I love to tell jokes about my asthma. I love to make it sound like I am one wheeze away from being the poster kid for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and that I am the bravest person I know for surviving a very common and manageable lung condition.
My mom is not amused.
When I was a little girl, I was actually pretty sick. I had to be hospitalized once for pneumonia when I was two and rushed to the emergency room several other times throughout my toddler-hood. One parent or the other was always getting up with me in the middle of the night to help me use my nebulizer (like a vaporizer full of medicine), get my inhalator for me or deal with my psychotic, stimulant-induced dreams and nightmares. At one point, I was on 16 different medications at a time.
My parents used to crush up steroids and put them on ice cream, banana pudding, marshmallows. This was to help me take the pills without the danger of my choking. It was also completely disgusting. Even though I was very little, I’ll never forget sitting at our kitchen table and having my mom try to convince me that “medicine” was a flavor of ice cream. To this day, I can swallow any pill with minimal water, a skill acquired during this critical stage in my life where I constantly felt like my parents were trying to poison my favorite desserts.
I was so hopped up on pills that my mom had to make a behavior modification chart with small stickers as a reward for one night with no more than three “ups” and no fits. A whole week full of good behavior was rewarded with a big pink ballerina sticker, the thought of which sadly still gives me a sense of accomplishment.
The chart has become fodder for many jokes over the years, especially because my father is a psychologist. I’ve been compared to Pavlov’s Dog, regular well-trained dogs, and Simon, Mike Myers’ beloved hyperactive British child character from the Golden Age of SNL. People who think I’m high maintenance now are always amused by the fact that my parents had to actually bribe me so that they could get some sleep.
At the beginning of the year I had a small panic attack about all the things I need to accomplish over the next six months. The Awesome Opossum came to my rescue by ordering me to make a list, with deadlines to help make sense of my goals. I decided to take it a small step further. I made a chart…with stickers. And I am right on schedule.