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Why I Relate to the Broadway Show 'Dear Evan Hansen' as a Spoonie

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Recently I came across a new Broadway show. When I say came across, I really mean that I stalked the cast album release date and know every fact about the show, but that’s beside the point. This show, “Dear Evan Hansen,” which is written about teens struggling with anxiety, depression and ultimately one dying by suicide, is an unbelievably beautiful piece of art. While it may be more targeted at those with mental illnesses, it really speaks to me as someone with multiple chronic, physical illnesses.

The music beautifully weaves together themes of watching your life pass you by and isolation which are extremely common to those of us with chronic illnesses. When listening to the cast album, a part of the show always stands out to me. In his song “Words Fail,” Ben Platt says:

“No, I’d rather pretend I’m something better than
These broken parts
Pretend I’m something other than
This mess that I am
‘Cause then I don’t have to look at it
And no one gets to look at it
No, no one can really see

‘Cause I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
I never let them see the worst of me

‘Cause what if everyone saw?
What if everyone knew?
Would they like what they saw?
Or would they hate it too?
Will I just keep on running away from what’s true?”

These words really speak to me as a chronic pain patient. I do constantly push people away because I’m scared to let them in; I’m scared to let them see the real me. Every time I start a new friendship or relationship as a chronically ill teen, I do not expect it to last. I expect to get to know the person, open up and have them leave me. The worst part is that this theory has been backed up by personal experiences. Instead of opening up, I stay silent. I write, I post in groups and I advocate, but I never let the people in real life in. I constantly think to myself, what if they knew… just like Evan. I relate to every word that slips off his tongue as he tries to ignore the brokenness in his life, just as I try to ignore the pieces of me that have shattered in this last year. I ignore lost opportunities, I ignore my pain and I ignore the fact that my future is unclear.

As the show progresses though, I have learned more about myself. I learned that sometimes you should open up to the people around you; I learned that “no one deserves to be forgotten, no one deserves to disappear.” This show has given me so much as a chronic pain patient. It gave me a character to relate to, it gave me a new perspective and it gave me some beautiful writing.

Thank you to the writers and producers of this show for making a masterpiece that will help those of us with chronic illnesses for years to come. Thank you to Ben Platt for perfectly portraying a character that thousands of unheard Americans can relate to. Thank you to the rest of the cast for creating a beautiful musical that will keep me pushing through the hard nights to come. I know it won’t always be easy, but this soundtrack has helped me through a lot already.

To anyone else with a chronic mental or physical illness, I highly recommend checking out this new show. It is an outstanding piece of art that deserves to be hailed for its ability to grasp you as an audience member, and it is highly relatable to us spoonies who are always looking for someone to hear and understand them.

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Image via Dear Evan Hansen Facebook page.

Originally published: February 24, 2017
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