Private Choices, Private Defeats

“Well, you can take cyclosporine and it’ll go away, but that almost always causes liver damage. Or you can take the shots and inject yourself twice a week, but those have side effects too. Or you can try the phototherapy, which is like a tanning booth but you have to go three times a week.”

“For how long?” I asked.

“For a while.”

This is what my dermatologist told me. What my parents told me was “Have you called the dermatologist yet?” for the past two weeks, a polite parent-y way of saying “Nick, you look like shit”.

I has Psoriasis, an auto-immune condition where the immune attacks your skin causing it to try dry up and become red in patches or “plaques”. I had had some form of it on my scalp or behind my ear or sideburn for a while, but before filming, it had broken out all on my face, in red splotches.

I had finally now, at my parents’ urgance and at a low-tide for self-esteem, found myself at the Dermatologist’s office who offered me liver damage, stabbing myself on a day-to-day basis or long-term tanning.

I took the tanning.

But the first thing the doctor told me who she sent me to, was that he didn’t have a phototherapy box, but that it wouldn’t do me any good either.

“You know that has side effects too.” He told me. “You’re essentially tanning heavily, increasing your rate of skin cancer.”

He took a second look at me.

“Plus your scalp looks like the worst place and the tanning booth can’t get through that hair.”

He recommended the shots to me and I asked him the same question I’d asked my dermatologist.

“How long?”

“For, well, a long time. I don’t know what your other doctor told you, but this isn’t going away anytime soon. You have this forever. We can try to manage this but you’ll be on treatment for this for presumably the rest of your life.”

As I tried to imagine stabbing myself in the stomach with a needle twice-a-week for the rest of my life and tried to make peace with the idea of it, he informed me that the shots might also “expose any masked disesases or syndromes you might have”.

“Oh and you’ll have to get a TB test.” He told me.

I thought to myself– are of any of these side effects worse than having large scaly blotches all over your face and body? Aren’t all of them?

I tried calling my parents, the one’s who had so urged me to see the dermatologist in the first place for some solace or support, but neither one picked up their phones


1. “You need to cut out the bus scene, it doesn’t make sense.”

2. “I love the bus scene, it’s so visceral. But that classroom scene, we don’t need that.”

3. “You should restructure the movie so that it all takes place in one moment of flash-back: and repeat that bus scene between every other.”

4. You should just cut it all so that it goes faster. Or slower.”

These were all comments I got on my movie yesterday, at least excerpts from the intelligible ones.

And here I was thinking I had a pretty cool rough cut.

What I’ve found in editing my movie and showing cuts is that everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to change the film while they still can.

Wanting to change it when they can’t, that’s the role of the critic–but here they see opoortunity and they rush in.

People have great suggestions, lots of interesting things to say–and they’re all completely contradictory.

Not their individual comments mostly (I’m really the one with a propensity for self-contradtion), rather everyone’s comments facing each other are like that, fighting each other, doing wrestling-matches in my mind.

The frustrating thing is that seems impossible to heed anyone, since heading one person’s comments will inevitably invalidate 4 others and all of this of course completely leaves out how I see the film.

During all this mix, I tried to set up my files to show, only to find that my project file was missing and my editor was sitting on an apple box in suburban Jersey sans internet.

I began a new video game yesterday too, and by new I mean old one, since I’ve been replaying games I’ve played once. A teacher saw me waiting for an elevator with my video games and asked me why I wasn’t editing.

“Four people feel eight different ways about my film and my editor’s in bum-fuck Jersey. I have a headache and all I want is to slash things.”

That shut him up appropriately and the elevator arrived.


This morning, I was without breakfast and mustered spite to match.

As I looked at my email and noticed the third email I had gotten in two weeks regarding missed reading journals, not asking me if I’d like to make them up mind you, just telling me that there was nothing I could do about them but fuck you–I decided to do something.

Sometimes, my righteous anger is spurred and I decided to take dramatic action. To try to change the system. To make a stand.

It was my last one of these silly, fucking classes. I was going to stand up and read my speech and decry how stupid the system was in which they assigned us work, how disorganized and uneffective. I would speak to the others in the class who also had missed work unfairly and received the same ultimatum. I would try to speak for those who couldn’t speak, because I was a graduating senior and had nothing to lose.

I wrote my speech. I finished it and even though the internet went out half-way-through, I fished around my slap-dash apartment looking for a jump-drive till I found one to go print. I sent my dad the speech and asked him if it was a good idea, only to have him tell me to “try to be nice.”

Nice! Shit! Were these people nice threatening me menacing emails about grade-deduction? Were these people nice about assigning such a work-load in the fist place? Fuck no. This wasn’t about being nice.

But when I got to the classroom that’s what everyone was. And as I sat down and listened, I realized that no one in the class was even remotely interested in what I was planning to do. They all just seemed happy and a bit checked out, heading for summer. A few of them were even talking about GREs optimistically. The teacher was even sunnier and the TA who had been such a bitch to me offered me cake if I came to the last recitation.

In the end, I didn’t give the speech at all. I handed a copy of what I would have read to the professor and scrawled my email on the back with the same class pen I used to sign the attendance sheet. She thanked me profusely as if I were giving her a Mother’s Day present as opposed to a scathing indictment of the class.

And all I could think as I walked out the door was how childish it all was. The letter, the speech, the stand. I won’t even be at the school in two weeks. There’s nothing to change. No one to stand up to. Just a childish pride to satisfy. Really all of it though can be seen that way, the skin-care, the movie, the speech: all of it belies a lack of agency or knowledge of the real world, of ability to cope and capacitate. In every situation, there’s an attempt at retreat to the realm of childhood, when the real world, with its consequences and rituals, looms.

And everyone still asks me whether I’m excited to graduate. Again. And again.

3 Responses to Private Choices, Private Defeats

  1. Chadd says:


  2. Lisa says:

    See the other dermatologist and don’t worry. It’s the stress of filming that brought it out. Try to feel better.

  3. Langston says:

    Psoriasis sucks, I have it too. Really, there’s not much you can do according to western medicine except use tanning and other treatments that both cause cancer or skin thinning or various other unpleasant side-effects over long term use. However, according to some holistic health people and the website or whatever its called a lot of it has to do with maintaining an alkaline diet, not drinking alcohol, exercising regularly and going to a chiropractor to get spinal adjustments. There’s actually a really good book I used for awhile that significantly decreased my psoriasis called Healing Psoriasis (great title, right?) by Dr. Pagano. The regimen is a little intense but I think its worth it if you’re really committed to kicking it. It takes about 2-3 months to see a difference and 5-6 months to be permanent but it varies from person to person. In the meantime the symptoms can be treated with the injection/cream fun which actually aren’t that bad for you if you only are using them for a year or so.

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