Bookish Musings: A Surprising Similarity Between Vampirism and Chronic Illness

 
 

So I’ve had an epiphany about vampires. I thought I’d discuss said epiphany here, though this is a more personal sort of post than what I normally do for discussions, drawing more on my own experiences and thoughts and feelings. We’ll see how it goes! Maybe I’ll try to do more deep dive kinda discussions in the future.


I was thinking about chronic illness and how, in some ways, I still feel like I’m 19 or 20 years old because that was when my chronic illness started. About a year after that, I basically became housebound, and I never got to experience all of the adult life transition sorts of things other people do in their twenties. And yet, there’s another part of me that is actually 30 and has had these ten years of experience and has changed and matured, just in a different way. (Hell, a part of me feels far older than 30, but I don’t know how relevant that is to this discussion.)

And then I got to thinking about vampires. Because I read a lot of vampire books, and I’ve often thought about how they are portrayed, whether they actually seem like they are the age they are, what they might actually be like in terms of personality, emotion, maturity, etc. What I seem to come across most often is a portrayal in which the character mostly comes across as the age they look, aka the age at which they were turned.

And I realized, the fictional experience of being turned into a vampire is a similar situation, in some ways, to the real life experience of becoming disabled or having your disability reach a point where you become housebound or bed-bound (for me and some people, at least, though I can’t speak for everyone). In both situations, you are, usually quite suddenly, kind of removed from society and the life you knew. Life continues to go on for those around you, but for you it kind of stagnates, and you’re not really part of it anymore.

Again, I’m not saying this is how every disabled person’s experience is. I’m also not trying to downplay disability by saying becoming a vampire would actually be the same. (If only!) And perhaps many people feel kind of stuck at a certain age, or, at least, I think many people still feel mentally like they’re far younger than they really are. Perhaps it’s not just a disability thing. Though I do still think the element of being separated from society and unable to partake in the experiences others in your stage of life are experiencing, and knowing some of them will be forever unattainable now, is a unique sort of experience that not everyone goes through and that adds another layer (though it could potentially be caused by something other than disability).

So now I’m realizing, maybe it makes sense that a lot of vampires seem to basically act the age at which they were turned. Maybe you really would kind of get stuck there mentally, in a way. Yet there would be other ways in which you would still grow and mature from the experiences you’re having, and sometimes that would show through.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, it’s just an interesting thing to think about. Of course there are other factors that would have an effect on vampires and play into why they are the way they are, but this is still an interesting new way to look at the portrayal of vampires in media. Maybe even an interesting perspective and experience that some writers can bring to vampire characters.

 
 
 
 

Talk to me!

What are your thoughts on vampires being portrayed as the age at which they were turned?
If you are also disabled / chronically ill, do you think there's a bit of similarity?

 
 
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18 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: A Surprising Similarity Between Vampirism and Chronic Illness

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  1. Greg

    It is fascinating. I just read a vampire book (sort of- All these Bodies by Kendare Blake but it was more of a roundabout vampire story- we don’t actually get the vampires’ POV) but it’s had me thinking too about how vampires would experience things, the way the story was laid out. Anyway to your point- I do think it is relevant, and the idea of being separated from society. Like, the immortality part- would it be exhilarating at times but at the same time would one get bitter and jaded at all that time, especially if you were morally conflicted over what you had to do to HAVE that immortality? That part fascinates me too. 🙂

    And let’s say you’re turned at a young age- would you continue to mature if you weren’t exactly aging? Like if we’re immortalized at, say, 25… do we STAY 25 emotionally and all that?

    Maybe we need some disabled vampires, too. Like… they’re turned but not physically superior, somehow. that adds a wrinkle?

    But I think you’re right- they might get stuck in some way, but still mature /”age” in others…??

    Love this discussion.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      Yeah, vampires definitely have a sort of separation from society, whether they want to or not. Thought it’s interesting in books when some vampires try to stay more a part of it, to the extent that they can.

      Obviously it depends on the author, but if there was nothing stopping their mental growth, I do think they’d keep maturing, but also part of them would still be emotionally stuck. In Anne Rice’s portrayals, Claudia seems to mature quite a lot, though I guess still maybe has some childlike traits, while Armand (who was turned as a teen) is a manipulative, emotional disaster who basically throws temper tantrums to get his way, except his temper tantrums involve murder and whatnot. But he was also a slave before being turned, so he’s got all sorts of trauma hindering his growth.

      I’d love to see some disabled vampires in books! I’ve read about a couple, though one may as well not have been with how his powers completely compensated.

  2. Lorna

    Interesting discussion. I used to read so many vampire books and I’ve wondered so many times about what it would be like. To never grow older or die and to have to kill to live. It boggles the mind. As far as disability, I’ve been there for years now. Some better at times but mostly not. The pandemic didn’t change a lot for me as I don’t go out much anyway. I miss shopping and being able to walk a store. I miss going to concerts and movies. I’m sorry you became disabled so young. That’s just not fair! I was in my late fifties for me after a messed up knee replacement. Now both knees and feet are shot. My fingers, wrists and hands too. Osteoarthritis is not fun.

  3. Cee Arr

    OK, I wrote a huge response, but then forgot to tick the ‘I have read the privacy policy’ box and lost it, lol (*cries*) so here’s a half-remembered summary:

    – People always think I look younger than I am, so I’ve always connected with the way the world sees vampires at the age at which they turned, when they are so much older. Especially on days where I feel worn down.

    – I really got into vamps at the time when I started getting migraines and my health generally was going to sh** – looking back, my light-sensitivity probably made me relate a lot to people who struggle with sunlight. I remember reading a volume of Vampire Knight in the dark with the curtains closed and lights off, because I could still read it normally with just the light through the curtains.

    – Lestat coming back from the swamp and, little by little, becoming more like himself again, always hit hard.

    Dammit Kit stop making me think of the psychological reasoning behind my vamp fangirling! 😉 <3

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      Oh no, I’m sorry! I try to remember to select all and copy before hitting submit on replies because that’s happened to me too many times, and it always sucks.

      Not sure what people think now, since I’ve barely left the house, but I’ve also had people think I was like 18 when I was actually like 27. That’s a good point, that how people view you might impact you as well.

      It’s interesting how there are other ways disabilities seem to relate to vampirism too.

      But I like making people think of the psychological reasoning behind their vampire fangirling! 😛

  4. Angela

    What an interesting thought! The idea of kind of being trapped in time physically, and is it your experiences or actual just number of years that make you age and mature. The vampire that comes to my mind immediately is Edward Cullen from Twilight; even though he was turned as a teenager, he does seem a lot older than that. But then you have Emmett and he seems kind of stuck in a younger mindset.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      Our experiences are kind of what make us who we are, but we *are* still having experiences with each year that goes by, even if they’re not the typical experiences, so yeah, it’s hard to know. I don’t remember Twilight, so that’s interesting to know they’re portrayed differently like that!

  5. Roberta R.

    That’s a unique discussion! I’ve only read a few vampire books, but what you say makes a lot of sense (especially for those “classic” vampires who have to avoid the light, etc.). The only difference is, people do grow old and ultimately die, while they are immortal…

  6. hillary

    I have never thought of it like that. This post is BRILLANT. I thought about it, and you are right; for an illness that leaves you housebound and unable to function in “mainstream” society, it feels like time is standing still. The illness that has impacted me the most has to be my Psoriatic Arthritis. I was born Deaf; my mental illness is under complete control. Sometimes I feel as if I had regressed with my Psoriatic Arthritis. I am soooo afraid of falling that I rather stay in the house than risk my legs giving out.

  7. Louise @ Monstrumology

    This is so interesting! I don’t have a chronic illness but I do consider myself to be disabled since I’m autistic and I’ve always had a strange relationship with my age. When I was a child and a teenager I felt older than everyone else because I was often at the top of my classes and I physically grew up faster than them but now as an adult, I don’t feel like I’m in my mid-20s because I’ve missed out on so many things that abled people consider to be essential parts of life.

    Vampires are a huge comfort to me because they can be hundreds of years old and yet still look and feel like the age they were when they turned. I also do relate to their weaknesses to sunlight since I can’t stand being out in direct sunlight and prefer nighttime 😅

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      It sounds like we do have similar experiences with missing out on common life things, even if we have slightly different reasons.

      Funny how so many people seem to relate to vampires for all different reasons. I also prefer night 😆

  8. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I don’t think I ever would have thought of the parallels you make between disability and vampirism, but I can definitely see how being “outside” of normal society would be part of both experiences. And I’ve also never considered how being homebound would lead you to feel younger than your biological age. Lots of things to think about!