HAWMC, health activist writer's month challenge

You Choose: The Phantom of the Illness

Write about what you want today.”

Have you ever seen The Phantom of the Opera?

I love musicals. I was in a few in high school, and watching them is equally amazing. Music is one of my favorite things and I love acting, so naturally the two coming together is perfect in my mind 🙂

I’ve talked a few times in the past on music and the musical Rent as being an inspiration for me on how to deal with illness. I recently found a copy of Phantom live at Royal Albert Hall. I’m not sure why it finally clicked after watching it a billion times, but the journey that Christine takes into the darkness with the Phantom seemed very reminiscent of a flare-up. Perhaps it’s because I’m not in one right now that I could really see it.

Christine has been training her voice with the help of the Phantom, whom she believes to be the Angel of Music. It isn’t until she gets her big premiere as the star of a play that she learns how he really is though. She experiences a wonderful nights, getting rave reviews and connecting with a long lost childhood love. The Phantom, jealous of this gentleman, kidnaps her and takes her down into his lair. It is unsure, from the play, how long she remains down there and exactly what happens to her, but one can only guess. At one point during their encounter, she rips off his mask to see that he is horribly disfigured.

She continues to fight the memories of her time with him, even during what should be the best time in her life. At some of the most inopportune times, the Phantom keeps appearing and ruining performances and trying to come between Christine and Raul, who in the second half is now secretly engaged to her.

She constantly lives in fear that he will appear and ruin everything.

In the end, Christine has to choose between living with the Phantom to save her lover’s life, or save herself at Raul’s cost.

If this isn’t what it’s like living with a chronic illness that strikes at any time, I don’t know what is. For much of the play, Christine is afraid of what awaits her when she takes on what she knows will not end well – performing in the play that the Phantom has written. She knows that it is a trap but also fears that it is inevitable.

Since my flare finally broke recently, I find myself thinking about this. I obviously don’t want to dwell on the fears and inevitability that my flare will return, because I want to be able to enjoy my ‘normal’ time. Sometimes with this disease, I feel like I’m being torn in half between the life I want to live and the life I’m forced to live. My disease sets up traps, like letting off just enough for me to feel like I should exert myself… and then I pay for days if not weeks.

For now though, I feel like the play is over and I have conquered the Phantom… until someone pushes play again.

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