Today I have the pleasure of kicking off the second day of the blog tour for Allison Alexander’s Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness.
In this insightful account of the realities of being chronically ill, Allison shares the everyday challenges inherent to living in a society that is collectively programmed to disdain illness.
She cements her experience in the minds of the reader through pop culture, referencing the worlds of comics, tv, anime, games, etc.
This tour is a small peek at what you can find inside the book, which is an essential read for everyone.
Each stop of the tour features a fictional character who experiences chronic pain or illness, and through whom Allison threads her guide on living with chronic illness.
My stop centers on Gregory House, a character I always found interesting in so many ways.
Thank you Allison and Mythos &
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Doctor House & Pain Management
Often, when a book or movie represents a disability or illness, the entire thing is about that illness; think Forrest Gump or The Fault in Our Stars. These characters’ identities are entirely swallowed up by their disabilities. In other shows, characters with illnesses are only there on the sidelines to “inspire” the protagonist, in the way that Tiny Tim’s only purpose in A Christmas Carol is to be pitied by Scrooge.
Writers have also excluded characters with disabilities from stories due to the idea that once you’re disabled or chronically ill, you’re done. You’re no longer a hero until you have found a cure or have “overcome” your disability.
As someone with a chronic illness, I appreciate it when I see three-dimensional protagonists who have conditions and are learning to deal with them while taking part in a larger narrative—characters like Gregory House.
If you’re looking for a character to inspire you with courage, grace, and fortitude, look elsewhere. From the TV show House, Doctor House is a sarcastic, crotchety physician who has only two goals in life: solving medical mysteries and getting relief from his own chronic pain.
He’s talented at diagnoses but horrid at bedside manner. His mantra is “everybody lies,” and he refuses to see his patients or hear their stories directly, maintaining he can solve their problems by looking at their test results alone. Like I mention in a chapter of my book, Super Sick: I can’t begin to explain how offensive this attitude is and what the accusation of lying can do to a person suffering from chronic pain. It makes for a fascinating TV show, but in reality, a doctor with House’s attitude can cause psychological damage to a patient who genuinely needs help.
House’s desire for pain relief, however—that, I understand. He experiences constant pain in his leg due to muscle death and becomes addicted to Vicodin. His addiction spirals in later seasons, but I empathize with how it starts. “Addiction” seems like the wrong word for “I like not being in pain all the time.” Pain management is a tricky thing when you’re literally hurting all the time because the pain relievers we have access to actually aren’t designed to be used long-term. Doctors basically have four options to prescribe for pain control:
- Analgesics (like Tylenol). These often aren’t powerful enough for chronic conditions.
- Anti-inflammatories (like Advil). These can damage kidneys and cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Opioids (like fentanyl). These are addictive and can have other complications as you gain a tolerance and require more.
- Neuropathic pain medications (like amitriptyline). These often cause side effects and don’t provide pain relief.
All of these meds are what doctors refer to as a “high number to treat,” which means they only work for a few people out of a large sample size. In other words, even if you can withstand the side effects, it’s unlikely the medication will help at all.
So, I can understand why House becomes unstable and addicted in a bad way. His other choice is constant pain. Can you imagine being in pain all the time? Really think about it if you are one of the lucky, healthy people reading this blog. Imagine if you got the flu, but those aches and pains never let up. Imagine if you broke your leg, but that pain was with you forever. There is no healthy to look forward to, to give you hope. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself, but those who have are likely nodding along. We know.
This is why I appreciate House’s character. He’s far from perfect. He’s not there to inspire people like me. He doesn’t make good decisions. But his struggles feel real.
Do you struggle with chronic pain or illness, or do you know someone who does? What have you noticed about how fictional characters with these conditions are portrayed?
Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness is available at
Allison Alexander is an earthbending Ravenclaw from Hoth who’s more comfortable curling up at home with a video game than venturing out into the wild. As an author, editor, and blogger, Allison aims to make spaces for minority characters in science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture. Also, her favourite character class in Dungeons & Dragons is a bard, so that should tell you everything you need to know about her.
From her home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada—which she shares with her husband, Jordan—Allison writes books, edits novels, and mentors aspiring authors. Her book, Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness (Mythos & Ink) details her experiences with chronic illness and analyzes fictional characters who struggle with disabilities. She includes interviews with other chronic sufferers and explores how society values healthiness, doctors don’t always have answers, and faith, friendship, and romance add pressure to already complicated situations.
Visit the other bloggers in the tour to read more about Super Sick:
April 16: Create Write Now – Laura Roslin & Perseverance
April 17: Mythos & Ink – Launch Day Party on Facebook
April 17: The Paperback Voyager – Doctor House & Pain Management
April 18: Armed with a Book – Raven Reyes & Pressing On
April 19: The Geeky Gimp – Cloud Strife & Depression
April 20: The Writerly Way – Raoden & Chronic Pain
April 21: Invisibly Me – Wade Wilson & Shame
April 22: Avalinah’s Books – Jane Foster & Worthlessness