My Bad Health Isn't A Choice

I'm a 29-year-old female. I eat mainly vegan and eat lots of organic veggies. I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke, I have never done drugs. I've been diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, PCOS, life threatening allergies and -- for my last birthday -- I got a busted thyroid.
Publish date:
December 26, 2012
xojane UK

Lately, a lot of media coverage has been focusing on the assumption that if you do everything in your life “right,” you won't get sick or disabled. Conversely, if someone does get sick or disabled, everyone starts looking to find what that person did wrong in order to cause their health issue.

As this has been happening, I've also noticed more and more people offering me unsolicited advice on how I should "cure" myself.

When I took to Twitter to complain about how much I hate it when people suggest that health issues are always things you cause yourself, somebody felt the need to tell me to stop drinking milk, as it causes osteoporosis (I don't drink milk, nor do I have osteoporosis, but the tipster didn't seem to care).

Then in the run-up to this year’s elections in the Netherlands, a TV presenter interviewed the Labour party leader and asked him why they were proposing to make the contributions to medical insurance dependent on income, not lifestyle “as he didn't want to pay for people who caused their own bad health.”

Apart from the privacy issues here (do you want to live in a country where the government monitors your shopping, your exercise regime, your love life, etc?), health is not necessarily a choice.

Even though packets of cigarettes warn you that “smoking kills” and “smoking causes cancer,” everybody knows that smoker who never got cancer, and lived to be a 100 years old. So really, it would be more accurate to write: “Smoking does contribute heavily to the development of cancer.”

But that doesn't fit on a packet as nicely, and it doesn't fit in our mindset, which assumes that when someone gets sick, he or she is to blame for it. Or maybe it's his or her parent's fault for passing on all those bad genes.

Apart from anything else, not everybody gets to make healthy lifestyle choices. Healthy food is often more expensive than food that is considered to be unhealthy. Addiction, such as smoking, is a disease itself, and many of the diet tips I have received in the past two years, intended to somehow "heal" me, are totally unfeasible because of my allergies.

You cannot always control your environment, though it may affect your health. You most certainly cannot change your genes, and while you can try to not pass on conditions that you know you have, some things only become clear after you've had children. And sometimes people just have bad luck.

I'm a 29 year old female. I eat mainly vegan and eat lots of organic veggies. I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke, I have never done drugs, I take vitamins and try to work out when possible. Sounds healthy right?

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