Authentically portraying a sick person requires 3 key things: props, a method acting lesson (or two or three) in the art of crazy, and the irrational attitudes of a D-list celebrity. Contender for an Oscar winner? Yep thats me. And so, a primer on surviving your own insanity, courtesy of yours truly.
As a kid, getting sick had a sort of glamorous quality. Like maybe terminal illness could bring what a day off school had shown a glimpse of. Maybe getting sick, for good, would result in endless days of what was currently limited to strictly “sick day,” activities; binge TV watching, recreational sleeping and, abnormally high quantities of TLC that resulted in the little kid #winning, (endless amounts of cinnamon toast, buttered by another’s hand and on demand…)
Back in the day, as a ten year old aspiring actress, the role of “sick,” inspired emotions I was sure were authentically A-List, and would someday take me to overnight celebrity, if only I kept up practicing. “I can’t go to church, I feel soooo sick.”
No? You don’t believe me? Good thing there’s always next week. *insert sinister grin*
STEP ONE of highly effective shenanigans; If peaceful pleading doesn’t work.. gather your weapons.
If an Oscar wasn’t in the cards for acting, not a big deal, my production team was a one man army…”sick day,” tactics meant props. Lots of props (light-bulb warmed thermometers, ice cubes, orchestrated and recorded coughing soundtracks)..you know the drill.
STEP TWO: broaden your horizons, test the limits.
Later in life, high school would cast me in the role of love-sick, a slightly more sexy and sly character than that of the nine-year old dumping water in her bed to fake a traumatic case of incontinence (totally a hypothetical situation….just sayin)
Now, sick days were siiiiick, the cool slang term. Sick days offered eight hours of alone time with whomever the significant other was of the moment for a sick day of the teenage version of TV watching, recreational sleeping and abnormal TLC quantities. Oops.
Props? An intricately knit blindfold craft of finely refined pure silk bullshit, bought by the loveable but dumb archnemisis; my mother. Sorry mommy.
In short, if faking sick was a class, by now I would have aced, majored, mastered and stuck around for a PH.D in dramatics; exaggeration a close candidate for doctorate material.
STEP THREE: TBD (present day)
So when sick the remix (the one that’s legit, non-voluntary and thus terrifying) showed up on eve of my 22nd birthday; I too, was surprised by the level of D-List (think Mariah Carey in Glitter quality) performance I put on. (WTF, self, get your shit together, we practiced for this; no tears, just staunch logistics…props? masks.. “i’m doing really well!!” lines, “I’m fine,” Setting? Life. Front stage and center…
Instead of a starring role, I felt stuck performing a community theater version of a MADtv skit; not funny, not all there, and seemingly endless.
Sick. sick. sick. sick.
STEP? (non-existent this is real life H.A.M. big kidness,)
As if nine again, I binged on otherwise avoided TV, trading reality for comedies that kept me from thinking, and binge slept to avoid from seeing friends who I didn’t want to guess what was going on inside me. As for TLC? Thanks for your tender touch, THC, yous a lady.
Somewhere, after years of practicing, acting sick had skipped past the role of understudy and gone onto a reality-TV star sized cameo.
Pre-maturely cursing my body to misery, my shoulders were weighed re-hashing how good it all had been. My impending birthday loomed like an unavoidable goodbye kiss signaling the end that threatens as begin any minute as the clock ticks…
22. Was this it?
Three weeks later, It’s not humble of me but I’d like to award myself for an Oscar in the bullshit category.
No, I wasn’t faking it, I’m still quite sick in the “oh shit! my cells are eating each other!” sense….but, strangely, two emergency trips and a change of perception lens; surprise! it’s not all hopeless.
Yes, my list of doctor’s appointments for the week is longer than the list of things I’ve eaten for breakfast in the past month, my veins have puckered up purple ever awaiting a hook up sesh with the IV, and the number of places I’ve publicly cried is embarrassingly beginning to resemble a visitor’s map to San Diego; (Balboa? Check. Beach? Check. Coronado Bridge? The Pearl? El Camino? Santana’s? Check. Check. Check, and YEP, (drive-thru, shitty life situations demand red sauce,. judge me).. CHECK.
But if I’ve learned anything from these past weeks, besides enough hands on research in the psychology of what constitutes Crazy Bitch Syndrome (CBS , acronymnage yes please) to write and illustrate a three volume memoir entitled “Insanity;” it’s this..
I can honestly say the cliché, “You are your worst enemy,” ultimately should (and in essence) is the Golden Rule (and should probably be a more common tattoo, because it’s easy to read and yet carries such *deep personal meaning* (the $$$$ equation for non-douchey tattoos)
Anyway, I digress. Long story short, Being your own worst enemy is super easy, in case you’re wondering and have never watched a movie, or skipped the above paragraph with the illegal drug reference and thus have no reference to conclude how simple self-sabotaging can be.
Self-sabotage is foremost an activity of severing connectivity.
Because at the end of a really, really terrible day, being alone and isolating yourself truly can feel like the safest space; especially when among your (well-meaning) friends being sick seems the only topic on which you can contribute genuinely, as now, you’re life is inevitably changed, “so what are you going to do??”.
You’re going to keep living (inevitably, at least for the time being) And, admitting it is the first step to slaughtering your enemy.
Because being alone doesn’t stop you from living. Whether or not you like it being sick doesn’t cut off your capacity to love, or give, or to take when needed, at least it shouldn’t, if you ever were alive in the true sense.
Yes, normal topics will now exit stage left for more serious discussions you’d rather not be having that will nonetheless take center stage and feel reminiscent of Intervention.
Yes, at the end of the day life is inevitably changed; that’s what life is, a string of change, interwoven with familiar chains and patterns and events.
Yes, the past few weeks have been hard, but a lot of pain was simply expecting. Expecting to feel better, expecting to wake up, expecting things from people who were expecting things from me; expecting is a spin cycle that expects then gets upset when the expectations suddenly are relentless and unforgiving.
Expecting lives in another dimension where gravity plays no role in reality and therefore can roam limitlessness.
Sick wasn’t among the repetitions of events I saw as part of my 20’s, 30’s, or really, in honesty, probably at any point. I’ve had one cavity and a sprained ankle…Illness? Me? Please.
Thankfully, these things can’t be foresee; if they could, we’d probably all be too busy digging down to our six feet to stop and see the necessity of sick to appreciate what IS healthy.
Life changes can feel dramatic, but in truth, I think they happen in small increments; little shifts that are rooted in fear and web out and manifest themselves in all manner of uncertainties; from worrying over what will happen within the hour, to worrying ridiculous amounts over situations that don’t exist (if I die who will put my apt up on craigslist?? who will care of my orchids?? Oh she complimented my ring? Should I leave it to her? )
Ridiculousness, rooted in anxiety, from big, to little things like text messages (was that obvious? Will he read into this? Are they saying that only because I’m sick?) took hold of me.
I worried. (Clearly)
But, whether ”healthy or sick,” in the normal dictionary sense, the moral (and cure) stays the same..
WHO CARES? Life is short. At some point you will probably be a mess.
Maybe everybody will know it and be nice and let you know it, or maybe they’ll play nice and let you go along with it and pretend to forget.
In the grand scheme of things only you control you, and even that is limited (see every form of sickness from colds to cancer and everywhere in between).
Life is perception; a weird hybrid of a limited imagination and the infinity of actuality…And reality? Somewhere in between the two, but wholly up to how you drink it in.
I do stupid things, and that didn’t change the day I found out I was sick and sadly won’t stop when “health” is prescribed to me again. I’m human and thankfully I’m loved, by a rare-breed of humans who know me/love me enough to TLC me through stupidity, because someday they might do or have done something stupid too. Maybe.
The last weeks have sewn together the pockets of people who are family to me no matter the season; leaving threads of people with well-meaning but thin intentions somewhere at the outlying seams to come and go as they please.
And that’s okay. C’est la vie… all sorts of relationships, no matter how stiflingly saccharine, piece together the whole equation… what makes the others that much more worth it.
So? This whole long thing is half of an apology to those that know me (and thus saw me go a little, “Girl, Interrupted”) those that don’t and probably rightfully assume I am all kinds of “Girl Interrupted,” (you are completely correct, except if Angelina Jolie was played by Snooki obviously) and a bit of a “here’s whats up with me…” type of thing…
Four weeks ago I wrote, “existing is our reality, living is our opportunity.” Honestly, a month removed from it I can say I probably liked the way fancy adjectivery of it sounded much more than I ever understood it, or really could begin to know what it meant.
Life is for living and for the rest of my days, weeks, months, treatments, freakouts, fine days, high days, terrible no good very bad days, if you love me, remind me of the deliciousness of it all, and that my biggest enemy, the D-list actress me, should take a seat, immediately.