Sick: A Compilation Zine on Physical Illness
It surrounds us. No matter how difficult, awkward, or painful, we will inevitably come into contact with it. But despite its ubiquity, physical illness continues to be one of the most challenging subjects for people to broach.
Sick is a compilation zine on physical illness that offers up the experiences and perspectives of individuals living with illness. Whether dealing with incurable polycystic kidney disease, coping with cancer, or struggling with an unnamed medical condition, each piece, no matter how distinct, explores common themes of support, communication, and community. Each writer concisely documents her or his personal struggle with illness and sheds light onto the stigmatization of sickness and deep-seated taboos that hinder dialogue. Apart from exploring the painful consequences of living in a society unaccustomed to discussing illness, the writers offer valuable tools that teach us to be considerate and helpful allies.
Sick gracefully navigates its way through a wide range of experiences as it aims to open the channels of communication and establish a collective voice for those impacted by illness. How do we respond when someone tells us they are sick? How many people in our community are transparent about having a disability or illness? What can we do to help each other feel welcome, equal, and supported?
The zine also considers exclusivity within radical/DIY/punk scenes. How does someone’s level of health determine their participation in a particular community? Riding a bicycle, marching in a protest, and dumpster diving, for instance, are activities accessible primarily to the able-bodied. To avoid being ostracized or dismissed, many sick individuals find themselves pushed into the proverbial closet of shame and isolation.
In our culture, sickness is a private affair. We have been socialized to fear or ignore it. Consequently, sick people must not only learn to manage their own disease, but are often burdened with others’ inability to openly discuss and cope with illness. Often racked with feelings of guilt, isolation, and alienation, it is essential that a sick person’s experiences are acknowledged and validated. This is what Sick achieves. It opens dialogue and validates experience. Perhaps we cannot understand what it means to have supraventricular tachycardia, but we can learn to listen and ask our friends how we can provide the support they need.
Though the accounts in Sick can be grim or downright disturbing, the writers’ warm resilience brightens every page with hope for opening discourse and dismantling entrenched social norms. It’s the writers’ heartfelt declarations and earnest desire to create a caring community that makes this read so compelling.
Sick is a compassionate, honest work and a necessary first step toward understanding the complexities of physical illness and building communities of support. It is challenging and tender; it is unprecedented and accessible.