Meet Chris Otcasek, a comedic writer who proves that writing really can save lives. It saved his, after all. But, I’ll let Chris tell you all about it. From a young boy struggling to breathe, to a stand-up comic, to a comedic blogger, Chris proves how a writer’s craft really can be as importing as breathing.
It is said that to a writer, writing is as important as breathing. Which is to say, one must write to live. This is an interesting sentiment when you analyze it a little deeper. Do you really need to write to live? Or is writing just something very important to you, and the thought of not putting your thoughts down on paper is repulsive? Broken down, it becomes an interesting question.
Frankly, becoming a writer is the easiest thing to do. All you must do is look in the mirror and say, “Today, I am a writer,” and then go write something. This is great because it allows for so many to join in the creative endeavors. In my time on this blue and green rock, I have met many writers. Memories, poems, stories, and history are just some of the many thing’s folks like to write. I prefer humor. The thought of making others smile and laugh fills me with joy. Whatever one writes, the original question still remains: Do you need to write to live?
I ask this because many writers tell me they just can’t find the time to write. I understand this, but I sincerely hope they find the time to breathe. For me, it is different. Writing saved my life, and now if I didn’t write, I would die. Let me tell you the story.
I was born with asthma in a time when most people didn’t understand it. As a result I was bullied and ostracized for not being able do run as fast or work as hard as everyone else. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” It’s a lie that which does not kill us gives us one more thing to avoid. For me, that became everything. This continued throughout my working life.
I learned two lessons from my early life. The first was to laugh at myself. Everyone else was laughing at me, so I figured I should join the crowd. The second was that no matter what, I needed to work harder than everyone else just to be half as good. This was admittedly stupid, but I tried to do it anyway. Peer pressure was alive and well. To compensate for all my shortcomings after college, I became a comedian. I actually got pretty good at making people laugh at me. But, my handicap slapped me in the face once again. I found I couldn’t talk after about fifteen minutes without going into a coughing fit. This was fine for amateur nights, but if you’re going to tour you need to do twenty to forty-five. I went out once, and it was a disaster. I had to come home and get a real job.
I wasn’t terribly successful in the world of work either, but I managed to put in my twenty or so years, get married, and have a family. Then, about ten years ago, I found out just how bad my asthma was. I was given several medications over the years but things didn’t improve. Consequently, neither did I. Then five years ago I found out I had a genetic disease called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. This is a liver disease which causes the liver to stop making a protein the lungs need to protect themselves, and it makes an odd protein that clogs the liver. There is no cure. My lungs have large holes in them, and once a week a nurse comes to my house and gives me a transfusion of proteins to protect me from further damage.
When I found out about all this, I was despondent. I sat and cried for days. I had to change jobs to something less physical. Then after a little while, that new job let me go because I couldn’t stand with customers. I can’t even talk for more than ten minutes, so I couldn’t get work in retail or a call center. I was forced to go on disability after being employed since I was twenty-two. It was the worst time of my life. The one thing I knew was that if I sat down and let myself be disabled, as my illness and several doctors told me to do, I would never get back up. I would, as the saying goes, just get old. My attitude grew worse.
Then I remembered the lessons from my early life: Try harder and laugh. It was not easy, and I still have some very bad times and mornings when I sob for a few minutes, but then I get up. First, I needed a job. The job I selected for myself was to write a blog. I would post once a week, so I could maintain a high quality. Next, I decided the blog had to be humorous, a reason to laugh. I would beat all those detractors from the past. I would laugh first and best. They would laugh with me…not at me. In my mind and heart. My job became just as important as any other I ever had. My family check in on me to make sure I’m working, and sometimes they help me with subjects when I am blocked. Sometimes it’s very hard work, and like any job, I can hate it sometimes. But, writing it gives me purpose. And, the greater I focus on it the better I feel. It’s even changed over the years. I now have to make sure I create a picture that goes with my weekly post, as well as find time to record it into a podcast. The more work it is, the less time I have for sadness.
You will never hear any of this in my blog because I choose not to mention it. Many people love to share their journey through their darkest times. I’m not judging them, but that’s not for me. I refuse to say anything related to it because my writing has become a sanctuary. My disease doesn’t exist inside my blog world. Thanks to my followers, it has worked. I have found a happy place inside the virtual world of Mr. Ohhs!’s Sideways View. Come laugh with me. All are welcome from the whole world. My goal is to see a smile on everyone’s face and nothing else. This is the payment for a job well done.
You can do it too. Look into yourself and create what you need. Stop mentioning what is sad about you and turn yourself into a happy person. Laugh on!
Before I end this, I’d like to say a bit more about Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. It is a rare genetic disease. As I said there is no cure. What the Alphas need is blood proteins. These come from plasma donations. It takes twenty-five donations for me to get one dose of my infusion medication and I get an infusion once a week. I am not alone. Blood and plasma donations are very important and lifesaving to people like myself. Please considering donating this part of yourself to save many lives.
Also, the Alpha-1 Foundation is searching for a cure. If you would like to know more about this you can go to Alpha1.org.
Meet the Author
Chris Otcasek is a strong advocate of world laughter and goes straight to that fight by entertaining children with songs, a little magic, some jokes, and costumes. An avid storyteller, he also works in community theaters writing, directing, and performing. He is the head writer of a local Cleveland murder mystery troupe, and was a stand up comedian at one time. He has also been caught dancing to the music in his head. He has 3 wonderful children that provide him with a constant source of hugs and inspiration. His lovely wife, whom he loves more than life itself, listens when he rambles, laughs at his jokes, and puts up with his goofiness. What more could anyone ask for?
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