Shut up and entertain me

Athletes in the NCAA can’t get paid by anything having to do with their athletic career, nor can they take the time away from classes and practices to get a job. Their promises of an athletic career after graduation are often hollow. (An institution in which people work for no pay, while their superiors make large amounts money from said work, has existed in the past. What did they call that, again? Oh yeah, “slavery.”)

Professional athletes are traded and treated like livestock. They can be uprooted and relocated without consent. They are pushed past their physical limits, often sustaining severe injuries and consuming drugs which lead them to irreversible health conditions or even an early grave, rather than to green pastures. Their careers are misleadingly glorified.

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Southpaw (2015) (Dope movie. I recommend it.)

Famous actors and musicians, with their highly recognizable faces, are pestered, often harassed, and sometimes even assaulted by paparazzi and fans. Many of them cannot leave their front doors without judgment from the masses. Magazines, websites, and even major news networks discuss their personal lives, whether the discussions are truthful, or not. Videos, pictures, and sound-clips of their most imperfect human moments are bought at top-dollar and distributed to the public. Even when this leads to a psychological break, the torment may still continue, like a car after hitting an insect. Whatever sells, right?

Actors and musicians who do not remain “famous” are often used and forgotten. Billy Redden, the banjo boy from Deliverance (1972), now works at a WalMart in Georgia, where he struggles to get enough hours to make ends meet (Isenberg, Nancy. White Trash. Atlantic Books, 2017) (Dope book. I recommend it.).

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Source

But don’t let them use their fame to express their opinions. Stand for the anthem. Shut up and sing, Puss & Boots. Make me laugh, peasants! They get paid to do what they do. Isn’t that enough for them? I watch sports games and awards ceremonies to escape from the real world. Real people talking about real things in the real world shatters the illusion of safety that we Americans have the God-given right to enjoy from the other side of our blue-lit screens!

Fuck that.

If someone wants to take any opportunity to speak up to make the world a better place, we should let them. Many of these people are well-traveled and well-informed, and have seen aspects of the world that many people have not. We should do more than just allow them to speak; we should be grateful for their conviction and bravery. Their jobs are heavily dependent on the approval of the public, so if they are saying something controversial, they likely aren’t saying it just to irritate people. If they are risking job opportunities and revenue to speak out on an issue, it is likely an issue that is very important to them, and they speak out because they care deeply. That is a selfless act. So if what they are saying makes sense, maybe we should listen to them.

 

x Anna Luparell

 

edit: 9/24/17 9:34 pm: Silencing these entertainers is just another way that we are failing to treat them like people. Reducing them to caricatures is dehumanizing.

 

Why “Stupid and In Pain”?

The progress of my openness with the world about my experiences with being stupid and in pain should not continue until I explain the meaning of “Stupid and In Pain” as a title.

If you’ve read this blog before, you may be able to gather the meaning behind “In Pain.” I have chronic pain from fibromyalgia, which is a medical condition that affects the way sensations are processed in the central nervous system. It makes certain sensations more painful than they should be. It kind of sucks, but whatever. I am learning to live with it, but I’m not learning as quickly as I would prefer…

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I wonder why progress is so slow. Maybe it has something to do with these mysterious headaches I’ve been getting.

The “Stupid” part refers to a couple of things; the first being my inexperience with life, or my reckless youthful behavior, or my naivety, or whatever you want to call it, which often factors into my decision making. It makes for an imperfect mechanism with which I navigate my life, but it’s being fixed slowly, with every mistake I make. In this respect, I am getting less stupid as time progresses. My mistakes are great resources for improving my behavior, and they are also great for making me laugh my ass off at myself. I hope they will serve the same purposes for you as I tell you about them.

Revealing the second “Stupid,” like so many things in my life, feels like coming out of the closet. In some ways, it feels more like coming out of the closet than coming out of the closet did. The second meaning for the “Stupid” is in reference to the copious amounts of marijuana that I smoke. I got my medical cannabis card late last year. I won’t lie: Using cannabis every day has changed me. Cannabis has transformed me. Since I started smoking weed, my ability to function as a normal, productive human has dramatically improved. … Yes, you read that correctly. Weed helps me function better. Hours that would typically be spent tossing and turning in my bed, trying to find the position that hurts the least, can now be spent actually enjoying my life.

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I grieved for my good health. The time I spent in bed, I also spent in a mental prison, agonizing about all the good things that I would not be able to experience for the rest of my life. I thought the pain would never stop, and that I would never be content again. The relentless pain, alone, was exhausting.

I also worried that I would not accomplish all the things I had always wanted to do. I felt like the benefits of being a goal-oriented person had turned into a defecit, because I could no longer perform even some of the smallest tasks necessary to reach my goals. The little goals I had, like passing a test at my community college, working my part-time job in the evening, or getting my laundry done, seemed about as impossible as all the big goals I had, like graduating, getting my own place, working full-time, traveling, pursuing hobbies, and changing the world. I often felt like I was stuck in my body, just dying to break free and be who I thought I was “on the inside.” I still feel that way sometimes. Sometimes, it’s hard not to despair as I compare my current self to myself during a time when I was stronger, or to the person that I want to be someday. The pain that I feel in my body seems to bleed into my soul. I feel like a waste of space and mentally kick my own ass for not giving back to the world. Simultaneously, I fear that the world is a harsh place, and that I won’t survive it for long.

But when I smoke cannabis, my body relaxes, and warm tingles soothe my pain. Then everything changes. I can focus on the world around me. I enjoy it. I live within it. I take walks and feel the sun on my face. I read, write, and do research. I clean house. I fold my laundry and put it away. I cook, then I take out the compost and do the dishes after. I play guitar and sing my heart out. I plan my tasks for the days, weeks, months, and years. I pay my bills. I write thank-you notes to people who I am grateful to. I kiss my boyfriend. I hug my grandma. I do yoga. I laugh. I dance. I’m happy. I’m free from the confines of my illness, and I can once again recognize the beauty of being alive, here and now.

Yes, sometimes, weed does make me a little “stupid,” because it makes me slow to respond to my environment. It’s because my thoughts become too numerous to process. On the inside, my brain makes a volcano-like eruption of ideas, and I am trying to process them before I proceed with action. If I get distracted from a task, and make a mistake, or am slower than usual, I may get anxious and impatient with myself. When that happens, I try to relax and shift my mindset to one of gratitude. I am always grateful that the distraction is due to my own weird high-thoughts (which I probably enjoyed having), rather than being distracted by stabbing sensations in my abdomen, headaches, nausea, musculoskeletal pain, unshakeable exhaustion, or other symptoms of my illness. Life is too short to put myself through the pain for the sake of my reputation. I would rather be happy. I smoke because I choose to be happy. So be it.

Will I write about other things? Definitely. Will it put them on this blog? Maybe (I don’t really want to pay for more than one domain name). This blog’s namesakes will give me plenty of ideas to start with. For any human, I think it’s important to keep a dialogue open about all the ways which we struggle and grow, so that we can connect and work together realistically. Chronic illness just happens to be one of my challenges in life. For my sake, and the sake of others who are affected by chronic illness in anyway, I need to be open. Noname said on her NPR Tiny Desk concert, “Heal the world with vulnerability,” and I liked that quote so much that I wrote it in my planner and considered getting it tattooed on myself.

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11:14. Thanks, Fatimah Warner.

It’s scary to talk about using cannabis. Weed used to be a dirty word to me. I was in my high school’s drug-prevention organization. I had arguments with exes about them using it. I was scared of the way I thought it changed people and held them back from reaching their full potential. I didn’t have all the knowledge I thought I did. The world is changing, and more people are learning about the actual effects of cannabis. But the use of cannabis for any reason still carries a stigma.

It’s scary to talk about chronic illness. That holds a stigma, as well. My illness is invisible, and I know a lot of people who “know about it” don’t know much about it, and they don’t believe me about it. Some people think I am faking or exaggerating real pain.

I am scared that I can’t adequately explain my experiences, or that my explanations won’t be enough to open anyone’s mind.

The fear can’t hold me back. I want to be a good, virtuous, admirable representative of these things. I want people to know that it’s possible to be productive and happy with these factors in my life. More than that, I want to be an honest representative of these things. I want people to know that it’s possible to be very set back by these factors. If people can get on the same page about the effects of chronic illnesses, and all the ways one can cope with them, then people who are affected by chronic illness and medical cannabis might feel less alone. Anger, fear, and sadness can be let go of. Relationships and bodies can heal.

I did not ask to be sick. I wish I was healthy. But perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m Stupid and in Pain… I know I’m not the only one. Let’s heal together.

x Anna Luparell

Accepting help is accepting the problem.

I have always been proud of my physical strength. Looking at me, you may think that’s a joke; I reach 5’1″ in my thickest shoes (and that’s a stretch). Without a doubt, a Napoleon complex comes into play here. I have always had insecurities about my uncoordinated and slow nature, my appearance, and my tendency to jumble words, among heaps of other traits that have made me feel inadequate. I used to get bullied, and secretly, I would agree with those bullies about the things they would say and the way they would treat me. I disliked myself, over-all. My physical strength was one thing that I clung to. In elementary school, a substitute gym teacher made an example out of me. She wanted everyone in class to see how perfect my form for push-ups was. Another time in elementary school, I did 100 push-ups in my bedroom one night, just because I could. As I got older, I started fighting back against kids who picked on me and my friends on the playground and after school. I made a habit of helping people carry their things, but rarely let people help me. I thought I was too tough for that.

In adolescence, I experienced the failings of adults to do right by children. While I understand that such things are common, and no one is perfect, these events still affected me. There were times when I needed help and support, and went without. There were other times when I needed help and support, and was threatened to have them withheld unless I complied with certain demands. The worst times were when I expressed a need for support and was met with anger for having those needs in the first place. I witnessed my friends going through similar experiences with their parents, teachers, and other trusted adults. All of these experiences taught me that relying on others is a trap that results in disappointment or loss of control. I learned that vulnerability is unsafe, and that it is best to keep my needs to myself.

Now, in my years of young adulthood, I’m chronically ill. My strength is inconsistent at best. Now I frequently need help whether I acknowledge it, or not. I can no longer just scrape by on my own. If I depend completely on myself now, sometimes things still won’t get done.

I have recently had to make a very quick move out of an apartment building that I shared with bats, mice, roaches, and violent meth users. I packed my things rather quickly, and found another place to stay, but a lot of my boxed-up belongings and furniture are still sitting in that apartment, waiting to be dragged down the stairs and hauled away. My life feels like it’s in limbo until I can get my things out of there. I worry that my belongings will get damaged by animal droppings or a meth fire, and I know that it all needs to be out by a certain date.

Every morning, I tell myself that I will haul a few boxes after work, that it’s just a few, and I can do it, no problem. Every night, I get off work so tired and sore that I can hardly make it up or down stairs one time without any extra weight, let alone several times with heavy boxes. As I wrap up my work day, I notice my shaking hands, my tendencies to drop things and trip over myself, my dizziness and my confusion. An extra 40 pounds, stairs, and a shaking me would be a losing combination in this state.

Should I ask for help?

No, I’m fine.

Really?

No. But…

I am afraid that if I rely on my family for help, I will have to either conform to their expectations, or risk ruining the relationships that I have with them.

I am afraid that if I rely on my friends for help, they will see me as a mooch, and not want to continue being friends with me.

I am afraid that if I take off work to recover, I will get fired, because I clearly don’t deserve my amazing job in the first place.

I am afraid that if I confide in people about my pain and exhaustion, they will see that I truly am weak, and that I have nothing to offer them. And if I am truly weak, I will have nothing to offer myself.

If I truly am weak, I fear that I will be indebted to an amount that I will never be able to pay back. Because my needs are stupid and anyone who helps me meet them is doing me a big fucking favor.

So I pretend that I am not weak, that I don’t need help, and everything is “no problem.” I stuff these fears into a bottle, and hope with all the energy I have left that no one shakes it.

I bottle these fears up and soldier on until I have overexerted myself, and I am too sore to function or go to work. I bottle the fears up until I am crying in my mom’s shoulder that I don’t know what to do about a body that seems to fight me on every productive decision that I make. This guilt about what I am, and the fear about what I might become, pours out of every crevice in me as I sink into a magnesium bath that I do not feel like I deserve.

I’m not giving anyone in my life enough credit, not even myself.

It’s not like I am feeling this way on purpose, but that’s how I treat myself. I treat myself like every way that I fell short of taking care of my body, leading up to the flare-up of symptoms, was an act that was both premeditated and inconsiderate at the same time. Like I wasn’t just trying to live my life the best way that I knew at the moment, and that I actually just did it because I am a stupid asshole. So I mentally punish myself. I relive the pain in my head over and over, and ask myself repeatedly why I can’t get it together and behave normally. This stress exponentially exacerbates my chronic pain symptoms. It’s not a realistic view of my actions in any given moment, and it doesn’t help me.

My friends and family love me. I can’t grasp that sometimes. When I dislike myself– when I am weak and my imperfections are screaming to be noticed– I don’t know why anyone who knows me would feel any differently than I do. I just can’t fathom it. But they keep telling me that they want to help. I am so afraid of them seeing me at my worst, but when I do show them (intentionally or not), I am pleasantly surprised by the kindness and warmth in their responses. My parents, boyfriend, and friends all remind me that it is okay to ask for and accept help. My best friend (a psychologist in training, but I swear she was born with it) gently reminds me that it is okay to talk about my feelings until I finally do it, and then she still accepts me once I do. My boss kindly reminds me that sick days are there to use, and that she hired me for a reason.

Their compassion is true. I need to wise up and accept this truth. I need to shake my maladaptive behaviors, adopt healthier ones, and move on with my life. In the pit of despair, if someone throws me a rope, I won’t ignore it or hang myself with it anymore. I won’t say “No, I’m okay, I’ll just climb the wall by grabbing at rocks with my bare hands even though I have very little arm strength,” or, worse, “What pit?” Nope, no more. The pit is real. I’m in it. My hands are tired and weak. I’m gonna use the rope that’s in front of me to climb out, and I’m gonna climb out right now, thank you.

Today, I am reaching out for help. I am inviting some friends to a moving party. It will take place on my next day off so that I can use my energy for the day on it (and not run out of energy for it before the time comes), and my friends and parents will be there to help me get it all done at once. It will be a party because I am hilarious, great company, and because I will feed my party guests afterwards. Instead of feeling guilty or afraid for needing and accepting help, I am going to be grateful for their help and enjoy their wonderful company. And I will be relieved that the moving-heavy-things problem is solved.

Accepting help is accepting the problem, but admitting any problem is the first step to fixing it. I am thankful that I have people to call on to help me fix it.

I can’t do it alone, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to.

x Anna Luparell

“I know somebody, somebody loves my ass
‘Cause they helped me beat my demon’s ass”

-Chance the Rapper, “Everybody’s Something”