Monday and Tuesday proved to be this blog’s most successful days in terms of readers. iamchronicallywell has now been read in 8 different countries! Hi, Hello, G’day, Olá, Salut, Guten-tag, Tere, to all of you! I’d love to hear from you, so please check out www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell to be in touch!
Apparently Superheroes are a big hit.
You are in luck, as today happens to be…
Happy Birthday, Batman!
75 looks good on you, darling.
DC Comics declared it, and it is so.
I have to tell you up front that I probably know more about the Avengers and the X-Men of Marvel Comics than I do about Batman and his friends over at DC. If you promise not to hold this against me, I promise not to hold it against you that you would rather sit through Christopher Nolan’s deep and brooding Dark Knight trilogy than the Technicolor fluff of wonder that is Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.
Different strokes for different folks, you know?
(Though I really had no idea that the movie posters were so similar in color scheme and inclusion of building-on-fire until I posted them side by side…Maybe we aren’t so different after all, Nolan fans?)
Bruce Wayne. Orphaned as a young boy when his parents are murdered, Bruce declares that he will dedicate his life to avenging (see, everybody likes Avengers) their deaths by fighting criminals as the masked crusader, Batman. Joined by his sidekick, Robin, he takes on such love-to-hate-them villains as The Joker, Two-Face, The Penguin, and my personal favorite, Catwoman. At some point, Batgirl gets involved, though I’m not really sure when. (Please feel free to flood my Facebook page www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell with your Batgirl knowledge, I’d love to know.)
What does this all have to do with Chronic Illness?
On the surface, Bruce Wayne looks like he’s got it made. A millionaire (billionaire? Has he been adjusted for inflation yet?) playboy, he’s charming and suave. He has fancy parties and lots of lady friends. But when no one else is looking, he dons the Batsuit and gets to work, fighting off things that all those party-attendees only know from nightmares. For Batman, the danger and the intensity of the fight are real.
Sound familiar, Chronics?
On our outsides, a lot of us seem pretty put together. Usually you cannot identify a Chronic on the street by looks (very good for Secret Identity purposes). We are charming and suave. We may throw parties and carry on like we haven’t a care in the world during the day, but when night falls, we are fighting an epic battle. Try as we might to keep our two worlds separate, at some point, the edges blur, and they bleed into one another.
Note from Nic: Please ignore the dramatic overtones of this post. It is impossible to write about Batman without a flair of drama befitting…well, a pulp-fiction comic.
This happens to Batman a lot. (SPOILERS AHEAD, tread carefully…)
For instance, according to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, Bruce Wayne has a childhood friend named Rachel Dawes. Despite his best efforts to keep his Batman life and his Bruce Wayne life separate, he finds that he cannot. Rachel gets tangled up in the chaos. Batman tries to make the right decision when faced with a threat from the Joker, but it doesn’t matter. There is no right choice. The Joker gets the upper hand and in the end, Rachel falls victim to his scheme. No matter what Bruce does, there will always be a Joker (or a Two-Face or a Catwoman) to necessitate a need for Batman. Guilt ensues.
This is how that plays out in a Chronic life (thankfully, only metaphorical, not physical, explosions are involved):
Nic tries to keep her Nic life and her Chronic life separate, but she finds that she cannot. At the most inopportune times, a symptom (aka, the villain) pops up, so she leaves what she is doing to go fight it. Keeping up a façade of “Everything’s Fine” to mask the fact that she is a Chronic-Illness Fighting Vigilante proves to be exhausting, and she finds she cannot keep it up. In trying so hard to make the right decision (keep up appearances vs. share her secret), she finds even the “right” one doesn’t matter. While she was focused on the threats that kept bombarding her, friendships, dreams, and other facets of her Nic life died tragically while she was on Chronic-watch. No matter what Nic does, there will always be a Symptom (or two, or twenty) to necessitate a need for a Chronic-Illness Fighting Vigilante. Guilt ensues.
For Bruce Wayne, the only way to end this push-pull between his Bruce life and his Batman life is to fake his own death and leave the crime-fighting to Detective John Blake (Robin, anyone?).
Luckily, I don’t need to be that extreme. What I realize, that maybe Batman doesn’t, is that I don’t have to try so hard all the time. It doesn’t have to be all up to me when that Bat Signal goes up in the sky. There are police officers, detectives, and special agents (a.k.a. medications!) that I can call on to help me fight the villains. I’ve already Assembled my Avengers (see Avengers, Assemble!, July 21), though in the DC universe, that’s called The Justice League. When I take a step back from the war I’m constantly fighting, I can see all of the opportunities I have been missing when I had my masked-crusader blinders on. If I can allow myself to NOT be the #1 eradicator of all threats great or small in Gotham City for <justasecond> I can start to live a life where villains are more on the periphery, while real life is front and center.
This is not to say that either Batman or I are giving up. No way, we heroes don’t quit. But we can reprioritize a little. Everyone needs to shift their focus sometime. We will always remember what we’ve lost to the Villains (heck, it shaped us, didn’t it?) but we recognize when it’s time to ask for help so that we can move on and move forward.
Ok, that’s enough of that stretch of a Superhero metaphor. I do my best Chronics, I really do.
In honor of Batman Day, here are some of my favorite things about Batman:
~The Batmobile. I’m not sure this needs further explanation. If someone said you could have the most exclusive, fancy car in the universe or you could have the Batmobile, I’m pretty sure we’d all choose the Batmobile. Technically, I think it is the most exclusive, fancy car in the universe.
~Alfred. He’s always there when you need him and he’ll never let on to where you go after hours. Essential Superhero personnel right here.
~Utility Belt. I could really use one of these. I have already gone into detail about all my Chronic stuff (I get by with a little help from… July 11). Wouldn’t it be nice if my most essential items could be right there on my belt for ease of use? I am majorly jealous, Batman.
~The Bat Signal. No matter how advanced our methods of communication, I don’t think anyone is ever going to pick up their iPhone and dial 1-800-Batman. Nope, why use such a slow medium when you can just project this guy’s logo into the night sky and he’ll come running? That is true customer service.
~Will Arnett as Batman in The Lego Movie: hysterically captures the aloof, obsessive, broody nature of the Caped Crusader in one tiny little yellow piece of plastic. Well played, Arnett, well played.