Special Guest Star Syndrome

Dear Darling Ones,

Sometimes I feel like a special guest star in an 80s sitcom. You know, the plucky, sassy character with some kind of health-related issue. The one with a positive, nothing’s gonna keep me down attitude. She’s always quick with a witty quip about her condition.

Think Cousin Geri from “Facts of Life” or Arnold’s friend Kathy on “Diff’ent Strokes.” She’s there to show you that everything can be overcome with a positive attitude. To teach everyone a lesson about how their problems aren’t that bad, so buck up buttercup.

I feel a kind of pressure to keep up a chipper sort of positivity since my stroke, even if it’s laced with sarcasm and some cynicism.

When anyone asks me how I am I reply, “Well, I had a stroke.” I try to leave it up to the asker to interpret what that means, but the Midwesterner in me usually follows it up with, “I’m good, all things considered.”

Honesty is not the best policy in this situation, because people want to immediately cheer you up. They want to tell you how strong you are and smother you with positivity and self-help aphorisms. They really want you to just be that special guest star.

We don’t sit well with things that make us uncomfortable. We want to get back to comfort as soon as we can.

The mere idea of me, what happened, what I’m going through has made people flee in discomfort. While this is disappointing, it is not surprising. I’ve read a lot of grief memoirs and know people cannot handle facing mortality upclose.

Even those who continually show up, struggle with my ineffable sadness.

When Sister #2 was here a few weeks ago, I tried to explain how I get a little sad when I look at Trevour, my lemon tree.

“Usually he spends the summer outside,” I told her. “And I couldn’t bring him out this year.”

“Do you want me to out him outside?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m sad because I can’t do it and I don’t if I ever can.”

I’ve been grappling a lot with sadness due to the fallout of the stroke this weekend.

The other night I cried during an episode of “Project Runway.” It was the Season 13 Finale. I’ve been mindlessly re-watching every season of PR, and this was the first time I cried.


It’s not weird that I cried. I’m a crybaby. It’s weird that it took me so long.

Frankly, it’s a relief. I was convinced post-stroke Jodi wasn’t an ol’ softy. While I have shed many tears since March 6, a majority of them have been out of anger, annoyance, or frustration.

Not many of them were due to being moved to tears by a song, a tv show, or how cute my cat is. Very few of them were shed out of sadness.

I don’t think I really let myself feel sad for too long. It’s partially the Special Guest Star Syndrome and partially that sadness is hard. It makes you feel helpless and like a giant bummer.

When you struggle with low-self worth and low-self esteem, being a giant bummer is something you avoid at all costs.

Unless, of course, you’re typing in your blog you pretend nobody reads. Then you bummer away.


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