photograph by Jametlene Reskp

We’re All Healthy, We’re All Sick

Savala Nolan
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readAug 18, 2023

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The truth is that all bodies are well and all bodies are not well. All bodies are healthy and all bodies are not healthy. Health is a dynamic, multi-faceted state, not a binary. Very few of us are “healthy” or “sick,” period. Most of us have systems in our bodies that function really well, and ones that benefit from support. We may live with depression, but have the blood pressure of an elite athlete. We may be metabolically fit as a fiddle, but need strong glasses. We may have poor eyesight, but easily bend into yoga poses. We may have a thriving at-home asana practice, but struggle with the health impacts of loneliness and isolation. Health isn’t a “yes” or “no.” It’s a swirling, three-dimensional set of spectrums that naturally shift throughout our lives .

It’s easy to lose sight of this. Not all health is visible, and not all sickness, or suboptimal health, is visible. My friend and I walked up a long (and I mean long) hill. At the top, I was breathing hard and he wasn’t. He might as well have spent the last twenty minutes reading a magazine on a pool float. You could “see” a difference in how our bodies handled the hill. And you might draw from that that he is “healthy” and I am “not.”

What you couldn’t see is that my friend takes nearly ten medications for “invisible” ailments, and I don’t. He is managing two long-term, incurable diagnoses that require high levels of vigilance and medical intervention. He’s a bit of a unicorn in the sense that even when he jogs his cardiovascular system seems unfazed. Still, his life expectancy, based on his illnesses, is less than a half-century.

This isn’t even taking into account emotional and mental health. People are terribly good at masking depression, anxiety, and other challenges that manifest under cover of the mind. Some of this is the private nature of these things; my anxiety literally takes place entirely in my inner monologue, except for those intense and mercifully rare moments when it manifests as shaking, vomiting, etc. Some of it is stigma. Even I don’t advertise that I take an SNRI to help me manage my anxiety. I’m dating a therapist for goodness sake and it took six months before I let him see me pluck my pill box off the top of the fridge and take my morning medicine.

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Savala Nolan
Human Parts

uc berkeley law professor and essayist @ vogue, time, harper’s, NYT, NPR, and more | Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins | she/her | IG @notquitebeyonce