Sunday, October 30, 2011

Speaking of Sunday Summary

Pardon My Dust: I'll be doing a cleanup on my tags because I have 7 million of them...

And more importantly, shortly, shortly, Salami & Orchids will be getting a new little sister blog, "Blauthor, Blauthor!", and all things writing and book-related will be posted over there. By me, of course, still by me. Blauthor will launch so soon, in fact, that the next book review will be posted only there. I'm in the process of moving copies of S&O's previously posted book reviews to Blauthor for convenience/posterity.

Anoter aspect of Blauthor, that I'm very excited about, is I'll be blooking (blogging a book) my novel Superstore, and hopefully other fiction works in the future. Stay tuned, fun stuff is coming!


Speaking of Fun Stuff Coming: I won the Piney Woods Tatter's October Event! The package is on its way and I'm so, so excited. I haven't been able to tat much with money being so tight, so when the box arrives the lace-making will begin! I'll post pictures of the work- maybe even do a tatting tutorial-- how cute would that be? I've been meaning to post more crafty things. I will.


Wednesday Weigh Ins: For real. Starting Wednesday. Lisa's getting married in less than a year, so I have less than a year to lose 40-70 pounds. You and me, we're doing this together. We're going to exercise, we're going to count calories, we're going to kick some major ass.

And I meant what I said about getting other bloggers involved. I want stats. I want stories. I want pictures. I want recipes.


WTF Snow: When I write these things I keep a tab with the "Compose Post" window up and I leave little notes to myself so I remember what I wanted to talk about. The notes I leave are almost never the little titles I give at the head of each section because it usually needs to stew in my head a little before a satisfying pun distills.

This title, however, is exactly what I wrote. And it bears repeating: WTF Snow.

I figured I had another month before I would need to complain about snow, but no. No, not this year. In weather's defense, I heard a rumor that this was the first pre-Halloween snow since 1952. This shocked me because 1952 means it happened before my parents were born. Holy crap.

Now let me tell you about snow. No, let me tell you about winter. Winter is the bastard cousin of that most excellent of seasons, autumn, and ugly little sister of that second most excellent of seasons, spring.

In other words, winter sucks. Don't get me wrong, I dig the whole "cold" thing. My windows haven't been closed for a minute since my dad took my air conditioner out for the season. But I hate the dryness. I hate the general dryness outside, and I really hate that that dryness is compounded by the use of heaters. Blegh.

I have a humidifier in the shape of an elephant. His name is Archimedes, after my favorite Disney character.

Look how awesome this little guy is.

...what was I saying?

Right. Winter sucks and I don't like it. And it's encroaching on my favorite season.

Because winter's a jerk.


Speaking of Things I Don't Like: It's Halloween. Not a fan, to be honest. I'm all for celebrating horror and dressing up and drinking (In college I hung out with theater kids, it's what they did once or twice a month. ...Come to think of it, my non-theater friends did it on occasion, too.) but...I just don't get into it when it's forced on me, I guess. Like Valentine's Day.

In high school I had a religious a seriously religious faze. Boy did I hate Halloween then! I remember grumbling about pagans a lot.

I am, however, looking forward gorging myself on candy before I start counting every calorie.



Upcoming Posts: Fuller Fashion, The Lion King review, Why I Love My Antidepressant, and the upcoming launch of Blauthor, Blauthor!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Had another appointment with Dr. S. this morning, and an interesting thing happened when the nurse showed me to my exam room. "Alright, Joanna, come on in. The doctor wants you to have an EKG today, so if you'll just unhook your bra and hop up on the table..."

What the hell? All of a sudden we're concerned about my heart? What does my heart have to do with anything?

Come to think of it, I never did find out why this was necessary in the first place- I was too relieved when he said everything was normal to remember to ask.

So the good news is my heart's completely normal!

And so's just about everything else. The massive amounts of blood I gave in the name of testing came out all clear except for the minor glitch that is my white blood cell count, which is always a little low.

The bad news is we're no closer to figuring out just what the hell is going on with this abdominal/pelvic pain I'm having. Dr. S. agreed that a second opinion is needed from the gynecological angle (Mystery Diagnosis and Other Medical Issues) and gave me the name of a gynecologist that his other patients have liked. He's not worried about the cause so much, though, since the tests I've already had have ruled out the more dangerous conditions so now it's just a matter of getting me comfortable.

Comfortable. I wonder what that's like?

So we upped my Lyrica because it's not nearly as strong as it needs to be, and added a new stomach medicine that I can't remember the name of. And more Vicodin, because that shit is gooooold.

Is it nap time? I think it is.

Oh, and not that Hyperbole and a Half needs more publicity, but Allie Brosh posted an amazing description of depression that everyone should read here at Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1 in 110

It happened. The hammer fell.

My sweet, beloved, 5 year old nephew Manny was officially diagnosed with Autism.

Fans of the blog know this was not a surprise: Nephew Talk, Manny, the Busy Busy Saturday Summary, the Saturday Summary and the Electric Mayhem, and Waiting... all give a snapshot of life with Manny and the tides of his disorder.

But now it's official.

After Manny started school his behaviors sparked an immediate response from the teacher and school, as we were afraid would happen. What was worse than that, though, was their complete bungling of the situation. They attributed his behavior to having not gone to preschool or, showing how shallow their observations were, his reluctance to tell his mother that he was misbehaving.

Of all the things my Manny is, he isn't a liar. If only because he has no concept of truth or deception. His mind just doesn't work that way.

So it was hard to accept the school's assessment. With this also came the nagging thought, though, that these people are professionals with advanced degrees working in a wealthy school district so wouldn't they, shouldn't they, know better than us? Maybe we were being too critical? Maybe we just babied him all of these years, assuming he didn't understand things or not asking enough of him? It was a scary thought.

So we trudged on through the weeks, waiting for his appointment with a behavioral specialist to give us the final word. Under-analyzing, over-analyzing, arguing, researching, waiting.

Last week Debra, Manny's mother and my brother Mick's wife, received a report from the head of the school's child study team. She had done her own observation after Debra expressed dissatisfaction with the CST's original report. The new report was 15 pages long and detailed every unusual behavior, every flick of his eyes and flap of his hands. It outlined, clinically, all of...everything.

So there was a flicker of hope that we weren't crazy, but we would have infinitely preferred to have been crazy.

The behavioral specialist gave the final word on Tuesday: Autistic with a severe Auditory Processing Disorder. He needs special education in a one-on-one or small group setting and speech therapy, as his speech is severely affected by his developmental disorder. He is extremely intelligent, but it's hidden behind his condition.

Now we do what we can to help him.

He is not one in a million. He is one in 110. One in 110 children are on the Autism spectrum.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Being Unemployed is Hard Work: A Stream (of consciousness) Style Saturday Summary

Clearly I've been posting less this month as I've been subbing. It's good that I'm actually bringing a little money in (I have a grand total of $27 in my bank account and $27 cash, ooooh yeah.), but, like with The Internship from Hell, I'm too tired to do anything else.

I actually fell asleep downstairs for the first time in...I can't even remember the last time I fell asleep downstairs. I imagine it had something to do with mono. Not only did I fall asleep downstairs, come to think of it, I fell asleep during The Big Bang Theory, and that's serious. I haven't seen the boyfriend Herbert since the end of June, so TBBT is like having Herbert around a little bit.

He's kind of Sheldon-ish.

Rather Sheldon-y.

In his, and my, defense, the only character on TBBT that I would consider dating would be Sheldon. Maybe, maybe Leonard, but only after Sheldon rejected me. And that's not just my Reverse Gay-dar for Jim Parsons talking because, like I said, Herbert is rather Sheldon-y.

In fact, I found a word today that explains my affliction. Not the reverse gay-dar affliction, but my attraction to intelligence: sapiosexuality, or "being attracted or aroused by intelligence and its use." So that, plus my affinity for the tall and thin, adds up to my attraction to Sheldon and, of course, Herbert.

What was I talking about?

Right: fatigue and its impediments to productivity. I've got surprising amounts of work piled on my head for someone so unemployed...being unemployed, itself, is an incredible amount of work, as it turns out.

--I need to write a letter to the director of my high school's spring musical to offer my costuming skillz and beg for any amount of money I can get-- at least enough to cover supplies, I absolutely have to be able to not lose any money on this deal because, obviously, I don't have any money to lose. I can't get further into debt on another costuming whim.

It hurts to call it a whim. To reduce it that way...but it makes it easier to give up a dream.

It hurts to know I can't live the life it requires to do the work.

Sister-in-Law Janet suggested I start a website of children's costumes or pageant dresses, but, of course, the problem is the start-up capital. So I get a cheap domain and my brother Arthur does the site design/creation thing, where does the money come from for the fabric & etc.? Where do I get a model or advertising?

It's kind of funny how you need money in order to make money.

-- I need to look for jobs. Which is hilarious. I'm unemployed, but I'm too busy working, or tired from working, to look for jobs.

There's another layer, too, where that now that the school year has started, the in-school or about-school-somehow-vaguely jobs have been filled and therefore taking out a large portion of where I was looking (the possibility of getting state employee health insurance makes my mouth water) which is a major shame but my only income and only possibility of income began with school starting.

Yeah, figure that one out. This is my life now.

-- I have work to do online. Work on this blog (I missed my own launch of Wednesday Weigh-Ins, augh), I have Chandler's half of our Lion King review/analysis to work into mine, advertising this blog to find some more readers, and working on the launch of the second (more professional, far less personal) blog...which I had an excellent idea for last night that, while awesome, opens up whole new doors of work. Of course.

That blog will have ads, so maybe it will bring in a little scratch...but how do I advertise? Augh. Work.

-- Offline work: novels. I had breakthroughs on two of them and have hit a very hard wall on the third.

Plus, I need to do something about my really hit me the other day that I'm not going anywhere any time soon (you'd think I would have figured it out already...)...I know I mentioned it the other day but...damn...I really do need to do something about that. It may help my mindset.

Like those people that are like, "Messy room, messy mind."

It's funny how I get more and more normal as my health improves. I'm less whacky than I thought, as it turns out. For example, I got up this morning at 9:30 a.m. and I just feel more productive without actually, you know, being more productive. I really haven't gotten anything more done but it just feels good. Honestly, more normal.

Oh, AND I need to apply to grad school, but I can't afford to apply to a bunch and get screwed on application fees plus what it costs to take the GREs...damn.


6 days until my next appointment with Dr. S., so maybe we can take another step towards straightening me out. I think the Lyrica is helping (Say what!), but it's not at the level it needs to be...not yet. So I need more. We'll talk about that.

We'll also talk about the Mystery Diagnosis that hasn't seen much of a change...maybe a little dullness, but it's all still there. Le sigh.

AND, to top it all off now, I need a nap. Of course I do. Damn it.

Hang in there, everyone.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The World I Live In by Helen Keller

If you have an Amazon Kindle, or a Kindle App, The World I Live In is available for free here: The World I Live In. If you have some other kind of E-reader do your thing, whatever that may be, because I have a Kindle so that's all I understand.

What I'm trying to say it's available online, for free. It's sitting out there waiting for you to find it in its free-ness.

And you should absolutely find it. Find it now.

My experiences with the Helen Keller story are like everyone else's: you read a story in elementary school about how deaf and blind Helen learned to speak and went to college because of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Then a little while later you see one version or another of The Miracle Worker because every few years, without fail, The Miracle Worker comes on TV and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that Helen Keller thing..." And between those experiences you hear the jokes about rearranging the furniture and "reading" the waffle iron. Then later on you discover Apples to Apples and learn that a (more or less) properly played "Helen Keller" card is an instant win because it's pretty freaking hilarious every time. In fact, you can even Like it on Facebook: "Apples to Apples: The Helen Keller Card"

People make offhand Helen Keller jokes all the time, but their thoughts never seem to go much deeper than "Being deaf and blind would suck a lot." I myself never really thought that long about it even though I had my mother rent The Miracle Worker every week for months. But I never really thought about it.

Maybe it's because I never had to-- that I was never faced with it on an everyday basis. Or maybe I did think about it as in-depth-ly as my 8 year-old brain could go and when my questions went unanswered they dissipated.

In any event, while reading The World I Live In, I was continually surprised by the little things that never occurred to me and I found myself saying, "Oh, yeah! How does she do/experience that? What's that like?"

Helen takes us through her world in 15 chapters and explains how her world compares to ours in day to day life- speaking, reading, writing, and her life before Annie Sullivan.

Then, in Chapter 15, Helen lets loose a rhapsodic torrent of ethereal beauty. Chapter 15, "A Waking Dream", weaves history, literature, and fantasy into a veritable tapestry of...of...of...beauticiousness. I sincerely want Herbert to come over and read "A Waking Dream" to me while I drift off to sleep. I loved this chapter. I think it was included to show that her imagination is just as good as-- if not better than-- the average person's, and it is. It's most certainly better than mine; my actual dreams are only half as good and that's only because of the drugs I'm on, and she's talking about a daydream. That's serious creativity.

The World I Live In is a quick, pretty, and interesting read, and absolutely worth it.

5 stars

See Blauthor, Blauthor! for more of my reviews!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sore Sunday Summary

7 Mile- Rode my bike 7 miles yesterday, oooooh yeah. I've lost a little weight since my doctor took away milk and vegetables, but I noticed a little bump in my numbers lately and I think it could be Lyrica's weight gain side-effect rearing its ugly now, not only is it not working but it's also making me even bigger. Fantastic.

But my appointment with Dr. S. is coming up, so that will be good.

My legs huuuuurt. My goodness. It was much too far for my first time out in weeks...but I needed to get Herbert's birthday present on the off-chance I ever see him again now that he's at school all the time. Oh, Herbert.

Speaking of Herbert, it's his 25th birthday today. I wish a very merry birthday to a very sweet, and very darling, young man. He's a good boy, and I'm lucky to know him.

And, speaking of weight, now that I think of it, I'd like to be 140 pounds or less for Lisa's wedding next September, so I've got a little less than a year to lose 40 pounds-- which is why I'm instituting Wednesday Weigh-Ins. Wednesday Weigh-Ins will include pictures of both the scale and me to watch the pounds slip off, and information on health and fitness, and I'll try to get some other bloggers in on it as well so it'll be like a blog for health kind of thing. It'll be cute. Maybe we could do like a battle of the sexes-- whichever side loses more weight gets...gets...gets, at the very least, bragging rights.


Family Fishermen: Today was the annual Governor's Tournament...I think. Anyway, it was some fishing tournament my dad and his brothers and close friends go to every year to lose epic-ly. They did not disappoint this year.

One interesting thing they learned, though, is that not only is there something a seagull won't eat, but that they could also vomit. Who knew? Seagulls eat rotting fish heads and out of garbage cans, but gag after eating kielbasa.

So do I, do I.


Pants, Pants, Pants, and Pants: Many pants do be dealt with in the household. My parents love having a seamstress in the house, they make me fix everything. I have to let out my dad's pants, I need to hem mine, Mom and I went pants shopping...lots of pants.

Which reminds me, I need to write that letter to the director of my old high school's spring musical to offer my services as a costumer. I figure, why not? It's something to do. Maybe I can even get $20 out of the deal. Shoot.

The thing is, I'm so exhausted after subbing...I'm really, really afraid I won't be able to handle everything...guess I won't know for sure until I try, eh?

Sometimes I wonder what I'd do if I wasn't sick. Like go to school for design, maybe...audition for Project Runway...or textile restoration, I was thinking about that for a little while.

At the very least my kids will have the best Halloween costumes on the block.


The Great Curl Project: I've made a great stride in the curl project. I'm still overwhelmed with insane amounts of frizz, but Dove's Damage Therapy Daily Moisture shampoo has been a big help in the battle. I've also stopped brushing my hair-- full stop, and I only brush it when it's dripping with conditioner to minimize breakage, damage, and tangles. I shower at about 4 now, then leave my hair in a loose braid until I'm about to go to bed, when I put in 9 foam curlers on the ends of my hair and sleep in a satin cap. My hair's so soft now, and the curls are very pretty and natural looking, I'm pretty happy. I wish there was less frizz, of course, but I think there's been major improvement. I'll include a picture in the Wednesday Weigh-In post.


Upcoming Posts: The Lion King Review, Actor Analysis: Zooey Deschanel, reviews of Helen Keller's The World I Live In and Phillipa Gregory's The Constant Princess, and the first Wednesday Weigh In.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mystery Diagnosis and Other Medical Issues

Bad news.

Really bad news.

I'm going to have to change my "Endometriosis" tag to "Mystery Diagnosis".

Why? Because I got a phone call from the gynecologist. My old general practitioner's (GP), Dr. J., office sent my most recent blood test results to the GYN, so with those and my ultrasound results he made a decision.

The decision that my problem was not gynecological.

So I guess it's just a coincidence that my pain is synchronized with my cycle. And apparently he doesn't care anymore that I said I think it's endometriosis, and that he agreed that it could be, and that he himself said the only way to tell for sure was surgery. But apparently none of that matters anymore because he had some kind of psychic vision that my problem isn't gynecological.

If it ends up being endometriosis I'm going to make an appointment just to punch him in the face.

I've got an appointment with the new GP, Dr. S, in about two weeks so he's going to get an earful about that. For sure.


One of the co-morbid disorders of fibromyalgia that isn't often talked about is AAIFS, or Annoying-Ass Ignorant Family Syndrome. AAIFS is almost never found in the fibromyalgia patient themselves but is actually found in the people surrounding the patient. Variations of AAIFS are AAIFS2 (Annoying-Ass Ignorant Friend Syndrome) and AAIAS or Annoying-Ass Ignorant Acquaintance Syndrome, often found in friends of friends or coworkers of the patient.

Symptoms of AAIFS, AAIFS2 and AAIAS include comments covered in What Not to Say, but also include a general ignorance, often with refusal to comprehend what's being told to them in response to their ignorant-ass comments.

Yesterday I was feeling pretty awful so I took a Vicodin and, for whatever reason, while I was showering an hour or so later I was overcome by weakness, dizziness, and nausea-- I really thought I was going to faint. I sat down for a little while because I was afraid that if I laid down I really would pass out, so I sat and waited it out. When it passed I was okay, but pale and shaky. I told my mother what happened and that I'd be staying downstairs for a little while afterwards in case I really did faint.

She started hemming and hawing about my eating habits (which are normal and haven't changed in months), then started in about how much I've been sleeping-- which I admit is a lot, 12 hours or more daily, but that's because of the change in medication and I may need a new sleep aid.

I tried to explain to her about how switching a major part of my medication (Lyrica now instead of Celebrex: New Doctor, New Methods) is going to mess me up for a while until we get it worked out, and how Dr. S. said he would normally see a person in my condition for whom he's changing a major part of their medicinal regime he would see once a week but because of our horrible insurance and financial difficulties I can only see him once a month.

Then she did her "I still disagree even though you had a logical and reasonable answer for each of the points I brought up" pursing her lips face (not to be confused with her "I want to say more because I think you're wrong and stupid but I can't because you're in no condition to fight" pursing her lips face) so I knew that was the end of the discussion.

It's so frustrating, and I don't know what to do. Arthur, Janet and I were talking about Arthur's, Mick's, and my fatal stubbornness that we get from our mother...I mean, we hang on to things that we think or feel waaaay past the time that everyone else thinks or sees that we should stop, but we either don't see it or don't care that it's there. Tenacity is a good thing, but we cross the line into obstinacy.

It takes a lot, a lot, to convince her to change her mind, and I really don't know what else to do. She has plantar fasciitis, so it's not like she's a stranger to chronic pain...but she just refuses to...or she can't...I don't know. I don't even know how to describe it.

Let's just say she's ignorant of the real situation but is too stubborn to see it differently and it annoys the crap out of me.


This situation sucks from about 15 different angles.

But hang in there with me, kids, we'll all get through it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Apologies

What an insane week it's been! I had a few subbing jobs, then my parents drop a last-minute trip to Maryland on me, then more subbing-- and inbetween all that I've done little more than sleep.

But luckily for you I've had some great ideas and there's a lot of good things coming, so stay tuned for Chandler's and my review of The Lion King, a case of Mystery Diagnosis, the first Actor Analysis (this one will be on Zooey Deschanel), and a review of Helen Keller's The World I Live In.

There'll be a new post tomorrow night, I promise!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"That Really Hurts! Do it Again.": On Fight Club and Self-Injury

All quotes come from Fight Club

For Art History majors at my college, a Fine Arts minor was built into the program-- so even though I really suck at creating "art" I'm technically somewhat of a trained artist. Somewhat. Minorly.

One of the studio art classes I was forced to take was a sort of "how to create" class...I don't know how to explain it other than "freaking useless"-- so much so they changed the way it's run now and incoming kids don't even have to take the stupid least not two semesters of it. We were given assignments and the teachers would kind of nudge us here and there to make things...the talented artists did really well, and the rest of us less-so. The idea was to expose us to different ways of creating and thinking, and how to approach future assignments in college-level art classes. The problem was 99% of the kids taking the class in the first place were Fine Arts majors who have been drawing/painting/sculpting/whatever-ing their whole lives so they knew what they wanted to do and how to do it, while the rest of us took many, many cigarette breaks.

One of our projects was to interpret a phrase from a book, movie, song, poem, whatever. We had to bring in a bunch of examples of phrases that we thought would be good to use, then our teacher helped us narrow it down. I remember my teacher, Mark, was fired up as hell because a couple of my phrases came from Fight Club.

He wasn't attacking me when he said this, I think he was looking for how serious I was, but God, I remember it like it was yesterday: "Tell me, why do you-- as a young woman, early 20s-- identify with Fight Club? This, this treatise on the struggle of the modern male with his masculinity?"

On the spot much? Luckily this wasn't in front of the whole class, it was just me and him talking, but boy did I have to think fast to cover. I don't remember the lie I told him-- something about gender roles (my project would eventually become using girls to recreate scenes from the movie as I had taken a stage makeup class and could do bruises, black eyes, swelling, blood, etc.). But the truth? The truth was I understood the pain. I understood the craving for violence. I understood the complete disregard for your own body. I understood the emptiness tearing you apart until you want to set the world on fire. I understood the self injury.

The project came right in the middle of my lowest of low moments (My Story)...and so had Fight Club, just a couple of months earlier. I'd heard of it, of course, I knew it was a big deal and that Edward Norton and Brad Pitt were the same guy, but I'd never seen it even though it’d been out for a couple of years at that point. But when I finally did see it, I remember having my friend pause it so I could go into her bathroom to cut.

I loved it, though, I loved every second. Edward Norton's dry, half-dead narration. Tyler Durden's cold, logical anarchy. It tasted so good.

So what does self-injury have to do with sweaty half-naked nihilistic anarchists pounding each other into the ground?

"That really hurts. Do it again."

The Narrator and Tyler are the same person, so when The Narrator and Tyler fight, The Narrator's self injuring. The Narrator even says the first time Tyler hits him: "That really hurts. Do it again." If someone asked me to sum up my life as a self-mutilator, I imagine I'd say that, or something close to it, because that’s what it all goes back to: the pain. "After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down. You could deal with anything." Change "fighting" to "cutting" and that's how I spent years of my life. After I cut it was like a pressure valve being released—all of the little annoyances of the day just melted away and I could manage just like everyone else. “I became the calm little center of the world. I was the zen master.” It would give me such a serenity, nothing else mattered for a while…but then the pressure would start building again. But those moments right after? “Calm as Hindu cows.” Cutting was often the last thing I did before I went to sleep.

“You weren't alive anywhere like you were there.”

But I also did it to wake up. The act itself, of course, varies from person to person. My favorite tool was a can opener on my Swiss Army knife, but I’ve used other knives, scissors, and once in an “emergency” I broke a clear plastic pen to use the sharp end of one of the pieces. I really, honestly, don’t know why I did it. The clinical answer is the pain triggers the release of adrenaline and endorphins (feel-good chemicals) and you get addicted to the “high” like with any other drug. That rush is exhilarating. “You weren't alive anywhere like you were there.” I imagine it’d be something like mild cocaine. I vividly remember running laps around campus at 2 a.m. while it was snowing and doing brutal jumps and pirouettes up and down the dorm hallway one weekend everyone had gone home—like Tyler riding a bike in the house or playing with nunchucks. That same energy also translated into a quickness to anger and a slowness to get over it, and God, would it have been nice to fight. "I got in everyone's hostile little face. Yes, these are wounds from fighting. Yes, I'm comfortable with that. I am enlightened." To struggle against something corporeal for once…something with a name and a face and a reason for being there, a reason for wanting to hurt me. I’d’ve fought in a heartbeat. Unfortunately I hadn’t lived the kind of life that got me into fighting situations, um, ever…but I would have given anything to do it. I guess it was a side-effect of being in such strict control over my body and emotions that I craved the opposite: a chance to completely lose control, to let the rage take over, to beat out the pain—like the Narrator does on Angel Face. “I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all those French beaches I'd never see. I wanted to breathe smoke…I felt like destroying something beautiful.”

“Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.”

And part of the complete disregard for your own body, and part of this causing so much damage to yourself, there’s a sense of…not quite invincibility, but that any kind of injury that comes along doesn’t matter, or doesn’t even faze you. You just accept it. Glad of it, almost. “Guy came to fight club the first time his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks he was carved out of wood.” It’s a certain kind of strength...a weird kind of strength. I’m not sure it can be reached any other way. Maybe less of a strength and more of a hardness? Or a power, even. Like before I started injuring I really, really hated getting shots, but after injuring I gave donating blood no thought. Actually, I enjoyed it in a weird way, further weakening myself and enjoying the loss of blood. I wasn’t afraid of heights or dangerous situations, I wasn’t afraid of wandering around alone at night. I wasn’t afraid of dying. A guy that sat behind me in one of my classes was mugged at gunpoint a block or two from campus, after which I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if someone threatened to shoot me for my wallet…laugh? Nothing mattered, not even a little, because what’s a moment’s discomfort compared to the eternity we’re going to spend moldering under the ground?

“It'll hurt more than you've ever been burned and you will have a scar. Stay with the pain, don't shut this out. Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing…What you're feeling is premature enlightenment. This is the greatest moment of you life…You have to know, not fear, know that you are going to die.”

Is that your blood?"

It’s not hard to find pictures online of self-injurers “trophies”—a Google image search for “self-injury” brings up over two million results. “Is that your blood?" "Some of it, yeah." For me, very, very few people knew what I was doing when I was doing it—and most of the time there was no one that knew. A handful knew that I used to, but 99.9% of the people in my life had no idea because I hid it so well—and I was proud of that. But I was proud of my marks, too. I cut my thighs, and the worse my legs looked the prouder I was. I took pictures. I stared at my legs in the mirror. I ran my fingers up and down my legs to feel the warm welts with hot breaks in my skin at the top of the weal; I could even feel it through my jeans. After a day of particularly intense sessions my legs, my thighs, were so swollen I couldn’t get a pair of pants on, and I didn’t have any skirts with me, so I had to skip class. You can bet I took pictures of that, too—kept them hidden in a file on my computer. People get nervous when other people use their computers thinking they’re going to find their porn stash or the dirty sites in their history—I was afraid someone was going to find my deeply hidden file of pictures of my self-harm and drafts of suicide notes.

"Fell down some stairs."

"Don't talk to her about me. Ever." Keeping people from knowing was surprisingly easy, but, for me, absolutely necessary. When it comes to this, people want to believe the lie. "Fell down some stairs." I haven't worn shorts in years, and skirts never above the knee. Partly because I have weirdly shaped, fat legs, but most of the reason is the scars. The hardest was trying to get out of wearing shorts when I was receiving physical therapy on my hip and my practitioner was a family friend. I tried to say my legs were badly scarred, but she just said nobody would notice-- not realizing the point was she'd notice thousands of thin, slightly raised scars on my legs...scars that could only come from one thing. There was another close call when I broke my leg (Spaz Girl Walking): at the hospital the nurses ripped my pants open to just above my knee to better visualize my leg. Little did they know they stopped the tear a fraction of an inch from a recent cut.

I grew up with a pool in my backyard. I love the water, but I sure as hell haven't been in a bathing suit in the past six years. I'd love to be able to play in the pool with my nephews and brothers, but it's something I've had to sacrifice to keep the secret. They still don't know. And they sure as hell don't want to see the scars.

“It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.”

I have no formal background in the world of psychology, but I’ve done some reading over the years. There’s a belief that, psychologically, human beings need or seek out things in life in a certain order, like you need food and shelter before you need a social group. The order’s usually shown in a pyramid, with the basest needs, the physiological needs of food, water, and warmth at the very bottom; safety being the next level with shelter and security; belonging is third with friends, family, and community; then self-esteem (achievement, recognition) and finally self-actualization, or the fulfillment of potential, at the very top. Tyler is a car stuck in the mud, spinning his tires and going nowhere, at level three. He’s fixated on his relationship with his parents, blaming them for his current place in life. Well, them and the world he grew up in: “We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives.

When the Narrator is recovering from the car accident Tyler caused, Tyler tells the Narrator his dream for the future. “In the world I see – you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.” Tyler craves this as relief from the depression. Living in a world where he’s concerned about where the next meal is coming from would move him back on the self-actualization path—he would no longer need the acceptance of his peers. Of course, he was also fed up with society’s greed and this would certainly take care of that.

“He was killed serving Project Mayhem, sir.”

Project Mayhem, being the escalation of Fight Club, is the escalation of self-injury. Like with any drug, eventually your body gets used to the chemicals you start out with and you need to progress to bigger things.

With the cutting…eventually it gets out of hand. Either the old number of cuts doesn’t do it anymore, or you get upset about something, or maybe because the sky rose in the east that day, one day you go too far. I lost control a couple of times and my scars show it. I really should have gotten stitches two or three times but, of course, I didn’t go.

The point is that there’s always an escalation—or even more than one. It’ll keep getting worse until it stops.

“Only after disaster can we be resurrected.

In the end, Tyler is the beast. The demon. The devil whispering in your ear. Tyler is the depression, the one that skews every thought, every word, every action, into an attack against you. You’re The Narrator—what Tyler says sounds good until you wake up.
If it weren’t for Herbert I’d probably still be cutting…I still think about it every day. It’s an addiction like any other, and it cannot be overcome until the consequences of continuing outweigh the benefits.

I hope I shed some light on this for you. Please leave a comment—or if you’re uncomfortable commenting but still would like to talk to me please email me at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another Life Lost to Addiction

Oualette: Christ, where the **** you from, kid?
Shane: The suburbs.
- Weeds

Last night my mother told me a former neighbor of ours had passed, that she had overdosed in a homeless shelter.

Her son has been living with her mother, presumably since she lost their last house.

When celebrities overdose it's usually in swanky hotels or apartments, like John Belushi, Chris Farley, Heath Ledger, or Amy Winehouse (who died from withdrawal-- but she wouldn't have been withdrawing if she hadn't been addicted). That's not what happens to average people.

While she and her son were living across the street from us they never had food in the house, the six-year-old boy would be so hungry he'd beg us and the other neighbors for food. Their apartment was so infested with mice that when they moved out so many mice moved to the downstairs neighbor's apartment that the family living there had to go to a hotel for a week while it was fumigated.

The woman, the one who just passed, would conduct drug deals out of her mailbox-- at strange times of day she would leave an envelope in her mailbox, then within the hour a strange car would drive up, someone would get out, take the envelope out of her mailbox and put another in before leaving. This happened often enough that we began recording license plate numbers.

Also, several times a week, strange cars would pull up to the house and a man would go inside with her. A few hours later he would leave. This happened a lot. I'm sure you can draw the same conclusion from this that we did.

She died friendless and penniless. I hope she finds peace.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Good Deed for the Day

Sorry for leaving you stranded yesterday-- the trip to Maryland was cancelled because my father has his annual "Sean's Birthday" cold which he's had literally every year since Sean was born, including the actual day Sean was born.

As for me, the pain came and did not disappoint with its severity or duration-- spent 2 Vicodin taking care of it.

I'm currently working on a post that will go up later today, but this post serves a bigger purpose than my apology.

Mental_floss's Morning Cup of Links this morning includes a link to a video produced by the scientists, students, lab techs, and volunteers at McGill University's Goodman Cancer Research Centre dancing to Taio Cruz's "Dynamite". The video is sponsored by Medicom, a company that pledged to donate to the Goodman Centre for every view the video receives on YouTube, so get to watching!

Is it Okay to Watch Homeland?

Showtime unveiled its new show Homeland last night to rave reviews.

I watched it, and enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable watching it.

Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with a personal secret that could ruin her career. Carrie receives a message that an American prisoner of war (POW) has been "turned". Damian Lewis plays Sgt. Nicholas Brody, a presumed dead POW that was recently found-- the only known living American POW. Carrie immediately assumes Brody is the American turncoat and secretly has Brody's house bugged and rigged with video cameras. Through the episode new information comes to light that forces the viewer to question what they have seen as things aren't always as they seem as Brody tries to re-assimilate into family life. It's a gripping drama, to say the least.

My problem with it is that I'm not sure I want to support its being made at all. Like I said before, I love Showtime's shows (The Big C and Mental Illness), and this one is no exception-- but should this story be being told now?

After the success of Schindler's List Holocaust movies became popular. Then came Titanic and Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump and Pearl Harbor. Only 5 years after September 11 World Trade Center came out.

I didn't see World Trade Center, nor do I want to. I'm not a big Nicholas Cage fan, and I think the powers that be in Hollywood were preying on our nation's still-raw nerves. It was too, too soon. At that point we didn't need perspective, we didn't need to see what it was like to live through that day-- we remembered. It's been 10 years and I still remember the necklace I was wearing (My September 11, 2001). It's not like a generation had passed and our children were wondering what happened, or even several generations where 9/11 would have been a distant memory that people were vaguely curious about, like Titanic. World Trade Center served no purpose other than to make money.

So what makes Homeland any different? The angle of a POW returning home after 8 years is interesting (even though Brady's children seem to barely notice), and having him see how things have changed at the house and in his relationship with his wife (who'd recently begun seeing someone else), but Brothers did that.

Come to think of it, so far all of Brody's traumas are those that Tobey Maguire's character suffered in Brothers.

Homeland adds the CIA element, which, while interesting, is so far about the abuses of power committed by Carrie and her mysterious but extremely powerful friend (boss/coworker?) Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin.

It's all hitting a little too close to home.

And if the show succeeds, can we expect more in this vein? The day after the next tragedy are people going to start casting?

It takes the art out of the production, the grace. It's no longer storytelling, it's babbling for money. Writers watching the news and spitting out a story, not taking the time or making the effort to show the audience something unique.

Film is such a powerful medium, but Hollywood is killing it with its greed. Endless sequels and remakes and formulas-- sucking the passion and originality out of everything. Writers are worthless-- who cares what your book was actually about? Yeah, I'm looking at you The Other Boleyn Girl and My Sister's Keeper. Directors are only allowed to follow their heart when they've proven they can make money by following Hollywood's rules, and even then they're on a leash.

And yeah Homeland is good, it plays your emotions like a fiddle: breaking you down, building you up and leaving you wanting more, but does that make it good?

All of this together still leaves me with the question: is it okay to watch Homeland?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

The Maryland trip has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Here's hoping I'm well enough to go.