Thursday, August 6, 2015


Before I say anything further, I'd just like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the amazing feedback I received from "Million Dollar Baby." It's one thing to fill your own head with talk about that Oscar, but to have other people, even strangers, tell you the same thing...there really aren't any words. I'll be sure to mention all of this in my speech until they try to play me off.

So many people have reached out to me and told me about their own issues, and those they know who have suffered diseases similar to EDS. Some have even pointed me in various directions as to other possible factors that could have contributed to my debilitating health over the years. Believe me, every word sent my way has been read, researched, and discussed in-depth. I appreciate any feedback that comes my way, so if you have anything you'd like to discuss with me, don't hesitate to ask. 

Despite all of the positivity, I've been subconsciously putting off writing this post, because I almost always cry when I talk about my EDS. It's not something I've been able to talk about without shedding lots of tears over the past few months, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I started seeing a pain psychologist last week and I think my near-immediate plunge into hysteria took him entirely by surprise.

The majority of these days have been hellacious, but that's not anything new. I try to think about it like this: Satan and I are old friends now, and we like to make each others lives a living you-know-what just to fuck with each other. He's going to regret the day I get down there!

Monday through Friday on the last week of July was particularly awful, as I had three health-related appointments every day. EVERY DAMN DAY. It was a circus of doctors, IVs, physical therapists, exercises, psychologists, medications, and rushing to make sure I was home in time for dinner every night. While I do indeed have a driver's license, it's incredibly painful to operate a vehicle when you've just subluxated your kneecap for the umpteenth time and can't feel your ring and pinky fingers in your right hand because some nerve has decided to be pinched that day. So, shout out to the parentals, especially Mom, for Driving Miss Lucy around everywhere. I love you so very much.

I don't know what it is about me and late nights, but that's typically when the words decide to come. After I watch a film or two, I always get this profound urge to write, primarily because of the impact of the story I've just invested myself in. Tonight's film is Shame (2011), Steve McQueen's pre-12 Years a Slave masterpiece starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Now, this picture and I have hardly anything in common, as it's about Brandon (Fassbender), a New York businessman who's addicted to sex. He's incapable of having a real relationship with anyone, especially his sister - ironically named Sissy (Mulligan).

What really struck me about Shame was this dysfunctional dynamic. Brandon and Sissy acted like they got along in the light of day, but behind closed doors they each had their own issues, much of which they refused to acknowledge. He can't go a day, let alone a few hours, without sleeping with someone, and she is incapable of taking care of herself. It's obvious by the slits on her wrist and the way she longingly looks at the oncoming train that haunted me to the very end; she's in such a bad place, despite the act she puts on for others, that she'd rather end it all.

While I've never tried to commit suicide, I've honestly thought long and hard about it several times, mostly within the last few months. Some days, when you can't get on top of the pain, and you can't even sit down at the table to eat breakfast, and you feel as though God has decided to continuously beat you while you're down, ending it all is an enticing option. Because if you can't do what you love anyway, then what's the point? I can't even read this without tearing up. It's a horrific place to continuously find yourself in.

But then, the little things that matter show up. A friend who comes over because she knows you're not feeling good and brings you a wooden "L" she painted, complete with LMU colors and stickers of Captain America and Thor. Finding an old Imagine Dragons shirt you forgot you had. Seeing one of the people you idolize the most in the film industry, Megan Ellison (JOY, Her, American Hustle,) pop up on your Facebook's "People You May Know" list.

And then you think, No. Not yet. Because I have so much I need to do before I can even think about calling it quits. I have so many people I've yet to meet, so many films I've yet to see, and an industry I can't wait to be part of. I need to be around for Imagine Dragons next tour, and the one after. I need to write a letter to Megan and tell her how much her films have changed my life. I need Harrison Ford to call me and tell me he loves me so I can say "I know" and hang up.

So, for now, I'm still here. And while it sucks, I know I just need to give it time. I've got too many plans. As Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid, "Boy, I got a vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Paul Newman and Robert Redford kick some ass for the umpteenth time.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Million Dollar Baby

For those of you who think you know me, I'm generally a bubbly person. I tell a lot of jokes, watch a lot of movies, and post about every major pop culture phenomena of the moment. And when this blog used to dominate a large part of my life, I wrote my opinions on every film I saw. It was not an easy task, but one I delighted in, often buying various notebooks with the intention of covering them in Avengers stickers and filling the pages with reviews of the latest thing to hit the big screen. But, a lot of things have changed since then, and in incredibly drastic ways.
First of all, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Loyola Marymount University's School of Film & Television; one of the Top Five film schools in the country. I worked so very hard for this, so I'm not about to quit bragging that I go to one of the greatest colleges in this nation. Moving to Los Angeles was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I've ever done; in the last nine months alone, I've met everyone from Lena Dunham to Ethan Hawke, directed for the first time, and saw Interstellar on the biggest IMAX screen in the world. It's been one of the best experiences of my life, if not THE best, and I can't wait to return to school next month for my sophomore year.

But, that's not what this post is really about.
This post is about my life, and the incredibly difficult turn it's taken over the last couple of months.
In the Fall of 2013 I was diagnosed with Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Hypermobility, or Type III EDS. The best way to describe this is listed on the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation website, which states:
"Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is an inherited connective tissue disorder ... The underlying features of all forms of EDS is a genetic alteration at the molecular level which causes abnormalities and (weakened) defective connective tissue within the collagen itself ... Collagen is a protein that acts like 'glue', which holds the body together, and makes the connective tissue strong and provides elasticity. Each type of EDS has a different collagen abnormality, but all share, in varying degrees certain manifestations. This faulty collagen causes structural changes to the skin, ligaments, tendons, bone, fascia and eyes. Some types of EDS are characterized by weaknesses in the walls of the hollow organs of the gastrointestinal tract, in the esophagus, the cardiovascular system, uterus, bladder, blood vessels and the arteries."

In more relatable terms, this means that for the last several years, everything in my body has been falling apart. While it was amazing to finally have an answer after all those years of unexplainable injuries and illness, that relief only lasted so long. Most would be hard-pressed to find a physician that actually knows what EDS is, and we are nowhere close to finding a cure. This is something that I have to live with for the rest of my life. And here I always thought that being sixteen going on seventeen meant all I had to worry about were the "fellas [who'll] fall in line / eager young lads and rogues and young cads / [who'll] offer you food and wine."

There are good, normal amounts of time where I can live my life without too much interference from my EDS; but for the last few months I've hit my lowest low with this disease. I wake up every morning in a tremendous amount of pain, my gastrointestinal track doesn't agree with me, and I'm so frail that it's difficult for me to leave the house. This last week has been especially brutal; with the ongoing threat of a possible hospitalization looming over my head, it's hard to find joy in the things that I normally do - reading, hanging out with friends, and most importantly: FILM. The fact that I haven't yet seen Ant Man should be a testament alone to how shitty I feel. 
However, the one thing all of my half-a-dozen doctors tells me is that I need to try and stay positive. To know in my heart of hearts that I'm not going to always feel this way, and that this whole situation is temporary. And while I do agree with them, I have to say the obvious: it is incredibly difficult. It's incredibly difficult to stay positive when you can't ride your horse because of the price your body pays afterwards. It's incredibly difficult to stay smiling when you've just thrown up on a tour bus in Paris in front of your friends and peers because your new medication doesn't agree with you. It's incredibly difficult to stay sane when you can't even hang out with your friends because just existing is so damn hard.

I'm at that point in life where I'm desperately clinging on to the things that once brought me so much joy, and finding that it's not leading me out of this tunnel. I literally just ran from my computer as I was typing that last line to throw up the Advil I've taken in the hopes of calming this raging fever I've had for days. I didn't even want to take it in the first place, as I know I've damaged my liver with the amount of Ibuprofen I've taken over the last too many years. But as I've said, I've become desperate.

Normally, I don't like to tell people too much about my personal life. I don't want anyone to know what I consider any private information about me because my ability to trust anyone has been tested to the point of it just being easier to build a very gigantic wall. So why am I suddenly diverging all of this personal information, you ask? Because I need to do SOMETHING. Something that makes me feel like I'm still a functioning member of society, even if the only way that I can presently do that is from the recliner in the family room.
I think of myself first and foremost as a writer. That's all I've done my whole life, and that's all I will continue to do. It's powerfully therapeutic to put yourself out there when you feel as though life has taken all it can from you.

If you're still reading this, THANK YOU. Thank you for investing your time to understand my story; for even caring the tiniest bit about what I have to say. This blog is going to be about more than film from now on - I mean, it's called "Life" of a Future Oscar Winner, isn't it? Doesn't that mean it shouldn't only be about the films and filmmakers that impact me, but EVERYTHING that does? How are people going to know about my life before I've won my Oscar if I don't even talk about it?

Well, for the time being, that's what I'm going to do. I'm giving myself a new purpose, a new challenge; a new reason to fight this fucking syndrome that never quits. I'm going to write my ass off, because I know this is where I shine the most. While I might be the sickest nineteen year old I know, I am also one of the strongest, and I'm going to tell my story whether you like it or not. Because this is my life, and if I want that Oscar, I need to take the reins away from my EDS and into my own hands. 
As Morgan Freeman said in Million Dollar Baby, "Sometimes the best way to throw a punch is to take a step back." So life, if this is the next challenge, if this is my "step back," then you better be ready. Because I'm about to throw my punch.