For the past 3 months or so my life with fibromyalgia has turned into an endless marathon, a grueling exercise in endurance with no relief in sight. I feel like a rubber band that spends all day being pulled in opposite directions; I become tissue paper thin, but I never break. I fall into bed at night, but one of the vicious aspects of this illness is that nighttime and sleeping don’t actually provide recovery from the previous day, so every time I wake up I start my day from an ever deepening place of depletion and weariness and pain. I blame this for the position I find myself in now.
It all started off so innocently, as these things do. I had just about finished watching all 8 seasons of NCIS on DVD, and I needed another form of entertainment to distract me from how awful I felt. But my brain was so trashed from having to spend all of its efforts on remembering to take my medicine, and engaging all my pain-management techniques, and doing the bare minimum necessary to keep the house and our family running, that I was having a lot of trouble with shows where I really had to pay attention to plot lines and characters. Plus, I had reached the point where I was completely fed up with my clothes and my lack of style, so on the advice of a number of friends I began to watch “What Not To Wear” on TLC.
I have never watched any “reality TV” before, but WNTW is really a feel-good kind of show. Stacy and Clinton genuinely want to help people, and the women are all so happy and confident by the end of their makeovers, and I’ve been able to learn tons and tons about fashion without ever having to leave the comfort of my own living room. But now I realize that, in addition to all of these things, WNTW played a deeper and more powerful role for me than I realized: it became my gateway drug into the world of (allegedly) unscripted TV. I never even would have considered watching those kinds of shows before, but after a couple of months of watching-and, more importantly, enjoying-this type of entertainment, if I happened to turn on the TV in the middle of another reality show, I was much more likely to stop and watch it instead of immediately flipping to another channel.
So one day I turned on TLC and happened to catch an episode of “19 Kids And Counting”. Now, whatever your personal opinions of the Duggars and their way of life, their show is very wholesome and family-friendly. Not a whole lot happens, but it’s nice to have a change from tension and drama, where people are fairly well-behaved and get along with each other. It gives off a vibe that is very soothing to a body, mind, and spirit who’ve been trashed six ways to Sunday.
But you all know what happened next; after a while, 2 shows just weren’t enough. I had to have more.
So then came “Breaking Amish”. I was really excited about this show, because I love stories about people’s spiritual journeys and religious traditions. But oooooh, how wrong I was about that.
(Yes, I know you’re all laughing here at my embarrassing naivete;. “Oh, bless your heart,” I can hear you saying ,” she actually thinks these shows are real.”) But how was I supposed to know? This was all virgin territory for me, remember? How could I possibly know, with a different scandal breaking every five minutes or so,that this could possibly turn out to be the least “real” show in the entire history of “reality shows”?
I know now that the show is basically baloney, that it’s actually been a long time since any of the participants lived as Amish, and that pretty much nothing they’ve been saying is the truth. But you guys, I am hooked; I cannot look away. I am powerless to break my fascination with this train wreck. Jeremiah gets an enormous tattoo! Kate accuses Sabrina of practicing witchcraft! Rebecca had all of her teeth pulled out when she was 19 and now wears a full set of dentures! HOW CAN I NOT WATCH?
As you can imagine, by this time the dam had burst, and now I was watching any and every show I could find. And it just became easier and easier to “justify” my actions.
Long Island Medium: “Well, I’m all about the woo, so this is a perfect fit for me. Plus it feels really good to see how much she helps other people with her gift. And I really need to be around things that feel good right now.”
The Big Jig, which follows 5 girls from the United States as they go to compete in the World Championships of Irish Dancing: “Educational, informative, and does not require a lot of strenuous thinking on my part.”
Dance Down South, a show about rival clogging teams: “Well of course I had to watch this-one of the teams is from Cumming (GA), and once I was offered a job teaching Spanish at one of the high schools there, and some of those girls probably would have been my students, and so naturally I have to support these people from my imaginary life that almost happened.”
Faster and faster was I falling down this slippery slope. Because it wasn’t very long until I was watching things like this:
The Half-Ton Killer, where an 1,100 pound woman claimed to have killed her nephew by accidentally rolling over on top of him, and then had to have an entire outside wall of her house removed so that she could leave to attend her trial, but then was found to be lying because he’d been killed by a blow to his head, and she was so heavy that she was unable to lift her arms by herself: “Um…I like murder mysteries?”
And, I confess-I even watched the end of an episode of Honey Boo Boo, the one where Alana wins the People’s Choice Award at one of her pageants and is rewarded with a visit by Glitzy the piglet, her erstwhile pet, which honestly was FREAKING HILARIOUS, and totally worth the shame and embarrassment I suffered when my husband found out.
But this morning as I was happily settling into the couch to check out Secret Princes (“This show is taking place in Atlanta, right under my very nose. I must watch so I can keep up with what’s going on in my city!”), I finally saw the writing on the wall, the sign that things needed to change as soon as possible. Because there, in the lower right-hand corner of my screen, TLC was advertising their new, captivating saga:
“My. Giant. Face. Tumor.”
Please consider this to be my cry for help.
If I had known that by suggesting you watch What Not to Wear that you would end up watching Honey boo boo, I would have NEVER said it. Consider this, my apology. And ha!!!
My Health Jotter says
They are a terrible drug aren’t they? Unbelievable the way the brain moves from a bit of simple escapism to a desperate need for the stupid stuff. Have been saved by damage to the cable wires during some building work which means can no longer get TV reception and been just too busy to get mended!
My advice is to get a Netflix subscription if you don’t already have it. They have so many good shows to stream (Dance Academy and IT Crowd are personal favorites) and it is easy to stay away from the reality tv section. I don’t watch tv on an actual tv because of migraines so I use netflix and abc, NBC, and CW apps on my iPad to watch tv. The bonus is it limits my access to a lot of these shows that I would totally be watching if I had cable. There are also lots of travel type documentaries that are nice and not taxing on the brain.
I am sitting here laughing my head off as I tooo have fallen down into the deep abyss of reality TV and I can’t get enough of it!!!!! I am at home too, fighting this FIBRO thing and these shows are my great escape…The Secret Princes, Honey Boo Boo (and yes Glitzy, the pig was FREAKIN hilarious!!), The Long Island Medium…I lived for Sunday nights and to see Teresa spin her magic!!! And Breaking Amish, I was MESMERIZED!!!! And now there is the Amish Mafia…..shall I go on, lol!!!! Thanks for making me laugh so hard!!! I don’t feel so alone right now in my dysfunctional television watching habits!!!!
Cathy from Toronto, Canada