s, are forever. The only way to live a happy and healthy life with a chronic illness is self-acceptance.
“It does genuinely help your soul feel a bit lighter,” Jessica explains.
Learning to accept your body as a part of who you are, not a separate entity, is important to maintaining good mental health. “What is wrong with me isn’t a separate part of my being – it is part of who I am,” she says. “It’s scary at first, accepting that you’re never going to get better, but only by doing so can I see the possibilities in front of me.”
There isn’t anything wrong with identifying as a fighter, Jessica explains, if that brings you positivity. But living with a chronic illness isn’t inherently brave – it’s just life.
Joe Weller recently opened up about his struggles with mental health and the pressures of being a creator. Alternatively, you could read about Andy Burns‘ thoughts on if autism defines autistic people.