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On My Mind
June 24, 2019

What I Learned From My Childhood as a Patient: Internalized Messages About Bodies

JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(8):719. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1575

I received a diagnosis of arthritis 32 years ago when I was 2 years old. There are many ways that having arthritis (and now, several chronic medical conditions) has marked my life. This article is about one of those ways. It is about some of the meta-messages about bodies that I internalized through a lifetime of regular interactions with medical culture.

If there is one thing I want to communicate here, it is this: there are messages about bodies, and thus about (embodied) selves, embedded in the way that medical professionals talk about, orient to, and treat patients. These messages may be especially powerful for pediatric patients with sustained interactions with medical culture who are taking cues from adults about who they are in association with others and the world. Some of these messages are beautiful, communicating a belief in the complexity and capacity of the body-homes we inhabit. Some of them I experienced as harmful, and that is the focus of this article.

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