5 Great Joys in Life That Healthy People Never Experience
I, like many of you, am a genetic wreck.
I am not supposed to be alive right now. If humanity still functioned on any sort of evolutionary logic, I would probably have a brief but successful career as a lion's afternoon entertainment, instead of being what I am now, which is a Mildly Successful Internet Thing. I possess a slew of health problems, chemical deficiencies, mental aberrations and spiritual monstrosities that I manage every day by the grace of medical science and an oblivious culture that not only tolerates but nurtures weakness (thanks, guys!).
Sometimes, I get bitter about my situation. I watch the powerful and healthy from afar, while I squat here in the damp shadows of disease, nurturing my resentment like a hypothyroid, myopic Gollum. But there are some joys in life that the hale, hearty, happy and healthy will never know. Sure, they think they're having a good time boning ab models on the backs of jet skis now, but they'll never know the simple pleasure of ...
Getting New Glasses
Vision problems come at you so slowly that it takes years, or even decades, before you first realize that the world around you is not supposed to look like a Monet painting covered in Saran Wrap. But one day somebody catches on. They say: "You can't read that from here?" Or "Didn't you see that stripper's unibrow?" Or "Jesus, stop the car, you hit that hobo!" and then after a hasty burial in the Nevada desert, you book an appointment at the eye doctor and sit down in their sticky rubber chair. They settle a big black contraption in front of your eyes, point to a drab chart full of tiny letters, flip a little glass piece and say, "Better, or worse?"
And you, in response, manage to force a handful of syllables through your emotion-clogged throat, barely muttering: "No words ... should have sent a poet."
"The way the 'G' curves is so ethereal, so beautiful ... it's like a ballerina fucked the stars themselves."
You had no idea that life had better graphics available. You've been playing the 16-bit world this whole time, while everybody else was running quad-core realities hooked up to an HD screen. The only downside to this whole experience is dodging the errant punches from your friends and loved ones as you incessantly inquire as to the amount that they see this shit for the next several months:
"Did you see those leaves? What? You can always see those? No, man, I mean: Can you see that, like, a tree is made up of a billion different leaves from all the way back here? Holy shit! Look at that gravel! It's not just gravel; it's a thousand different kinds of rock! Do you see it?! No, man, do you really see it?"
"YES I SEE IT. EVERYBODY SEES IT. IT IS FUCKING ROCKS."
And hey, if you're lucky enough to have regularly deteriorating vision, like me, you get to experience some form of this joy every few years until death. It's the only reward life gives you for getting progressively worse.
Getting a Diagnosis
I was pretty young the first time I saw Pulp Fiction, and up until that point, I had never seen a movie that didn't play out chronologically. I was lost and infuriated for most of the run time. I hated the pretentious director and the coked-up scriptwriter for inflicting this incoherent mess on my preteen brain -- I had Saved by the Bell I could be watching! -- and then about 3/4 of the way through, it all clicked. It finally made sense. And it blew my tiny adolescent brain right out the back of my unfortunate '90s-era, chick-from-Republica haircut.
That's what being sick is like, once you finally get a diagnosis.
You spend most of the time utterly lost: "What the fuck is going on here? Did Vincent just die? Wait, is that Vincent, or a different guy in a black suit? Is this coughing the same thing as the wheezing, or is it a whole different thing? Somebody make some goddamn sense or I'm just going to start punching body parts until something shapes the fuck up!"
"I swear this was a black guy a second ago. Is that what this movie is about? Like a racial swapping Freaky Friday?"
Maybe the sickness isn't even real -- maybe it's a psychiatric problem, or stress, or allergies, or maybe you're just finally paying the curse-price for telling that old Gypsy woman at the State Fair that she looked like a fat Bruce Springsteen roadie. There can be months or even years of buildup as you flit between shrink and doctor, exclusion diet and medication, until you finally land on the answer and it all snaps into place. And that's an awesome moment.
People who have been healthy their whole lives will tell you they're glad they missed that moment -- glad they've never been truly sick. But they don't know, do they? They live their whole lives in a Disney movie, facing some form of external adversity that they know, deep down, they'll ultimately triumph against. You? You're not just a trial; you're a puzzle. They're Aladdin. They're The Little Mermaid. You're Memento. You're motherfucking Inception.
"Baby, even science doesn't understand me. What chance do you have?" - Overheard seconds before a tragic sexplosion killed everyone in the bar.
You're a problem that took all of medical science thousands of years to solve. And you know who thinks untameable problems and complex mysteries are sexy? Friggin' everyone, man.
Try using that line next time you cough blood into some saucy young thing's Margarita: I guarantee they'll throw up just a little bit less than usual.
The Moment When the Medication Kicks In
If you're lucky enough to have a condition that can be treated -- not even cured, just treated a little -- the moment the medication kicks in is like unlocking a secret level in life. All these years, you've existed at half power because chronic illness Harrison Bergeroned your ass, so any meds that take even a fraction of that weight off of your shoulders are basically giving you goddamn superpowers. If people thought you were obnoxious after you got those glasses, with your constant prattle about wood grain and cloud patterns, they're going to strangle that newfound health right out of you the first time you wake up to find it doesn't hurt as much as it usually does.
"Holy shit, have you ever realized how great it is not to feel like you're going to die after you eat?"
"Have you tried this walking stuff? It's amazing! It hardly hurts at all!"
"Listen to this breathing right here: That's right, baby. Wheeze-free. Interested?" - Not quite as effective as the previous line.
Most assholes will answer adversity with the mantra "At least you have your health." They don't stop to wonder whether or not the person they're reassuring actually does have their health; they just assume that's the default state of humanity. But a lot of us are rusted out Pintos, just coughing and sputtering along until we inevitably explode. The moment when your meds finally kick in is like jumping out of that Pinto and right into the warm, faux-leather seat of a lovingly maintained 1994 Ford Taurus.
What? Did you think you were going to be a Ferrari or something? No, man: You're still a piece of shit, but the important thing is you're not going to explode.
And remember, Twilight was basically the best-selling book in the world; a lot of people really like shitty things.
People who didn't start out at zero on the ol' Healthometer have no idea what an amazing thing it is to increase your relative health level. Oh, they can improve themselves, of course: They go on diets and undertake new exercise regimens to "get in shape." But they had a shape to begin with. They don't understand what it's like to be a pile of human Gak, just oozing through life, getting dog hair stuck all up in your endocrine system.
"Aw, gross! There's a Band-aid in there!" - Every pile of Gak, eventually.
That's because they started off as a successful human being. I mean that literally: They started off succeeding at the simple act of being a person, and so cannot understand what failing at it means. But when you start off a pile of half-functioning organs and good intentions and it's only through years of slow, painful, careful work that you manage to shove yourself into a mold and come out looking something like a person -- you get a whole different outlook on life.
Oh, don't get me wrong: Illness has not made you any better than healthy people. God, no. You've barely bumped the needle on the Healthometer. But you're on there, now. And going from zero to one is an unfathomably larger distance than going from 1 to 100.
What possible joy is there in backsliding? It's easy to see why getting better can be a happy experience, but what's the upshot of getting worse?
If you've been sick before, and you start getting sick again, then you're treading familiar ground. You know what failing health and disability are; you know what they feel like, and what it takes to get through it. That's a skill set you are guaranteed to use someday, because all of us, every one, will get sick and die eventually. That must be an awful experience for a healthy person -- being stuck in there, flailing in reverse down death mountain for the very first time. They will be wholly unprepared for it when it happens.
"My only regret is that I wasn't sick more often!" - Like every healthy person ever, probably.
But not you.
You've been stuck in neutral this whole time, pushing that damn body up every mile of death mountain anyway. You just now got the bastard jammed into first; slipping out of gear is something you know how to deal with.
If you've never experienced serious illness before, then the first time it does hit you, you're like the confused and panicky lead actress in a slasher flick -- all running around screaming for people to believe you, so overcome with fear you don't even realize half your tits are out, just terror-flopping all over the place. But if you've been really, truly sick before, you're not knife-bait: You're the jaded antihero. You've seen too much of this shit already, and sure, maybe it broke you a little -- but you know what comes next. They're Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws; you're Captain Fucking Quint.
His first name was actually Fucking. Look it up.
Adversity builds character, after all. And nothing is as adverse as living your whole life with your own body as your archnemesis. If trial, suffering and determination are the only means by which one can acquire character, then, my sickly friend, you've got character shooting out your ass.
You uh ... you should probably get that checked out, actually. Could be a symptom.
Get the first episode of Robert's Sci-fi Serial Novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here, or buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out The Question You're Not Asking: Should You Go To College? and 5 Products That Allow You to Master Your Dreams.