One of my favourite movies of recent years is without a doubt ‘The Martian’. There is so much that I could say about it and why I like it but this isn’t one of those posts.
However I watched it again recently and as I was listening to the Director of NASA Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) speak about the situation of Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he is languishing on Mars it made me think hard…
He says “… can you imagine how he must be feeling? … Alone, hurting and feeling like no one cares; forgotten…” Everyone is silent as they absorb these words and the situation. The room is full of empathy as sadness descends on each person.
I can remember my heart slowly climbing up my throat when I heard these words and tears started to form. Can I imagine how he feels? Yes! Yes I can!!!
The rest of the movie is a mixture of the scientific world and every other human being coming together and focusing all their thoughts, efforts and countless billions of dollars to rescue the stranded astronaut and ‘bring him home’.
We are all moved by the way the world has united to save this one persons life. Its a very humane and life affirming story.
The movie also makes special mention of the day to day challenges that Mark goes through in order to just stay alive. Mark faces both physical and emotional hurdles every day. He is considered the ultimate hero.
There are many times during the movie that I am moved to tears, but more than that, I IDENTIFY with the struggles. Yes, I IDENTIFIED.
The loneliness. The isolation. The feelings of being forgotten. The challenges just to stay alive. Talking to yourself. Fighting fear and uncertainty every day Feeling the loss of control over your future and your destiny. The feeling of helplessness.
Mark is marooned, alone on Mars and is there for years long before he is ultimately rescued and returned to his crew, and then ultimately returned to his former life on Earth, and legend status. He must exist mostly self sufficiently and with online communications with the rest of the world, and his colleagues onboard the space shuttle, as support and comfort.
The parallels between this movie and the lives of the Chronically Ill are breathtaking!
So many of us have struggled for years, no decades, feeling isolated, forgotten and abandoned. We struggle daily to survive and sustain the challenges that we encounter. Our existence is a series of hardships and obstacles in the fight to survive and go on.
We communicate with the rest of the world, a world that we can become quickly out of touch with and disconnected, mostly through the internet as we are often confined to our homes and our immediate environments. Our worlds can feel cold and hostile, just like the darkest corners of Mars. Our own little worlds feel a million miles from the rest of world every day.
The biggest difference is that there are no billion dollar budgets trying to rescue us from our fates. There isn’t a room full of the brightest and most eager scientists all devoted to saving us. They are not all working through the night to find a solution for our life threatening dilemma.
We do NOT have the hearts or the attention of the world focused on our plight. And we are not considered Heroes.
We will not have anything named after us and our names will never go down in history despite the incredible efforts we may accomplish each day.
A large amount of us will spend almost half our lives (or more) battling pain and many, many other symptoms, but that will not never be considered remarkable by most of the world.
There is a poignant moment when Mark Watney sits atop of a Martian cliff and looks across a barren martian landscape and the scene is focused on his isolation and lonely struggle. I recall having those feeling many times since being ill. They can happen in a room of people, a shopping mall, a doctors office, a hospital or almost anywhere. Anywhere there are people who have no idea about what my alien life is like and how hard it is just to exist in this planet.
In closing, another moving scene for me was when Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is talking to Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) and he is explaining that NASA and space exploration is “…bigger than one man…” and Mitch pauses and then replies “…no, no its not…”
I want to make sure that I do whatever I can the ensure the same is believed of all those fighting Chronic illnesses and Autoimmune Diseases… A belief that EVERY life matters and EVERY life counts.