Nadia Shammas writes:
Whenever I’m out at dinner somewhere, there are a few things running through my mind concerning the food I’ve ordered: How many carbs do I estimate are in it? How many units of insulin does that translate to? Sure, it’s a pasta dish; I know roughly how much a serving of pasta is and how many servings are on my plate. What about the sauce? If I’m wearing a dress, did I remember to put on shorts, or do I have to excuse myself to the bathroom to push the numbers in my insulin pump? Sometimes, while I’m looking at my plate and my thoughts are firing, I look up at the others and wonder what it would be like to not ever have these thoughts cross my mind.
This might sound agonizing, but at this point in my life these thoughts come reflexively. After being diabetic for 18 years, at the age of 24, I can approximately break down almost any piece of food or drink into my insulin ratio in 30 seconds or less. If I was ever cured, I would never be able to look at food differently.
This is my normal, and more often than not I completely forget that there’s another way to consider the food on my plate. However, the difference is that I’m acutely aware of the fact that other people don’t look at food the same way (non-diabetics that is). It’s probably because I don’t talk about it. Recently I started to wonder: why don’t I?
Despite being diabetic for so long, I still get nervous when I need to tell someone. I often forget to tell employers, or sometimes when I’m at a job interview, I purposefully leave it out due to paranoia that they won’t pick me. When I do tell someone, I emphasize how it won’t affect them at all and how easy it is to take care of diabetes. I overemphasize the fact that I won’t be a burden.
This culture of shame exists for every illness. In a philosophical way it makes sense. Illness is a reminder of mortality, and people don’t want to think about it. In a cultural sense, there’s a strong tie to morality and illness, as though a person being sick is representative of their immorality. Politically, being sick takes away from your productivity as a worker, and the fight over whether you deserve to be helped or not comes down to dollar signs (well at least in the US, anyway).
This leads a lot of sick people to feel like they have to grin and bear it. A lot of people, people you know, suffer quietly, afraid to come off as weak or as a burden, and their needs remain unmet because their voices remain invisible.
I’ve decided to change that by making CORPUS: A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments, currently on Kickstarter.
CORPUS features stories about mental illness, physical illness, healthcare and medical debt. As this is my first project, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I launched it the weekend of New York Comic Con, set up the website, and hit the convention floor.
As I spoke to more and more people, as the emails came flooding in, I was astounded. I met so many of my comic heroes who told me their brave, personal stories about struggling with a temporary or chronic illness or injury that derailed their lives. Emails with all kinds of stories came in; from a heartfelt story about a grandfather who lost a leg to a story about a guy whose balls got twisted so badly he needed emergency surgery (yes this story definitely made it in.) In the end I got over 200 submissions.
I can promise that CORPUS will have something in it for you. There are 60 stories about a range of issues, and you’ll find something in there, whether you’ve been the one with chicken pox or whether you’ve felt the grief of watching a loved one suffer with an uncertain future. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid either situation, then you’ll probably connect with stories about the indomitability of the human spirit.
We’ve been so lucky to have the voices of super talented folks in comics, including Vita Ayala, Caspar Wjingaard, Ryan Cady, Philip Sevy, Ram V, Erica Schultz, Tini Howard, Eliot Rahal, and so many more.
If you support us, you’ll not only get an amazing book with the most talented new names in comics out there, you’ll also be helping support realistic representation of a too often maligned subject. The marginalization of these stories makes it feel like there’s a static number of “sick people” in the shadows. It’s far from the reality. CORPUS is opening the conversation, and it’s grown into a really special thing with a lot of hopes riding on it. With your support, we can make CORPUS a reality.
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