Bodies, a podcast about our physicality and what goes beyond

Every single day we are flooded with hundreds of podcasts and sometimes, it gets hard to choose. As I am interested in a diverse range of topics, from science to mythology, from fictional stories to politics and history, it is becoming increasingly hard for me to pick an interesting podcast. The fact that my time is quite limited to about 20 or 30 minutes every time I take my dog out for a walk narrows down the list of podcasts to those with medium-length episodes.

While browsing for podcasts related to anthropology and, more specifically to body image and the relationship humans have with their own bodies, I came across ‘Bodies’. What an eye-opening and excellent find! The podcast was created and hosted by Allison Behringer, who, marked by her own experience and connection to her body, decided to share her story and the accounts of various people who struggled with and inside their bodies.

Allison starts by recounting her case and shares with the audience her profound mental, emotional and physical reactions to escalatingly painful sexual acts. Whilst trying to research and figure out what exactly caused unbearable sex, her relationship with her boyfriend degraded and she discovered that gynecologists are poorly equipped to care for or to advise women in regards to their sexual lives. A sine qua non condition for engaging in sexual acts is pleasure. The question is, why weren’t some gynecologists able to address this simple and basic ailment that Allison was going through? One of the reasons why painful sexual experiences in women were not researched or deemed important enough is the fact that sexual pleasure was regarded and documented by male doctors, whose interest, in the past, has been on male pleasure.

In the end, Allison learnt that her painful sex life was actually caused by contraceptives, which thinned out the muscles and tissues at the entrance to the vagina. Surprinsingly enough, pain during sex was not on the list of side effects caused by contraceptives. Obviously, contraceptives were revolutionary in that they freed females from having sex as only a means of reproduction, but was it really so? Isn’t this a narrative created by the same men who researched and introduced these contraceptives on the marketplace? The idea was that women would be able to enjoy sex without the stress associated with the ‘pull-out method’ and that they could delve into the pleasure of the act without worrying about baring children. In spite of this apparent freedom research does show that contraceptives can cause painful sex for women. This bothersome side effect should be listed on the package leaflet of contraceptives and both women and men, starting with gynecologists, should deem women’s sexual health and pleasure as important for research, science and general knowledge as men’s sexuality.

Another savvy episode of “Bodies” narrated KalaLea’s tale, a young African-American woman who went through debilitating menstrual periods. Every time she was on her period she lost enormous quantities of blood and was torn by the excruciating pain. It disrupted her life and she was embarrassed by the stains and often by the pools of blood she literally left behind. She believed it was normal and her friends and family reinforced that. When she finally got diagnosed, she discovered that she had fibroma. She also found out that, statistically, fibroma is more common in black women. Why is it so? As it turns out, the amount of stress and insecurity that black women face in societies that were and still are dominated by white supremacy, can lead to higher chances of developing fibroma. Off topic, in one of my courses during my master in anthropology, I read an article that researched spontaneous abortions. It seems that the same stress, insecurity and distrust in a medical system where African-American people were never a priority, higher rates of spontaneous abortions occur in women of colour.¬†

Quite a few episodes of ‘Bodies’ tackle the relationship that women have with their bodies and that appeals to my feminist side. On the other side, there are plenty of episodes that talk about mixed groups of men and women, but also about individual men. The topics vary quite a lot, but each episode is unique and insightful. I have eagerly listened to stories about protecting communities of drug users from STDs and to the account of a man born without testicles and his confrontation with the societal definition of normality. Allison also presents aspects of the lives of people who were born with dwarfism and the business success of a transgender men and his personal search for suitable prosthetic penises.

I absolutely loved this podcast. I feel that it enriched me and it revealed medical facts and unique problems that people face daily in relationship to their own bodies. Even though some of us might not have these specific problems, we certainly encounter complex bodily issues in the course of our lives. This podcast is both a wake up call and a wise resource that points out to the actuality that the medical system or society at large might not be equipped to help us. We need to be resilient, listen to our bodies and find ways of changing the perspective we have of our own bodies.

The panic wave

 

Hear, hear

The king of panic and fear!

it’s Monday

or Sunday

or maybe Friday

the days have departed

a mighty routine started

hours and hours,

and weeks,

a month of bacteria

no cafeteria

a deserted city

there isn’t even a kitty

a bleak soul,

Disinfect each and every bowl

breathe in, breathe out

the virus outside!

This auspicious year

has spread only fear!

Hear, hear

only time can heal.

The elusive Chronos…

he, alone, knows

how itchy is the nose.

The mask speaks

the skin’s so dry

bleach, wash, sanitize

don’t forget your eyes!

Did you order pies?

you better have some spies

if there is fever

you become a receiver.

The apocalypse, sci-fi

ghost towns, the future

Like in the movies

It’s almost quarantine

except it really is…

in Wuhan.

There’s no one around

no peace of mind to be found

Tell me, seer

all these folks

with all their jokes

were they to eat an iris

would it kill the coronavirus?

Anger. Another word 

Look down at my hands

And see they are cracked 

Look closer, my cuticles are bleeding

My nails so short, wounds and raw skin 

My toes are the same.

Look at my skin, is wrinkled and dry 

If only my body could talk 

If only my soul could reveal 

That it is torn, ripped, confused, drowning 

Staying afloat just because it has to.

If only my body could talk 

My mind would share its burden with a companion 

But anxiety is like:

 a snake on my body 

It comes, it bites, it poisons 

Then it suddenly disappears,

Leaving behind 

A figure so serene, so peaceful

An exclamation: What a relief! 

Nights and days, cycles of seasons 

All has become timelessness

Thoughts of overwhelming sadness 

Possess my body. 

Without reason, without asking for permission 

And I don’t understand 

Why me? Why now? Why forever?

Sometimess I feel empty 

Like a programmed machine without emotions 

They say pills might kill the love hormone

I don’t even remember the last time 

I felt alive, excited, in love, high with passion. 

I forgot when I screamed of pleasure 

My body is numb

I am jaded, in desperate need of attention.

I am lonely, I just want to sleep. 

I want to detach from everything. 

I want comfort, I want to feel again

Like I am alive.

All these contradictory thoughts 

Are fighting a war.

-To the death, they say! 

The stimuli in my brain 

Have taken up swords 

Against each other. 

And all I feel is pain, physical pain 

My body is agitated,

My heart is running down the street

I am hot and cold and fearful 

A poision like liquid travels fast 

From my hands to my head. 

I feel it in my veins, 

Like red chilli mixed with arsenic and hot alcohol. 

I feel I am gonna lose it, 

Become unconscious soon

Die without even saluting death. 

But still, 

When anxiety comes I shake off and tell myself: 

Oh, another one…it will pass. 

Then anger comes..an uncontrollable force 

Anger at the world, I feel murderous

I could plant a bomb and end humanity

In that very instant without any guilt 

Then I hate myself, for being so weak 

For succumbing to this rush of negative feelings and thoughts 

For the way I am wired, for my unbalanced hormones 

Look at me now and tell me that: 

‘Positive thinking helps a lot’

‘Other people have it hard too’

‘You will get over this’

‘We all get bad days’

‘Try to watch cartoons’

Or ‘smoke weed’ 

And I get it, people say generic things when you have a problem. 

They give advice and want to help. 

It is called empathy or so they say.

But how can you?

When I am in a constant torment, 

Because of the endless stream of ideas,

That I would rather close my eyes 

And live in my dreams 

But it doesn’t help!

They are nightmares 

So how can you? 

Serve me this bullshit on a golden plate? 

From the outside it seems like a fantasmagoric illness, a made-up ailment 

For people who complain a lot, who want to blame their unhappiness on something

And even I ask myself 

Why am I not strong enough?

Isn’t happiness my own responsability?

They say it is to be found inside?

Then why does an endless fresh stream of exhaustion and suffering 

Flood my every cell?

When I only look for my share 

Of satisfaction.

But then I realize, fuck…

Something’s wrong.

People are serving me self-help advice 

They say they feel me, 

they are here for me 

Words are empty,  

Silence more meaningful. 

A hug, a kiss, a stroke of hair 

And delving deep into my pain.

People think: (my friends, my mother, my partner, the rest of the world) 

That I should close the door to raw anger 

To disconcerting anxiety, to the subtle depression

That I should not think too much 

That I should change the topic of discussion.

This exhausts me, leaves me empty 

A body without a soul. 

Someone who sometimes thinks:

Can I just get intravenous nutrition in bed today? 

Adult diapers and from time to time 

Some human touch. 

I want to be reassured I am still breathing. 

So I decide not to barricade myself inside 

A fabricated postive energy, happy thoughts bubble 

I let my pain inundate me 

And tell myself the world is fucked up 

So if you want to help 

Please suffer with me 

Complain and swear,

Ask questions about the purpose of it all 

Be confused, cry, struggle 

Open up just one eye when the alarm rings

Decide to linger in bed today 

To be nostalgic, 

To experience movies vicariously 

To not go out into the world 

To not fulfill your role as an adult 

To not take seriously your attributions

Your responsabilities 

To still be a kid

Without depression.