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The Comic My Husband and I Created About the Funny Side of Dysautonomia

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What do you get when you combine chronic illness, a desperate need to laugh, some rudimentary drawing skills and a supportive husband who would rather illustrate your woes than hear about them? We got DoodleThru, a web comic about the absurdities of living with dysautonomia and its many related disorders, such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), chronic pain, gastroparesis and autoimmunity.

bed enthusiast doodlethru comic

Some of the cartoons are uplifting and optimistic, such as this true story of Viagra:

viagra doodlethru comic

Some joke about bodily processes, such as why POTS patients have chronic dehydration:

doodlethru kidneys talking about salt comic

Some are trying to be educational:

wanted poster for POTS bandits comic

Some are just silly:

cooking lightheaded magazine comic

And some are honest feelings about real medical findings:

no cake for you POTS comic

But all of them comprise our latest experiment in coping. I’d hoped that after 25 years with chronic illness, I’d have learned to be OK with it, but I wasn’t. I was struggling with pain, loneliness, loss of a beloved career and identity… all the normal stuff. When we decided to try making cartoons about it, I was amazed at how the cartoon ideas came pouring forth.

evil goblins that invented POTS comic

But I have no drawing skill whatsoever. My husband, while not an artist, had basic skills and an interest in learning software for cartooning. Together we’d toss around ideas, then he’d bring them to life. We were both surprised at how fun it was. We didn’t know if anybody else would find humor in these comics, but it didn’t matter because we were having a blast creating them.

We were pleasantly surprised when two patient advocacy groups used them for Dysautonomia Awareness Month, and we got to share our comics with thousands of others on Facebook. It was a thrill when other patients would comment about how they could relate or how they’d received a much-needed laugh. I would imagine some other spoonie out there, sharing a moment of relief with me.

Two other nice surprises emerged. First, I learned to look at every experience through the lens of humor. When insurance denied my IVIG, I wondered “Where is the humor in this?” When I’d lie awake itching all night, I’d think, “How can I turn this into a cartoon?” It did wonders for my mental health.

Second, my family and friends understood me better. These little cartoons apparently communicated much better than I ever did. For example, the “Am I Rude or Just Managing Dysautonomia?” series helped my family understand why I often don’t eat or drink with them. “The Logic of the Salt Lamp” cartoon made some family members realize that my use of questionable therapies is less about my being a kook and more about my having tried everything else, yet not giving up on feeling better. A cartoon about victim blaming made an old friend call and re-connect. Something about the cartoons made for good communication. Maybe the painful topic of chronic illness is more palatable in colorful, humorous, bite-size morsels.

If you feel like checking us out, we’re at DoodleThru and our Facebook page is @DoodleThru. We try to publish several new ones every week.

Making cartoons has been cathartic and has given my husband and I new reasons to work and laugh together. Over the past 25 years of chronic illness, we have tried a lot of different coping mechanisms, and I wish we’d thought of this one sooner!

Originally published: October 29, 2018
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