Episode 206: Sick and Tired

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In her new book Sick and Tired: An Intimate History of Fatigue, Emily K. Abel has written the first history of fatigue, one which also contains a memoir of her own experiences as a cancer survivor afflicted with fatigue. In this wide-ranging history, Abel shows how our view of fatigue is intimately connected with our view of work, and how "the American cultural emphasis on productivity intersect to stigmatize those with fatigue...When fatigue limits our ability to work, our society sees us as burdens or worse." Beyond that one of the particular burdens of fatigue is that is has such an immediate effect on one's life that no friend or medical test can confirm. Abel explains how fatigue how it has been ignored and misunderstood by both the general public and medical professionals, but she also shows how we have attempted to treat it through a variety of sometimes terrifying means. Emily K. Abel is professor emerita of public health and women’s studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of several books, including Hearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin, 1850–1940.

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