Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Hot Cripple by Hogan Gorman

Property of Hogan Gorman, found via http://www.hotcripple.com/

I had to pick up this book. Something just called to me - I'm not sure if it is the hottie on crutches or the bit about the health care system. But I am glad I read this book.

Hogan used to be a model traveling around the world and then began to waitress in New York City while auditioning for acting gigs. One day, she's walking to work with her favorite chai in hand and is hit by a car. With how bad off the car was, it was clear that Hogan should have died. Instead, she lived and began a fight lasting entirely too long navigating the medical world with no insurance and trying to get help from several organizations.

I'm not going to lie - growing up being sick I immediately began judging this girl at the beginning of the book. She is a fucking model right? She's gorgeous and has had the opportunity to live a life that I wish I could have. She was always one of the beautiful girls and knew it. She needed a wake up call, but probably not one calling for what she's gone through. This book is about really coming to terms with illness when you're not used to it and learning to fight and learning that it is okay to accept help - I definitely have issues with the last one.

At the end of the book, I felt like I could identify with Hogan more than I thought I ever would be able to. She clung to her fashion life when she was sick because it was what was left of what she assumed was the real her. I'm just finally being okay delving into fashion, accepting that my body the way it is now is really me finally. I mean, it only took 20 years right? Nonetheless, accepting what you are or have gone through is really one of the hardest things that anyone can do let alone anyone with new and long lasting limitations.

I think it is a good book to read, but probably better for those of you who lived an actual life before falling ill. It's probably a million times easier to connect with the author, and that is kind of critical for these memoir types of books. Plus, I take issue with how she doesn't necessarily think about invisible illnesses in the book - i.e., getting pissed with people and automatically judging them as different because they're normal.

In keeping with how I seem to write every book review, enjoy some quotes!

I have been issued a food stamp card with a rather unattractive picture of myself on it. I will now be allotted 141 dollars a month for food, which breaks down to about four dollars and seventy-something cents a day. That's what we poor folk are allowed to eat a day... four dollars and seventy-something cents' worth of food... The card is in the middle of my kitchen table, just begging to be used, but I don't have the fortitude to accept it quite yet. I find myself picking it up and staring at it in disbelief several times over the past day. I am  scared of this little piece of plastic, scared to walk into a grocery store and use it, scared of what it says about me. If I use this card in public, I am branding myself a failure. There is a stigma attached to people on public assistance in this country - that they are lazy, that they should get a job, that they have a welfare mentality - and it has clearly crept into my subconscious and is wreaking havoc on what little ego I have left. (120-1)

I have almost made it past the Mohawks and combat boots when a guy with purple hair says, "Man, that is so cool... it's not that often that you see a hot cripple." I can't believe he just called me a cripple. You can't do that. That is so un-PC that it's almost to XYZ. It's wrong and bigoted and prejudiced. Only I can call myself a cripple, and I do it in a self-depreciating way, but you can't. I don't see you limping on a cane or in braces. You are not part of the group. If you were injured or disabled, you would be allowed to call me a cripple, and I would say, "What's up, gimp?" But you're not, so, stranger, step softly when you walk, and don't fucking talk. I want to go all Rosa Parks on his wannabe punk-rock ass and blurt out this monologue in my head... (154)

I feel like an alien in my own country. Every time I turn a corner I seem to hit another brick wall. My body feels like a prison. The pain is still unrelenting. Maybe they're right; maybe I'm not getting better, but I try. I never miss a doctor's appointment; I follow their instructions and take my prescriptions; I go to physical therapy (or as I like to call it, gimp gym) as if it were a religion; I eat a healthy vegan diet on a food stamp budget of four dollars and seventy cents a day; I do children's memory games on my computer to try to regain my short-term memory and strengthen my brain. I think it might be better to be an animal; if an animal is sick or injured and not getting "any better" they are put down, so they don't have to suffer. We have a Humane  Society for our four-legged friends, yet I am struggling to see any sense of humanity in the society I am living in. (159)

I am sobbing like I have never sobbed before, and I can't stop. I have reached my breaking point, the end of my tether. Whatever you want to call it, I am there. I can't take it anymore: the lack of humanity, constant pain, doctors who can't fix me, memory loss, food stamps, disability, Medicaid, lawyers, poverty - I'm done. I don't want this life. I find myself turning almost without thought and walking toward the Brooklyn Bridge - the bridge I used to run across when I was healthy - and with each sobbing step I take I am more determined and convinced that this is the only way out. I've had a few friends end their own lives, and I didn't understand how things could get so bad that someone would want to kill themselves. But now I understand. When you wake up and it's dark and you know that there is no hope that today the clouds will drift away because you've been hanging on every day, for days, months, maybe years, and the sun never comes. When you've been down so long that a smile feels wrong. You're not fun anymore; all you talk about is your misery and your pain, and people listen (sometimes), but you watch their eyes gloss over in a distant stare. They can't help you; nobody can, not even yourself. You dress each day in something you used to love, praying that it will magically transport you back to a time when you were happy, but it never does. You've stopped dreaming, you've stopped hoping, and you've stopped living. So this final act will merely be a formality. Finally, it will stop. Finally, I will have peace. Finally, there will be relief. I understand now, my friends, and I am coming to meet you on the other side of this cesspool that's called life. (190)

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