Clinical chic: Why I #hospitalglam

Clinical chic: Why I #hospitalglam

You post your tasty burger for lunch, I post photos of grungy MRI waiting rooms.

You show me a short vid of your dog being adorable, I show you what I look like when I’m most vulnerable. We document the little moments that make up our lives. Some of mine look different from yours.

The first person I ever saw do anything akin to #hospitalglam was Jen Unplugged, several years ago.

In my hazy memory, she drapes herself over a radiation table in a bejewelled red evening gown — as if she was on her way to an opera and by happenstance, popped in to get a medical procedure.

Jen Unplugged has since passed but her legacy lives on in the hearts of those who witnessed her fearlessness.

Each arduous minute focused on my appearance is a minute not spent imagining the cool liquid floating into my hand and through my body as I waterslide into a pool of disembodiment.

Fast forward to 2015.

That's when Karolyn Gehrig started posting photos of herself in cleverly curated Gaga-esque poses in a variety fashions — the iconic medication dress was one of my personal faves.

In the days leading up to my first infusion I decided it was my turn to #hospitalglam

The mechanics of photo-taking are awkward in this context. I doubt mine will ever hit the level of glam that Gehrig manages.

If I'm going to feel like death warmed over, I am going to feel like a babe doing it.

This room is reminiscent of a chemo ward, with all of us in a ‘U’ shape looking at each other. The difference is: from what I know of chemo wards, there’s no room for a friend to chill with you while you drip.

I want the others around me to not feel like I’m invading their privacy. My shots usually come from a downward angle.

I almost always use a filter because clinical lighting makes me look green.

I’m not doing it to scare you or make you feel pity for me, honest. I’m doing it for me. 

...to clear my mind...

I pick out my clothes. My choice. My style. What makes me feel like a badass. 

Makeup is not an everyday process for me as it once was. My hands aren’t as stable. It uses up energy I can allot to other things. This becomes a deliberate act.

I tease my hair and paint on my cat-eyes. I feel like I’m donning a suit of armour. Waterproof eye makeup is a clear necessity.

Admissions of admiration are often followed up with “for a girl in a wheelchair,” or “for someone as sick as you.”

If I'm going to feel like death warmed over, I am going to feel like a babe doing it.

Each arduous minute focused on my appearance is a minute not spent imagining the cool liquid floating into my hand and through my body as I waterslide into a pool of

dis

em

bodiment.

...to be seen...

With each treatment my dose is ramped up and each time I feel myself sinking into a deeper black hole. The fluorescent lights penetrate the edges of my giant sunglasses. I know I am in a comfy recliner in a clinic near Don Mills. Yet I feel this black monster swallowing me whole.

I presume High School Me would chalk #hospitalglam-ming up to ‘attention-seeking’ or ‘Debbie Downerness.’ She’d be so wrong.

(High School Me wasn’t a total asshole, I assure you. Nuanced concepts of agency and representation didn’t enter into my mind until a few years into post-secondary.)

I can think of one visibly disabled fashion model and she hasn’t made it big. Yet.

Disability is placed at odds with beauty, youth and style. Admissions of admiration are often followed up with “for a girl in a wheelchair,” or “for someone as sick as you.”

The moment something marks you as disabled, people's perceptions of you change. I have read too many posts and articles and memes reminding able-bodied folks that while it changes the logistical side of things in one way or another, disability does not make someone instantly asexual.

...to cope...

My treatment is straightforward. I hook up to an IV saline drip, topped up with lidocaine and ketamine — a dentistry anaesthetic and an animal tranquilizer used to dull immense nerve pain for an extended period of time.

I sit for an hour or so and try to hold my shit together before someone escorts me home and puts me to bed, after which I sob for a bit several hours.

With each treatment my dose is ramped up and each time I feel myself sinking into a deeper black hole. The fluorescent lights penetrate the edges of my giant sunglasses. I know I am in a comfy recliner in a clinic near Don Mills. Yet I feel this black monster swallowing me whole.

 Did J.K. Rowling ever do K? Because I swear it could be a Dementor.

I feel my words slur together and I cannot perceive whether my limbs are moving or not. I understand immediately how K has become a favourite of date rapists.

My heart clenches in a confused empathy when I attempt to imagine the frame of mind of a person using this recreationally.

I try to wrap my foggy mind around ketamine’s application for depression but can’t while amidst the most depressive feelings I’ve ever felt.

I’m sitting in my mind-chasm. Likes and hearts and messages on a photo remind me that I’m a person. I have wonderful people in my life who care. Strangers around the world understand this feeling.

At my last appointment I decided to memorialize my brain state.

Autocorrect was able to compensate. Somewhat.

This paragraph will. E written during the halfway point of y treatment. Mostly I'm typing because it feels like a truth sister and if I stop type my I'll just last anything that comes out of my mouth. I think I mean anything I think will come out of me mouth. I just sighed so loudly and the nurses looked at me. I'm not in. I told of anything eight how. I wonder if I'll actually be able to transcribe grunge when I'm done. Haha.  Grunge. That's wrountb.  No matter how hard I try I can't recreate the feeling in my head when this happens. I fro

I think this roughly translates to:

This paragraph will be written during the halfway point of my treatment. Mostly, I’m typing because it feels like a truth serum and if I stop typing I’ll just say anything that comes out of my mouth. I think I mean anything I think will come out of my mouth. I just sighed so loudly and the nurses looked at me. I’m not in control of anything right now. I wonder if i’ll actually be able to transcribe this when I’m done. Haha. Grunge. That’s wrong. No matter how hard I try I can’t recreate the feeling in my head when this happens. I forget…

I'm sure the people in my life would categorize me as a ‘control freak’. In many ways, they’re right.

This recent accelerated breakdown of my cognitive processing partnered with hand tremors and joint issues makes using a smartphone laborious.

Sometimes I write full messages and look back and they don't contain real sentences.  

The loss of control is devastating. I cannot control what my body is doing. #Hospitalglam allows me to control what is on it.

...to feel an ounce of normalcy...

The lone detraction of this movement I once encountered cites acceptance as more important than glam.

These are not mutually exclusive.

There is an avenue to acceptance via glam.

Things don’t feel normal. I barely recognize my life right now. I need to insert my existence into public consciousness because I feel I have faded from it.

So I sit in my chair, take photos and listen to music. Clumsy, I fumble through notifications on social media. I feel the warmth of your digital embrace.

And when it’s not a clinic day? I’ll post burgers and puppies too, don’t you worry.

Faryn Quinn likes a nice smooth cocktail, bulldogs, mid-20th century flashback dramas — oh, that’s not what we’re doing? Well then. Faryn was destined to be NASTY from a young age, with such ominous report card comments as ‘Faryn is our resident feminist’ in senior kindergarten and later on ‘Faryn is an ÜBER-FEMINIST’ (underlined and all caps verbatim) in grade nine.  She now lives in downtown Toronto with her main squeeze, a fat little Frenchie named Sgt. Pepper, and a teeny herb garden where she’s figuring out the ins and outs of being a newly-minted cripple.