When I was younger, particularly before I became medicated, my OCD was garden variety. Blasphemous phrases in the tulips, fear of becoming homicidal pushing up in the daisies, infectious blood in the bleeding hearts.
But the roses in my OCD garden kept my mother. All the years I spent worrying about something happening to my mother, hyper vigilant, trying to evade her mortality, yet in the end she died just the same.
Nowadays my garden variety case of OCD has died for the most part and is mulch for another monster, a weed that began years ago.
Now my mind is a courthouse. Not a Florida courthouse where you can get off for the darndest things, more like “kill ’em all or make ’em wear pink” Arizona. The judge in my head is merciless and ready to throw the book.
My crime is my inferiority complex. I want to measure up to the rest of the world and I fail. My judge hates my frailty. I pray and pray that I can measure up to normal people, but I keep making mistakes everyday. I keep making people mad. I keep making myself mad. My judge asks me, “What use are you to anyone?”
“Dunno. I take care of my cats.”
I know the truth. If I died tomorrow, no one would be inconsolable. The one person who needed me is ashes in a plastic box. People loved my mother. I was just her quiet daughter, the one folks assumed was ‘slow.’
In a way not being needed is liberating. Being around people tends to remind me of my faults. I like being around people, but I don’t like seeing the various ways that I fail. I sometimes feel like a leper around humans. I mean well, but as that drag queen I used to live with said, ‘you’re a boil on my ass that I just can’t lance.” Ah, but everyday that boil survives on her own, makes the sun shine where the sun don’t shine.
On a positive note, my eyes are healthy (apart from being blind as a bat without my glasses). I bet it’s been over 10 years since my last eye examination. I was afraid they’d find macular degeneration in my eyes since it runs in the family.
I once had my glasses adjusted at that office while my friend was there getting new glasses. The attendant remembered me because of my award-winning personality….and the super glue prominent on my left lens.
The condition OCD is marked by its repetitive thoughts and compulsions which the sufferer needs to carry in out in order to neutralize the anxiety they are suffering from and calm their brain down. Alongside obsessive-compulsive disorder, a number of other mental illnesses can co-exist, such as Compulsive Skin Picking, which is a constant urge to pick, peel or scratch at the skin, done to neutralize bad thoughts. It is also a form of self-harm for many and something which many sufferers do as a means of trying to cope with the mental anguish they suffer. Further to CSP, there is also another less well known phenomenon which an increasing number of OCD sufferers have and often live with in silence. It is called Trichotillomania and these are the facts behind a condition which is not discussed nearly enough.
What is Trichotillomania?
Although it isn’t strictly classed as OCD, it carries many of the same characteristic urges and compulsions and there are many sufferers who have both conditions co-morbidly, finding that the obsessive-compulsive urges they have spill over into these hair related compulsions. Its main defining area is that the sufferer has an uncontrollable desire to pull their hair out – sufferers will mostly do this from the hair on their head – taking it out from the root, but it also applies to body hair, such as on the arms, legs and even from the genital region. There are also documented cases of people pulling their eyebrows and eyelashes out too. Mostly, people experiencing Trichotillomania will use their fingers to pull at or remove the hair, but also it is not uncommon for things like scissors or tweezers to be used to do the same. Every time a sufferer has a bad thought, they will try and remove more hair to relieve their stress.
It is usually found in females, but not exclusively. There are also a smaller percentage of boys and men that do it too. In older men, they may start to pick at and pull out their facial hair.
The typical age for onset of the condition will be between the ages of nine and thirteen, more often than not as adolescence occurs. It can also start up in the late teenage period and develop through the early twenties. It is believed to be triggered through anxiety, perhaps after periods of stress and also recurring bouts of depression and may also be brought on as a response to years of suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Another facet of the illness is hair sucking or chewing – this, for many, starts in youth and in severe cases can sometimes result in the sufferer ingesting a great quantity of hair over time that may need medication or surgery to remove it.
How do people with Trichotillomania manage their condition?
From an aesthetic standpoint and from the point of view of the illness being covered up, sufferers will go to great lengths. They may wear hats at all times; they may invest in a series of wigs to cover up bald patches. Some simply wear scarves around their heads for most of the time. If the hair has been pulled from the face, a sufferer might resort to using semi-permanent or permanent make up to restore things like their eyebrows, or wear false eyelashes that can be glued into place every day. Many will simply avoid social situations and may not want to talk about it if anyone notices the hair loss or bald patches.
How is it treated?
The condition is treated in a fairly similar way to OCD. However, many physicians at the present moment have very little information or knowledgeon the condition, though this is improving all the time. If you present to your physician with the symptoms of Trichotillomania, you might have to be prepared to explain how you are suffering with it and what you think it is – then ask for a referral to a psychologist. For the physical, visible symptoms of the illness, your healthcare professional might prescribe a course of genuine medication for hair loss which will encourage the hair to grow back naturally and without any noticeable balding or thinning patches. They may also advise, if you are not already, to take a suitable SSRI anti-depressant medication to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression which may be causing the compulsion to pull the hair out. In terms of therapy, the most common and widely regarded method for treating Trichotillomania is something called Habit Reversal Training, which is, for the most part, pretty much the same as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD.
Habit Reversal Training
This is a theory, developed in the early 1970s, by the eminent psychologists Nathan Azrin and Gregory Nunn. Used for Trichotillomania, it is also successful in treating conditions like Tourettes and Compulsive Skin Picking too. It works on the belief that the sufferer pulls their hair out due to a conditioned response they have when confronted with certain stressful situations or triggers. More often than not, the sufferer of Trich is totally unaware of these triggers and so the first part of this type of therapy is to get them to note when they are pulling their hair out and what occurred before, or whether there are any unusual circumstances which make them do it.
It then teaches them to become aware of these situations and try to consciously find other, less harmful and destructive ways of coping with them. A good psychologist or therapist will encourage the Trichotillomania sufferer to become more aware of the emotional states, times of day and any moods which they experience that can affect whether they pull their hair or not. They will also be asked to note whether this affects their OCD and general all round anxiety. Habit Reversal Training can also be used alongside traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and conventional talking therapies to fully understand and get a hold on what may be triggering both the OCD and the Trichotillomania itself. Treated appropriately it is a condition that has a high recovery rate and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Being open and honest about it is the best way forward to not only help yourself, but to raise awareness.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects a huge number of people. Approximately 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children in the United States suffer with OCD, to varying degrees of severity. As most of us know, OCD is an obsession based compulsion to engage in ritualistic behavior, often to the detriment of the sufferer. It can cause a huge strain on the lives of those with it, and those around them. Whilst many sufferers and spokespeople are more vocal about the condition than ever before, stigma and misconceptions still surround OCD. So let’s dispel a few of them…
Myth: “I wash my hands X times per day, I have OCD!”
There is a huge difference between OCD and someone who just likes to have clean hands. Whilst obsessive hand washing is certainly one variation of OCD, it goes far beyond just having meticulous personal hygiene. When I suffered from OCD I didn’t just wash my hands because I wanted them to be clean, I washed them because I needed them to be clean – as if my life depended on it. If my hands weren’t clean, everything would go on hold until they were. OCD by its nature makes you think irrationally. If it doesn’t seem like the end of world if you don’t get the opportunity to wash your hands as much as you’d like, then chances are you don’t have OCD of the hand washing variety.
Myth: OCD is all about cleanliness and hygiene
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is ritualistic behavior that can extend to every area of life imaginable, in many ways. The main subcategories of OCD include (but are not limited to) washing and cleanliness, checking, repeating, ordering & arranging, and mental rituals. As such, even the simplest of day-to-day activities can become ritualized by a sufferer. For example, closing a door – the simplest of tasks for most people, but back when I suffered with OCD closing my bedroom door used to take me about a minute. When I closed it, I had to do so with my right finger pushed up against the right hand corner of the top panel. From there, I had to press the door 16 times to make sure it was shut – with four second intervals in-between each push. This was because 16 was my lucky number, and four when squared was also my lucky number. If I didn’t do this, I believed with every part of my being that something terrible would happen – I’d tell myself if I didn’t do it that my mother would fall terminally ill, that my home would be destroyed, or that I would have bad luck for the rest of my life. Even though part of me knew it was irrational, I wasn’t prepared to take that chance. The urge was so overwhelming to perform this ritual, that performing it felt like a release. Peace would be restored, and I could continue on with my life – or whatlife I had with OCD.
Whilst numeric rituals are common in those with OCD, the condition can involve anything, be it objects, people or places. What defines it as OCD, is the overwhelming compulsion to do or think. The severity can be minor or major, and it comes packaged in a variety of ways – not just cleanliness.
Myth: OCD is developed during childhood
Whilst OCD can certainly develop within childhood (usually from the ages of 8 – 12 years), the average onset for most people is around the late teens or early twenties; though it can occur anytime. Therefore it’s not necessarily something caused by a traumatic childhood, or growing up in a broken home. Whilst the causes of OCD aren’t crystal clear, research suggests that a combination of genetics, serotonin levels within the brain, and environmental factors can all play a part.
Myth: OCD is a women’s condition
This isn’t true, OCD occurs within both genders equally.
Myth: OCD can’t be cured
Whilst there isn’t a specific cure for OCD, it doesn’t mean that the condition can’t be cured by various treatments. Whilst there are currently no tests to determine OCD, a diagnosis is made after a doctor/patient interview. From there, various treatments and therapies are available, but the one the National Institute of Mental Health and Harvard Medical School both recommend is CBT – aka, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s also possible that an individual can recover on their own, whether consciously or not. For me, I simply decided that I would no longer have my life ruled by OCD and worked hard for years to break the irrational thought patterns. For those who don’t see that as an option however,help is out there – OCD can most definitely be cured.
just a little note of apology to TLC Book Tours who gave me a chance to review this book, and to the author of the book, who rushed me a signed, gorgeous copy…I’m really sorry. First I fled my old apartment under extreme duress. Trying to salvage the friendship of my roommate, I pawned my netbook (only just got it back) and gave him the money. I found all the stuff to my desktop…except my surge protector (It either got lost in the shuffle, or, it was just one of a number things my roomies decided to keep while I was away a few months ago). Anyway, my new neighbors blew a fuse and my computer died. I began reading The Unfinished Garden the day it arrived and finished it in a couple of days it was so good. I’m very sorry and thank you very much.
The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White is a unique, beautiful book. This is a romance novel for everyone: those of us that are dyed-in-the-wool romantics and those who projectile vomit whenever we read Danielle Steele (I swing more toward the latter). Many romance novels have flawed characters, but these often seem contrived and cut from the same cloth the other biddies in the romance quilting bee spun their characters from. Not so with The Unfinished Garden. Claypole White’s first novel lingers with the reader long after the story ends.
The Unfinished Garden recommends itself to me in reminding me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden is a classic children’s book, in which the flawed characters heal themselves through the redemptive qualities of gardening. The Unfinished Garden is The Secret Garden for adults, particularly those with OCD or are mourning. Since I am a card carrying member of Club OCD and recently joined the My Mom is Dead T-Shirt Committee, this book recommends itself to me in its entirety. Through gardening, the two main characters begin the process of healing from their demons, one with OCD, the other with the death of her husband.
James Nealy is not the typical love interest in a novel. James is handsome, but has enough ‘baggage’ to sink the Titanic, iceberg not needed. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder compounded with generalized anxiety disorder. James easily could become the bungling, hilarious OCD guy of popular culture, but the author’s sensitivity to James and his affliction paints an authentic portrait of someone struggling with anxiety and the past.
Tilly Silverberg is the heroine of The Unfinished Garden, a widowed mother running her own plant nursery. The death of Tilly’s husband three years ago is still in the forefront of her mind, along with regret and guilt. David, her husband, got into a terrible auto accident and was left in a vegetative state. Tilly can’t help but wonder, though, had she refused her husband’s wish to not be kept alive by machines, would he have recovered? She feels by letting the doctors know about her husband’s living will, she in effect killed him. Thanks to modern technology, this is a very believable scenario. I wonder at times whether I should have done more, tried everything to prolong life though it would have gone against what I knew my mother wanted.
When James and Tilly meet, it is due to James wanting someone to build him a garden. While James feels an intense need for it to be Tilly who landscapes his garden, Tilly doesn’t want to branch out her nursery for James or anyone else. James persists though due to his attraction to Tilly and the reason he, a rich software designer, wants a garden: to conquer his contamination obsessions, dirt being a major trigger. As in all good love stories (the ones that are neither too sentimental or about dudes shooting photos of bridges while committing adultery) love conquers all. In spite of having a debilitating mental illness, and even because of the tenacity inspired by his OCD, James emerges triumphant.
I can’t recommend this book enough. If you have OCD, no matter what your particular obsessions and quirks, you will identify with James and the motivations of his actions in life. James has that sensitivity to the world that can be a blessing and a curse, where he is attracted to other troubled souls. He is afraid of everyday life situations, but has amazing strength at things that fluster or even terrify ‘normal’ folks. I wish I knew James, and you will probably wish you did too by the end of the book. Shoot, if you just want to read a good book and are as normal as normal be, read The Unfinished Garden!
Recently, I received an email from TLC Book Tours asking me if I would review a memoir by a fellow OCD sufferer. Of course I said yes, because I love books, memoirs, and the word “free.” I am so glad I did, because I ended up reading the best book on OCD I ever read. The book is I Hardly Ever Ever Wash My Hands: The Other Side of OCD by J.J. Keeler. It was as though the author ran a spinal tap to my soul and drained out my own experiences with OCD. If you suffer from OCD, you might get the same jolt of recognition from I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands as I did. This book is also invaluable to those who ‘suffer’ a friend or family member with OCD. One receives a candid look into the mind of an OCD sufferer and the horrors we often suffer in silence day by day. Fortunately, the book isn’t a dark abyss of misery either. J.J. Keeler has a brilliant sense of humor that shines through the book’s heavy subject matter and shows that we aren’t just a bundle of nervous buzz kills, that we can indeed be ‘normal’ on the outside, that we can be fun, and we are good people. Really, this is a book anyone can enjoy and learn from, an entertaining summer read that shines a light on the fact that no one is ‘perfectly normal.’
I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands is not a memoir about the pop culture OCD sufferer, the meticulously clean germ phobe who keeps everything in its place. When a friend suggests to her that she may have OCD, the author responds with, “but I hardly ever wash my hands.” I had a similar reaction when I was diagnosed. I remember saying to my shrink, “but I don’t compulsively wash my hands or flip light switches over and over.” It’s all here in the book, the truth about how OCD messes with the mind. I could identify with the author from page 1. I used to “catch” AIDS all the time too and was afraid of being pricked by a wayward needle in the grass. When Keeler describes being afraid that her teddy bear had a bomb inside, I could recall my own teddy incident. Except mine was an orange squirrel. I was convinced it was full of drugs that would either kill me or get me thrown in prison. Afraid of stabbing someone just because one sees a knife and being filled with terrifying images of hurting people? I’ve been there before. Ritualized praying, I still have the T-shirt for that one.
J.J. Keeler also shows us how some phobias are normal, that not everything is our OCD. She also addresses what to do if you are just realizing you might have OCD. She reminds us that those who pontificate on how “it’s all in our head and we don’t need medicine or therapy” don’t have a clue. It’s really difficult dealing with people who think they know everything about our issues,
and just this reminder from Keeler is extremely comforting. We are able to see through Keeler that OCD isn’t curable, but one can live a life not dictated by our mental illness. The most important point of I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands, however, is seeing that we are not alone.
It is a full day on my usually empty dance ticket. I, Lisa, professional mental health seeker, have the joy of seeing both my therapist and my shrink. Rolling out of bed, nicking my legs shaving, and dressing in my new Family Dollar ensemble, I get to my therapy session at 10 am. As I suck on a starlight mint, we go over my myriad of “issues.”
“I went to see an art house film called The Smurfs in 3-D this past weekend, and went to the library before the film. This was the first film I ever saw in 3-D and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” I say as my therapist inspects the little book she caught me reading while I waited for her. She admits to never having seen a 3-D flick, and I praise the medium, that one can almost catch a bird flying out of the screen. “Though I don’t think The Smurfs would be your cup of tea.” I then bemoan the cruel truth that kids’ movies would be great except that kids actually come too.
“What is your comfort level standing in a line at the movie theater?”
“Well,” I answer,” not bad really. Crowds don’t bother me, individual interaction does. I can even ask for movie tickets, as long as I have the money so the person will have a reason to tolerate me.” I show her my latest acquisitions in my quest to get all the McDonald’s Smurf Happy Meal toys, the Baker and Brainy (I happened to have them stuffed into the labyrinth that is my purse). I then tell her that I’m too childish, too child-like, but the therapist likes who I am because she’s known me since I was 15 and because she gets money to like me -but honestly, I think she likes me anyway.
“It’s normal to be enthused about something you collect. My mom collected a particular pattern of carnival glass and was very excited when she found a piece at a secondhand shop,” my therapist assures me.
“I have to see the psychiatrist today. I’m not looking forward to it.”
At some point in the session, my therapist says, “but you feel comfortable talking to me, right?”
“Yes, but you don’t poke me with a fork.” One therapist thought I was sexually abused and my psychiatrist feels I have the ways of an “abuse victim.” Once my psychiatrist threw out there one time that maybe I had Aspberger’s syndrome since my social anxiety wasn’t getting better and it’s a struggle to look people in the eye (I’m very self-conscious).
“I’d have to research it more,” I remember the psychiatrist saying. “But I have a lot of empathy. I thought they didn’t,” was my defense. I did not show how upset I was to have a new diagnosis until I was outside and started crying and fussing at my mother. (No one thinks I have Aspberger’s, though, and the psychiatrist never mentioned it again, so it must have been a passing fancy for her too. Let’s just face it, Shrink, I’m f****d and you can randomly flip through your DSM IV and diagnose me with whatever is on the page, but there ain’t no fixing me, not really. But with that cheery thought, let’s continue ).
“I’m thinking about asking her about Abilify,” I tell my therapist. “She’s talked a couple of times of putting me on an antipsychotic in the hopes it would help with the OCD and everything, but I’ve been afraid of getting tardive dyskinesia. Do you have any patients on it with OCD?”
My therapist is looking far into her memory and comes up with 75% of the folks she saw with OCD who are chomping on the Abilify say it helped them, 25% said no it didn’t, and if she remembers right, 10% got off due to side effects.
I imagine people who’ve been on Haldol for years, the excessive drool foaming from their mouths. I imagine lactating. But have mercy on me, I’m so tired of not being what I yearn for the most: Ideal. Everyday I feel I’m not doing things just right and some days it throws me into a rage. I take three times as long as anyone else to do anything. I’m more depressed than I was and I feel as though I have few redeeming qualities. I begin to hope that my shrink knows that I will dramatically change from my lifetime membership at “Camp Clucky.”
Yes, yes, Lisa. We get you suck, life sucks, everything sucks. Blah, blah, boo-hoo. Get on with the story.
My mother and I are having a spot of lunch and I’m trying to look up Abilify just to make sure I want to try this, but my mobile phone’s battery dies on me. I try to recall the latestAbilify commercial. Cartoon woman literally weighed down by her depression and falling into the “hole” of the depression. Then her kindly looking doctor helps her out of the hole and prescribes her Abilify. Some side effects, what were they? Happy family having a picnic. Happy. “Resulting in coma or death.” What? I don’t remember, must’ve been really rare. Still at happy picnic, even Depression Hole sits nearby. Everyone is at the picnic having such a nice time. I want to be at that picnic, so perfect! “Depression used to define me, then I added Abilify.” Ah, how nice. I’ll just ask my doctor all about it.
When I’m in Dr. Shrink’s office, I have my $3.00 ready to throw at the receptionist before she can ask, because I always get the sense she thinks I’ll run off without paying. It’s the rule of the house, yes, but I can’t help see it as a slight towards all psychiatric cases (power to the people!). I don’t think the receptionist likes my mother and I much. I can imagine her thinking “Sod it all, here comes that rubbish. If I wanted to deal with folks on the dole, I’d have stayed in Merry Old England, wouldn’t I?” Even before Dr. Shrink took Medicaid, though, and I had to somehow hack up $75.00 for my 15 minutes, I don’t believe the receptionist liked us much. It may be in my head, and I don’t seem much different from the others in the waiting room: they mainly look depressed, maybe a couple now and then look mildly apes**t. I’ve been with a friend to Mental Health before and they look worse and more interesting. I remember some young woman, obviously in a manic state, talking on her cell, “Friday night I tried to kill myself but they gave me some lithium and I feelsoo much better now!” I wonder if everyone is still getting help since our genius state thought it was a good idea to close the county mental health and the mental hospital to “privatize it.”
I tell Dr. Shrink my decision. She tells me to avoid grapefruit juice (which I already do since I am on Luvox) and to watch for slowed down movements, that tardive dyskinesiawon’t happen suddenly if it happens at all. Two milligrams, not a big dose at al,l and come back at the end of the month( to see if I’m still alive). Ok, great I can do this!
This might fix me.
Or not. Twenty minutes after taking my first cockroach shaped and colored Abilify stuff starts to happen. I am me but I don’t feel like I’m really here. So I’m not at the picnic yet I guess. My thoughts are my thoughts but I feel strangely like I’m not thinking. OK weird. I rush to look at the guide that comes with my prescription then augment it with the internet. Sometime during all of this I start feeling angry, really angry. Smack myself angry, yay!
Apparently on Abilify, I could develop diabetes, go into a coma, and croak, but hey, I won’t be depressed anymore! Since I’m already fat and haven’t checked my blood sugar in ages, I’m not a happy fat camper.
Stay out of the sun and don’t get overheated…What the frostbite? Am I going to turn into a gremlin?
Weight gain! Do I need to say why I might not like this?
Abilify and Wellbutrin should be used with caution because it might lower one’s seizure threshold. Well that would be a different experience! Might lower my immunity…that should be a hit with someone deathly afraid of going to the doctor.
I try to sleep. I can’t, just as I fall asleep, I feel like I can’t swallow and jerk back awake. I sleep an hour to fly awake and feel angry. Repeat this 2 or 3 times in the night. It feels great!
The next 48 hours are interesting. I’m angry at everything and when my best friend annoys me by what I perceive as lectures instead of swallowing it, I tell her off over and over. I can’t help myself! Freedom such as the ability to tell off your best friend over stupid stuff is not a freedom a social phobe like me wants.
Today I returned to my psychiatrist. “I’m doing OK, but I had to stop the Abilify. After one dose I knew I couldn’t take it. If I had done thorough research I wouldn’t have tried it anyway because I’m afraid of getting diabetes.”
“Yes well,”Dr. Shrink replies, “if you look on the internet, getting diabetes from Abilifyseems as common as getting the jitters.”
True, but I feel I should be more concerned due to the fact I’m overweight.”
Later I visit with my professor from college, the one who I named my oldest cat after in tribute. The college is only a couple of blocks from my psychiatrist’s office. We talk various things and then I talk about how awful I sometimes was when on meds that opened my mouth so that I’d say whatever I wanted back when I was in his science classes.
“Don’t ever feel sorry about the things you say unless you hurt someone’s feelings, and I don’t remember you ever being mean to anyone.”
“Well no, but I’d say anything and I cringe at the thought now.”
(Flashback: pointing at a faux skeleton in class and saying, “Look he’s got a boner!” Flashback: among the things I inherited from my grandmother, one was her old lady bright red lipstick. My reply to the comments I got when I wore it, “Hey, this was a really popular color in the 1940s.” I was shy then too, but accepted as the oddity that I was and I’ve always liked making people laugh. In many classes I was near silent anyway, but not my science teacher’s class. It’s a pity he isn’t my real father)
You learn to have patience says my professor at some point in our conversation. ” I guess you have had worse than me as long as you’ve been doing this,” I stammer.
“At least you aren’t an ax murderer. That would be worse.”
“Have you actually had murderers in your classes?”
“Two of them. One the cops chased into the mountains and he was killed.”
So the Abiify didn’t help me become the person I want to be, not close, but, the moral of this story is, no matter what I do, hey, at least I’m not an ax murderer!
PS: Abilify has helped many people, it could help you too. Sometimes the risk is worth the gain. As my pharmacist said, “Line 100 people up, and two would have the same reaction as you did.” Besides, my body’s wired different anyway. I was the 1/10000 of Paxil patients who lost her period on Paxil (happened on Effexor too!). Soon as I stopped, flowed like the red sea. With that, I bid you adieu.
Strange few days indeed. With the usual thoughtfulness of the management of Shitzville Apartments, a photocopy of a note written in marker appeared on everyone’s doors saying that new cable lines would be installed starting that day. With no other explanation at hand, Mom called the manager. Yes. Starting that day. No, no free cable (fuck!), just re-wiring. No, won’t have to move anything (you’ve never been in our apartment have you?) Oh, you put in a work order a couple of weeks ago and maintenance never came? I’ll put another one in (gee, that’s big of you).
We learn from our friendly neighborhood informant that the cable company would have installed the lines, but the management wouldn’t let them. Instead they got Clowns-R-Us to install it cheaper.
Soon we also learn from one of the Clowns-R-Us men that yes, the next day, they will invade the living room and bedrooms of everyone. Said clown drilled a hole in our ceiling at the side nearest the door, and dangled three thick cable cords down into our apartment suitable for braiding. One might say, “Oh that’s going to be so tacky dangling those cords down by the ceiling,” but considering the area commonly used for putting one’s dining table instead has many overflowing boxes of junk about shoulder-high, I don’t think we have much of a foot to stand on with the Tacky Police.
My bedroom is chaos. My desktop computer is usable, my bed with the 1970s (vintage!) mattress is sleepable, the first couple of drawers on my chest are get-attable, but other than that: Screwed! My doll collection is on the walls and wherever else the packages have landed, boxes and boxes of books everywhere. This ain’t gonna cut it, so I know I must cut some of the books loose not vital to my own reading, collecting, or casual ebaying.
This is probably what is going to stop me from becoming famous on reality TV. I sort of hoard, but I have yet to attain the Collyer Brothers’ Housekeeping Seal of Approval. I just don’t hoard anything weird (well, that’s subjective) or gross. I have no urge to keep milk cartons (though I believe I can see their logic in doing so -“Hey, I can use this plastic milk carton for Kool-Aid, and when I die, you can use it to keep my ashes in it instead of an urn!”). I sure as hell ain’t keeping milk past the expiration date. Though I’m fat as all get out, I’m a very picky eater. As for the nastiness factor, I can’t stand roaches and we seldom have them, but if I see one, it puts me off eating in the house the rest of the day. Fun fact though: I feel guilty if I kill one, though I’m perfectly OK with their murder by the exterminator or Mom. Our home is dusty, smokey, and now and then you get a scent of eau d’ chat because Oscar has “territory issues.” But, hey, the kitchen and bathroom are clean.
I’ve actually seen places that were the epitome nasty. Once I went in someone’s trailer and saw so many roaches, hundreds! Crawling everywhere, not scattering in a way that made me think they were aware of their victory over the pitiful souls living there. It was an obsessive-compulsive’s worst nightmare. Shit, it was anyone’s worst nightmare…anyone, that is, but the people who lived there.
At this very apartment complex I’ve seen a couple of apartments that had blackened counters and bathrooms once the people moved. Also, at our old house, the guy who bought it really doesn’t give a flip. Got an extra fridge? It’ll look great in your front yard among other debris and old cars is his motto. I’m sure our old neighbors hate us for letting Asshat buy our home for 20k paid in installments that often were late. What upsets me is the plants he deliberately killed. Azaleas and hydrangeas deliberately cut down and killed -I know they didn’t feel it logically, but mentally it upsets me ( I’m not even much of a tree-hugger or a gardener). I hope my mom’s tiger lilies and daffodils still come up just to spite him. I’mthough sure he murdered my dead grandfather’s rose bush, though heaven knows what horror is in the backyard now since he made a makeshift a tarp and wooden board privacy fence over the wired fence as soon as he moved in. At least our Sanford and Son Syndrome was mainly inside. Tsk tsk!
Days go by. No Clowns-R-Us return to finish. If they don’t come back soon, I am going to braid that damn cable! Various panels are off the hall’s ceiling. One fascinates my mom and I in particular because it appears to go all the way through the floor to the second story hall. W.T.F? Neither did the clowns appear to approach their task too tenderly, for paint and wood chips had come off too.
There are two possible explanations for Clowns-R-Us’ disappearance. Someone else started playing “Send in the Clowns” somewhere.
Too many people started cursing out the clowns, and knowing some of the folks living here, probably threatening to rip off their slap happy noses. Not all of us are docile sheep like my mother and I, though I sometimes wonder if we acted more like we were raised in a barn, we would get on a bit better in life.
Seriously, who wants clowns drilling a hole big enough for 3 thick cords to drop down, with a little extra room too for something to crawl in. The intention, then is to run said thick cords under the carpet into the living room and bedrooms. It would be enough to throw Mother Teresa into a rage. Talk about taking one’s lumps in a literal sense!
But ah to getting rid of stuff! So many books I found that did not have my life blood within them! I wouldn’t have parted with them though if they went to the trash. I give away just fine…throw away, not so much. Some went to the laundry room on a table where people throw their freebies and Watchtowers. Others I put by the dumpster (not in, that’s vital). I also put a porcelain doll on top of one box of books and someone took the books, but threw the doll away. Someone would have wanted her. Affrontedand wished I’d kept her. She was down ar the very bottom of the dumpster, the yuckiest part. There, in dumpster diver hell, I would only fetch out a real baby, or something REALLY awesome.
They came! Around 8-ish in the morning…too bad for me I had gone to bed at 4am. Half-asleep, I stumbled to the door. “Is it too early?” asked the head maintenance man, who accompanied a clown.
Yeah, come back in 6 hours. “No, just let me warn my mother.” Mom was bathing. Luckily I was semi-presentable. My hair was aiming for the sky and I had to hide my nightguard in my pocket (I grind my teeth), but I was dressed!
It doesn’t even look as bad as our informant led us to believe. The day before the maintenance man came and I have new outlets because half of them had stopped working. We have a new garbage disposal and the leaky faucets leak a little bit less. Shitzville wasn’t built in a day. The man who did it is the only one of the three who really does much. As he worked, he got a call telling him to fix someone’s closet rack who had been waiting three weeks.
The maintenance man told us it would have cost 45k to knock out sheet rock and install the cable if the cable company had done it. I can understand why Slumlord Millionaire wouldn’t want to pay that high of a price and it would be tons more disruptive. It isn’t nearly as bad as our informant made us believe.
I think I almost have my Christmas post ready…just in time for the March rush, too.
All of this was supposed to be a short update and intro to this poem. The best layed plans…
OK, so this was my therapist’s assignment to me a few weeks ago when I was feeling particularly bad. It was written out in the original and transcribed here almost exactly as it appeared before my therapist. She likes how I write, even though I pay her my 3.00 co-pay with Medicaid for her to like it. I think she sincerely likes me, because she wasn’t going to take anymore Medicaid patients, but she recognized my name. Bless her, she’s trying her best to make me up my self-esteem. For almost my entire life I’ve believed I would never amount to shit, so she’s working on fixing it. I have got a lot of boost me upping from writing and the kind reception it receives from y’all, my dear friends.
My therapist listened to me read a bunch of my junk and she laughed a lot, which made me feel very nice. I read to her the stuff that got published on other sites and a tiny bit from my memoir. She found this amusing too when I read it to her. Hopefully you will too.
Yes, ahem, my attributes. Picture this delightful scene: My therapist’s office two weeks ago. A moderately depressed patient complaining of how her life has no meaning and she will never have someone love her back. You know, crap like that.
How original. Wonder how many others told her that today? How many others hold this sort of thing in a bubble until pop, “I’ll unburden my sorrows on my therapist.”
It isn’t always that way with me, though something does indeed pop, and my mouth starts spewing chunks of trivialities so fast it isn’t even funny. Chattering like a chipmunk. Why? Maybe because I feel comfortable with her since I knew her since I was a callow youth, or maybe because she compliments me and thinks I’m funny. Maybe, though, it also helps to know she had renumeration in some kind for listening to me talk about my trivial life and phrase things in my just ever so witty and charming way. Once I gave her a dissertation on the contrasts of regular orange Vitamin Water and orange Vitamin Water Zero, how both versions have a deliciously different taste…when I suddenly stopped and said, “Wow, talk about talking about trivial stuff!”
My therapist, however, doesn’t object me saying what I want to say. Maybe, because I’m anxious with people in general, she believes letting me air out my lungs will help me become a brilliant conversationalist, or maybe adequate. I believe her method is that she asks me questions and I talk, so that when I talk, the things that bother me will ooze out, then we hit that around for a bit. She isn’t aggressive and I truly appreciate it. Before I came to my current therapist, another one got me for one session. This other woman tried to plunge a scalpel inside me, dig around in my innards for trauma, and take an inventory of everything wrong with me on the side. Just way too much for me to swallow, way too much.
My therapist is aware of how hypersensitive I am for one thing and that my self-esteem is pretty low. Listening to the day’s diatribe of all that I lack, she suggests that I make a list of all I have that I can build upon in my life, my attributes. Mom says I shouldn’t be modest about it, tell it like it is. It seems to me a vain thing to acknowledge anything that I do could be good enough, but whatever.
1.) I am fairly well read. I love books and have since I was a tiny child being read to by my mother. Fun random flashback: The Three Little Kittens was one of my favorites all the way back to age 4, and as I had difficulty hunting me down a pumpkin pie today at the store, a part of that story came to my mind. “What?! Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens! Then you shall have no pie.” (or it went something like that).
But back to books. I’ll read just about anything from modern day grocery store literature to the classics. I also love reading out-of-print books from the 1800s and beyond, the oldest one I got hold of was called Sermons on Several Subjects from 1747. Reading the tiny type with its bizarre “s’s” that looked like “f’s” and how convention had it that the first word of the next page at the bottom of each preceding page made for fun reading indeed. My only guess at why they did that was in case you skipped a page when reading or cutting the pages. But I digress as always.
Yes, yes books. I love books. I even love smelling books, from newly pressed paper to very old paper, if no one is looking, I’ll stick my nose up close and get a good whiff. I wonder if I ever got pregnant would I
start munching on books like a human silverfish?
Not only do I read what I read, overall my ability to comprehend whatever it is new, old, or indifferent is better than average. Looking back to my early CAT tests, it seems I was always lucky that way. I just want to say thanks to my mom for reading to me The Three Little Kittens, Richard Scarry, and Felix the Cat. I also want to say thanks to that hateful teacher who taught me to read using phonics. Bitch, you may have hated me and thought I was stupid, but at least your crazy ass taught me to read well, thanks tons! Now if all this matters in the real world I’ll leave it up to you.
2.) I have a pretty decent vocabulary in two different languages. Reading Spanish is pretty easy…Speaking Spanish, um no. Rico suave. I’m good at English, anyway, though I try not to drag it out to people who don’t have as good a vocabulary, which, no offense, includes almost everyone in my apartment complex. Vocabulary doesn’t necessarily mean one is bright, so much as that they are educated fools.
3.) This thing I do, the writing, I’m better than a lot of people. Not nearly as good as many, many people, but better than average. Too bad my mind is too hyper and only lets me do it in tiny increments. If I could just tidy my writing style a bit I could write something worthy of printing (it wouldn’t hurt to actually have an idea to write about!).
4.) I have a sense of humor which has served me somewhat well. It sort of just sort of happens, and I never know if people will find what I write funny, but it often works. I worry about one day finding I have nothing funny to write. What if I run out of anything to write? I write as though I will be dead serious at first, then something happens and the funny comes. Go figure. Free the creativity!
The first time I remember writing a story down that made people laugh I was in second grade, and it was a wonderful feeling, just the best. I remember the gist of the story, a talking baby being interviewed by a reporter right after her was born. Comedy gold! Too bad I don’t still have it somewhere. What’s the point of being a sort-of-hoarder if you can’t hang on to obscure childhood papers?
5.) I am almost overly mannerly, barring a few bad habits.
6.) I aim not to hurt or slight someone. In a way this is good, but lots of times it’s bad because almost everyday I’m worried that someone is cross and about to stop being my friend or that I’ve unintentionally upset somebody.
7.) I like people, but like being left to entertain myself too. I’ve been that way since I was a small child. I had a gigantic imagination that invented stories and characters that I could imagine myself a part of and play alone for hours. I enjoyed playing with other children, mind you, but being different, this kept me from being lonely when no one would play. I like people now too, and I often get considerably lonely, but if I ever struck out on my own or had a beloved that reciprocated in kind, I don’t think I’d want to set up housekeeping straight away. Being quirky makes one only too happy to be left to your own devices.
8.) I’m told I still have a youthful enthusiasm that most people lose. This could be good I suppose and bad too. My voice makes people think I’m “slow.” Yes, someone even told me sometime that some people think so (mind you, he was on hard drugs, but that’s beside the point).
9.) My tastes are various. Case in point: I love subtitled foreign films, but I love a stupid comedy too. The problem with being kinda well-rounded is you don’t really fit in anywhere.
10.) I’m perfectly content to be friends with people much older than me.
11.) If someone is being hurt I will come to that person’s defense, not my own defense, but Charleston wasn’t built in a day.
12.) I’m all kind and charitable and junk. I almost always give whatever is asked of me. Saintly sucker!
I reckon that’s a wrap.
P.S., If you don’t like this font please let me know. I’m trying out ScribeFire, and I heart me some comic sans MS, but if it’s hard to read I will do something else.
Here is a helping of poems for this week’s Poetry Potluck. http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com. Tell me what you really think, will get around to changing “freaking’ on my last Potluck offering and answering everyone too!
An Ambidextrous Life
My interests are like my hands, ambidextrous;
And I have never met anyone else ambidextrous.
I take up my pen with my left hand,
but use my scissors with the right.
I think it’s day but secretly wonder if it might be night.
I am going to make my way in this blog on a metaphorical bridge of thoughts and perceptions from day to day to try to connect the known with the yet unknown. My bridge is like a single plank which will require the supplement of others.