With the wellness industry valued at $3.7 trillion in 2015 and continuing to be on the rise, it can be easy to get sucked into the latest wellness trends and crazes.
Many are jumping on the wellness bandwagon and while this may seem like a positive thing, it is not so positive when it comes to chronic illness.
There are juice bars on every corner, mindfulness apps advertised relentlessly on social media, and wellness influencers praising celery juice or the latest cleanse as a miracle cure. These serve as constant reminders of the unrealistic promise that you can recover from any illness with enough work.
But this is not the only reason why wellness culture is so bad for the chronic illness community.
Wellness culture has been influencing the beliefs of doctors more and more, to the extent that they believe it’s a one size fits all cure for everything, even if it ends up harming you in the long run.
Although it can help with managing symptoms, it is most definitely not a cure because chronic illness is something you can’t recover from. This is not to say that exercise, healthy eating and looking after yourself is wrong in any way but it’s not going to cure you.
To add to this, wellness culture brings about similar pressure as diet culture – when the treatments aren’t effective, the patient gets blamed for not putting in enough effort to be well.
The industry has been designed in such a way that it is set to succeed and make a huge profit, but when you don’t experience success too, there is always another treatment ready for you to try next. The problem is, this constant focus on being well is impacting how people with permanent illnesses are treated.
This kind of vicious cycle can lead to feelings of personal inadequacy and failure because you are trying everything but it’s just not helping. You are not alone in this experience – I’ve been there and done all of that!
I used to constantly strive to become the ‘perfect patient’ in the eyes of the wellness industry. My time and energy were taken up with living by the book, so I had very limited energy to do anything else.
On top of all that, I would find myself being blamed for not getting well, and told I wasn’t doing enough, because I wasn’t spending every waking hour doing everything possible to get well. By getting us to think in this way, the wellness industry can continue to make money from us.
When I was first sick, I clung tightly to diet culture. I was attracted by the idea that if I just did everything right, I would be well again. But when this approach backfired, I blamed myself.
The reality is that by its nature, chronic illness is one you simply can’t recover from, and no amount of wellness practices will change that. The last thing any of us need on top of dealing with a chronic illness is dealing with feelings of failure and inadequacy.
If you are in the middle of wellness culture and it hasn’t helped you, just know that it’s not your fault and you haven’t failed. You can do everything perfectly by the book and still be sick.
Toxic positivity is another big culprit which can keep us in the loop of wellness culture. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to stay stuck in this toxic and draining cycle!
Instead of fighting and striving to “cure” your illness, you can choose to work towards accepting it for what it is and adapting your life to the challenges it brings.
Wellness culture has promised success for decades now but success can look different for all of us, depending on our unique circumstances. If you’ve ever found yourself caught up in the cycle of trying to be the model patient, just know that it’s possible to break this cycle!