The other day I was in one of my classes and while the professor was teaching her lecture, a student asked a question. The question was about the different types of intravenous ports and other methods that are utilized for long-term treatments such as dialysis. This question led the professor to ask one of the other students in the class about his personal experience with the question being discussed, because he struggles with certain things and has first hand experience of what it is to deal with the certain medical equipment that was being discussed. While this student is sharing his first hand experience, another student who sits in front of me whispers in a not-so-soft tone- What’s wrong with him???
I feel like this statement wouldn’t have bothered other people as much as it bothered me. Nevertheless, it did bother me and I’m going to explain why. If we live in a society where something as randomly selective as having a medical condition can stir up a response such as “what’s wrong with you” then we are moving towards the world becoming worse rather than better. My classmate had no choice to have the health condition that he has to get long-term treatment for, he just happened to have it and now he has to strive to get better. Stating something like that about someone because of a medical condition is THE EXACT SAME THING as asking someone who has cancer “what’s wrong with them” which according to societal standards, is something no one should ever do-so why dare ask someone who has another medical condition the same question?
After thinking about that, I broadened my though horizon a little bit more. As someone in recovery from mental health challenges and who sees so much stigma surrounding us on a constant basis, why couldn’t we apply the “cancer patient” rule to EVERYONE with ANY condition? If we can CHOOSE to be nice and accepting to those who have cancer, why can’t we make the same CHOICE to accept, help, and validate those who have mental health conditions? I specifically emphasize on the words CHOICES because that’s really what it comes down to- us CHOOSING to judge someone based on the root of their struggles or not.
Just imagine a world in which acceptance was universal, no condition limited anyone from wanting to accomplish whatever they desired to be in life, and everyone, everywhere just felt safe enough to be who they truly desired to be. Asking someone what’s wrong with them isn’t the right question to ask. The question that we should be asking is “who do you want to be?”