Chronic illnesses are conditions that are discussed by many, and yet somehow also overlooked and misunderstood. Emotional and mental health are often forgotten as part of the treatment when someone lives with a chronic illness, yet it is one of the most impactful supports on someone’s health trajectory. Additionally, when there is a present mental health care provider, they may not specialize, understand, or implement one’s chronic illness into a discussion on emotions and behaviors. In the adult industry, chronic illness is experienced by many, but in a broader sense, some feel, “swept under the rug.” An anonymous cam performer shares: “I feel like its taboo. This field is about bodies and experiencing pleasure, and yet when it comes to someone who is visibly or invisibly ill, we can be forgotten or cast out because we don’t fit the mold.” When chronically ill and in a physical industry, it is imperative to find support, like-minded performers, and sites that promote appropriate visibility and care. Concerns of feeling ostracized, pushed to the margins, “less than” other performers, fetishized, or bullied are valid and real. It is imperative to understand that society works as it is intended to, which currently is for those that are able-bodied and in industries that aren’t considered “taboo.” It can be easy to throw in the towel and feel like support will never arrive, however, there are strong anti-ableism advocates, especially in the adult industry, who champion disabled bodies, their attraction, and their abilities. Lack of strength, body mass, libido, interest, and self-value/esteem can affect someone’s ability to feel successful in their work, relationships, and in the world. Chronic illnesses, when treated ineffectively or without mental health support, can lead to sexual dysfunctions that would affect all individuals, but especially those in the adult industry who rely on healthy functioning to complete their work and engage with others in their personal life. Thankfully, there are treatments, supports, and steps one can take to fight stigma, receive care, and feel like oneself again.
- Seek out support staff who are educated, informed, and champion their experience working with those both in the adult industry and those identifying as chronically ill.Although not all providers who label themselves as such will have the approach you are seeking, most providers label themselves with what they specialize in and should be able to follow through.
- If you feel discouraged, gaslit, diminished, or dismissed by a provider, if safe, let others know. Strengthen the community. Additionally, and most importantly, do not return to said provider unless absolutely necessary. The use of telehealth can provide increased equity and choice when seeking a new provider. Do not accept diminishment. The more times we feel let down or ignored, the less likely it is we will seek lifesaving care.
- Reach out to others in the adult industry with lived experience. Knowing you are not alone is a powerful feeling, and you may also end up with a new friend. Isolation can be common with chronic illness as many work from home or in more independent, controlled settings.
- Pursue mindfulness. Although mindfulness has been over-sold as a cure by many, don’t get caught up in the hype. Mindfulness is attuned presence and choosing to be the observer as opposed to the observed. Research shows building a new or different relationship with your pain can provide a sense of power, control, and hope, even when symptoms don’t subside considerably.
- Although it takes time and energy to do so, know that you and others with chronic illness are worth attention, time, care, and adaptive/accessible needs/tools/and skills. You are permitted to have access to that which provides comfort and makes life easier.
Although chronic illness can prove challenging and be a part of an intersectional, complex identity, know you are valid and deserving of appropriate, attuned, informed care. Be well!
From Rachael Wells, LMHC, EMDR-C/CIT, BC-TMH, RYT, QS