Sick and Surrounded by TV Doctors

A bad flu-like reaction to my second shingles vaccine over the weekend gave me an excuse to do what I’ve been doing too much of lately, which is watching back-to-back reruns of the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s so old that it’s new again.

On regular network TV, you have to wait a week between episodes. Plus you’ve got commercial breaks to wash dishes, knit a few rows, or talk to the other person in the room—or the dog if there isn’t a person. Now, on Netflix, it’s not even five seconds before the next episode starts, so you don’t have time to think about what else you could/should be doing. The show begins, you’re hooked again, and you think, well, maybe I’ll watch one more. I have to see if that guy with the pole through his chest survives.

This is messing up my mind. I dream about the doctors and the patients—the pole guy, the one with the pencil in his eye, the kid buried in cement, the conjoined twins, the violinist who can’t play anymore, the lady whose arm was hacked off. I see all those open chests with exposed hearts and blood spurting all over the surgeons’ yellow gowns.

I’m not getting any exercise when I’m watching. Not unless the phone rings, which is rare, or someone comes to the door, which they don’t because there’s a pandemic happening.

These characters are in my head. Most days, I’m not seeing any other people, except for writers on Zoom screens. The TV people are a lot prettier and more interesting. I’m fascinated by Meredith, Christina, Izzy, George, Alex, Bailey, the Chief, Derrick, Sloane, Calli, and the rest. Even though I know they’re actors, and I know they’re much older now, they’re more real to me than anybody else because I see them more often.

Boy, they have a lot of sex for people who work so many hours.

I’m a writer. I need to see real people living real lives. Otherwise, everything I write is going to sound like “Grey’s Anatomy.” But it’s still not quite safe to travel or hang out in groups.

When my husband Fred was dying, I watched “Little House on the Prairie” from start to finish on DVDs from Netflix. It comforted me. We all want to have parents like Ma and Pa and live in a small town where everybody loves each other. But the mechanics of the DVD required a pause between episodes, and you only got so many in an envelope. You couldn’t binge till your brains fell out.

This is not my first binge show. I watched umpteen episodes of “McLeod’s Daughters,” an Australian show about women cattle-ranching in the outback. Like “Grey’s,” it was best in the early years before the cast started changing and the plot got so convoluted it stopped making sense. But it was good.

I watched “Orange is the New Black” till I decided it was just too upsetting. I watched “Downton Abbey,” “The Crown,” “Call the Midwife,” “Grace and Frankie,” and “The Gilmore Girls.” I binged on “The Ranch,” in which almost every line included the F-word, but it had Sam Elliott and Ashton Kutcher. Binge-watching is so much easier than actually doing something, like calling an actual friend.

I try to tell myself it’s like reading a book I can’t put down, but I think there’s something more than that happening psychologically in this era of pandemic isolation, and I suspect it isn’t healthy. Check out “Three Ways TV Affects Your Health.”

Netflix offers 16 seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” There are so many episodes I could literally sit here for a month doing nothing but watching that one show. Friends keep recommending other TV shows and movies, but my fingers keep selecting “Grey’s.”

I used to stream my shows on my 7-inch Kindle Fire. While Annie was in the dog hospital in December, a friend gave me a smart TV. What a beautiful gift, but I am so hooked.

The other day, I caught my dog staring at the screen as if she was really paying attention. Seriously? Is she hooked, too?

What are you all binging on?

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TV finales leave me with PTSD

I’m traumatized. In the last week, I have gone through so much: gunshots, car accidents, falling in love, breaking up, rape, beatings, standing ovations, singing with Elton John, a C-section without anesthesia, getting hired, getting fired, dancing with the stars, and having sex—so much sex. I have traveled by plane, train, car, bicycle, and on foot. I’ve spent a lot of time in New York, but I have also gotten soaked in the rain in Seattle, sung on a stage in Nashville, and ridden with cops through the streets of Chicago. I have said goodbye to so many friends this week, and I have cried an ocean of tears.

And that’s just on TV. Season finale week, oy.

No wonder I can’t get up in the morning. I have been through so much. I need that kind old lady in the book I’m reading to bring me some of her blueberry muffins and give me a hug. I need her to tuck me in and tell me everything will be all right. Where is she? And where is the best friend who always appears on the TV shows?

I watch a lot of prime time TV, probably too much. Last week, I watched the series finales of “Castle,” “Nashville” and “Mike and Molly.” I watched the season finales of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Mom.” Oh, and last week with “Madame Secretary,” I almost got fired and we almost had a war and . . . it never stops. On the cop shows, someone gets murdered every episode. Once an hour, we see some hapless man or woman get stabbed, shot, strangled, beaten or poisoned. On the last “Castle,” they burned a guy up in the trunk of a car. And they shot both Castle and Beckett.

How can I sleep after that? How can I wake up and go on with my life?

I have been through so much.

Now, I know this is all fiction, but I’m starting to wonder how much this affects the viewer. How much stays in one’s mind and body as if it happened to them personally? Do we suffer PTSD from all this fictional trauma? Can one’s subconscious distinguish between real events and fictional ones?

God knows, I have cried after happy movies where true love wins when I look around and discover that my husband is still dead and I’m still living alone and I don’t look half as pretty as the heroine in the movie. I’ll never be young, beautiful, uber talented and famous like Scarlett on “Nashville.” My books will never sell like Castle’s. I will never be able to eat ice cream from the carton or drink gallons of booze like the women on “Grey’s Anatomy” and not gain weight. My phone does not ring with amazing opportunities every two minutes. Handsome men are not pursuing me. Reality does not match up.

So I bury myself in my shows. But I go through so much. And now, as soon as the show is over, I go online to read the reviews and recaps and watch clips of the most dramatic moments because I don’t want to let them go. Living on the West Coast, I can read what the columnists have already written based on the East Coast showings. After the “Castle” finale, I had to know: Did Beckett and Castle die? After “Nashville” ended, I needed someone to sum it all up for me because so much happened. Poor Rayna and Deacon. Poor Scarlett. What was Juliette thinking sleeping with the “Dancing with the Stars” guy? And thank God Cole wasn’t killed. It just a concussion. I mean, so much.

Now that the season finales have happened, what will I do every night? How will I live until September? Am I the only one who is this nuts? Please comment. Tell me I’m not alone. Be gentle. I have been through so much.