Working on a humor piece centered around neurosis + chronic illness — not sure if that’s too much to cover in one fell swoop, but I’ve written the start, and have an idea of where it goes.
Would love feedback on the directions — open to other ideas/paths as well :)
Also, I tried making a cartoon.
You and your suffering [outline]
“I’m terrible. Why do you even ask?” responded my aunt whenever I called to check in on her.
She was not kind nor healthy, once screaming at me for eating two Thin Mints that she had planned on saving for later. In my defense, there were three boxes in the cupboard. Also, I was six.
My aunt was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, depression and hyperhidrosis. This last one is the clinical term for over-sweating. Once, in a fender bender in Amsterdam, she fell into a fit of anger which made her look as if she was having a heart attack. The person she hit felt bad for her and let it go. This was maybe the only time her hidrosis became of use.
Though I find this funny, her ailments were real, and likely out of her control, as most ailments are, regardless of how much agency we enjoy assigning to those afflicted.
Most health problems arrive in our last quartile of life -- a time of wisdom that becomes coupled with anatomical dissatisfaction. As we age, these fleshy machines that once let us frolic, break down piece by piece until all we’re left with is creaking hardware caging a consciousness that yearns for more.
I, at just 31, have started to break down. It began three years ago: a ringing in my left ear with a dizziness that would not subside. It’s now constant -- I live with a mild lack of balance that seems to flare up with things like altitude, heat, or being alive.
If you’ve never dealt with anything like this, don’t worry, one day you will. Something will get you. A fun cancer. A bout of dementia. A dose of ALS. Maybe now, before you crumble, rally close friends to place bets on your future issues. Find purpose in demise.
At least that’s what’s happened to me: I “found purpose” in dealing with this ear thing. Meaning, as I learned to navigate illness, a world none of us want to be in, but all of us will.
Below are the potential directions for the rest of the piece. Would love to see if either of these are interesting to anyone:
Direction 1: Tracking Illness (similar to the Modern Love piece)
I’ll dive into the genesis of the ear issues
Seeing doctors and tracking it all
A scene with a doctor who told me that if I could figure out my untreatable ear issues I’d be a very rich man
Realizing the importance of being your own health advocate
How to create processes for vetting potential diagnosis, tracking outcomes, and symptom management
How I should have gotten a disability policy and how they work
Testing my way through 20 diagnosis
Trying alternative medicine: chiro/acupuncture/ayurveda/breathwork/scams
Maybe I’ll talk about what it’s like having acupuncture on your prostate. But maybe I won’t
Me flying to Florida for an eval for what may have been witch medicine, to meet with a doctor I found on YouTube
I’ll end it with me not knowing if I’ll ever get better but feeling confident that I’ll know what to do as future illness strikes
Maybe throw in some callback to my aunt, who is now obviously dead
Direction 2: Acceptance of a Chronic Health Issue
I’ll dive into the genesis of the ear issues
What are the things I’ve done to try and fix it
26 physicians, alternative medicine, etc.
No clear diagnosis -- 3 atypical chronic illness diagnoses
How the healthcare system is bad at chronic illness
Not being able to see a path forward where I’m happy with the direction of my life (maybe some paragraph about shame)
How I went to the mountains alone and took shrooms to figure it out
How there was a family in the cabin next to me and we shared a wall
How I had to blast white noise so they wouldn’t hear me cackling and laughing to myself while walking around the cabin naked though I guess they wouldn’t have been able to hear that last part
How, from this experience, I learned to accept this thing that might perhaps always be part of my life
The aunt still dies
Again -- all feedback or ideas welcome.
My next piece will be about doing Ayahuasca.
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I think it's an interesting topic of discussion and your writing is funny in such a relatable way. Both directions offer promise. In terms of the first, I think that it could also be helpful considering the Youtube and alternative medicine theories to discuss the WebMD problem with the internet being both the best and the worst source of online information about health. It can have so many answers and most often bad ones that always annoy and complicate being your own health advocate.
To me though, I think the second direction actually offers a bigger payoff. One thing that is also worth researching and looking into if that is the direction you chose is a Buddhist take on health and pain. Namely, there's a whole line of practice called Aging as a Spiritual Practice aimed at using meditation and Buddhist wisdom to accept out bodies as something that will age and decay and one more example of impermanence in life and the problem with trying to "fix" it. But as a 30 year old, I also understand the absurd visual of being the person half (or even a third) of the other practitioners' age, even if our body is always aging.
As someone who works in the US healthcare system at a cancer center, I like reading about the failures of the system that people experience because it sometimes gives me ways to improve what we're doing. I also think that every human experiences shame around their body at some point, so the second version of the article might highlight universal experiences through the details of your own chronic health issue. It sounds like the first version might be more practically useful for folks though. Being one's own advocate is a big deal and something that in my experience we're not taught until we've already wasted tons of time and money and/or suffered in silence for a long time. Either way, I look forward to reading!