“Everyone smiles with that invisible gun to their head.”
– Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
“We’re actors in our lives, pretendin’ to be who we want people to think we are.”
Half of my life, almost my entire adult life, has been an ongoing theatre of appearing “normal” on the world stage after leaving the comforting familiarity of my dressing room, a.k.a. home. Stage fright is skillfully hidden under props of preplanning, years of daily rehearsal, carefully timed medication, and a smile for another starring appearance of “Living With Stiff Person Syndrome” – a one person “blockbuster” (word evokes dread, memory), with lifetime impromptu performances to an unknowing audience. With each uneventful performance, (Academy Award), I give a mental bow to thunderous applause heard only by me, The Great Pretender.
Normalcy by wellness is desired by me. To be just a regular person, move without preplanned thought, mark time with boredom instead of taking meds, take off the mask of pretense.
As “The Great Pretender,” I am experienced at my charade but sometimes hearing the click of the always loaded syndrome gun sets off an episode…
One Sunday morning at church, I had a minor episode of spasm. Exacerbating the situation, concerned members enclosed around me. “Is it her sugar?” They were kindly advised to give me space as I took an emergency med with the reprieve of the beginning service to give the med and me time to calm.
Amused at the irony now, it was assumed it was a diabetic issue and not the syndrome; although the members knew I had SPS.
As the years of my life have passed swiftly, I look into the mirror with recognition of the current me, but still see the “pre” syndrome Debbie. I will always miss her. Her heart and mind will always remain an integral part of me.
Living my life as an imposter, a pretender, I value being seen as normal. It isn’t just about the stigma or labels associated with illness or disability; heartbreak is personal. I dislike pity. Pretense becomes the mask I hide behind. See me, Debbie, the person with understanding and acceptance. May I introduce you to… The Great Pretender.
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