Thank You, Dear Evan Hansen (A Musical That Saved My Life.)

To All The Cast & Creative Team Ever Involved In Dear Evan Hansen

This may be long, but I truly hope you all can read this.

Now I may not be your biggest or most die hard fan but I have a story that is worth being told.  My name is Sean Smith, I’m twenty-eight years old from a little town in Michigan named Holt. I am not like most people on the outside and that’s where my story starts. I am in a wheelchair because I was born with the disability Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which is a brittle bone disorder.  This disability causes my bones to be very fragile, also shorter in stature, softer and somewhat deformed. I also have (connected) restricted lung disease, scoliosis, asthma, sleep apnea and recently to add to the list, Epilepsy. Needless to say this makes life a bit difficult.

School for any child can be incredibly rough.  Like Evan, I felt like a completely invisible person except for the barrage of incredible bullying I faced every day. I was treated like a second rate citizen, ignored or shredded apart for things I could never change.  I can’t change my bones, how I look or my disabilities.  I didn’t have any mental problems, it wasn’t like I couldn’t talk to someone and show them I wasn’t something to fear or make fun of. I didn’t get that chance and I developed severe depression. Without going into too much detail, I will say I attempted suicide a few times in high school but I’m so lucky I’m still here today. As an adult now I’m struggling with keeping the depression and self harming thoughts at rest. I go out in public and I’m laughed at, pointed at, treated like a second rate citizen. I’m talked to slowly or just completely ignored.  I lost work, can’t find a new job and am facing new life threatening illnesses.

The potentially life threatening thing I spoke of is new and started when I lost my job at the Michigan Senate, lost my health insurance and then in March of 2017 I suffered two grand mal seizures. These seizures, mixed with my brittle bone disorder, caused 4 bone fractures in which two were so bad I had reconstructive surgery on my left forearm. I was on life support and now I have lost most functionality in my left arm. I’ve already spent my life in a wheelchair and now all that I could do was mostly stripped from me as I have only one hand I can use.  My passions I developed such as playing guitar, acting and most of my independence is gone.

I had an MRI that found spots of bleeding in my brain and a small growth. I have spent months of my life working to find answers and assistance. I have a lawyer and advocates still trying to get me disability payments and I’m still trying to find orthopedic doctors who will look at someone with my disorder. I don’t know what my prognosis is yet, what definitively caused my seizures and if I’ll regain the use of my left arm completely.   Then, Monday, February 5th 2018, I went into the hospital via an ambulance after having a petite gran mal seizure from having influenza A. I was admitted with a severe blood co2 level among other things like being observed for neurotic reasons. On that night, at 2:04 in the morning, I coded and was in complete cardiac and respiratory arrest. My family was pulled away and were told I had no pulse and the nurse wasn’t hopeful.

I miraculously was revived after 8 minutes lifeless on the hospital bed. I woke up two days later with a breathing and feeding tube. I had multiple bone fractures as well and was being kept sedated by propofol and under heavy pain medication. Doctors worked hard to figure what if anything could bring me back to normal or if I’d even be able to speak again. Now I am off life support and breathing on my own and just returned home today. Somehow, I am on the mend it appears. I am broken, sick, confused and frankly I’m feeling depressed and disgusted with the cards of my life but I am still here. With my brittle bones, any seizure could be fatal and with all last year, it doesn’t look good. 

Then I saw/heard Dear Evan Hansen and my entire life has changed.  The story of someone struggling with what Evan does connects with me so well, even though it isn’t the same, the feelings are very similar and resonate within my heart.  The notion of being invisible, loving someone and not feeling worth the time of day to someone is something I felt everyday. I used to make fun of myself all the time and just shut myself off to the world just so no one would do it to me. 

Dear Evan Hansen hit me like a ton of bricks.  Music and theater have always been a huge passion of mine but every lyric and note in this show was exactly what I needed to hear.  I’ve changed since I heard it in a way I didn’t know possible.  I have found inspiration to be somebody, to be proud of who I am and to actually want to live.  Each person involved should be proud because I know I’m just one person out of millions that was helped by this show.

Now because of my disability – traveling to New York is not possible. I don’t have the funds or even a reliable vehicle to get me there.  I fear I’ll never fully see the show nor can I even afford to own a shirt or cast recording.  However I’m saying thank you, to you all for saving my life.  The first time I heard Waving Through A Window my depression was at an all time high and after that night, I was alive.

I owe you all so much – my dream is to see the show or own an autograph but let’s be realistic, I’m just wanting you all to know my story.  You save lives every day on that stage and I can’t believe this world is blessed enough to have what you do available.

I send you thanks for your talent and for saving my life, literally. With a sincere heart, I give you all I am and know that I will push on and live for what I dream, all because you do what you dream.

Sincerely,

Me. (Sean Anthony Smith)

P.S. – If anyone wants to help via my GoFundMe or contact me, I’ll put both things under this

https://www.gofundme.com/seans-medical-recovery-fund-2018

Email – sean@themindofsean.com

Twitter/Instagram – @SeanDoesComics

 

Creation is a Savior

Admittedly – this blog is going to ramble, it’s late so give me a break.  It may seem to go in different directions too but if you read until the end, you’ll see the point…hopefully.

I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta which is a brittle bone disorder I’ve had since birth.  I am in a wheelchair and have to be extremely careful doing practically everything I do.  I need assistance with a lot of daily activities including getting dressed, toiletry, driving and much more.  Growing up I stayed indoors and couldn’t really go be with the other kids as much, seeing as I couldn’t go out and play.   Once I reached high school  I was unable to go hang at parties or football games…I was stuck at home, constantly in and out of hospitals. Not exactly Mr. Popular in the world of the teenage social hierarchy.

I say this not for pity but because I have always felt that these problems were weights on me, that I was unable to ever truly live a full life because of them.  I felt cheated out of what people call a normal childhood and yet I have recently come to terms with the fact that my disability gave me the exact opposite.

Being stuck inside and unable to do so much allowed me to discover my passions and develop the skills I did have instead of constantly dwelling on what I thought I wanted to do simply because others were doing it.  My disability gave me a filter to see the world through, a filter hard to explain but powerful nonetheless.   Every day growing up I was the victim of severe bullying by my peers and even some faculty of the schools that I went to.  Physically and mentally I was tormented and though they beat me down the best they could,  I eventually learned to use it as fuel.  I’ve developed severe suicidal depression, I attempted it three times and felt horrible for the longest time.  I will go into that more in another post but my childhood/teenage years of bullying and depression were more serious than I can say here. Though over time, I learned that for every limitation my disability gave me, I had talents in other areas I could develop.

I read as many books as I can and fell in love with the different worlds and the people that inhabited them, I lived through the pictures and words until I decided to try and make them myself.  I began by writing stories and drawing my own comic books, to eventually acting in my own self written & directed films.  I even learning to play several instruments.  The whole time that others I knew were out being kids and beating me down for who I was, I was at home creating and studying how to get better at what I could do.

I dove deep into comics, watched Star Wars thousands of times by now and also immersed myself in the wonders of musical theater.  Shows like Wicked, RENT, Next to Normal and Dear Evan Hansen told stories the demanded to be told. performers ranging from Patti Murin, Julia Murney, Caissie Levy, Zachary Levi, J. Robert Spencer, Ben Platt and Laura Benanti to name a few personified the word talent that inspired me to literally stay alive.  Performing stories of wonder, mystery, desire and pain.  Things I felt and talent I dreamed of having. These people I wish knew how much they meant to me and how much I desire to shake their hand.

It was also the work of Kevin Smith that also saved my life. In fact, I can probably just speak on behalf of Kevin Smith by now.  I remember that I was 13 years old the first time I saw Clerks.  I was captivated that a movie could be so raw and real, that a plot can seem so basic and at the same time so entertaining because it was grounded in normality.  The dialog was smart, witty and the characters struggled with huge issues that were tackled in small, manageable examples. They spoke of things I loved, Star Wars and “nerdy” things…I was inspired deeply and to this day the things that Kevin Smith does in all forms of entertainment push me to my limits.  His comic books, podcasts, movies, all give me entertainment but also the constant reminder to do what I love without apology.

I was suicidal for so long but without that inspiration, especially who I’ve mentioned, finding my passion and learning how to escape, I would not be here today.  I am unique and I wouldn’t be okay with that or comfortable without them. No matter what others said, I had a passion and voice that I could use. I learned the world was huge and I wasn’t alone. There were others like me and there was no reason I couldn’t live my dreams too.

Them and so many other creators made me confident in that the real world wasn’t the end all.  Imagination itself could help me escape and that by creating things myself, somehow I could help someone find their place in the world.

I could see that for everything I couldn’t do, I could do something others maybe struggled with.  I am now an avid creator in any medium I can and live often within these created worlds.  The reality of life is dark but we can change it.   So much hatred fills the hearts of the population but we can create our own shared worlds and enjoy the escape it gives us.  We can visit the worlds of our imagination and be free of our limitations, take that peace we find, bring it back to reality and harness it.

I ask this to anyone struggling to find their place for any reason all, what do you love? Where do you find peace and where can you find joy in a world that maybe works to bring you down?   There is nothing nerdy about comic books, movies, stories or anything like that.  Nothing wrong with writing and creating new worlds or maybe just collecting toys from your favorite franchise.  If you want to dress up like Deadpool at a convention, do it.  These things are made because life is hard and we need to never stop our imagination from giving us harmony in the midst of chaos.

I owe my life to the creators of the world.   My depression still comes back but it would have consumed me completely without many that followed their passions.  That includes all I’ve mentioned before especially but not also the following people

  • George Lucas
  • Jim Lee
  • Todd McFarlane
  • Stan Lee
  • Kevin Smith
  • George Romero
  • Jonathan Larson
  • Quentin Tarantino

And SO many others.

These people went out and took the risks of living a life on the edge of normality and created worlds we all could escape to.  Everybody has problems, mine just came in the form of a disability you can see.  Yours might be that or a broken family, a lost love, social injustice, bullying…so many things can beat us down that are out of our hands. Truth is though, we all have some talent.  You don’t have to create yourself to find your future in creation. Movies, books, comics, songs…truly anything can be that needed escape.  For someone like me, I used it to find my calling in being a creator myself.  It allowed me to see past my disability and let my passions rule me.  For others it could be as simple as a smile on a bad day.  Either way, these creations shape the future through the hearts of so many. A future we can all work to make better.

I end this by saying to all reading – never let your passions die nor be ashamed in what you love or what may bring you down. Don’t let differences be a burden,  be proud of who you are and what you love.  If you want to create, go for it, no one can stop you but yourself.  Love as hard as you can and share compassion with others, enjoy simple things in a complex world full of hate. You are different but you are strong, we are powerful and there is hope.  Let’s continue to create, to find our strengths and use whatever passions we have to make the world better.  Our differences are our greatnesses – celebrate what makes us unique and the passions we share. Dive into an art or create one if you’d like.  The possibilities are limitless.

‘Nuff said.