I’m currently on Season five, episode 19 of “New Girl.” For the fourth time. I’m about to start rereading “Percy Jackson” for the 12th time since I was 11 years old. “Lady Bird.” “Dead Poets Society.” “Little Women” (2019). “Psych.” Apparently the 2008 “Tinker Bell” movie this week. And so on.
An escapism detour
There’s something to be said about movies, shows and books that I keep coming back to. The more I rewatch and reread, the more I begin to understand what draws me to a specific comfort media at a given moment. I’ve discovered that they fall into three categories: nostalgia, matchers and background.
Nostalgia: I think that is what compelled me to turn on “Tinker Bell” this week when I was dealing with a terrible cold. I honestly hadn’t watched it in years, but something made me click on it while I was scrolling through Disney. Movies that bring me nostalgia are my favorite when I’m physically sick and homesick. Homesickness intensifies as my level of physical sickness worsens. It’s a very isolating experience that I, honestly, was not prepared for.
While my roommates and friends here are incredible, there is nothing like a hug from my parents or my dog coming to check on me when I’m feeling my worst.
Matchers: These are the things I watch when I need something to match my mood. I mean, “Lady Bird,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Little Women”aren’t particularly happy films. But, sometimes, it can be comforting to watch something that matches the way you feel, just like stormy weather or sad music can be comforting when you don’t feel well.
Sometimes, I just need to sit in how I feel rather than attempt to force a fake smile on my face and continue with my day as normal. Just this week, I’ve missed four lectures because I simply could not get myself out of bed. It was a relief to turn on a movie and slip out of my own mind for a while, and I found that taking that time for myself actually made me feel better faster.
Lastly, there’s background: These can be a few things, but I often find myself gravitating toward sitcoms that I’ve practically memorized. “New Girl” is one of those things. I often find it helpful to have background noise while I work or while I’m dealing with something — “New Girl” is in the background as I type this, and I can’t even see the screen. Having something there to fill the silence makes me feel less alone.
My own thoughts, accompanied by a symphony of pain swelling through my body, create an overwhelming cacophony in my mind that tends to isolate me from my physical surroundings. Redirecting my focus to a comforting and completely different thing reduces the internal noise. When I can’t have someone physically present, my favorite characters are there to fill the space and get me out of my own head.
There is one thing that all of these shows and movies have in common: They have become predictable to me. They are a nice, stable break from the roller coaster that is lupus.
Flares can come out of nowhere. Over break I visited Tahoe, and the return to sea level gave me the worst congestion I’ve had in months. Since then, I’ve been dealing with migraines that throw me off balance, give me nausea and submerge me in exhaustion. The last flare I had like this was in January before returning to school — when I could still curl up with my dog and some soup on a couch and watch whatever I wanted. Now, I have a bunk bed, classes to go to and work to do.
Luckily, I still have my catalog of comforts. While “Little Women”can’t replace my dog or my family, it reminds me of home and of watching it with my mom. “Into the Wild” reminds me of my dad. “Dead Poets Society”reminds me of my best friend, Emma. These people, all 3,000 miles away, feel present in my most dire times.
I know that they are all just minutes away through a phone call or a text, but a three-hour time difference makes that space a little wider. When it’s midnight here and everyone on the other coast is asleep, I can switch on these movies and feel home become just a little more tangible.
Escaping for a few hours into a world that isn’t my own may seem counterintuitive. You would think I would feel farther from home, but it’s often the very thing that makes me feel like I’m there. When my own body starts to feel less like a home than ever, I will gladly escape into my favorite things for a while.
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