I recently attended my second Supernatural convention here in Chicago, and now that my recovery time is over, I thought I’d pop in here and do a review like I did last year. When I realized my review of the con would be pretty similar to my review from last year, which was my most recent post (holy cow, I’m an awful blogger), I decided to dig a little deeper this year.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, one of the main characters is an angel named Castiel, played by Misha Collins. When he’s not battling demons and healing the Winchesters, Misha is working with his charity, Random Acts, as well as running the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, or GISHWHES. Random Acts is a terrific organization that is building a school in Nicaragua, helping with relief efforts in Haiti, and doing tons of small, random acts of kindness.
I tell you that so you’ll understand this next part. For the past two years, Misha has been doing photo ops in costume, and in character, as Castiel at the conventions, with the profits going to Random Acts. Last year, I bought one simply because I wanted a photo op with Misha, but they had sold out before I got a chance to buy one. I had a fleeting thought of doing something other than just asking for a hug and a smile, but I was so caught up in getting that hug, that I didn’t give my other idea a second thought.
This year, however, that other idea sat in my brain much like my cat, Caramel Corn, sits by me when I’m tying to focus on something, but he’s hungry: It sat next to me, eyes boring holes into me while I tried to focus on other things, and when I continued to ignore it, it pawed at me and made the saddest, most heart-breaking sound. In other words, it wanted to be acknowledged and satisfied.
The idea was to have Castiel “heal” me.
This is not an uncommon pose for this particular photo op, and I didn’t think much of it when the idea first came to me. It was more, “Oh, haha! Wouldn’t it be fun to pretend Castiel is healing me, even though no one can see that I’m sick if they don’t know me!” It would be a “fun” pose, getting into the spirit of Misha being in character. Like I said before, though, last year, I was more interested in just getting a hug from Misha. The op was the last thing happening on Sunday night, so everyone was exhausted, and I really just wanted a hug. I got my hug, and my smile, and I was happy.
This year, as I leaned on my credit card to buy my photo op with Castiel, I decided I would do the pose. I would ask Castiel to “heal” me. It wasn’t until after I electronically signed on the dotted line that the idea camped out inside my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.
“Ask him to heal you,” the idea said, poking me in the brain as I went to physical therapy for a shiny, new diagnosis of spinal stenosis. “Ask him to heal you,” it said, as I groaned, my knees aching as I climbed the stairs in my new, three-story townhouse. “Ask him to heal you,” it said, when I woke up from an unexpected nap in my recliner. “Ask him to heal you,” it said, when I lay in bed awake at 4AM, even though I had to be up in a few hours for another doctor appointment. “Ask him to heal you,” it said, as I waded through Medicare Advantage Plans and prescription drug plans and tallied the costs related to every diagnosis I have. “Ask him to heal you,” it said, as I spent another day trying to balance rest and exercise and eating healthy when all I really wanted was cheeseburgers and pie.
The convention weekend approached, and I was busy. Two friends from out of town flew in for the con and stayed with me, and I somehow found myself organizing three major endeavors related to the con, in addition to all the planning for all the photo ops I was doing. (“Ask him to heal you.”) In my excitement, I got less sleep than I needed before the con, and did not sleep enough during the con. I knew I wouldn’t sleep much during the con, but the lack of sleep in the days leading up to it really unbalanced me. By Sunday, my scales tipped over.
Had Sunday not been the day where I had spent the most money on photo ops and activities, I may have been convinced to stay home and rest. However, Sunday was the big day. It’s “J2” day (Jared Padalecki & Jensen Ackles), plus the only day Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be there. So, I tried to find ways to deal with how my body was shutting down. I wore a skirt instead of jeans, because I had gained ten pounds of water weight in five days and my jeans were too tight. My ankles and feet were so swollen, I could barely wear my shoes, so I spent as much time barefoot as I could. I had spent most of the time I had to wait in lines on Saturday sitting on the floor, but all the sitting down and getting back up off of the floor had set off my back, which led to me having to get out my cane. (I had a photo op with Mark Sheppard in the morning, and an autograph with him later in the afternoon, and was somewhat mortified when he gestured to it and asked me, kindly and with much concern, if I was getting tired.) On Sunday, my cane was out from the start, and I was completely comfortable asking the volunteers that managed the lines for help and special consideration. My friends who came in from out of town were life-savers. They carried my bags, kept me organized, got me real food, and generally took care of me. I was so overtired, so uncomfortable, and in so much pain, that I no longer had the strength to pretend I was anything but sick.
As I took my shower Sunday morning, trying to keep in mind everything I wanted to do that day, I heard the idea again. “Ask him to heal you.”
I stood in the shower and sobbed.
Suddenly, asking Castiel, Angel of the Lord, to heal me wasn’t a joke, anymore.
I went through the day, getting by with the help of my friends, the volunteers, and the Creation Entertainment staff (who were all freaking awesome, by the way), with the idea still chanting in the back of my head. After my breakdown in the shower, though, I didn’t think I could do it without getting emotional. However, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone.
“Ask him to heal you.”
“No. I’ll get emotional, I’ll cry, and I’m an ugly crier. I don’t need a picture of me ugly crying.”
“But this is why you bought the op. Ask him to heal you.”
“I can’t. Leave me alone.”
“You know you want him to heal you, just ask him to heal you!”
“I can ask him to heal me all damn day, but when the camera flash is gone and he drops his fingers from my forehead, I’ll still need to grab my cane from the volunteer to hobble away and find a place to sit, because no matter how much I want him to, he can’t heal me.”
And that was the bottom line, really. No matter how in character he was, or how long he held his fingers to my forehead, Misha Collins could not heal me. I still didn’t understand why that bothered me, though. This was supposed to be a fun thing to enjoy and laugh about. All day, I struggled with why this idea was so emotional for me. I tried talking to my friends about it, hoping that if I talked about it out loud, then it wouldn’t hold as much power, and I’d be able to do it. Three times, I tried to talk about it, and each time, I fought back tears and had to stop. I couldn’t figure out why this idea was completely breaking me apart. By the time the op came around, and I was sitting in what I called “the gimpy waiting area,” I’d convinced myself that it was all physical. I’d started my period, I was overtired, I was uncomfortable, I was in pain, and all of this just made me more emotional than usual. I’d hit the perfect storm of physical crap, and since I wasn’t giving in to it and resting like I should, it was coming out of me emotionally. I sat in those chairs and watched as a couple dozen people walked up to Misha in his Castiel costume, asked for different poses, got their picture taken, and left the room. I waited for one of them to ask him to heal them, but none of them did. When the pressure of having sat there for so long exceeded the battle of what to ask for, I finally stood up and got my photo.
I asked for a hug and a smile, and I got both, before taking my cane from the volunteer and retreating back to the shadows.
It’s been almost a couple of weeks, now, and my body has recovered. A few days after everything settled down, I peed about a dozen times in one day and lost 7 pounds. The rest of the water weight disappeared with less fanfare. My clothing and my shoes fit again, and only the occasional twinge from my back reminds me that I abused it terribly. I’m back to trying to keep up with the exercises my physical therapist gave me, but I’m kind of starting from scratch again with keeping moving. It’s also been a few days since I’ve cried at a song on the radio or a soup commercial, so I think my hormones have leveled out. With my return to a mostly even keel, I’m still left wondering why the thought of asking Castiel to heal me is still so upsetting.
I think it comes down to acceptance. Some days, I can accept that I’m sick and laugh about it, because I’m dealing with it pretty well. Yes, I’ve had to give up things like the job I loved, and I have to constantly be on guard to keep everything in balance, but I’m generally okay. There have even been positives to being sick, things I wouldn’t have or know about myself if I weren’t limited in some ways. On the days where I’m feeling good and am able to see all of my blessings, asking one of the stars of my favorite TV show to pretend to heal me isn’t a big deal. It’s almost a joke that I could laugh off.
On the days when my body feels like it’s a heavy, scratchy, tight-fitting coat that I can’t shrug off no matter how hard I try, asking an angel to heal me isn’t so funny. It’s a sign that I’m not doing well; I’m not hanging in there. I’m failing at managing everything the way I’m supposed to be able to after 16 years with this disease. These are the days when the work I need to do to maintain myself seems impossible, but believing that it’s impossible is an option I can’t afford. If it’s impossible, then I will only continue to decline, and that is not acceptable.
My challenge, and the challenge of every chronically-ill person, is to balance not only my activity, my rest, my food, and my stress, but to also balance my acceptance. If I fully accept that I am sick and can’t do things, then I won’t try. If I don’t accept that I am sick, then I will not manage my illness properly, and will spend even more time unable to function. I need to balance my need to accept my limitations with my need to not accept the idea that I’m a lost cause. Accept that I’m sick, but not that I’m helpless or useless.
When next year’s con comes around and it’s time to buy another Castiel photo op, will I be able to ask him to heal me with a smile? I don’t know. I doubt it. A part of me feels like asking him to heal me would be giving in and saying I can’t fight anymore. But asking for help is not giving in, and it doesn’t mean I’m helpless or useless, it just means I need a hand to get where I’m going. I need a hand to help me keep my balance. There’s nothing wrong with that.