Back in the old days – by which I mean the seventies and eighties, when I was a kid – we didn’t have the selection of television we have today. Today you can watch TV 24-7. You can turn on the tube at 4:00 in the morning and catch a movie or a cooking show or sports updates. You can watch primetime TV whenever you want, if you DVR it. In my day, back when there weren’t cell phones and iPods and we’d just invented butter, there was still a wacky annoying signal at around 1:00 in the morning, when the television would stop playing EVERYTHING and just show you bars of color and yell at you. Or sometimes it showed the head of an Indian, I think, or some other symbol. Or maybe that was my stint in Oklahoma; maybe that was a local symbol. Anyway, you couldn’t just watch whenever you darn well wanted to.
And the selection was severely limited. News at night. 3 channels worth of drama, soap operas and sitcoms. Saturday night movies. Cartoons in the morning and Saturdays. The end. Oh yeah, PBS. J Now there are whole channels devoted to cooking, or the weather, or *FOOTBALL* (we have NFL Network on all the time)
So my recent happiness is this: Lie To Me (which isn’t a recent happiness, really. I’ve been in love with it and slightly obsessed since the show came out. A. Tim Roth is DELICIOUS in this show. could the man have more intense sexuality and charm? hardly possible. B. It’s fabulous, fascinating, funny, charming and witty. ) and then recently The OCD Project. For obvious reasons, but if you’re new to me here’s a helpful hint: I have OCD.
I can’t recall having ever seen a show that specifically talked about people with OCD. Movies, like the Aviator and Dirty Filthy Love, have broached the topic. But I can’t remember ever seeing something on TV myself that dealt with this issue. This show was fascinating. And disturbing. I certainly don’t have the condition to the severity that the people on the show did, but I could appreciate what they were going through. One girl is afraid of killing people when she drives. Her father was killed in an accident when he was a pedestrian (I think; I missed that episode) and now she is terrified she is going to kill someone the same way. When she drives up to a busy intersection she gets nervous, panicky and has to circle around the block a couple of times to make sure she didn’t accidentally mow someone over without noticing. It sounds like she developed OCD just after her father’s death. Another girl developed it after her fiancée died of cancer. She flips light switches on and off about a jillion times, and does this with the water faucet as well.
On. Off. On. Off. onoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoff.
It gets tiring being this way. But I was glad I got to see this series. I had the chance to see these people calm themselves down. I missed the episode where they teach the OCD’ers how to gauge to what degree they are freaking out, but they all talked about “levels”. “What’s your level right now?” And someone would say 100, or 85. Level of crazy discomfort, I know, but I have to find out how they determine what the numbers are. The interesting thing about this whole condition seems to be that it is built around trying to stave off emotional disturbance. These ticks, or habits, or “rituals” – as the doctor on the show calls them – develop because the person is trying to avoid something. A situation, a memory, an emotion. And to avoid that fear, the person develops little things to occupy their attention. And then those things develop a life of their own and sort of take over, like The Blob. As these people learn to deal with the panic they are feeling about whatever issue they are working through, they start to ride through the emotion instead of run away from it. In one episode a girl who was attacked by a stranger struggles to keep her sanity while the doctor puts his hands on her face. She has a fear of men, and intimacy, and touching now that she’s been attacked, and he walks her through what is called an “exposure”. Exposures force you into the thing you are afraid of. So she sits and cries and cowers as he holds her face in his hands. And at first she is so tense you can feel it in YOUR stomach. But he stays there. And after a while her “levels” start coming down. And you can see she’s doing better. It’s a slow process, but you can tell her face is calmer, her body is less rigid, and she isn’t about to explode.
This was so helpful for me, as an OCDer. And also watching an episode of Lie To Me, where they had an ex-soldier who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They did a similar thing with him, walking him through an old upsetting memory, until he had recovered it more accurately and could then determine why he had the erroneous belief that everyone was trying to kill him. (it wasn’t everyone, just one guy in particular) I, too, struggle with thinking people want to kill me, because there have been several people in my life who have threatened to do so, or tried. But hey, not EVERYONE wants to. So these shows have been showing me how I can walk myself through these situations. I’m trying to learn that what I’m feeling will pass, and the panic will subside. I’m trying to get past the hammering of my heart, and the way my legs go out from under me when certain situations make me feel vulnerable or insecure. There is a particular situation that does this to me every time, and my knees buckle, till I think I’m going to land my ass on the floor, and my heart is about to jump the confines of my chest, and my head is dizzy and the blood is pounding in my ears. I wonder what level that is? But I guess the thing to do is ride through it, and hope my heart doesn’t explode as I do.
I’ve been involved in a number of dangerous and life threatening situations. I’ve had someone choke me. I’ve had someone threaten to slit my throat open with a knife. I’ve been pinned to the wall. I’ve been hit in the face. I’ve had the aforementioned axe incident, where I was attacked by a man swinging an axe at me. I’ve been accosted in a public place, and THEN pinned to a wall. I’ve been pinned to the ground and assaulted. And all of this by different people, so it’s not like I got a handle on who was the consistent, reliable perpetrator. Soon, EVERYONE was a possible perpetrator. And eventually I learned not to allow my back to people. Because now my fear is that I will be attacked. It’s not like a conscious fear I’ve been aware of. All of these situations happened before my adult life, so I developed an undercurrent of thinking that involved people wanting to kill me. Because it seemed like that was the big thrill everyone wanted to get in on. So I became afraid of sitting with my back to people in a restaurant. I became nervous riding full busses. I heightened my awareness and threw up a bunch of walls, and tried to be sure I could see everything around me when at all possible. At least this way if some giant of a man comes at me wielding a sharp instrument I will be ready. This time I will be prepared to die.
Even with all of this vigilance, I haven’t been able to necessarily fend off the death threats. I’ve had two people talk about killing me while I was at my workplace. And several stalkers in my time. And now I’m being asked to sit at my obviously inferior workspace and allow the world to come and slit my throat from behind.
So I’ve been having numerous meltdowns. I cry all the time. I almost fainted at work when I showed my sister my horrid little hovel. My heart rate has been incredibly off the charts for days now. I’m twitchy and nervous and fearful. I hyperventilate when I’m brushing my teeth in the bathroom. And lying on the couch. And making a sandwich. I’m soft and sullen and wounded. I have a perpetual woeful look on my face. Or I think I do…I haven’t been looking in the mirror a lot, but the facial muscles I’m using FEEL woeful. Yes I know, they’ve told me they will work on it. It is hopeful that I will be able to turn my desk a different direction, even though I was told this was NOT possible the day they told me about this whole situation. So maybe it won’t be as bad as it was presented to me. Maybe after a while I will realize that the situation isn’t horrible at all, and I just worked myself up into a lather over the idea of imminent death, when the Death wasn’t really knocking at my door at all. It was just the Avon lady, maybe, with my order of frizzy hair control product.
Still, for the past five days I have been a bundle of nerves. Which just makes me have to run to the bathroom to get sick. Oh yeah! This might be one of my alters, and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her or not yet. Nervous Nellie. Hi, glad to meet you. If you couldn’t tell, Nervous Nellie has had plenty of things to be nervous about, and now she gets to go to work in this state of anxiety and tension, and try to perform menial tasks and duties, like walking and getting a drink of water.
On the positive side, I have been wanting to learn to let people in to my life, my world, and my heart. I wasn’t planning on doing that by becoming a vulnerable, messy, wreck of a human right in front of everyone I work with, but there you go. Now the poison’s out of the bottle, it’s not like I can shove it back in.
I’m still alive.
Maybe that should be my motto in life.
What I mean is that I’m still alive, even though I haven’t been blogging lately. Not because I don’t have anything to say, or get off my chest, but because I haven’t had the strength to do it. To write about it. To expose myself.
And even there I’m wrong, because I have the strength, I just haven’t had the energy. It seems that many things have come on me at once, and I have had to face many dark and ugly skeletons in my closet all at the same time. I’ve talked on here about building a fortress for myself, like I were a little Rapunzel come to life from the fairy tales. Lately, it’s as if a herd of giants have bombed my fortress, while a devastating earthquake hit, while the draught ate up all my vegetable garden and the wicked witch stole off with my prince charming. And while I love my interesting, tragic, colorful life (because it makes for awesome poems and deep emotional writing) it is sometimes tiring and draining.
I shan’t reveal all my secrets here, because I imagine I can drag out my dramas for at least a few good blogs, but I feel I must at least lay down the basics of my current drama, for myself, and I guess to explain my absence to any stoppers by who have become regular visitors and were wondering if I’d finally gotten around to shooting myself. And no, because guns are loud. Knives are shiny and prettier. Also they can act as tools if you lock yourself out of the house, though I suppose you could bash in your window with your gun, so that argument doesn’t really hold much.
Several weeks ago, maybe months ago at this point, my mother came to visit, and I haven’t fully recovered from that. Not because of HER, exactly, but because parts of the visit brought up some very dark, very difficult realities in my life. There will be several blogs related to this issue when I am able to deal with actually talking about it all, but the whole thing has rattled me and made me vulnerable and nervous. Because of my condition – both the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the Dissociative Identity Disorder – I can’t always remember things. So this visit reminded me that my life was, in fact, horrible when I was young. And I guess this realization also tainted some of the reality I was choosing to believe.
I’m also having insomnia horribly bad. I’ve had insomnia since I was in about the third grade, so it’s always been a constant issue. But until recently, it’s been something that I can manage or deal with. It’s been hard, and frustrating, and exhausting throughout my life, true. But recently it has become physically unbearable. I’m so tired I ache. My head hurts, my body hurts, I’m nauseous and no matter what I do, I haven’t been able to sleep much lately. I burst into tears from the pain of the non-sleep. I stagger around, because I’m no longer just tired, I’m sleep deprived. Drinking has been helping the situation some, but hey, I have enough problems in my life, adding alcoholism to the list is not something I’m keen on. There are reasons for this upsurge in my sleeplessness, which again will be revealed when I can manage.
And I’m trying to open up to love, which is challenging, nervousy, worrisome and feels potentially threatening. It’s not like I haven’t been in love before; but I haven’t ever really opened myself up to people in general. I’m doing a great deal of work to make myself ready for the kind of relationship I deserve, and long for. But the whole process makes me have to look at myself, and my inner demons, my insecurities, and my feelings of un-worth. If I give my heart, will it be trampled? If I open myself up, will I have to mend my heart back together in the long run? I’ve conditioned myself to be protective, evasive, and funny. I skirt the difficult questions with a charming smile and a flippant answer. Asked recently what my father did for a living, I said, “Oh, you know…he’s a criminal”. Which isn’t entirely true, but somewhat. There are more honest and forthcoming answers, but I never truly believe that people want to hear the truth from me, which is conditioning both from my family and society.
Add to all of this my work place, which has become a strain. Since I also have OCD, I certainly don’t want to neglect that area of my crazy brain. So I’ve given myself a task in my workplace: go through intensive ‘exposure’ situations with an entire department of people to watch you. The reality of the situation is hilarious – I’m just having to move my desk to another department, a different location. But this particular location sets me up for a whole windfall of emotional issues and Post Traumatic wig-outs, and OCD management techniques. Again, I will share what I can in the future, but the bottom line is that at work, and in front of all of my co-workers, I will basically be confronting one of the worst and scariest fears and phobias I have as a human. And I feel as though I’m on a reality rehab show, and have to expose myself in front of the world, and air my dirty laundry to everyone around me. Which is quite different than typing on my laptop at home and sharing my dirty laundry with complete strangers. These people have to look me in the eye the next day, and try not to laugh at my stupid irrational phobias. I am ashamed, and fearful, and worried. I’m having panic attacks, and hyperventilating, and shaking. I’m crying, and feel faint, and worried that I’m going to fall apart in front of people that don’t understand me and probably don’t give a shit about my life.
So I’m tired. And small. And not much of a writer lately. I don’t have the ability to make things sound pretty, or interesting, or poetic. I’m just me. And it’s ugly. And raw. And very very vulnerable. But real. So what else can I do, but live through it, and stop and look at the paths ahead of me, and ask myself: which path are you going to choose, Denelle? LOVE? Or Fear?
Last night I’m doing my thing, hanging out with my sister, and we decide to watch a TV show we DVR’d, that is basically a horror series. This show is trying to be like that really good series “Harper’s Island”, only so far it’s not doing such a bang up job. And we’re watching along, la de da, and of course the axe scene comes along. Well, it is a horror show, axes are sort of mandatory stage props in any good horror movie or show, everyone knows that. And there are, like, twenty axes on this guy’s wall. *why? what do you need that many axes for? you trying to turn your office into your own personal Ace Hardware? one axe should suffice for any normal human being, or at least anyone not employed as a lumber jack or fireman*
So there are the many axes, and at one point the guy grabs an axe and proceeds to chop his own hand off. ‘Cause apparently when you have a plethora of axes, you should use the extras to dismember yourself.
Well for any horror fan, this might be really fun, a great first episode. For people like me, it’s not the best anything.
When I was twelve, my favorite uncle came at me with an axe. He was 6 foot 2 inches, and 375 pounds, give or take an ounce. Big man. Bad mood. Grabbed an axe out of my grandmother’s garage, hefted himself over toward me, and swung it at my belly. Trying to make me into a human piñata, I suppose. Horror movie people like to throw axes into their movies a lot. It’s very exciting. It tells you the antagonist is completely psycho. It makes you feel you got your money’s worth. We don’t, however, usually get to see the traumatized teenager later in life, after they’ve averted death and the instrument of torture, and tried to pick up the pieces of their brain and move forward with themselves.
Speaking as an axe-incident-survivor, I have to say this isn’t maybe the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Or, I don’t know, maybe it was. I’ve had a number of weird things happen, and I can’t say my life was completely safe. Thus the whole Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis, and the more exciting and colorful Multiple Personality Disorder. I sort of earned that last one, I didn’t just pick it out of a basket one day while I was trying on mental illnesses, looking to see which one fit the best. My nutty, unstable, scary life sort of chose my mental outfit for me. So whether this was the worst situation I’ve ever been in or not, let me state what should be obvious: this fucked me up pretty bad.
Now when I watch movies, any hint of an axe sends me into a tail spin. I can often spot it a mile away, even if the axe incident is one of usefulness – like busting open a tank of water to rescue someone who is pulling a Houdini type stunt – I still freak out completely. I can spot these things before hand. Usually before we even start a movie that involves an axe scene, I freak out during opening credits, or start having asthma attacks twenty minutes before the scene shows up. I get ramped up five chapters before an axe makes an entrance in a book, as well. I’m a little bit sensitive to the buggers now. Go figure.
So last night, after the show, I had a melt down. Minor. Didn’t last all night. And I only shifted personalities two or three times. I got little, and cried in a little person’s voice, because I was scared like a rabbit. I shifted into my angry person, because really she’s scared too, but also mad that she is STILL scared, and that there are so many little people in me that freak out and get scared shitless over fictional characters and made up boogey men.
It’s just that, these things aren’t all made up. I really knew these boogey men. I had to live with them. I had to eat dinner across the table from them, while they watched me through their scary, crazy, boogey men eyeballs. I stayed over at their houses, and played basketball with them, or rode on their motorcycles and let them take the splinters from my fingers. I lived in their shadows, and dreamed of their contorted faces in the middle of the night. And they seemed to want to kill me, and that was just the way it was.
So my sister and I talked that out, and eventually I felt better.
And then today on my walk, I encounter a man I met just recently. Educated. Good looking. But very intense. Very persuasive. Very coercive, and forceful, and sort of walking the line of “I’m about to fuck somebody up, and it could be you, little lady” kind of thing. Standing on the precipice of permanent insanity, and talking about how he’s going to be a lawyer. Help us Lord. And this guy was hitting on me a few weeks ago as I came out of a building, telling me how beautiful I am and how amazing my eyes are. So at least he’s intelligent. But then he’s causing trouble at my work, not because of me, but just because he likes to spread the wealth. Share the love. Give what he has most of, which I believe is trouble.
And he’s standing there talking to me in the park, where I’m working on a different blog, which is probably a whiny one about love, and desire, or belly fat and how I’m getting old. I’m predictable maybe. But I’m also by myself. And this guy’s intensity is … intense. And he reminds me of my father, which is mostly a bad thing. My dad has some interesting qualities. Not all of them are bad. But most of them. Most are pretty horrendously bad. And here’s this guy, talking to me with my dad’s language, looking at me with my dad’s intensity, threatening me with my dad’s type of non-verbal threatening body language. Not that he’s really threatening me. But he’s one of those Charles Manson type of guys, who can start off trying to sell you a prayer cloth, and end you up in jail for murdering a family. He’s one of those guys that will tell you he’s looking out for you, while he shoves bamboo shoots into your eyes and spends the money in your pocket on weed or beer.
And this guy wants to get with me. Go out with me. Knock his boots on my bedposts, all that. But in his eyes, I can see, he might like to hit me too. He might like a little rough sex, and then a good shiner on my right eye.
And I’m cool. I know how to play these guys. I know how to keep it low, and make them think they can trust me, or that I trust them. I know how to settle down the hostile ones, and make the demons in them forget they are demons, and begin to think they are just misunderstood emotional boys. But the truth is, they are crazy. They are crazy men, who make me crazy. I find I’ve gotten tired of this game, tired of these people that want to spread their insanity all over me like I’m an English muffin looking for butter. I have my own fucking crazy, thanks to these kind of men. I don’t need second doses of mental illness, or another helping of fucked in the head. I’ve got plenty of my own.
Still, I come home and have a time of it. Not sure what to do, how to do it, why I’m changing my clothes. I need to email a friend of mine, because he’s big, and strong, and makes me feel safe and sane and like I might be able to breathe in a minute or two. I fall on the stairs crying, I walk around the house in a daze, looking at things, but not registering what I’m seeing.
Because when you are the victim of true horror, when you are the kid in a real life horror movie, it doesn’t just go away after two hours of sitting in the dark and a bowl of awesomely fattening buttered popcorn. It doesn’t wash out with a hefty cup of Coke and a quick stop in the movie house bathroom, whose stalls never shut properly. The real horror stories live on and on, and continue to haunt you in your sleep, and on the streets, and when you are just trying to write a little blog about something trivial, because you tend to wax poetic. So no, I don’t like axes. Or men that are crazy, and think they are sane. But yes, of course I admit, they do make interesting plot twists.