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Illustration by Ruth Basagoitia

Ugh. You caught me. I should’ve known I wouldn’t get away with it. I mean, just look at me: my lipstick is flawless, my smile is bright, and if I’m using my cane, it’s coordinated with my outfit.

Real disabled people don’t wear makeup! They don’t care about looking cute! They use bulky, institutional canes. Where do I even get my shiny colorful canes, vanitycanes.lookatme*?

Clearly, I’m looking for attention.

Finding out last year that I have an incurable, genetic connective tissue disease that causes frequent joint dislocations and chronic pain is a dream come true.

Here are the top reasons I am absolutely, totally, completely, 100 percent faking my chronic illness.

*Use code “I-DON’T-GET-SATIRE” to save 10% at vanitycanes.lookatme

I relish the attention this nifty disease gets me. When I breezed through airport security in a wheelchair last Thanksgiving, I was energized — nourished even! — by the dirty looks from all you respectable, moral, able-bodied fliers who waited your turn standing in line.

I especially enjoyed the times when TSA employees asked questions about me in the third person to my husband while I sat there ignored.

It was also really fun when the TSA agent tried to “help” me by painfully ripping off my shoulder brace immediately after I asked her not to touch it.

When I was dropped at my gate, it was exhilarating watching you gasp in horror as I, lo and behold, used my legs to stand from said wheelchair, like a faker.

How dare I borrow a wheelchair from United Airlines (a chair they provide for people who, like me, cannot stand for long periods of time or walk through an airport without pain or injury)?

The constant airport attention was intoxicating. The hair on my head grew shinier and stronger as it absorbed your glares from behind while I hobbled to the bathroom.

As we all know, the only folks who need wheelchairs are para- and quadriplegics. If you can walk, you can walk all the time. Man, my con is going swimmingly!

Before I started faking my disability, I was a stand-up comic and my career was going okay.

I co-founded, co-produced, and co-hosted a popular Oakland comedy show called “Man Haters.” That show had an audience of over 100 monthly attendees, and got me SF Sketchfest bookings, 3 East Bay Express Best Comedy Show awards, and a feature in a comedy documentary on Viceland.

In addition to producing, I was performing stand-up several nights a week, and, after just a few years, was paying my rent and a couple of bills with comedy income. I even had a talent agent who regularly sent me to auditions in L.A.

I had found my path.

But as I now know, the attention of nightly audiences and awards is such a pedestrian means of glory.

So, instead, I got sick and quit stand-up, effectively abandoning the dream I’d dreamed since kidhood.

When I stopped performing, I turned to sickness and debilitating pain.

For much of 2018, I spent my days in bed. Ah, nothing beats the attention one gets from not being in the room where it happens. It was time to implement my master plan.

My long con had begun way back in 2016, when I got an IUD that made my already painful monthly cramps immediately turn into intense daily pain that shot from my uterus down my legs and settled in my feet, making it hurt with every step I took.

While enduring this fun new pain, I moved into a house infested with rat mites, carpet beetles, and clothes moths. I, of course, did not know this important info then, so for 18 months I was bitten nonstop by rat mites I couldn’t see, and was told by a male doctor that I had delusional parasitosis.

Now, this all sounds pretty awful, right? Pain with every step you take for months? Rat mite bites? Stuck living life in bed?

But remember, I made it all up.

You see, it’s funny to me to have people pity me and treat me like I’m crazy. I relish the lost opportunities, lost income, lost friends, lost fun — you get it!

I’m an evil sociopath con artist whose brilliant con was decimating life as I knew it.

By 2017, I was getting sick and injured so often, I stopped telling even my closest confidants — that’s how embarrassed I was by my clumsiness.

It was clearly my fault. I chain-smoked. I rarely slept. I had five jobs and worked 7 days a week.

I had constant, daily joint pain that over-the-counter pain relievers couldn’t help. I fell frequently. I was dizzy all the time, and once even passed out in the shower. I was itchy. I couldn’t sleep. Life was a nightmare.

My body was not my temple, but my dungeon.

But whatever, right? I was probably just being dramatic.

That’s why I invented hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), the genetic connective tissue disorder I was born with that causes my pain, injuries, digestive issues, fatigue, et cetera!

It’s my get-out-of-life-free card. If EDS were real, surely a doctor would have diagnosed me as a teenager, given my textbook symptoms, right?

Being an adult is hard and after 30-plus years doing it? I don’t wanna anymore.

So I made up this rare genetic illness to explain my laziness and life failures, and ta-da! Now I get to do whatever I want.

Well, not whatever I want. I don’t have the stamina for performing regularly anymore. And driving more than an hour or so hurts my knees, ankles, and hips too much.

And I still have debt and bills and responsibilities, so I still work, but hey, at least I’m not working 7 days a week anymore!

And at least I make a lot less money now and have a bunch of medical debt from last year! And I have a much less active social life and am still in chronic pain, and every day I devote massive amounts of time and energy to making my body feel somewhat normal and happy!

I am killing it!

As you can see, my evil plan has worked great.

Ash Fisher is a writer and comedian living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. When she’s not having a wobbly-baby-deer-day, she’s hiking with her corgi, Vincent. She lives in Oakland. Learn more about her on her website.