Quitting The Dead Princess Club
Years ago, I read Gilda Radnor’s book, It’s Always Something. Like many of us with advanced Cancer, she had tried to figure out what it was that had made her so sick. When she was on SNL, she had suffered eating disorders, chewed sugarless gum constantly, and drank endless cans of Tab. I did all of that. I also battled it out with cigarettes for years.
In my own search for what caused the bloom of my disease, I remembered a behavior when I was a kid that I practiced pretty regularly. At night, I imagined myself in a hospital, unconscious, long hair draped across my pillow, luscious and tragic, barely clinging to life. Whichever boy I happened to have my young eye on at the time would be there in my imagination, wringing his hands at the injustice of poor me, struck down in my prime. Of course, he kissed me awake. My eyelids would flutter and open, or if I really wanted to torture him, they wouldn’t, and he would weep in despair.
Don’t think I enjoy admitting to these pathetic fantasies of pretending to be ill to impress the boys, but I stumbled on something I think may be important for me, and so maybe for you.
In the sixties and the seventies when I grew up, the Princesses of my childhood were all fainters. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were delicate creatures that pricked their fingers and fell into unconsciousness and death until they were kissed awake by their princes’. The girl had nothing to add to the rescue mission except to lie there and look beautiful.
I don’t watch soap operas, but I have caught enough of them to see main players in hospital beds. Soap Operas and Princess Tales. What is the story here? I can’t help but see a connection in the fantasizing about a dread disease in order to attract romantic attention, especially if it comes from the safety of my own young imagination that was influenced by Walt Disney and All My Children.
My big question that I have to ask, is how deeply did I buy into it? Did my innocent playacting this of scenario over and over when I was a kid have anything to do with current health condition? Could it have possibly come true? People who have seen horrible things have hysterical blindness. People who have suffered war and murder and violence experience PTSD. We all know about the power of positive thinking. Did I do something awful to myself without meaning to?
Experts in Mind Body Connection, such as Louise Hay, devoted her life to exploring these kinds of themes. She believed a person’s illness and conditions all had emotional origins, and they were amplified by our sentiments and our beliefs. If the connection for me is true, then I can’t lay around like a princess waiting for my disease to consume me. And maybe I start by not calling it “my” disease. Maybe I call if Fred, or F*cker, or Stupid Cancer, or something, but it’s not “mine” anymore.
At this point, we don’t have all of the science to make definitive connections between illness and what goes on in our heads and hearts. But it feels true, it feels possible. That requires action, because I am not a princess. I have to rescue myself.
I hereby quit The Dead Princess Club.
Art Credit: Henry Meynell Rheam