I’m in pain, that’s why I write – De Groene Amsterdammer

Sinaad Gleeson finds a sparkling language for what’s going on in her body

Brid O’Donovan

‘Kingdom of the sick’ Not a democracy,” Irish writer Sinad Gleeson wrote in his editorial spiral stars, about her childhood, which she spent largely in hospitals and in wheelchairs, because the articular fluid in her hip “evaporated” sharply. She was eventually diagnosed with monoarthritis, and a new hip, but the time when her body was painless to forget is gone for good. Later, when Gleeson was in the hospital in her twenties with a pulmonary embolism, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with aggressive leukemia. Her body failed her again.

However, it is her “failed” body that inspires Gleeson’s reflections on life, a life that, like everyone else, is defined by the fact that we have only one body, and without it we are nothing at all. (Unless you are religious.). “I find it fascinating and poignant…the utter transience of body and life,” says Gleeson. This fact, that our lives are a fleeting interstellar moment, is the lens through which Gleeson examines her physicality.

The idea for “Sick World” comes from Susan Sontag, who in her article Illness as metaphor From 1978 next to “The World of Health”. As human beings, we reside in both realms, but never at the same time. Sontag analyzed the myths and lies surrounding disease and criticized the use of disease metaphors to ignore the lived experience of the sick body. She was silent about her breast cancer diagnosis; Her anger was directed mainly outward. Poet Anne Boyer has already demonstrated that anger, especially in the context of a sick woman’s body, can be a lifesaver. the death 2019): If she had not insisted on this treatment that the doctors wanted to deny him, she would not have survived breast cancer.

With Gleeson, the anger stays away, even if it shines through once in a while. in spiral stars Tenderness reigns, the feeling that her fragile body is a gift – a body that, after all, survived two pregnancies (and miscarriages). The sick body has its own narrative drive. The scar is an opening, an invitation to the question, “What happened?” Unlike Sontag, Gleeson is very personal. She travels into the grooves of her brittle bones, examines the “hundreds of thousands of miles of blood” flowing through her body, and finds scintillating language of what’s wrong. When she coughed up a blood clot in her lungs, it looked like a crushed berry against the background of the enamel of the pristine hospital basin … “.

Tenderness reigns, feeling that her fragile body is a gift

Gleeson’s body becomes a gateway to larger social issues. She is an outspoken feminist. She is critical of repressive Catholicism and Ireland’s anti-abortion laws. It shows that a woman’s body is always political anyway. Her essays are full of existential fear, and this is Ireland at the end – ghosts, superstitions and poverty. She writes of “tortured women” leaving the country to have an abortion elsewhere: “When I think of our history, these are the women I see. Invisible, their anger is buzzing in the air. Not choosing them was a collective lament.”

What Gleeson is all about is enhancing female voices. Her book is full of forays into the art of others – Frida Kahlo, Lucy Greeley, Joe Spence. Sometimes they are just illustrative attempts to hold onto one’s life. But overall it works: the fourteen essays together become a tapestry in which personal experiences, cultural and political histories are fused.

Gleeson’s reflections on motherhood are beautiful, the voices of her children echoing around the house and taking their place among the blank lines in her text. It doesn’t matter that you always hold a mother’s guilt on the tail of the creative impulse, she says, because art shows that you can live the “life of pearls,” “a life that overshadows a patient’s life and brings it back to the wings.” It is possible that you have a disease rather than having it. In illness, it’s hard to find the right words, which is exactly why Gleeson is writing.

in the article Where is the pain? Based on the McGill Pain Questionnaire, she found a total of 77 adjectives to describe her pain. It fills medical expertise with humanity; I’m in pain, so I write. “As a patient, you don’t have to show curiosity or have that knowledge,” Gleeson says. “I absorbed medical terminology – taking on the role of questioner – in an effort to assert my independence, to keep control of a small part of my medical story.”

In Gleeson’s hands, this attempt to control her own story has become baffling, poignant, and, yes, life-affirming literature.

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