5 “Disorders” That Aren’t

1.  Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

I first learned of this disorder through a radio commercial for some drug that’s supposed to counteract it.  The drug’s name escapes me, but it could well have been NUVIGIL®, whose web site explains SWD as a medical condition that may affect 1 in 4 people out of the “15 million Americans [who] work outside of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule.”

SWD is a medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated by a doctor

SWD occurs when your body’s internal sleep-wake clock is out of sync with your work schedule—your body is telling you to go to sleep when your work schedule needs you to stay awake.

If you work non-traditional hours and struggle to stay awake at work, you may be experiencing excessive sleepiness (ES) due to SWD.

People with ES due to SWD often struggle to stay awake during their waking hours, or have trouble sleeping during their sleeping hours.

24 Hour Clock

And, of course, we then have the side effects that may be worse than the actual “condition”:

What important information should I know about NUVIGIL?

  • NUVIGIL may cause serious side effects including a serious rash or a serious allergic reaction that may affect parts of your body such as your liver or blood cells, and may result in hospitalization and be life-threatening. If you develop a skin rash, hives, sores in your mouth, blisters, swelling, peeling, or yellowing of the skin or eyes, trouble swallowing or breathing, dark urine, or fever, stop taking NUVIGIL and call your doctor right away or get emergency help.
  • NUVIGIL is not approved for children for any condition. It is not known if NUVIGIL is safe or if it works in children under the age of 17.
  • You should not take NUVIGIL if you have had a rash or allergic reaction to NUVIGIL or PROVIGIL® (modafinil) Tablets [C-IV], or are allergic to any of the following ingredients: modafinil, armodafinil, croscarmellose sodium, lactose monohydrate, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, povidone, or pregelatinized starch.

What are possible side effects of NUVIGIL?

  • Stop taking NUVIGIL and call your doctor or get emergency help if you get any of the following serious side effects:
    • Mental (psychiatric) symptoms, including: depression, feeling anxious, sensing things that are not really there, extreme increase in activity (mania), thoughts of suicide, aggression, or other mental problems
    • Symptoms of a heart problem, including: chest pain, abnormal heart beat, and trouble breathing
  • Common side effects of NUVIGIL are headache, nausea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. These are not all the side effects of NUVIGIL.

I honestly don’t know which is worse: (A) having white bosses or managers peg you as “lazy” because you have trouble staying alert during rotating or night shifts that fuck with your body’s natural cycles, or (B) having white doctors diagnose you with SWD and prescribe medication that makes you dizzy and nauseous and may give you difficulty breathing.  Or (C) just avoiding the whole prescription thing and getting hooked on street methamphetamines.  Either way, as I said recently:


24 Hour Clock

2.  Gender Identity Disorder (GID)

302.85 Gender Identity Disorder


Next, let’s examine [. . .] Gender Identity Disorder. The diagnostic criteria for adults and adolescents [APA94] are:

A. A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex). In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex.

B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex. In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex.


C. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition.

D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Specify if (for sexually mature individuals) Sexually Attracted to Males, … Females,… Both, … Neither.

The clinical significant criterion, D, was added to all conditions in the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders section. The definition of “distress or impairment” lies at the heart of the issue of pathologization of gender expression.

If you’ve read or known me for a while, you probably know that I think GID is a bunch of bullshit. Apart from the fact that it conflates sex and gender (people inhabit and express All Kinds of Genders, which certainly don’t map neatly onto a binary sex-assignment system so half-assed that it doesn’t even account for basic and common human biological diversity), GID is all wrapped up in a medical system that *requires* people to conform to this narrow script (“I was born the wrong/opposite gender”; “I’m a man/woman trapped in a woman’s/man’s body”) in order to qualify for medical treatment that ought to be available to whoever wants it. It’s called gender self-determination, people. Or the abolition of gender (someday). Take your pick.

3.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that the so-called “disorders” in this list don’t cause people a ton of pain. It’s horrible to live on the brink of nodding off while driving trucks all day and night. It’s scary to face a society that questions and/or criminalizes and/or may kill you for failing/refusing to conform to your assigned sex and socialized gender. It’s awful to suffer nightmares, waking terrors, and flashbacks from a traumatic event. All I’m saying is that in a society that equates disorders with shamefulness and even immorality, we would do well to avoid blaming/pathologizing individuals for what are primarily social and structural problems.

This is part of why I love Operation: Recovery (led by Iraq Veterans Against the War) as a tactic of resistance to US militarization.

Operation Recovery


Service members who experience PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support, and compensation. Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them. We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Learn more about what Operation Recovery is fighting for here

Rather than acquiescing to dominant narratives positing PTSD as a sign of mental weakness, IVAW reclaims woundedness and a right to heal. Racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist, earth-degrading war is the problem; not individual combatants’ mental fragility. (a.k.a. humanity.)

4.  Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)


Lotta people in this world, including medical experts, simply don’t buy that MCS is a real thing.

Many experts and major medical organizations — such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology — have stated that the connection between the patient’s symptoms and environmental exposures are speculative and evidence of disease is lacking. The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs believes that multiple chemical sensitivity should not be considered a recognized clinical syndrome.

But hold up, Kloncke. I thought you were mad at the medical establishment for over-pathologizing. Now they’re under-pathologizing?? Make up your damn mind, girl!

Fair. But here’s why I include this one: regardless of what Science says, in the world where I live, people get harmed by chemicals. Like the webMD article says:

People who have the symptoms [including headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, etc] may blame them on a major event, such as a chemical spill. Or they may point to long-term contact with low levels of chemicals at work, perhaps while working in an office with poor ventilation. Reported triggers include tobacco smoke, auto exhaust, perfume, insecticide, new carpet, chorine, and countless others.

And most of the time, folks who have identified certain chemical triggers that make them feel sick have a helluva time convincing other people and institutions to take that shit seriously. So in effect, people with MCS (whether or not medical associations recognize it as a ‘real thing’) are treated as disordered and irrational, and pushed out of many spaces directly or indirectly.

But as with PTSD, GID, and SWD, the main problem isn’t individual frailty or deviance; it’s systemic oppression. Environmental illness is not an individual person’s problem. Society-wide, there’s a profit motive to manufacture goods at the cheapest rate possible in order to outdo competitors — and often this means adding cheap, unsafe chemicals and preservatives to products; manufacturing commodities in conditions that are super unsafe for workers; or constructing toxic industry in poor neighborhoods — all of which can contribute to chronic environmental illnesses.


It’s also true that folks’ MCS can be triggered by high-end products like top-of-the-line essential oils, etc. From what I understand, this is due to an underlying reaction pattern that makes them much more sensitive to highly concentrated manufactured shit in general: even if the stuff being concentrated is sandalwood or lavender. Whatever the particular triggers, the main point is: thanks to an economy driven by profit motives, owned by a ruling class, and utterly unaccountable to regular people, poor and working-class people disproportionately have to put up with ubiquitous toxic externalities and poisons. Are we surprised when people’s bodies show significant signs of damage?

Now, bringing down these hyper-toxified manufacturers and the ruling class that controls them might take a minute. In the meantime, fortunately, there are things we can do to respect and support our friends and comrades with MCS (and probly make our own spaces a little healthier while we’re at it). Check out this recently-crafted Fragrance Free Femme Of Colour Realness guide for tips and resources!

5.  Infantile Disorder (LOL)

j/k. Lenin jokes, anyone?

This is just a partial list, drawing together various issues that have been on my mind lately. I’m sure you / we can think of more! And I do want to be really clear: I’m not arguing that all illness is socially constructed -slash- doesn’t exist. Yes, illnesses exist. “Birth, old age, sickness, and death” (as the Buddhist phrase goes). Inevitable, in many respects. What concerns me is that capitalist society blames *our bodies* for struggling to survive under *its torments.*

Eff that noise. Our bodies — in all their beautiful fragility, disability, diversity — are not the problem. You want problems?

  • Wage Slavery
  • Heteropatriarchy, Transphobia & Cissexism
  • War
  • Racist, Earth-Degrading Capitalism.

Happy Monday, friends!  See you out there.

Versatile Blogger Award


Tough to feel deserving of any positive blogging recognition when my updates here have been so scattered the past few months.  But as always, I’m honored and humbled by this shoutout from the wonderful engaged Buddhist writer and activist Maia Duerr.  You know how some people are mad talented at giving compliments? Maia is one of those people.  She’s so thoughtful and specific when she names what she appreciates about people’s work. You can tell she’s really moving with what they’re putting out; not just scattering praise for feel-good purposes.  Of Kloncke.com, she writes

Katie Loncke’s blog is, to me, the perfect intersection of spirit, politics, and heart.

Is that sweet or what?  Really tho.

And the best part about being tagged with this kind of blogly award?  Passing it on.  Since Maia put her own spin on the shoutout selection by limiting her list to women, I’m going to create my own parameters, too. My list consists only of people I know and build with (politically, spiritually) in person.

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Infaquerical Breakup

infaquerical: a term created by my friends Candy and Castro,* who did not identify with either monogamy or polyamory, and wanted a new framework for thinking and living their coupledom. After writing out the aspects of their relationship that matter to them, together they birthed this word.

in: indigenous

fa: familia (chosen, community, & biological)

que: queer, querida

r: revolutionary, radical

ical: magical

Since its inception, they’ve been using infaquerical as a touchstone as they navigate complexities of a nontraditional, gender-bending and anti-capitalist romance.  Castro might say to Candy: querida, I really want to spend my time with you: it’s been a hard week and my instinct is to retreat with you into our little world.  But since we’re in an infaquerical relationship I think it’s important for me to spend some time with my homies, rather than defaulting into monogamous isolation.

Or Candy (feminine-centered) might relish opening doors for Castro.

Or Castro (masculine-centered) might enjoy sitting on Candy’s lap in public.

As you might imagine, I instantly fell in love with this dope-as-hell word.  Not only for the meanings it carries, but for the process of intention that shaped it, and the ways it might live through people’s loving thoughts and actions.  Reminds me a bit of the way Ryan and I attempted to (re)define our “Open Relationship” Facebook status in the early days.

Now, over two years later, Ryan and I have decided to end our time as a couple. And I think the way we’re doing it reflects the infaquerical qualities of our time together.

  • Non-blaming.  It so happens that our breakup is nobody’s fault.  If a couple (or group) decides to split up because one person wants to have children and the other(s) don’t, is anyone to blame?  Ryan’s and my situation differs in specifics, but the gist is similar: our needs and desires just don’t happen to match up. Since we’ve spent over two years together responding to our conflicts with compassionate listening rather than defensive blaming, the breakup conversation, too, remained drama-free.
  • Supporting.  In addition to harboring no resentment, we each have an inclination to actively (and carefully!) support one another.  I say “carefully” because you know what?  It’s easy for us sensitive-type humans to deceive ourselves, during a breakup, into thinking that the best form of support is sustained contact and connection.  We want to show our former partner that we still care.  So we stick around.  (This has usually been my instinct, personally.)  For some people this might work out well; I’ve seen it happen once or twice.  But for many of us, “supporting” our former partner may actually mask our own desire to feel needed, wanted, and less-than-dispensable.  More important than soothing them is ensuring they have the tools they need to heal independently.  For cohabitants: do they have a place to go if they don’t want to stay at home with you?  Can you stay with a friend for a while to make space for your partner?  The stresses of making rent under capitalism can add a whole other level of stress to co-habitating couples splitting up.  Can you have conversations about housing and property that stem from a place of “from each according to ability; to each according to need”? Instead of trying to be the main person emotionally supporting your former partner, can you enlist others?  (Which brings us to:)
  • Community building.  Typically when we think of a community supporting a couple, we might imagine a wedding (if we’re more mainstream) or a, Octavia-Butler-esque collective of people (and/or vampires), romantically and non-romantically involved, sharing resources and helping to raise the next generations.  But it seems to me that for infaquerical relationships, the breakup is also an important moment to deepen community ties and trust.  Especially when, as is the case with Ryan and me, the former partners share friends/comrades and important projects.  Like Candy and Castro, Ryan and I have always felt it’s important to encourage each other to deepen friendships even while remaining anchored in a primary partnership.  Now I see the fruits of this orientation.  The day Ryan and I decided to separate, I later ran into one of his friends on the street, and as we were chatting it came quite naturally to me to ask this friend to check in on Ryan, to let him know that he’s loved and cared for.  I know Ryan would do the same for me.
  • Enlightening. One of the most precious aspects of our relationship — and one that I’ll carry with me — was the way Ryan and I supported each other’s Buddhist practice.  And as Thanissaro Bhikkhu says, “This is what we’ve been practicing for: the situations where the practice doesn’t come easily,” a.k.a. crises, or “storms.” A breakup like ours encourages us to cultivate paramis (positive qualities) of patience, generosity, acceptance, compassion, and determination.  And while it may not hold true for everyone, I’ve noticed that for me, times of disorientation and big emotion (Pema Chödron famously calls this “groundlessness“) can actually flow spontaneously into deeper dhamma practice.  When the mind and heart get overloaded, it can be easier to escape the tyranny of cognitive thought.  Notice more sensations; notice the quality of change itself.

When green leaves turn in the wind
I vow with all beings
to enjoy the forces that turn me
face up, face down on my stem

~Robert Aitken Roshi, a senryu verse from The Dragon Who Never Sleeps

Naturally, separating from someone we love brings pain.  Not tryna deny that sadness.  Splitting up with Ryan means losing my best friend.  But if I’ve learned anything from dharma and visionary politics, it’s that within crises — inside the instabilities: of gender, of capitalism, of heteropatriarchy, of the mind — we can also find opportunities for liberation.

With deepest gratitude to everyone who has loved and supported me and Ryan, as a couple and as independent people: you bring infaquerical to life!



* Sweet corrections from Castro:

[M]y my housemate Ray, Candy and I all thought we should re-name and re-define our reality by creating an evolving framework and term that speaks to our lived experiences. So, infaquerical was a trio effort which is why it is also so wonderful because as Candy pointed out, the way we defined our reality included another person (Ray) not just the two of us.

In: Indigenous
fa: familia (chosen, community and biological)
que: querida/queer
r: radical/revolutionary
ical: magical

Infaquerical: a magical, radical, revolutionary and romantic relationship between two non-gendered conforming people; they live to restore humanity instead of living to make profit; have the desire to decolonize their mind and to abolish male supremacy; value familia (biological, chosen and communidad) and challenging male supremacist ways of thinking.

So amazing, right? Have you experienced or witnessed dynamics of infaquerical in your life? (Hehe, I know the answer is Yes because so many of y’all are dope livin-yr-politics messy queer feminist beauties) Please feel free to share testimony! I’ll be sure it makes its way back to Candy and Castro. :)