Friday, July 10, 2015

Catching Reapers and Sleep Disorders

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you will have seen I've been posting a ridiculous amount of stuff about Grim Reapers lately. That's because my play How to Catch a Grim Reaper opens tonight at Bats Theatre. Being involved with the Young and Hungry season this year has been a really special experience for me. Theatre, and in particular Young and Hungry, were a big part of my life pre-illness, and I had thought that part of my life was over. 

As part of the publicity for the play, I was taking part in a publicity stunt wandering around town with a Grim Reaper. It was kind of a bad day pain-wise, and I was a little worried I might pass out because of it, so I gave the people I was with a quick explanation of my tendencies to fall down - very important in this case, since I often don't recognise people and freak out after I pass out, and so waking up to this:

Man facepainted as the Grim Reaper

leaning over me would not have ended well. While we were joking about the idea of the reaper setting up road cones and a "Grim Reaper at work" sign around me if I did pass out, it suddenly occurred to me that when I was saying Young and Hungry was a part of my life pre-illness, there was only a very slim margin making that true. The first time I collapsed was on a Young and Hungry holiday programme when I was fourteen. A couple of days later I collapsed again on the stage at Bats, and that was about when I realised I might not be all that well. It was another five years before I got a diagnosis and in reality I had been unwell for several years before that without knowing, but that day has always stuck in my mind as the beginning of a lot of this stuff.

One of the articles about the show focused on my sleep disorder (hypnogogic hallucinations or night terrors - not autoimmune as far as I know) being the inspiration for the play. During the interview, Tom asked me if I had the choice, would I give up having the sleep disorder as it has given a lot of creative inspiration. The question gave me pause - the sleep disorder can be exhausting and disruptive at times, but it has had a major impact on my writing, so no, I probably wouldn't give it up.

It made me think - would I give up any of the illnesses I live with if I had the choice? 

Yes, of course I would! If a safe and effective cure was found, I would be lining up to take it, especially if it could reverse the damage already done to my body. But if the possibility arose that I could never have been sick in the first place, would I take that? 

No. I don't think I would. A lot of living with illness has sucked, but ultimately it has led me to where I am now. I love my life, and the people in it, and I wouldn't risk giving that up. 

Of course this is all very much theoretical as the likelihood of someone developing cures for all my illnesses AND inventing a time machine to go back in time and give it to me before I became unwell is pretty low, but even so, this has been a nice thought train to jump on for the day. My illnesses have changed my life a lot, but I'm not convinced it's all for the worse.

Thanks for Reading
Little Miss Autoimmune

How to Catch a Grim Reaper runs from the 10th-25th July at Bats in Wellington. Find tickets.

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