Fully sick – Jenny O’Keefe

Another brilliant piece from a GUNNAS WRITING MASTERCLASS WRITER.


What does the phrase Fully Sick bring to mind for you? Is it the frightening call of 90’s youths, or some bozo in a KFC ad trying to be cool? Is it outdated? Offensive? Did it make you feel something? I hope so.

Fully Sick is the name of the podcast I’m developing at the moment. I’m a community radio nerd of ten years experience both in broadcasting and pain disorder. You may refer to it as feeling like crap every day or chronic pain. This is not a sad story, but bear with me while I approach my point. Imagine feeling jetlagged every day and then stacking it on your pushbike and rattling your bones. That’s sort of how I feel most days. A few years ago I saw Stella Young’s show at the comedy festival and since then I proudly call myself a crip. Rolls off the tongue far more nicely than the long, boring scientific explanation of what’s going on.

Last winter I had interactions with two separate young women in similar rowboats who asked the pertinent question ‘how the fuck do I get through this day let alone this bullshit winter?’ One woman and I sorted out the woes of the world on a Facebook chat thread, the other I went to visit. We sat in her lounge room with the heater on and gabbed away the afternoon. We both have The Chronic Pains, we’re both pretty young, we’re both in creative fields and have a lot to make and give and bucketloads of kisses (etc.) to dispense. Fuck me if we both didn’t feel like a million bucks after talking to someone who gets it. It was a million miles away from whinging and whining. It was a fizzy, upbeat conversation, ripe with common ground, handy hints, lightning flashes of “I never knew anyone else would understand this weird thought/way I do things/system for living”. I drove away wishing I could bottle that feeling, and badda bing badda boom the podcast was born.

Late last year I started recording. I’ve got footage of conversations with people with skin disorders, mental health issues, painful vaginas, blood clots in the brain, feeling sick and tired all the time for no good reason and autoimmune diseases. I’ve been covered with goosebumps listening to these people as they hit that nail on the head of humanity. I don’t care who you are – we’ve all got something going on that other people don’t see. So what’s the answer? How do we keep going when the wind is blowing us sideways and there’s no way forward?

The one thing everyone ends up saying is that until they learned to give themselves permission to do what really helped, life was miserable.

Let that sink in for a moment. What could you be doing right now, that will help you to feel good? Or human, or healthy, or alive? Why won’t you give yourself permission?

You’re worth it, I don’t even know you but I do know that to be true. Except for you there, puppy murderer. Stop that this instant. You are not tough OR cool.

A lot of people reading this will need to write regularly to feel human. Are you doing that? You may need to hydrate more regularly. Or get into baking to express your creativity. Adopt a dog to have that level of companionship. Do some volunteer work to connect with your fellow whoa-man. Change your career if you’re miserable in your job. Eat more than two meals a day if you’re time-poor and lazy about your own catering situation. Get off the ciggies or the booze if they’re ageing you prematurely and you can feel it in your organs.

The people I’m talking to for Fully Sick have found that giving themselves permission to do things like: Take a hot water bottle to work and use it. Take ten seconds to breathe when feeling the stress rise. Work from home, in bed, in their jimmy jams. Work for an hour then rest for an hour; these choices make the biggest difference in the world. The difference between feeling alive or pushing it and feeling mostly dead and far away down a tunnel of illness. The world/society/Tony Abbott/whoever project this belief that to be young is to be healthy is to be a machine. It can feel embarrassing to need tiny things like this to keep going, so we ignore those needs and get sicker and sicker.

Crips like me can do a hell of a lot and have a lot to offer, as long as we understand what we need to pump it out. We’re not weak and damaged, we’re stronger than you could ever imagine.

Watch this space. Fully Sick will be out there as a podcast sooner rather than later now I’ve had a big kick up the bum from Dev at the Gunnas class!




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