Experience a Narrative Fractured by Trauma in “Tender Points”
Amy Berkowitz’s heartbreaking lyrical essay Tender Points explores the mental and physical pain of what it is like to live with a chronic invisible illness. The author juxtaposes pop culture characters, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, against her own experiences with sexual violence and chronic illness for a unique exploration of women’s experiences with the patriarchal medical system.
Berkowitz points out that women’s experiences are always viewed with suspicion, as if they are not capable of being reliable narrators for their own bodies. This is part of the reason why it’s so hard for women to have their illnesses taken seriously by doctors—most just write off their suffering as being “all in their heads.”
The rejection of women’s claims of chronic illness is also explored in Berkowitz’s recounting of her fibromyalgia, which was triggered after she regained her memories of being raped by her pediatrician. She explores the mind-body connection, especially how trauma can manifest itself physically, and she looks at how society is so unwilling to believe in that connection. Even fellow fibromyalgia sufferers are often skeptical of the idea, mainly because they are afraid they will be ignored even more if they try to link their physical symptoms with prior emotional or psychological pain.
Although Tender Points can be a difficult read, Berkowitz’s painfully honest recounting of her own experiences and her critique of the patriarchal medical system reveals how our society is failing women, especially those who have suffered from sexual assault or chronic illnesses.