Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Voting myself off the island

OK campers, my six-month blogging sabbatical is over. Last spring was tough. My writing  was going well, but my mental health, not so much. Usually my depression is worst in the dark months, but last March I had a Funk that wouldn't quit.

Around that same time, a documentary maker who'd seen me speak in New York last year contacted me. He wanted to make a film about me & the fallout, physical & emotional, from my surviving untreated osteomyelitis as a kid in a Christian Science family.

This filmmaker has excellent credentials: director, producer & director of photography for many projects including a documentary examining prayer in school. He was enthusiastic about the benefits publicizing my story could have on public awareness of the state laws that allow parents to pray for seriously ill children. He was straight about my time commitment and the hassle of having him follow me with a camera for weeks.

I told him I had to think about it. Part of me was thrilled. Cue the music: SURVIVOR! Outwit! Outplay! Outlast!

See, I started watching the show a year ago on DVD. (I don't have a TV signal, and for this I am truly thankful.) I confess: I've been a secret fan of Hell's Kitchen for its sheer operatic, overblown qualities, so when I ran out of Netflix discs, I gave Survivor a try. Hey! what fun! People left on islands, hungry, sleep-deprived, exhausted, eating bugs & running obstacle courses, no-phone-no-lights-no-motor-car, in a race to make friends and control enemies, with the goal of voting off everyone ELSE without alienating them to the point they'll vote against you when the million bucks is at stake.

I really like the rawness of this show. People behave badly or nobly, rising to or falling short of individual potential. They come through and Do the Right Thing, or they get scared and selfish, and betray.

Self-awareness plays a big part. After my many years of therapy (especially groups) I'm very big on self-awareness. It's never safe to be sure you're in control, or assume you know exactly what's going on. I know from experience that the failure to imagine disaster does not immunize you against terrible events. (This is a real problem in politicians & talk-radio hosts but I won't go there right now.)

Survivor's entertainment is created in the editing. It needs heroes and villains. I'm sure some (many?) contestants watched the show appalled at how they seemed on camera, and probably some families and friends would agree they aren't really like that.

However, they surrendered all control to the game, the editors, and the camera.

Did I want to do that? Yeah, no. Maybe I'm a vain, selfish control freak, but one thing is certain: I'm a control freak with an emotional balance more precarious than on my bottom-of-the-line prosthetic knee. 

I told the documentary fellow thanks but no thanks. I did the right thing for myself: I took as much pressure off my limping brain as possible, hoping the funk wouldn't hang on too long. I cancelled speaking events and started riding my horse again. Over the summer I painted my parents' house and worked in my garden. I swam across Cayuga Lake as part of Women Swimmin For Hospicare. And I feel better now.

I want to do more speaking about child religious medical neglect, and I don't mind being videotaped. I want to improve my speaking as I close in on being a published author. But I know my limits. I'm a lower-case survivor, more castaway than outlast-er. I do my best work without an audience. I'm my own tribe, and I have spoken. 

Too bad that filmmaker isn't named Wilson.Wilson 

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