My Initiation and Rebirth: Binge-Watching The Walking Dead While Almost Becoming The Walking Dead

I was just recently ill for a very long ten days and in those ten days I watched 63 episodes of The Walking Dead (an American post-apocalyptic horror drama set in a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies, aka “walkers”). For a couch-bound ill person who can’t handle anything requiring brain power, binge watching a great series is a logical way to pass the time. My choice of series was interesting, however. I realized all too quickly that my constant headache and half-dead state were mirrored perhaps a little too closely by those walkers.

Obvious signs I have been initiated into the cult of The Walking Dead:

  • I immediately assessed how inept I would be post-apocalypse. Most obviously: I have very few survival skills such as making fires and hunting small rodents, I do not know how to repair automobiles, my medical training is lacking, I neither own guns nor have experience shooting them, I neither own a sword nor would be very graceful (at first) wielding one.
  • I then assessed ways I would be bad-ass post-apocalyse: I’m strong. I’m fast in short spurts. I lean way more toward bad-ass than coward. I’m naturally paranoid (in a way that is helpful to staying alive). I think ahead. I would never leave a friend behind. I’m a pretty accurate judge of character as long as I’m not trying to date the person.
  • I now see walkers everywhere (and they were even more pronounced through my haze of sick exhaustion). The grocery store near my house is known to host some strange characters; now I know many are walkers. I was following a woman who has clearly always had an awkward and lopsided gait. Walker. The old woman who I almost collided with turning the corner into the aisle who just stopped and stared at me, eyes glazed over; I stepped around her. Walker. The guy at self-checkout…beep…beep…beep…beep…beep…the rhythm steady, his back arched, eyes staring straight ahead. Walker.
  • As my wise friend Sarah warned: “You can also expect to assess every structure, neighborhood, and geographical location for survival probability, along with any new person you meet.” Truth. Every word.
  • Although I have real stress in my life and actual things to worry about, my greatest worry lately has been what would become of my animal companions. I think I’ll need to get a dual compartment backpack/baby carrier to hold my cat and small dog (who amount to about 25 pounds, which means I need to start lifting serious weight). My medium-sized dog will be a companion warrior obviously. The small dog: How do I get her to understand that barking will just draw them closer? Her early warning signals could serve to get us all killed. Any input on this matter would be greatly appreciated. You don’t see anyone in the show rolling with their companion animals, that’s all I’m saying. This is more distressing than the thought of the world being overrun with walkers.
  • My initiation into the cult of The Walking Dead has actually uplifted my faith in what is possible post-apocalypse. I know I would find myself among a tribe like Rick’s in which everyone looks out for each other. I might not be the last standing, but I’d have love and give love until the end.

 10 Days of Illness Can Only Portend a Rebirth

The illness didn’t come as any huge surprise. I’m under stress at work and I haven’t been taking great care of myself. Two nights before I came down with the plague, I’d gone for a massage at the inexpensive Chinese reflexology place I love. It was a great idea gone wrong. As it turns out, I hadn’t received any type of therapeutic touch in longer than I could remember. The poor guy, Tom, pretty much felt compelled to beat the crap out of me—he was working SO hard trying to loosen the cement of my upper back and shoulders. He even leaned over at one point and said in a concerned voice, “Why so tight?” It was painful in a way that almost made me tear up a couple times because of whatever emotions were hiding inside those muscly knots. I knew upon leaving that shit got stirred that I couldn’t unstir. And sure enough, I had a headache all the next day and two days later I left work early because of the onset of the plague.

The funniest thing about not feeling well was the way I could have entire conversations with myself using only the word “okay.”

For example, faced with the daunting task of getting dressed, I sat on my bed for a minute and gave myself a pep talk much like this: “Okay” (said with resolve, meaning “I can do this”). “Okay” (said as though it were already done, like, “I got this!”). “Okay!” (said with the false enthusiasm of a cheerleader, as in, “I can do this!”). I pulled on socks, pants, a shirt. “Okay” (said exhaustedly, meaning “Mission accomplished.”).

Pep talks like these were commonplace before attempting almost anything: making tea, getting more water, moving from the couch to the bed, feeding the animals, walking the dogs, etc. I knew that as long as I could still talk, though, I had not yet become a walker. My poor dogs, though. They would cock their heads to that magically cute 45-degree angle every time I said “okay.” They had no idea what I was talking about because usually “okay” is a good thing and precedes phrases like, “Wanna go for a walk?” and “Want some breakfast?”

My sense of vitality will return and it will feel like a rebirth…but it might still take a while. Today I noticed that my emotions are flushing out—anger and sadness most prominently. Tricky how physical things are never just physical and emotional things are never just emotional. But hey, at least I’m alive. Unlike the walkers, whose brain stems are firing despite no one being home, my brain and body will recover…and I will enjoy a couple more thrilling episodes of The Walking Dead before the season ends.

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