‘Would you become a vampire if it got rid of your pain permanently?’ For them, it was a fun question. For me, it was real.’: Woman discusses presentation of chronic illness in media

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Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of suicide and self-harm that may be disturbing to some.

“One of my casual friends asked me a question ’cause of the Morbius trailers, and I decided not to laugh it off but to answer seriously. Would I do ‘The Thing’ and become a vampire if it got rid of my CRPS pain permanently?

…So. This should be filed under ‘Things you probably do not really want to know.’ Trigger warning now for discussing, among other things, self-harm⁠—fantasy superbeing style or real life.

Superhero Origin Stories

Darling. I would probably do it to be rid of like…half my pain, or to have a day or two a week with no pain, or if it lets me occasionally do neat things like flying.

A woman with CRPS wearing glitter eyeshadow and a black shirt
Courtesy of Gelanie Lockhart

These superhero/supervillain origin stories (looking at Dr. Strange, too) that have their foundations in a chronic condition or terrible injury are a tiny, tiny glimpse into a horrible reality for some. And, like…normal people get to laugh it off (‘No waaay, that’s so ridiculous’ or ‘It just shows how much of an a**hole Strange was that he couldn’t stand not being a practicing doctor anymore’). And maybe they really were written as a sort of joke or maybe the a**hole factor is real, but realize what you’re saying about those of us who really do have these sort of conditions.

I promise you, those scenarios hit differently when you’ve got something chronic and real. The morality discussions can be h*lla different for some chronic sufferers/survivors. Because, and I’m going with the vampire analogy here, stealing blood for a midnight snack will probably always be ethically/legally wrong, but would it being illegal stop me if I knew I could do it without killing the other person (or if I knew I could control who I ended up eating)? Dude, no. Probably not. Not being in pain anymore would be a hell of a motivator, and I’m not sure where I’d draw the line. For the person asking, it was a quirky, fun, and silly question. For me, it was like, ‘Not sure I want to examine my soul like that if it is not an actual potential scenario.’

Cosplay and Chronic Illness

Like. For Real, part of the appeal of when I cosplay a Sith? They turn pain into power, whereas the Jedi are supposed to let it flow through them without ‘letting’ it settle in or control them. I have a pain condition literally dubbed a ‘suicide’ condition because people go crazy with the pain and decide to try desperate things.

A woman with chronic illness cosplaying as a Sith at a convention
Courtesy of Gelanie Lockhart

With pain as a power source, I would be h*lla terrifying. Not a leader of the Senate or Empire, though. No, that would be tedious, and people would blame you for Everything. But I WOULD be able to easily pop open a can of soda without having to use my feet to hold the can steady. Or be able to wash/brush my hair. Probably not wise for me to have force lightening, though I DO imagine there would be fewer late-night fights in the streets if I could open a window and zap.

The Impact of These Conversations

Anyway. I am totally open to discussing this stuff for the most part, but I have also had more than half my life to come to terms with it. I’m begging anyone who reads this, though…be careful asking this question. In your mind, it’s ridiculous or outlandish or crazy. So what does that make us if we say we would make that choice? Does it change your opinion of us?

*I* don’t care…I embrace that I don’t think inside the ‘normal’ healthy boxes. I’m well aware that the average person cannot conceive the amount of pain I’m talking about. I remember a couple of times as a teen honestly considering cutting my arm off, back when we thought the injury was in my elbow.

A woman with CRPS crouching wearing a green shirt and giving a peace sign
Courtesy of Gelanie Lockhart

That is NOT sane by normal definitions, but it is a thought echoed by more than half of CRPS patients. I fortunately never tried, and I haven’t had that intrusive thought since learning the region where the nerves were damaged is actually between my spine and shoulder…and therefore in a location I couldn’t easily access.

(‘Intrusive thought’ is a term usually used to indicate flashes of self-harm curiosity/fascination that lead to many suicide attempts. Many do not necessarily ‘mean’ to commit suicide, but they can’t control the impulse. This is why even the smallest of barriers or distractions save lives because even a part of a second delay can get a person past the thought safely. Anyone can have an intrusive thought, but those dealing with mental health concerns/extreme stress often have more of them and find it more difficult to snap out of the thought on their own.)

But my point is…yeah. If you know someone with a chronic condition, especially a traumatic disability creating a sort of condition or injury, then they almost certainly have a very different view on these heroes or villains. It’s not necessarily that we want to be normal again, but that our take on the trade-offs are probably going to be very different from a normal person’s. And if we answer you for real, we may be taking you on a very dark ride.

Be careful to whom you ask these questions.

(…and I’m really looking forward to Morbius, actually. xD )”

A woman wearing a cosplay costume including a black jump suit and red facepaint
Courtesy of Gelanie Lockhart

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gelanie Lockhart of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. You can follow her journey on Facebook and her business page. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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