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How 'Doctor Who' Became the Perfect Remedy for My Chronic Illnesses

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I have a complicated relationship with what I refer to as my “holy trinity” of chronic illness. Anxiety. Depression. And fibromyalgia.

We cohabitate in a modest apartment in Omaha and manage to survive one another most days. Some days are easier than others, of course. There are times when I’m not sure I will make it out alive. But for the most part we have a system to cope with all of the stepping on toes, pushing, shoving, elbowing, sucker punches, screaming, crying, and terrifying pain we inevitably find ourselves in.

It is not the prettiest thing in the world, our cohabitation, but we make it work.

We owe this great feat to the Doctor. Our Doctor.

No, not one of the medical health professionals I have on speed dial. The Doctor. The mysterious, thrill-seeking Time Lord from the planet of Gallifrey. The Doctor saved us in all his forms truly, but it was the Tenth regeneration in particular that turned “who I am” and “what I have” in to a singular entity — me.

Doctor Who” first began in the early 1960s in Great Britain. To some it is just a television program (albeit, a program with a massive cult following that spans generations), but to me it is so much more than that. I struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. But in January 2014, after endless specialist appointments and countless tests, I received my fibromyalgia diagnosis and resigned to cry for weeks. I was nearly bed-ridden from the pain that was amplified by the freezing Nebraskan winter temperatures and all I could muster the energy to do was prop a pillow behind my head and watch Netflix between bouts of sobbing. I had heard of this “Doctor Who” but had never seen it… and I had a lot of time to kill.

I began watching at the series continuation that first aired in 2005. The campiness, old technology, and low budget had an endearing quality to it but I wasn’t sold on it right away. There were episodes that grabbed my interest, but it was when the Ninth Doctor was dying that my whole world changed.

This edgy man in a black leather jacket with short hair and big ears was about to die. But that is not what happens to Time Lords. Instead of dying, their bodies regenerate and carry their soul and memories in to a completely new physical being. Suddenly, a new man stood in this black leather jacket. He looked nothing like the ninth regeneration of The Doctor. But they were still one and the same.

I was him. I was this new man, this Tenth Doctor. I was him, he was me, and we understood each other. Ten didn’t like the black jacket, he liked tailored suits and Converse sneakers. Ten needed glasses. Nine loved bananas, but Ten didn’t. The Doctor was the same man. The Doctor was both Nine and Ten. But each newly regenerated body needed something different. Liked things differently, felt things differently than before.

With my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I had to change my entire world. It started with my wardrobe. I couldn’t wear things I used to like because of how my skin reacted differently. I had to eat different foods because my digestive system wasn’t working the same anymore. My hobbies changed, I had to respect my body’s new limitations. I had all the memories of my old body, what it could do, what it was capable of… a body I didn’t realize I loved so much until it was taken from me.

People looked at me differently, just like they did with the Tenth Doctor. They said things like “I know it’s her, but she doesn’t look the same.” They avoided me at first, unsure of how to interact with my new reality.

But Ten was also funny and loving and vivacious and self-sacrificing and had genuine darker side he tried, and failed, to keep hidden. He loved a select few others with a reckless abandon, and fought for them with an equal fervor. This he carried with him throughout all of his regenerations. A part of him would always be him. Just as part of me will always be me. Come what may.

My body may one day regenerate again. I am afraid of it. Will it be a worsening of my current circumstance? Or a relief? That fear and residual anger will not hold me captive. Instead, I will be like the Doctor. I will stretch myself beyond my limits at times to work with what I have available to me now, and the people that walk in to and out of my life because of it.


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Photo by Doctor Who Spoilers via Flickr

Originally published: February 2, 2017
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