Article written by Melissa Swanson*
Please click here to read A Happy Seven Part 1.
"You know it's a good movie if you're crying at the end,
but if you're crying five minutes in, then you know it's a great movie." ~ Melissa
“A Happy Seven is an experimental short film about fibromyalgia, an invisible nervous system disorder that affects roughly 10 million people around the world. The film seeks to offer hope and support to fibro fighters everywhere and an empathetic awareness of their struggles for those of us who do not personally suffer from this awful disorder.”
I was fortunate to attend both the premier A Happy Seven. Sophie is a talented filmmaker and the actors were amazing. The film is approximately 17 minutes long and yet I felt I had just watched a full length feature film. Sophie has asked me if I would go up on stage with the cast after the showing to talk about the movie and the NFMCPA. I am a talker, this wouldn’t be a problem. This was before watching the film. I was surrounded by friends and thought I was prepared to watch it. I remember after the first showing being handed the microphone to talk. I told the audience that I should have spoke before I saw the film because I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.
Tessa Meath is not just a cast member and sister of the director of A Happy Seven, she is the reason that the film was made.
Tessa is 19 year old female who can't remember a point when she didn’t feel “sick”. “One of my earliest memories of realizing what I felt was pain, I was watching a movie with my family, and one of the characters in the movie said they had a bad headache, and were going to lie down. I remember being so confused by that. Didn't they always have a headache?, I thought. You always have a headache. It doesn't stop. Why would a that make them need to lie down? It frustrated me.” ~ Tessa
She has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic migraines, patellar misalignment, plantar fasciitis, hypertension, hypermobility, restless leg syndrome, a score of hypersensitivities and "bad lungs."
Melissa: How do you feel about having a film made because of you?
Tessa: Honestly, I'm still speechless. When my sister first mentioned the idea, that she wanted to make a film about fibromyalgia, I was touched. The fact that she wanted to understand how I felt so much that she would put so much work into...it's incredible. I am so lucky with her. Now that A Happy Seven is made, the premier has come and gone and now it's out there in the world, touching lives that I'll never know...that is unfathomable. My sister's care meant the world to me, but now it's blessing so many more people than we know. It's beautiful.
Tessa: When people ask about A Happy Seven, they usually say something like "So it's about you, right?" And my answer is no. It's really not about me. I'm not Nora, and Sophie isn't Margo...we wrote about what we know, and we know our relationship, and we know our life experiences, but it's not about us. It's about thousands of people who have to live fighting alone, and situations they have to face time after time after time. It's not about me. It's about all of us.
Melissa: What is the most asked question about your health or the film?
Tessa: The question I get asked about myself most is "What should I do?" "What can I do to help?" And I almost hate this question because I don't have an answer for you. I'm still learning so much about how to take care of myself, but even if I could accurately predict everything my body would do, there's still not much that anyone can do. All I know how to ask for is for you to just care, but don't worry. I'll be fine, I promise.
Melissa: How accurate is the film to the way people react around you?
Tessa: Of course we had to make some generalization, we had to take snapshots of a life instead of a full picture. But I've been in all of those situations. I've dealt with all of those reactions and faced those challenges. I think anyone with fibromyalgia, or broader than that, anyone who struggles with some kind of chronic illness can relate. Maybe not verbatim, maybe the roles or the context was different, but we've all faced those challenges.
What did the audience think?
“I found the movie "The Happy Seven" to be very deep. It is rich with valuable information on fibromyalgia and the effect it has on family and friends. Sometimes it is shown with just the slightest movement or just sounds. The reactions of friends of the sufferer further as acceptance and denial are normal steps toward making a place for illness. Lots built into this movie by Sophie and crew. The movie tugs on your heartstrings.”
Beth Hinneberg~ support group leader
“I also heard a LOT of crying, sniffling, and even a sob at one point. The connection in that theater was as palpable as every ounce of pain brought on by this disorder. I feel confident in saying that we all felt that energy.”
“So many people with fibro feel alone and misunderstood, and with this film, you showed those people that they are NOT alone. You want to understand and hear them; you want to use the connections formed through this film to help people. I wish I could express just how much that means, not only to each individual fibro sufferer but also to the fibro community as a whole. I certainly know it means a lot to me.” ~ Courtney Marti
“How can we get a copy?”
“I want to show it to my family & friends”
"It hurt me just to watch people touch her."
"I can't stop crying."
"I used to be a hugger, but since I got fibro, I'm not anymore. And I just want to hug everyone here."
"My favorite scene was the one where she was lying in bed in so much pain, aching all over, just miserable because everything hurts. It was absolutely right. I've had so many days like that. As I was watching I thought, 'the only thing missing is the tears.' And then the tears started. You can't even control it -- all the sudden your eyes just start to leak because there's nothing you can do."
"That line about it being all in your head? I've heard that so many times."
What is in the future for A Happy Seven?
The big question everyone wants to know is “How can I get a copy?” Sophie is just as excited for everyone to see it as we are to be able to show it to our family and friends. She is crossing her T’s and dotting her I’s to make sure that everything will be ready for a release. She is hoping to schedule it to show in theatres across the United States and make CD’s available for those of us who would like a copy. I promise, when I know - you will know!
*About the Author - Melissa Swanson
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author. Through her Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life Facebook page and blog, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 17,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition, Melissa is a writer for ProHealth.com and the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association’sAdvocate Voice newsletter.
ChronicPainDisorders.com and Healthline have both named Melissa’s blog as one of the Best Fibromyalgia Blogs. Healthline says, “This Blog has just about everything you need to read on the pain and exhaustion brought on by the illness. Look for treatments, must-reads, facts, and more. This married, full-time working mom is a true warrior against the debilitations of fibro.”
Melissa is a graduate of the Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training, sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, and the International Fibromyalgia Coaching Institute. She is a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network. Melissa works with clients as a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor helping them learn tools to live with the chronic illness fibromyalgia. If you’re looking for a cheerleader to be in your corner with a little bit of “tough love” when needed, Melissa is the one for you. She understands the struggles of trying to balance family life and work while living with the challenges of fibromyalgia and its evil sidekicks.