An Imperfect Hero: My Life, My Disability, and Sherlock Holmes

I don’t think about it all that much, the intersection of my disability and my love of Sherlock Holmes. I’m a permanently-disabled person; my physical disability goes with me and is part of me, wherever I go and whatever I do. These days, I’m so used to the idea of Sherlock Holmes as a positive coping mechanism that I hardly even stop to think about the magic of it all any more–the magic of the way a fictional detective joined me on my journey one day, jumping into the landscape of my life and making himself at home.

I met Holmes as a preteen, but I truly fell in love with him as a character right in the middle of the period that I think of as my “Crohn’s Decade.” I was a distance-learning college student in my mid-20s, trying to make sense of an incurable disease and physical limitations my doctors couldn’t solve. In contrast, Sherlock Holmes was the ultimate solver. He might make mistakes on occasion, but for the vast majority of the 60 canonical stories, he’s at the top of his game. I could get lost in a story like “The Copper Beeches” and know that it was all going to come out right in the end. Holmes would figure it out. Even if no one could figure me out, I had a place to go where everything made sense.

Alongside my health issues came mental ones, exacerbated by the physical challenges I faced. I’m clinically obsessive-compulsive. I’ve had intermittent bouts of major depression, and I have an anxiety disorder. At times, along the way, I’ve felt like an alien trying to survive in a world where I don’t seem to fit, an outsider looking in. You know who else is an outsider? The world’s only consulting detective. Never once has Sherlock Holmes made me feel alienated; in fact, the celebration of Holmes’s uniqueness in the Doyle Canon, his difference from the norm, has helped me to look at my own personality with a gentler eye. I might never reach Watsonian or Lestrade-like levels of societal acceptability. I might never be able to conform to what is expected of me or reach the social normalcy I sometimes seek, but neither does Sherlock Holmes. He’s an iconoclastic, self-directed character, and he’s not always happy, either. He has good days and (very) bad days. The point is, he’s always uncompromisingly himself. His radical self-acceptance is an ongoing challenge in my quest to reach my own.

Finally, Holmes’s character arc of defeat and triumph has served as a highly personal inspiration for me through the darkest time in my life, my cancer fight that resulted in a permanent ileostomy and other challenging physical complications. As a Christian, I often look to the Bible, and Micah 7:8 makes me think of Holmes: “Do not rejoice against me, O my enemy, for though I fall, I will rise again!” To defeat his enemy, Holmes takes the classical journey to the underworld, dying to the life he once had, but ultimately emerging stronger and more victorious than he could have ever imagined. I love Doyle’s resurrection story “The Empty House” less for its character reunions, though they’re marvelous, and much more for the fact that Holmes re-emerges in a blaze of glory, solving a locked room mystery and taking down his remaining nemesis without, it seems, breaking much of a sweat. I’ve never confronted the likes of Moriarty at the Falls or Colonel Moran with an air gun, but I know what it is to confront my deepest fears and to emerge from the crucible of suffering with a greater determination and will to not only survive, but to transcend. Through Holmes I’m reminded that my Reichenbach is not the end; it’s only the beginning. Though I fall, like Holmes, I will rise again.

I don’t have much patience for those who dismiss fandom as a silly thing or a little thing, who fail to grasp that stories have power to change our lives and bring us hope. Even after years of frantic Holmesian cultural zeitgeist, I still constantly see people posing the question–why is Holmes so popular? Why do we still love him so very much? I can’t answer that for everyone, just myself. He started out as an imaginary friend in my childhood, but later he became an integral part of understanding and coping with my personal disability, helping me to process and accept the daily challenges that shape my life and my identity. He’s a man who solves what can’t be solved, but at the same time is never quite solved himself. He’s a hero who transcends death, and he does it without ever being the stereotypical shining knight on a white steed. He’s a deeply imperfect man who accomplishes an uncommon thing.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling very courageous, I even aspire to follow in his footsteps


How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.