I love origin stories. It’s not going to seem that way in a few paragraphs, but I do.
An origin story takes an existing persona and gives them shape and depth. I say persona deliberately, because it’s not just any character who gets an origin story; it’s a larger-than-life character, a superhero, a mythic entity. It’s a protagonist whose impact is so big it doesn’t fit in a single shot, so bright you can’t always look at them head on.
Sometimes, the heroes in our stories seem a little far away, a little archetypal, and you find yourself trying to fill in the gaps.
So the origin story comes along, and it fills in the gaps – what gaps there are to be filled, anyway – and one of the things I always love about them is that, while they deepen the character, they also make them smaller. Closer. Touchable. The hero takes on some of our ordinariness, and for a little while we get to borrow some of their extraordinariness. After that exchange, anything is possible. Stories have a tendency to wake up our sense of wonder – origin stories remind us that it’s always there, awake or not.
Origin stories ask: how is the hero, and why is the hero, and what happened to the hero before they were a hero?
Sometimes, I think nothing is real until I write about it.
I’ve been avoiding this, as though if I don’t write about it – if I don’t let the feelings and thoughts come out the way they need to – then it didn’t happen.
If I don’t write about it, I can still believe that nothing has changed. If I go to that little townhouse in Newmarket, and lean heavily on the doorknob (because it got stuck, and even though her dad fixed it, we’d all been shoving it so hard for so many years that it was muscle memory), I’ll see Penelope sitting on the couch with an enormous tapestry frame resting across her lap, copper-brown hair fuzzing around her head. Behind the ever-present glasses, her eyes are quiet and focused, and her face is almost stern, an expression of an unflinching rationality that has been mistaken for coldness, for aloofness.
I could look at my current pile of blog post drafts, or the three notebook pages filled with concepts I want to write about and untangle, the stories I want to tell – but the tight mass in my stomach says no.
It’s a thick, heavy knot of anxiety.
And sheer misery.
[Edited: removed about 650 words explaining all the shit that’s going on right now, because I don’t want to read over this in the future and feel like I was wallowing in self pity]
I went to my GP for a prescription renewal, updated her on some of what’s happening, and she asked if I was okay.
“No,” I said bluntly, as tears started running down my face. “No, I am not okay. I am one hundred percent, absolutely not even remotely okay.”
I’m sorry, guys. This is the only post you’re getting this week. Maybe next week I’ll be able to knock something else up, but the truth is that severe depression and personal horror are actually really bad for creativity, because you can’t do shit. You can’t focus. You can’t think.
You just try to keep swimming, because it’s either that or drown.
You do have a choice. It’s just not a good one.
Hello from the distant ends of when-the-fuck-do-I-update-this-thing:
As it says in the “About” section (which I really should update), my brain is churning out a lot of narrative and monologue and opinion and reaction, more or less constantly (turns out: that might be an ADHD thing). I have a lot of opinions and plans and thoughts, and I think I explain things well (regardless, people have told me I do, and even if that sounds like “MY MUMMY SAYS…” from Matilda the Musical*, let’s roll with it).
I sometimes feel that the reason I explain things well is that I take the time to come up with context, and angles, and metaphors, and what that means is that my posts get very long. Settle in with a cuppa when I update this marvellous platform for sarcasm, swears and communication.
When I go and see my personal trainer (also an exercise physiologist), or my physiotherapist, or my podiatrist, I inevitably end up apologising for and explaining my body, and how it’s put together.
These people have been treating me for a while, and it’s also literally their job to observe how I move. They know how my body is put together. Their job is to help me move more efficiently, with less pain.
I really don’t have to awkwardly, anxiously explain that my single-leg squat is super wobbly because my right leg has quite noticeable internal rotation and the leg is permanently twisted because years of bad motor habits mean that the bone and muscle have just grown that way. It isn’t possible to correct it – merely compensate for it.
The last couple of years have been a glorious roller coaster of diagnosis, treatment, and rapid changes to my quality of life. I started out as a person who was constantly exhausted and in pain and unable to focus on anything, stressed and overwhelmed, watching my life slide away from me while I tried to get things done and failed, needing to rest and work out and rest and work out and everything else fell by the wayside.
It’s been frustrating, miserable, and overwhelming. It’s eaten money, and time, and career opportunities. I leaned heavily on Husband and my wonderful friends to drag myself through it all, trying to find a way to be awake, to not be in pain, to concentrate long enough to succeed at something. And without those friends, and certainly without Husband, I don’t think I’d have reached the end of this ride (not that I’m necessarily at the end, but I have all the big pieces of the puzzle).
And yet, I can’t regret it, because now I understand the shit that my body and my brain are pulling on me.
I’ve written frequently about how I’m a bendy individual, and how having a defective collagen gene or two has presented a multitude of difficulties and challenges. Ever since a physiotherapist first frowned at my feet and muttered under his breath, “Oh, where do we begin?” I’ve been aware that there’s something not quite right about how my body works.
For a long time, I thought there was nothing that could be done. I figured that all I could do was physiotherapy – strengthen the muscles that support my joints, build up my core strength in particular, make sure that I undertook activities that would train my dysfunctional proprioception (feedback from the rest of my body, knowing where I am in space, balancing).
A few years ago, I learned that hypermobility syndrome, or Ehlers-Danlos, depending on which moniker one ended up with, was a multi-systemic condition. This makes perfect sense. Collagen is a family of structural proteins distributed throughout the entire body. Defective collagen doesn’t just make you stretchy in your joints and skin: it affects temperature regulation, energy levels, immune response, gut function, urinary function, and so on. People with hypermobility syndrome can present symptoms from all of these areas or maybe just one or two.
But I still figured there was no point pursuing a formal diagnosis. It sounded expensive and troublesome.