[trigger warning: this was not an easy letter to write and it will probably not be easy to read if you choose to either so be careful with yourselves :)))) <3]
To the doctors and nurses and EMTs who I have known and who I will know and to all the others as well:
I want you to know that your hands matter.
Of course, you already know this. You work with your hands every day. Your hands clean woulds, hold heaving shoulders, grasp delicate medical devices and make fine tuned practiced movements that make our cells work together again, that sometimes even give us back our very lives. You do amazing wonderful things. You are appreciated, admired, and respected by so many and I am one of those people.
Your hands though, they are touching my body.
My body matters too.
Although I may not always have known this, it has always been true. My body held my niece when she fussed and soothed her when she wouldn’t sleep for anyone else; my body cried crimson when i ran a compass across its extremities each night at twelve years old, trying to fight pain with pain; my body pushed me lovingly forward, forward, forward across three miles of streets every day rain, shine, or snow in stained Adidas for years so I could breathe that runner’s high; my body bent and ached and screamed in pain through untreated dystonia that lasted for three days while locked in a tiny dirty room and still fought for me; my body danced to the thriller in full 80’s costume with my best friends for youtube that one summer; my body clenched iron against a monster-man eight times my size until it tore countless times since before I could count to ten; my body sleeps next to the love of my life now and breathes the calm of ocean air; my body still writhes at night strapped down in nightmares of sweat, fear-stench, and ugliness. My body, the very same body that sits silently now on your examination table, has been poked, prodded, punched, kicked, hit, spit on, slapped, thrown down on tile floors, raped, violated, stepped on, choked, cut open, and torn apart. My body has been a varsity athlete, climbed mountains, danced in the rain, wrestled siblings, eaten homemade ice cream, embraced loved ones, saved lives, slept well, loved and been loved.
My body is precious.
My body is tender.
My body is sensitive and it has every right to be that way and you are required by me and my new found ownership of myself to treat it with respect.
I’m not saying you don’t.
I’m just saying that I need you to know that your hands are important.
The brush of your fingernail against my skin may not even register for you, but for me any and every one of those things my body is and was might well gush forth.
You press your hand against my back without letting me know before hand, without asking if it’s okay, because there is no reason for you to let me know before hand. No one ever told you that was even a thing. Because why would anyone think of that, I know, it sounds so insignificant, and unimportant… and why would it matter and don’t people brush past you on the subway anyways? You didn’t know, or maybe you did and you didn’t see the point, or maybe you just forgot, but it doesn’t matter because:
YOUR HANDS ARE STILL IMPORTANT.
Your hands are still important.
And your hand is on my back of this body and you ask me to breathe in and I can feel the heat of your hand and the skin or maybe the glove and it’s not even a millisecond before: my body is raindrops, pain, baby, run, stop, sunshine, compass, hey stop never blood can’t breathe stop no stop-pain-fear-pain-fear-no-pain-fear-stopnopainfearownopleaseno…
You will see none of this on my face. You will see none of this on our countless faces and there will be no warning on my record and yet Iguarantee you I am only one of thousands of us each with our own important bodies.
Our bodies are precious.
Our bodies are tender.
Please, even if we don’t know it yet, treat them that way.
All I ask is that before you touch us, ask if it is okay and mean it. All I ask is that you offer to have another person in the room. All I ask is that you tell me what you are going to do to this precious body that is mine before you do it and why. And please if I do cry if I do flinch, don’t tell me about your sister’s kid who used to get locked in the closet so you know what it’s like and don’t worry you won’t hurt me because there isn’t anything you can say that will change what my body is and was right now, and it isn’t your job, just respect me and my body and I’ll be okay. All I ask is that you take the time because each and every one of us is worth it.
I’m not saying you don’t know or don’t care or that you are anything less than the caring and careful professional that I hope you to be.
I’m just saying I need you to remember it is important.
Your hands are important. Our bodies are important.
You never know which one of us is me, so please, be careful with all of us.