Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bugs For Breakfast

Current Mood: Disgusted by Oatmeal

Warning: Rated LB for long and boring content. Also, lots of psychological self-evaluation. At the very least: read the last two lines. I feel its my job to warn you.

You know that saying "Everything happens for a reason"? Well after so many years of buying into that bullshit, I just sort of gave up. It brought me nothing but trouble, that little phrase. My annoying little brain coming up with, for lack of a better word, half-assed theories based on unrelated events. I already hated myself, and I didn't much help in finding "reasons" to do so. In fact, I'm sure that I looked for reasons to reinforce this self-loathing at every turn. A flat tire, a shoe lace untying while running on the treadmill, a rainy day, even an animal carcass laying on the side of the road, could became a symbol of how much the universe despised me just as much as I despised myself. It's not the only irrational thing I used to do in those days. Human beings and their actions, whether they are innocuous or harmful, could become the fiercest weapon I would use against myself. That is, other than myself.

My therapist would tell me that I had a unique lens through which I looked at everything and everyone: the opposite of rose colored glasses, if you will. If a person would look in my direction when I walked through the door at a party, I would assume that he or she was looking at me and assessing me in all sorts of negative ways, that he or she must find me repulsive or fat or under-dressed. Or if I was buying my lunch in the cafeteria at work and the cashier said "You must be hungry today", I would think that this woman thinks that I'm the fattest, most disgusting pig that ever walked the face of the planet. If a remark was made regarding my lunch, no matter how harmless, I would take this as a sign that I shouldn't be eating it. Often the lunch I had just purchased would be ceremoniously thrown away, for something as little as a remark from a person who I didn't know and didn't know me. So I would jump to these conclusions based on no reality whatsoever.

I would look for symbols in everything. The lights went out through the night, so I wasn't supposed to go to work the next morning. I would step in dog shit and somehow that meant I was a shitty friend. I would find squirming maggots in my just made oatmeal and have a naturally visceral reaction to that. But also think, the universe is telling me not to eat right now. And I am listening loud and clear. So I would not eat for a few days in response to this event. And that type of event would occur so regularly as to make a pattern. It had to mean something, I would think. Why else would these bad things happen over and over? And then my therapist would say, with that inquisitive smirk she would so often employ, "What makes you think that you're so special?" Over and over, every session, she would bring to my attention that, despite all this self-loathing and terrible, terrible hatred of myself, I had somehow and someway designated myself the center of the fucking universe. I was a person who hated myself so much that I actually coined the term "Gweningitis" in regards to an imagined disease people would catch should they be in my presence too long or too often, and yet had inflated my importance to egotistical proportions. Assuming every person who looks in my direction is thinking about me, even negatively, assuming every rainstorm is falling from the sky in order to ruin my day, a little bug planting eggs in my food on purpose just to give me a reason to starve myself, is so self-centered as to be considered pathologically narcissistic.

She was right, of course. Although, this wasn't ever my intent. Since child hood, I had developed strange methods of dealing with stressful events and fears, both natural and unnatural. And being raised, as I was, in a fatalistic, doomsday cult, there were plenty of the latter, believe me. But anyway, these methods were like mind games; only I convinced myself that they held actual power. Magical thinking, I believe it's called. This is the root of it all, I suppose. I remember lying in bed at night and having these fears about fires, or robbers, or anything bad a child can imagine after watching the evening news. I thought, "Well, if I say my house will catch on fire tonight", then it won't happen. Because what are the chances of this happening? That I will know something bad will happen? And here is a paradox; I knew that I didn't have that much power. I couldn't foretell the future and predict events. But at the same I was also giving myself a sort of control over these traumatic events, preventing them from happening. Instead of nightly prayers, I would run a list in my head of everything horrible that I could possibly imagine happening, and say, decidedly,"this all will occur". And you know what? It never did. I connected the dots. It was working, in some weird way.

Into adolescence and adulthood, I kept up this mindset: this pessimistic attitude about life as a sort of talisman, or as a shield between my heart and the world. I mistrusted anything good or happy…thus the lens, that horrible, lens through which I looked at everything. Through therapy, cognitive therapy, I learned what I was doing. Why I was doing it. It really did help to know why I was so negative, why it was so hard to see the good but so easy to see the bad. I did grow a lot just knowing this. The experience, for me, was sort of like in the wizard of oz when Dorothy sees what's behind the curtain…that the wizard is just a man after all. These magical thoughts lost all credibility, laid out and transparent as they were on my lap as I sat small and frail as a child on my therapist's couch. After these revelations, I really made an effort to interpret events, conversations, looks, and just everything in a different way than I had before. It was all up-hill. Like I said, I sort of stopped believing that everything happens for a reason. I mean technically everything does happen for a reason. You can find a reason for everything that happens if you look hard enough. But just because you can, it doesn't mean that you should. Or maybe that's just a dangerous endeavor for me. I'm not really that special or unique. The universe, and other people, don't single me out for anything, good or bad.

When I gave up my conspiracy theories regarding the universe, that's when the worse things started happening. When I finally relaxed and allowed myself the luxury of happiness, the luxury of joy, the luxury of living without weirdness, the universe attacked and with a vengeance. But I still tried to stay the course, maintain my newfound convictions that the "wizard had no power". When I found out Amy had cancer, I had to convince myself, "this is a random event". Four words repeated over and over, like a mantra. Internally, my heart was beating against that. And then we discovered this fucking BRCA gene mutation. How could I not feel attacked? It is so hard to repress those soul-destroying ideas that, again, the universe despises you. That God, himself, despises you enough to make you wrong, altogether wrong, in the first place. But I took a deep breath, and I said, "Gwen. Stop it. You are not that fucking special." Amy died, you guys. She's dead. Her breath is lost, never to be found. She is ash in the cold, muddy ground. And still, me saying over and over "get over yourself, Gwen. You are not that special." See, I work so hard to be normal. To feel normal. To think normal. I don't know. Maybe everyone does. But again with the fucking "special", I am thinking.

Rain is pouring down right now. I sort of like the sound of it. But I can't shake the feeling that these raindrops, falling meanly and incessantly, are somehow my un-cried tears. But that's progress, I guess. I used to hear hateful words in the music of the rain. I know I'm being ridiculous. Nothing is about me. People die every day. I'm not the only one who has lost her breasts, or her sister, or her soul to years of desperate, disgusting actions. This morning, I am at work. Danielle is making breakfast in the kitchen. She asks if I want oatmeal. "Sure," I say. And you're probably wondering how I could do that again, eat oatmeal after what had happened before. It took a long time, let me tell you. I didn't trust that little guy with the hat for years. It is a traumatic event to see maggots, alive and wiggling in your food, after all. I convinced myself after a few years that it wasn't worth holding onto, that particular fear. It was a one time thing. It could never happen to me again. "Blueberry or Banana Bread?" Danielle asks. "Blueberry. Definitely blueberry." I eat two bites. And then I look at it. Really look at what I am eating. Little fly larvae mixed in the oatmeal. Gross, repulsive little bugs for breakfast. The dialogue in my head is sort of saying that I'm the gross and repulsive one. I shouldn't be eating breakfast. I don't deserve breakfast. I am listening, again to the universe, as if I were this special person. But this is…this is…again. With the bugs in oatmeal. Twice in a lifetime. Why?

And it occurs to me that I am doing all of it again. Seeing the symbols, looking through the twisted lens, hyper-sensitively reacting, interpreting, ever unnecessarily interpreting. And I probably have been doing it for a long time. Someone told me last week, that I'm too negative, that I'm never happy. That I put too much on others when I should be putting it on a professional. This person is right. I am sorry, so very sorry. I shouldn't put these things onto you at all. It isn't fair. I want to make it up to all of you somehow. If I could make the rain stop, I would. But I don't have that kind of power. You've put up with a lot of negativity just by reading these blogs. Truth be told, I do think you're all pretty damn special. I hope the universe brings you blessed and wonderful things.

I know I need to at least consider the idea of seeing a therapist. The whole thought of it makes me really, really tired. Therapy is just the heaviest thing, the most tedious, gut wrenching mental work for me. I don't know if I can do the couch thing again.But I guess it's better than burdening people with this type of talk. Maybe I need to come to terms with the universe yet again, call a truce. Or maybe it's a simpler matter. Maybe I need to just STOP EATING OATMEAL. When I think of oatmeal, I want to vomit. Can you really blame me? Jesus Christ, I hate fucking oatmeal. It makes me sick to my stomach, now and forever. I think oatmeal is the real thing I need to be afraid of. Hell, maybe all of us do. Twice in my life I've been violated by it. I was a fool to trust it again. Those innocent, instant oats are screwing with my head. What with the always trying to make me eat wormy looking, nasty, vile, abhorrent insects. Watch your back, people. Look very carefully at the Quaker Oats, is all I'm saying.

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