Camgirls: Should You Disclose Your Mental / Physical Illness?

Webcam Startup AMA: Katy Churchill (Via Instagram)

How Adult Performers Can Cope With Mental Illness

Before I get into handling chronic illnesses in sex work, I want to emphasize that everyone is different. Your choice to share or not share your health status is your choice, and there is no wrong choice. This article also contains far more information about my own personal health than I have ever shared publicly within this industry. I am sharing my story to give you an idea of how I personally weighed the pros and cons of sharing my chronic illness with my fans/followers/clients, not because my way is the right way. This article applies to both mental and physical health.

 

How Chronic Illness Affects Work

Different illnesses affect different people in different ways. Coping with chronic illness varies not only with the specifics of each condition, but also between people with the same diagnosis. Management and treatment may include taking medication, diet and lifestyle modifications, treatments or procedures as a hospital inpatient or outpatient, etc. Handling your personal treatment regimen can require a flexible work schedule, planned or unplanned time off work, shortened work days, or other scheduling accommodations. Some work activities, including physical labor, may be difficult or impossible. Sex work allows you to tailor your work activities and schedule to your needs, which means that individuals with chronic illnesses may be attracted to the work in part for the flexibility it affords.

 

Pros of Sharing Your Health Status

  • For conditions with common stereotypes or stigma associated with them, seeing someone desirable who is affected by the illness can challenge preconceived ideas.
  • Your fans, followers, and clients will be more likely to understand, and even expect, a more flexible schedule and unplanned or unexplained absences.
  • Sharing can humanize you, making you more than a sexual fantasy on a computer screen, and building a deeper, more personal connection with your camming, video, or social media community.

 

Cons of Sharing Your Health Status

  • Your customers come to you to fulfill a sexual fantasy, and having a perceived weakness or flaw can ruin that fantasy, causing lost business.
  • Negative stereotypes or stigmas associated with your illness may rub off on you in the minds of your fans and followers, changing their opinion of you in an unflattering way.
  • Sharing may leave you open to unsolicited health advice and commentary from your followers that begins to take over your social media feed and is often rude, condescending, or unhelpful.

 

How I Have Approached Disclosure

I have a mental illness that requires multiple prescribed medications to treat, as well as regular therapy with a psychologist. I have chosen not to fully disclose the details of my illness because of the stigma around my disorder. Unfortunately, googling it brings up pages of results full of horror stories told from the point of view of the friends, family, and acquaintances of people with untreated or unsuccessfully stabilized personality disorders, and that is something I did not want my fans, followers, and clients seeing.

 

Lost Managerial Opportunities As Result Of Disclosure

Nearly 10 years ago, when I was working in another industry, I gave a talk to a group of students about discussing mental health with their future clients, as I was actively involved in mental health activism on my university campus at the time. I later found out that I was not promoted in a job I had because one of my supervisors was a student in that class of 200+ people, and she was concerned that having a mentally ill person in a managerial position would be a bad choice. That experience affected me very deeply and made me very cautious about sharing my mental illness within a work context. I stopped my involvement in speaking engagements and stopped any awareness activities that involved sharing my own story.

 

How I Handle Disclosure On Social Media

I acknowledge that I have a chronic illness, and occasionally on social media I will share that I am not feeling well and will be adjusting my schedule, but I do not share specifics. I have had very few followers press me on why I take medication, why I take time off when I do not appear to be physically ill, and what exactly I have “wrong” with me. In general, I answer questions by saying that I have a chronic illness that is under control with medical treatment, and that it is nothing to worry about. I do view my mental illness as a chronic illness: I was diagnosed at age 14, have been on a combination of medications since then, and barring a medical miracle, I will be on medication for the rest of my life.

 

What I Do Talk About / Disclose (Physical Illness)

I do share health stuff not related to my chronic mental illness. I talked a lot about my tonsil surgery on social media, and I openly talk about my terrible teeth and my ongoing struggles with a skin condition on my chest. These are health conditions that do not share the same stigma as mental illness, and I feel like they would not cause my followers to change their opinion of me, or cause them to question the relationship they have with me and my work. I am not ready to be an activist against mental health stigma right now. This may change in the future, but I am not at a place personally or professionally where I am ready and willing to run the risk of losing any of the good things I have going. I admire models who are open about their illnesses, and hope that one day I will feel secure enough to join them, but right now is not that time for me.

 

Everyone Is Different

This was a difficult article to write. I wanted to be as unbiased as possible, but I also wanted to share what I have done and how it has worked out for me. Do you agree with my list of pros and cons? Disagree? How has your chronic illness affected (or not affected!) your work? Let me know in the comments–I’d love to hear more about other models’ experiences with something that is rarely spoken about.

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