Lessons on Body Image, Fear, & Community From The Twilight Zone

I’ve been in excruciating pain the past few days.  Like my past New Year’s Eves, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome decided to crash my holiday.  Combined with the Myasthenia Gravis, (MG) an autoimmune disease, my pain has made me scream and cry.  But this New Year’s Eve was also my best ever because I was not alone.  I hosted an Online NYE Party for people during The Twilight Zone Marathon on SyFy (which lasted two days) so no one would have to be alone.  Fifty guests arrived on Facebook—while some people were healthy, half the guests had  illnesses including Fibromyalgia, Lupus, MG, Crohn’s Disease, CRPS, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Hypothyroidism, and Bipolar Disorder (like me).   

Guests in different continents posted our thoughts live as we watched the same episodes.  I met some terrific people.  (SPOILER ALERT: Points 1 and 2 discuss the plots of two classic TZ episodes.)

3 Lessons from The Twilight Zone On Life (useful for sick and healthy people):

1.  Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder:  In the classic episode, Eye of the Beholder, TZ makes us question who decides what is beautiful .  As someone who was insulted for my appearance after illness changed it, this episode is close to my heart.  It features a bandaged woman, Janet, who is getting her eleventh (!) cosmetic surgery to look like everyone else.  beholder_zps8f4a95a1Throughout the episode we hear doctors and nurses talk about how deformed she looks.  After surgery, the doctors say there is nothing they can do—she will always be ugly.  The episode ends with Janet’s bandages finally coming off.  Gasp! She looks like Marilyn Monroe.  This week we had a bizarre incident reminiscent of this episode.  Comedian Jay Mohr called actress Alyssa Milano fat and joked about her appearance.  (Below, you can see what Alyssa looks like.)  la-et-mg-alyssa-milano-jay-mohr-feud-baby-weig-001What was Jay thinking?  Most people would say Milano is beautiful but Jay’s comments remind us that there will always be critics.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  (Thankfully, after Alyssa’s classy response to the insults, Jay apologized.)

2.  Fear Destroys:  In episodes like The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, driven by fear, good people make destructive decisions. Monsters starts out with children playing and neighbors talking to each other.  They appear happy until their electricity is turned off.  One neighbor recalls a story he read about aliens posing as humans.  In a state of paranoia, the friends all turn on each other.  Almost everyone is accused of being an alien.  One resident is fatally shot because of the hysteria.  The episode climaxes with riots everywhere.  Chaos.  Finally, we see two aliens talking on a distant hilltop. They say that it’s so easy to conquer earth because humans are their own worst enemy.  I’ve seen how illness and the uncertainty it brings can inspire fear in people.  The same year I became ill, my mom’s friend was diagnosed with cancer.  For months she refused to have treatment because, well, it’s hella painful.  The day she finally agreed to it, she died.  It was too late.  I know that getting treated is not a guarantee that a person will live.  But being afraid to the point of inaction can kill.  Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act despite it.

3.  Technology Fosters Community: Without the Internet, I wouldn’t even know anyone with MG—MG only happens to 1 in 100,000 people.  Even people with common illnesses need community.  We weren’t meant to walk through life alone.  Through this blog, I’ve even met healthy people who are searching for community.  Sometimes we find community in the most unlikely places like The Twilight Zone.  Here are a few quotes from guests:

Jersey Steve, “This [party] just goes to show that there are people with common interests all over the country, if not the world.”

Angela Crewe, “Technology has brought us together from around the world, to not only celebrate holidays, but also to exchange information, provide and receive support and to foster a sense of ‘you are not alone in this!’”

Sr. Paula Vaghi, “We are all part of a much larger community as we widen our tents. Technology brings us together as a diverse community in so many good ways.”

We’re on Facebook!  Join the Fashionably ill community at: https://www.facebook.com/fashionablyill.

–Your Stylist,

Jessica Gimeno

(P.S. For the guests who attended and have asked if we will have another marathon next NYE or some other holiday, the answer is YES!  Yes we will.)

JessicaGimeno

Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), polycystic ovarian syndrome, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

2 thoughts on “Lessons on Body Image, Fear, & Community From The Twilight Zone

  • January 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm
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    Hello ! just wanted to thank you again for the NYE TZ Party ! I don’t talk much about my stuff, but it was just nice to be able to talk to others about all of our struggles. Having an illness, well for me … makes me feel ugly … so I dress and have a stand offish attitude to keep people away. Mine is the kind that doesn’t really show on the outside (Silent Hell) as I call it. The ups and downs of numerous medications the close to death surgeries etc. I had a great time with you all and what a wonderful thing you have done! That thing I sent you about what not to say to people with a chronic illness, I think is one of the fastest and best ways to maybe make people really think about things. Anyways! Thanks for all you have done and all you do . If I can help in anyway please let me know.

    Your Friend,
    Debbie Gordon

    Reply
    • January 6, 2014 at 1:21 pm
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      Yes Debbie, I’m so glad we met through the Online NYE Party. I had a blast and learned so much from everyone. Thank you for sending over that graphic; I’ve actually posted it on FI’s Facebook wall in the past and tweeted it. I’m sure I’ll be using it in the future. I consider it a privilege to know someone as resilient as you are.
      Your new friend,
      Jessica

      Reply

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