All of us will have situations or places that we find difficult; situations that push us emotionally, revealing the depths of our strength and ability to cope with high-stress situations.
Add living with a chronic illness into the mix, and the number of situations or places that we find demanding increase exponentially. The reasons for the difficulties these places or situations may vary, for some it may be the fear of the ‘unknown’ for example, or even they are a potential trigger for symptoms associated with the condition. What are some of the places or situations that you find uncomfortable or challenging because of your chronic illness?
One such place for me (could also be classed as a situation too) is the cinema. Especially those large multiplex cinemas that have become so popular, and killing off the small, independent theatres that I prefer. With its high ceilings, fluorescent lighting and the wide open spaces in their foyers are an enemy to the dizziness and vertigo that accompanies the neurological condition in which I live.
However, with the recent release of the Disney film ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and my intense desire to see it, as the original animated version is one of my all-time favourite films! Which meant that I would have to face the demon that has become the multiplex cinema.
The chain in question is Showcase Cinema, and although in the past I have managed visits to a cinema much further away from where we live, I had decided to try the nearer cinema as yes, it is much closer, but also is more convenient for my needs as a person with mobility problems.
Unlike the cinema, I had visited a few times over the past couple of years; the Showcase is flat and on one level, so no stairs required which are good news for my severely trembling legs.
The excitement of seeing the film, especially after reading the many fantastic reviews that followed was mixed with trepidation at the knowledge that it would be challenging for the dizziness and vertigo as well as the difficulties that my brain has processing all the visual information. A couple of times, our plans at going were sadly postponed due to the severity of the pain in legs; pain that left me crying for much of the night and early hours of the morning.
Plans were made to go on a different day, and although the pain was not as severe as before, it was still pretty bad, as well as feeling off kilter. But then I realised, that there would be no ‘perfect’ day to go and see the film without any accompanying symptoms.
If I was going to wait for that one ‘perfect’ day then sadly I might be waiting an extremely long time, or if that perfect day would ever arrive.
As I have mentioned previously, the only predictable thing about living with a chronic illness is the inevitable unpredictability. The unpredictability that makes scheduling plans so much harder as there is no way in predicting how you will be feeling or what your abilities will look like on any given day. Then there is the anxiety that symptoms will present themselves when we are out, leaving us in pain and feeling sick when we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves.
As a result, despite the pain, fatigue and dizziness I made the decision to brave the cinema anyway. The symptoms are constantly with me, so I figured that there would be no perfect, symptom-free day to go and face the cinema. To not go, would be letting my condition win, and this neurological condition has taken enough for me, so why should I let it take away my love for films too?
Despite the positive mindset, I still felt nervous and unsure, but as I went through my handbag, making sure I had everything to take with me, I found a great quote from the Itty Bitty Book Company:
I did it! I refused to let my condition rule my life, and despite whatever the dizziness and vertigo threw at me I persevered and managed to stay and watch the entire film (which was brilliant and visually beautiful). It’s strange the strength we have to endure such symptoms and the ability to stay in those situations which are also our triggers juxtaposed with our feelings of weakness. But one of the reasons why I wanted to share this was to remind everyone struggling with symptoms and living with chronic illness that we are stronger than our conditions. Our perseverance and tenacity are bigger than our symptoms. As the above quote reminds us, we can do this (whatever this proves to be).
Sitting there amongst the rest of the audience, I had moments however of feeling entirely alone. Consumed by feelings of dizziness, and the effects of vertigo while everyone else, including those with me, made me feel alone and isolated, serving me a reminder of how different I am compared to everyone else as well as the tremendous impact that living with a neurological condition has on every facet of our lives. But again, thanks to the power of social media I realised that I am not alone. The situations and places that we find difficult and the symptoms they evoke may look different for each of us, but the emotions and feelings they invoke are the same.
But from going, I also learnt some lessons that may help me in future visits, for example, I may need to sit higher up in the movie auditorium as I found that to see the screen properly I had to tip my head back which can be a trigger for vertigo. Therefore, by sitting further back, I will be in the direct eye line of the screen. Coping strategies are also needed when facing situations that can trigger symptoms, so it is imperative to find what helps you no matter how silly it may seem to everyone else.
Why I found that inner strength to decide on going to the multiplex cinema, which only leaves me feeling dizzy and nauseous is also perhaps to a new level of acceptance that I have developed since being diagnosed with a neurological condition.
Acceptance which allows me to live alongside my condition and its accompanying symptoms instead of running away and avoiding those situations that trigger the onset of my symptoms.
Now that I faced that of what I was avoiding, I am determined to go again and again and recapture my love of cinema and film. I am taking back control of my life, playing by my rules and not that of the neurological condition I live with, but which doesn’t have me.
I hope that you too find the strength and courage to face something that you might have stopped doing.
I know you can do it!