Our Worth Is Not Based on Our Productivity

🦋 Kerry Wong avatar

by 🦋 Kerry Wong |

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There seems to be a correlation between productivity and inherent value nowadays. The busier a person is at work, the more she is viewed as a great employee; the more a person accomplishes in life, the more she is praised and admired.

While most of us understand the difference between quality and quantity, we still feel the pressure — both from others and from ourselves — to always do more. For those of us with sarcoidosis, this can lead to severe physical consequences. We can suffer from disease flares for days or weeks after overdoing it on one afternoon.

This perception can have serious ramifications beyond what we do to ourselves.

We’ve seen it most clearly during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. When hospitals didn’t have enough medication, beds, or ventilators for everyone in need, they used a quality-adjusted life-years assessment to determine who could receive lifesaving treatment. If quality is based on productivity, those with chronic illnesses are sent to the end of the line. The disability community has been fighting against this measure since long before the pandemic.

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The implications reach beyond the tangible. If productivity equals value, then it follows that those of us who are less able to produce have less value. If we are literally worth less, it is easy to feel worthless. And that sentiment is echoed in society, where we are often perceived as lazy and trying to take advantage of the system.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, as severe pain in my hip and lower back has left me unable to do much of anything.

I look around my apartment and wish I could clean up more, load the dishwasher, do laundry … but it hurts too much to stand, bend, or reach for anything. I do my food shopping online, and wish I could cook more … but it hurts too much to chop, stir, or mix anything.

I look out the window and wish I could go for a walk in the beautiful park just down the road. I know how refreshing that would be for my mind as well as my body. But even when I’m not having this severe pain in my hip, I get winded easily and can’t walk a block without having trouble breathing.

There’s so much that I want to accomplish, but I have no time to do it, even if I have all the time in the world. Too often, instead of doing all that I wish I could, I’m stuck at home, sitting on the couch. The television is usually on, but I’m not really paying attention. I might have a snack, and I’ll probably take a nap (or two).

It sounds like I’m just wasting time. It looks like I’m just wasting time. But in reality, it feels more like I’m losing time.

A day lost to pain when I thought I’d be cooking. A week lost to fatigue and fever when I thought I’d be writing. The days and weeks add up to years lost to this disease.

That’s why we’ve got to make the most of the time we have, in whatever ways we can. It’s why I’ve gotten so involved with patient advocacy. As I often say, “As my body was becoming less able, I realized my mouth (and typing fingers) still worked.” I can still make things happen.

Even on those days when we’re stuck on the couch, there’s still plenty that we can do on a laptop or a cellphone, such as writing a blog (or a column) about what we’re going through.

If that’s more than we can handle, we can just:

  • Jot down some notes that we can use to write more later when we have the time, energy, and focus.
  • Read what others have shared about their sarcoidosis experiences.
  • Connect with others on social media, through sarcoidosis groups and pages.
  • Simply scroll along, looking for memes.

And if it’s a day when even that is too much to bear, then we can grab our favorite snack, sit in the comfiest spot on the couch, tune in to our streaming service of choice, and zone out.

What we must remember is that “doing nothing” really isn’t doing nothing for us. Our bodies are literally fighting us from the inside, and we are doing all we can to fight back. That takes more energy, and more out of us, than we can imagine. It is necessary — vital, even — to allow our bodies to rest and recuperate.

And what we absolutely must realize is that we have value and we matter — not because of what we do, but simply because of who we are.

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


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