Down the Rabbit Hole of Depression

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Yes, I fell off the face of the earth.

In much the same way that Alice fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, or Dorothy was swept up by the twister and deposited in Oz, I was whisked away…no…more like drop-kicked…into a land that only exists somewhere in the far reaches of my reality beaten mind, but isn’t nearly as glamorous as the afore-mentioned tales.

I got lost there; or comfortable there, depending on how you look at things, and I’m still there now; searching for a way back home.

Or not.

I don’t know that I’m ready to come back just yet.

It all started immediately after a nice vacation at sea; four days of fun in the sun with my husband, best friend, and other friends and acquaintances. I ate delicious food, sipped fruity things with little umbrellas, watched people go by from all circles of life, and took part in an assortment of entertaining activities. It was a truly magical experience. Like all vacations, though, it had to come to an end.

An ending is one thing, though. An abrupt and painful ending is another thing entirely. I was no sooner getting my land legs again when I found myself unexpectedly facing my demons. I wasn’t ready to face them yet. My mind was still somewhere at sea.

I was first asked not to write about certain people or past events. I considered this and surmised that it rather defeated the purpose of my writing to begin with since the things I write about are therapeutic to me. Sort of a shared diary of whatever is on my mind or heart. I share to let go. I let it out so it’s not IN anymore. I put fingers to keyboard and emotionally flow. If it pains me, aggravates me, makes me smile, or makes me laugh, I share it with others in the hopes that someone else can relate.

Then I was called onto the carpet and made to think twice about things that I had previously written. I came under fire for my OCD and the way that it affects my family. Truth be told, I hadn’t even brought my OCD with me on vacation…I had left it at home. Imagine my surprise when I found out it had followed me.

I felt like a horrible person for days after being forced to face the things I do and the way that I am. For the first time in years, I honestly wanted to die. I thought that, in my inability to “just shut it off” when others expected me to, I’d be better off if I took myself out of everyone else’s misery. Willing death is a far cry from follow-through, though, and I’m simply not capable of commitment to such finality. In reality I like certain aspects of life, even as screwed up as I am.

So, I simply shut down.

After crying all the way back home, I walked into the house with my shoes on (gasp), dropped my bags, crawled into bed, and stayed there for 3 days. I didn’t unpack, didn’t clean up after anyone, didn’t care.

Or tried not to care. Tried really hard not to care.

I thought, “If everyone wants to do whatever they want and have me not care, fine, but I can’t watch it happen.” So I stayed in bed, miserably tucked away from anything and everything that would send me into an anxiety fueled tail-spin.

Until 2 things happened.

First of all, it all got the better of me. I had to get up and clean up because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Three days is apparently my limit when it comes to what my OCD can and can’t handle.

Secondly, I thought about what I am.

I…am a human being. I am who I am. I’m in no way, shape or form perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I have hang-ups, issues, eccentricities, emotional baggage, and mental problems.

But you know what? So does everyone else. Try and show me someone that doesn’t, and I’ll direct you to the word falsehood in the dictionary.

So I got up, brushed myself off, and tried to throw myself back into life again.

Tried.

Something had changed, though. Several somethings, actually.

I had completely lost my desire to write for one thing. I still wouldn’t consider this a triumphant return. It’s more like an explanation, and writing this now is not without a certain degree of struggle. The passion and fire that I had for writing before have now been redirected into other past times; legal of course, but perhaps not entirely unsinful depending on how you view video games.

I also lost my desire to work. Maybe that isn’t all that unusual, not many people actually want to go to work. It’s just exceptionally more difficult for me now than it was before.

I don’t want to be around people, either. I’ve become anti-social. I find it easier and more enjoyable to be alone with the exception of my immediate family (at times) than I do to be among friends.

I suppose you could call the land that I’m currently lost in ‘Depression’…or ‘Selfishness’; likely a combination of both.

And there you have it.

While I may not be ready to come back yet, don’t write me off completely. Consider my absence as a hiatus until I find my way back to reality…

Which, with any luck, will be soon.

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You, Me, and My OCD

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Yes, I suffer from a mental disorder. Honestly, I bet 99.9 percent of the world’s population suffers from some sort of snafu up in their cranium in one form or another. Maybe some just aren’t as prominent as others.  Or, perhaps they simply remain undiagnosed.

Do you suffer from PMS or sometimes just get sad or irritable and really can’t pinpoint why? Well, there you go; you could be bi-polar.

Do you alphabetize your DVDs, make sure your socks are matched and folded before you put them away, or check again to make sure your door is locked before you go to bed at night? Then congratulations, I’ve just diagnosed your OCD.

Has something ever shot out of your mouth and immediately afterward you thought, “Did I just say that? That couldn’t have been me!” Bam. Multiple personality disorder.

So you see, whether you pay much attention to it or not, most of us suffer from a mental disorder in one way or another.

Mine just happens to have been diagnosed by a doctor. I guess that makes a difference in the grand scheme of things when it comes to how the world looks at you, right? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but believe me, it does.

I generally don’t talk about my mental illness to people that I’ve just met if I can help it. My husband, however, likes to throw it out there in casual conversation like it’s a truly interesting discussion piece. Who knows, maybe it is. That doesn’t change the fact that spreading the word to people I barely know gets under my skin nonetheless.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my disorder or the way I think. I know it’s “not normal”, sure, but I don’t think I’m some sort of terrible person because of it. I don’t want to go bury my head in the sand or hide out in a dark room because, Heaven forbid, people know.

No, I honestly don’t like to mention it much because people tend to get ridiculous about it.

No one should feel the need to talk to me like I’m a ticking time bomb. Don’t think I didn’t notice that your voice went up 2 octaves in my presence and that you’re addressing me like a child because you don’t want to rock the boat. I have a mental disorder. I’m not an idiot.

I don’t know if other people that have been diagnosed with OCD can relate, but I’ve been faced with all kinds of stupid remarks or reactions when my little (okay, big) mental issue is brought to the surface.

“What, you mean like that hand washing thing?” This is one of my personal favorites. Thank you for the ignorant stereotyping. Your lack of knowledge is duly noted.

People with “that hand washing thing” only make up a small percentage of those suffering from OCD, which is defined as:

An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

So yeah. It naturally must be “that hand washing thing”, even though OCD can present itself in pretty much any way that a mind with some sort of imagination can conceive.

Mine happens to lean more toward the compulsion side that the obsession side of the disorder. I have an immaculately spotless house because dust, dirt, loose hair, fingerprints, and a plethora of other things can give me anxiety attacks. I say the word can, because over the course of the past few years since I decided not to walk through my life in a drug induced stupor, I’ve had to work really hard at combatting this thing and I’ve experienced a great measure of success. There are things that used to send me into anxiety fueled fits of rage that I am now able to overlook.

It’s been a huge struggle, though, let me tell you.  I’m still not “cured” by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe never will be, but I have made some huge strides in several areas thanks to some family-inflicted cognitive behavior and exposure therapy. This basically boils down to my husband putting his foot down over certain things that I would do, even at the risk of my mental anguish, before I drove the rest of the family crazy. Yes, I resented this for a while, but I got over it.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice in the matter, all you can do is try not to totally flip out, cope, and move on. I have realized that anxiety levels can’t stay intensely elevated forever. It’s like a bad high. You have to come down sooner or later, and as soon as I realized that I would eventually come down, things started getting better.

As much as I’ve worked hard to overcome certain obstacles though, it just makes it worse when people, who know exactly what my OCD entails, throw this little gem at me:

“Wow. You should come clean my house!”

Umm…no.

You see, you’re assuming that I, in some way shape or form, enjoy this behavior. I don’t. Not at all. Doing what I do and feeling what I feel is like a ball and chain around my neck that I can’t ever take off. It’s a huge weight on me all the time. By suggesting that I branch out and take this behavior outside of my home, you’re essentially implying that I should give up the only small sense of freedom that I currently enjoy, because when I am able to step out of my home, I am also able to breathe and relax.

Which brings me to my next point:

Stop apologizing for the condition of your own home when I walk through the door. Okay, so your place is a little messy. So what? Are you honestly under some false assumption that this will cause me to freak out to the point that I’m hyper-ventilating into a paper bag while I stand in your living room?

To be honest, your mess is like a breath of fresh air to me. I’m living vicariously through your stacks of junk mail piled up on the kitchen table and the dust across the top of your entertainment center because I can’t be that way but wish I could.

You wouldn’t know it though, because you won’t come to my house.

For different reasons, people are terrified of visiting my home. This is either thanks again in part to my husband spreading the word about my anxiety disorder, or the fact that I will bend over backward to over-correct my nervousness when we have visitors so that maybe people won’t notice it. Then, my obsequiousness just scares people, so I can’t win either way.

My in laws won’t visit because I make them uncomfortable. My family won’t visit, either. I can honestly admit that it hurts worse knowing they won’t come, than it would working through my anxiety with a house full of people. It makes me feel somewhat unloved when those closest to me refuse to help me get better at the risk of their own discomfort, or mine. Isn’t family supposed to be there to help us work through our issues?

This is why I adore my best friend. She’s the only one that seems to get this. Maybe it’s because she herself suffers from Bi-polar disorder, so we’re kind of like 2 screwed up peas in a pod. She will make the 5 hour pilgrimage from her house to mine occasionally, and I love her for loving me enough to stay with me despite my issues. She knows all about my anxiety, and guess what? If she sees me get nervous, she’ll talk me through it. That’s a true friend. Other than her and my husband, I don’t seem to have many of those, but not for lack of wishing there were more. People that understand are hard to find.

So I say this to those who don’t know how to handle a person with a mental disorder:

You can get to know us. We don’t bite. We’re honestly not all that different from you, we just have heightened emotions at times, and tend do things that others might not consider to be normal. Then again, who’s to say what genuinely defines normal?

We are who we are. People, just like you. Your perception of us won’t change a thing.

Gamer/Blogger/Artist

Daily Prompt: On the Edge

We all have things as need to do to keep an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?

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There are 3 activities that keep me grounded and help take the focus off of my OCD. I sometimes get so immersed in these things that I’ll spend hours involved in them, and will even forget to do routine things, like have lunch or dinner. However, I figure skipping a meal is a pretty fair exchange for an activity that keeps me from giving in to, or even thinking about ritualistic behaviors.

First of all, I have a seemingly endless imagination and love to indulge in a good online role playing game from time to time. I’ve found that lately though, since I’ve discovered the thrill of writing and spend an infinite amount of time on my blog, my hours spent gaming have greatly dwindled. Truth be told, I haven’t logged into the game I like to play in weeks. I still love it, however, and consider myself to be somewhat of a “gaming geek.”

I used to be big into World of Warcraft, but woke up to reality one day to realize that the game had taken over my life, even more so than my OCD. I couldn’t even go places without limiting my time away from home because I “had to be back to raid.” I had all but sold my soul to a high end raiding guild. I had to have the best gear for my character, the most raid points to obtain that gear, all of the top achievements, etc. It wasn’t just an outlet for me at that point, it had become an addiction. I had to put down the staff, and back away from the mage. I haven’t been back since.

My current gaming drug of choice is Forsaken World. It’s free, there are no raids, and I can play at my leisure. I have to admit that I did spend a few dollars to obtain the most amazing mount EVER, though. I just had to have her. Her name is Princess, and she’s a pink Alpaca, with a tiara, and bows, and bells, and I adore her. She’s just a whole load of awesome.

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Anyway, writing happens to be the second activity that keeps my mind and hands busy so that my OCD won’t. I never really knew that I could write until I did a short stint as Media Director and contributing writer for a friend’s bridal magazine. Everyone loved my articles, and I was instantly hooked on the art of writing from that point on. I was a little devastated when the job fell through, simply because I enjoyed the writing aspect of it so much. I started to pour my creative juices into this blog, though, so now my inner author is satiated once again.

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Last but not least, I’m also a creator. An “Arteest”. I love to make something out of seemingly nothing; words on a blank page, a picture brought to life on paper, a fresh coat of paint completely changing the appearance of something that wasn’t very vibrant or noticeable before. Any new way that I can create, shape, mold, or change an object into something that it wasn’t before pleases me immensely.

I weeded through my portfolio files for a sampling of my artwork to share with you. I selected a project that’s one of my personal favorites.

In the city I live in, football is HUGE. We have Florida Gator fans, Jacksonville Jaguar fans, NCAA college team fans, you name it; the crowd here loves it. So, I was commissioned by a local football buff to turn a black panther coffee table into a Jaguar table, in honor of the Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s a sheet of thick, rounded glass that fits over the top of this sculpted base to create a flat surface. It’s a cool little table, really. I’m sorry that I don’t have a beginning picture of the panther that it was, since I hadn’t really thought to take one before I dove right into the project. Here, however, is the work in progress, and the finished product. Enjoy!

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Procrastinate? Me? Yeah, Right.

Daily Prompt: Procrastination

What have you been putting off doing? Why?

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I really tend NOT to procrastinate at all if I can help it.

Getting stuff out of the way is a nice little side effect of having OCD. The anxiety that I feel when something’s hanging over my head waiting to be done, weighing on my mind, worrying me, and stealing my focus away from more important things is…well…just not worth it. I feel much freer if I just get things done as soon as possible.

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Now, I’m a yes person. The letters N and O really aren’t that hard to pronounce when put together, but for whatever reason, my tongue, lips, and vocal cords have the hardest time working these 2 letters into an audible, spoken word.

So, there have been times (not many though), when I’ve agreed to do something out of habit, and after I’ve had a chance to really sit and think it over, have simply decided not to, for whatever reason; lack of time, lack of resources…sometimes, even a lack of desire. In my mind, though, a task that I’ve changed my mind about doing is much different than just plain putting it off. I really do try my best to be true to my word, however. I really like being someone that people can depend on. It makes me feel good.

Right now I can honestly say that there are only 2 things on my plate that I should do, but just haven’t yet.

One is finishing this:

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This guy has been sitting unfinished inside my drawing tablet in the closet for a while now. I hate to leave a project unfinished. I’ll always work on one until it’s completed before moving on to the next. It’s just how I am. Putting my focus into too many projects at a time just feels chaotic to me. My daughter is the exact opposite, but just as artistic as I am. Her room is currently littered with half-finished projects.

I really should finish it, and I’d like to finish it, but my mom asked for her Collie Concepts book back ages ago, which rendered me unable to finish the drawing unless I had a picture to work from. In theory, though, I could go to the local public library about a mile away (if that) and check the book out and go from there. I suppose I’ve just been too lazy to follow through this time around.

Secondly, I need to type up an outline to present at the upcoming orientation for the high school art class that I’m going to be teaching once a week at the co-op that our kids attend. An outline that covers classroom rules, how I intend to grade, what the class will entail, a semester project list, etc.

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I haven’t done this yet because my absent minded husband (who will be teaching Geometry and Chemistry 4 hours a week this year) conveniently misplaced the notes that we had from the teachers meeting that explained exactly what information we should include in our outlines. I have some of what needs to be covered committed to memory, as you can see, just not all of it. If there’s anything I hate just as much as not finishing a project that I’ve started, or not getting a task out of the way a.s.a.p., it’s trying to “wing it.” I’m an information person. I need things spelled out for me, sometimes in detail. I don’t want vague. I can’t work with vague.

Eventually though, and soon because orientation is in 8 days, I’ll just have to suck it up and do the best I can with the information that I remember, and hopefully it will turn out to be sufficient.

What a great way to gain students and prove that I’ll be a competent teacher, huh?

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The Anti-Health

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

What does health mean to me?

Well, not being the me  that I am now, for starters.

I’m a mess, but I’m not even a hot mess. I’m more like the aftermath of a hurricane.

I’m health’s biggest joke. Health laughs, points, and torments me like a bully in the schoolyard. Health sticks my head in the toilet from time to time and gives me crap caked swirlies. I, in turn, hang my stinky head in shame and retreat back into my eternally warped mind.

I’m admittedly overweight. Some 60 pounds by my own standards, 80ish by the standards of those that set an impossibly obtainable precedent for what is, in this day and age, actually considered to be fit and healthy.

Marilyn Monroe had it, I think. What I would consider to be a true, attainable picture of health and beauty. She was not rail thin. She had hips. She had curves. She gave J-Lo’s infamous backside a run for its money.  She was, and still is, a beauty icon that women compare themselves too. She would, however, be considered obese by today’s ever shrinking standard of “healthy”.

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I don’t want, nor will I ever want, to be a size zero. I think about a 6 is sufficient. We won’t discuss what size I really am, though, or how far I’d have to go to get there…

Sure, I could fix it. I have before. In all honesty, though, I have absolutely zero ambition to get me started, and, well…I like food…a lot

I also have more important things that need repairing inside before the repairing can start outside. I consider myself the equivalent of a “fixer upper” sitting up on blocks in some redneck’s yard in the trailer park of life. Nothing fancy like a Mercedes. No, more like a rusty El Camino. Sure, some body work and a coat of paint would do wonders for the outside, but she aint goin’ nowhere if the transmission’s shot, Jim Bob.

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Boy is my tranny ever shot.

I’ve officially been broken for 16 years now. Something in my head snapped like a dried twig at the ripe old age of 22. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter, when poof…the anxiety fairy came down on her crappy little cloud and sprinkled magic crazy dust over my frontal lobe. I should have ripped the little witch’s wings off.

After years of trying different medications and “highly recommended” self-help books, all the king’s horses, and all the king’s therapists haven’t been able to put me back together again. I doubt they ever will. Some of the pieces have gotten lost along the way.

You’ve gotta love the Christian crowd, too. “Just pray it away,” seems to be the ultimate answer. “Give it to God, He’ll fix it” or there’s my all-time favorite, “You must not truly have faith in God or you’d be healed by now.”

It’s not that I entirely disbelieve them, either. I know God can fix anything that He wants to. I do believe, however, that there’s a part of me that wants to be the way I am, and won’t let Him. I’ve wrapped my OCD around me like a security blanket, and I’m not sure I’d really want to meet the me I’d be without it. So, instead of letting my emotional blankie go so that I can begin the process of growing up, I’ll just pop my proverbial thumb back into my mouth and hold it tighter.  Just try and take it away from me. I dare you. I’ll scream.

I feel like my OCD is the only control I have over my life, and in reality, to those up above looking down into my rabbit hole of insanity, it’s what makes my life spiral out of control. And one side makes you smaller, and one side makes you larger, Alice…

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I used to blame my parents for the way that I am. They dabbled in prejudices the way that an alcoholic dabbles in whiskey. The term “lowlife” got tossed around like a football at Cowboy Stadium.

“Look at that lowlife, probably hasn’t cleaned her house in months. Did you see her bathroom?”

“Look at that lowlife in that piece of sh*t car.”

“Look at that lowlife white girl dating that black guy. Do something like that, and I’ll disown you.”

“You’re not going to turn into one of those lowlifes, are you?”

That lowlife stigmata has haunted me so much over the course of my lifetime, that I honestly don’t know what genuinely qualifies anymore. All I know is that I still bend over backward to this day not to become one of those people. In reality, though, I bet those people are genuinely happy. My parent’s never were. Still aren’t.

Parents, if you think that your prejudices won’t have an adverse effect on your kids, just go ahead and keep it up. Let them turn out like me.

They also sculpted my guilt the way that Michelangelo painstakingly sculpted David. I didn’t turn out to be a great masterpiece, though. “Just look at what we do for you and you won’t do this for us?” I was apparently the poster child for ungrateful and unappreciative. Thank you was never enough. Hours upon hours of household service were never enough. Blood, sweat and tears were never enough. I was never enough. Never going to be enough.

Never would amount to anything. Still haven’t amounted to anything. Always point out my flaws. Never focus on my strengths. I do have strengths, I know I do. Don’t I? I did what you asked, why is it not good enough? Will you praise me now? No? I forgot something? Didn’t do it right? Missed a spot? Sorry. Are you proud of me, anyway? Be proud of me, no matter what. Accept my flaws. Tell me I’m good enough.

Love me. Say it. Well, mom says it…now. She does. Never used to when it counted, though. When I needed it. Dad? Once a year if I’m lucky. Formative years? Yeah right. There’s a joke. I know I’m not a Mercedes, mom and dad. I turned out to be an El Camino. Love me anyway. TELL ME. Let me out of this cage of worthlessness. Break…this…cycle…

It will go on. I’ll likely ruin my kids now with my OCD. They’ll need extensive therapy because of me. I’ll have to make amends with that someday. Face them when they tell me that I’ve destroyed their lives. Pay for their therapy and try to fix them. Darned if they won’t know that I love them and I’m proud of them, though, no matter how much they screw up, make the wrong choices, or disappoint me. I will love them, and they will know.

Blame. In the end, that’s all it is. Blame that I can’t place on anyone but myself anymore. If I’m going to point fingers, I might as well aim them right back at me.

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My husband always talks about a wonderful thing called the “age of accountability”. That’s when, sometime early in the teen years, one starts to know the difference between right and wrong and becomes ultimately responsible for the choices they make. I’m well past that age. My choices are my own now. I can’t play the blame game anymore. I have the power to stop this.

So why do I feel so powerless?

I can’t say I’ve lost all hope in getting better eventually. I’ve taken baby steps over the years. I can leave the house to go to work now. I wasn’t able to before. I don’t vacuum 3 or 4 times a day like before, either. I’ve even been known to skip it for a day from time to time. It’s hard to do. The anxiety punches me in the face, but I fight through it.

Baby steps aren’t enough, though. I can’t lead a normal life on baby steps. I can’t be considered healthy on baby steps.

I can’t go on trying to gain some childhood approval that still isn’t forthcoming, either. It’s likely too late to do any good anyhow.

I’ve all but driven my husband nuts. I think he has depression now because of me. Good going. We can just add that to my ever growing list of screw-ups.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ll eventually have to pull up my big girl panties and take big girl steps. I can crawl now, sure, but I have to learn to walk…

Someday.

Later.

Not now.

Not ready.

Oh health, just shove me in a locker again, and get it over with.

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Tales From The Thrift Store: Full Moon Rising.

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When we last left our heroine (not the drug, people, the Superhero Thrift Store Manager, otherwise known as me) it was a thousand and fifty degrees in the shade and yours truly had come the closest I’ve ever been to melting into a big, fleshy puddle on the ancient cracked tile. I think maybe I actually did melt a little; one leg seems to be slightly shorter than the other and my face feels somewhat…droopier.

Needless to say I’ve been finding ways to keep cool in the store now, like keeping the air conditioner running despite the fact that most of it escapes out the huge roll up door, or setting a box fan under the desk. Sometimes I’ll go back into the kitchen for a few minutes when there’s a break in customer traffic, and sprawl across the packages of frozen English muffins, Italian sausages, and lunch meat in the large chest freezer. Global warming, folks; a girls gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Not all days at the store are completely off the charts when it comes to the heat…or the level of crazy in the customers brought about by the heat.  This Friday happened to be rainy off and on, and the slightly cool rain and breeze that would roll in with it brought a welcome respite from the sweltering temperatures that I had suffered through the past few weekends. There was no relief from the insanity, though. There seemed to be an abundance of that.

Now, I never actually did any research into the matter, but I have it on pretty good authority that we can expect to see a full moon within the next day or so. Due to the fact that it wasn’t as hot as usual, I can only surmise that the promise of this lunar delight right around the corner is what led to one of those weekends…you know, the kind that leaves you sitting there wondering if the level of erratic behavior that you just witnessed really happened, or was it merely a figment of your imagination?

Let’s start out with a small level of nuttiness, such as my first customer of the day on Friday. Then we’ll work our way into the grand finale of madness as my Twilight Zone of a day wore on.

I sat at my desk in the corner as usual, laptop open in front of me, fervently typing up the next dose of whatever babbling drivel I deemed worthy of serving up to my adoring fans (yes, this means you, the ones basking in the glow of your ultraviolet monitor lights as you read the newest installment of my raving absurdity), when in walks a fairly normal looking woman of about 60. She pokes around a bit and comments on how clean and well organized the store is. I have OCD, silly, of course it’s clean and well organized. I omit this fact, though, and simply say, “Thank you. It keeps me busy.”

She suddenly spies my impeccably displayed rack of die cast collectibles, complete with sign above it explaining that they are, in fact, limited edition collector’s items and are priced accordingly, and sign on the front of the display that reads, “pricing available upon request.” There was some question on my part as to whether or not grams could actually read, though. She plops a mint condish 2001 limited edition #5 Terry Labonte Monsters Inc. car still in its unmarked, unbent original packing down on the desk in front of me, and proceeds to pull a couple of wadded up dollar bills out of her change purse.  I give her a quick raised eyebrow glance and say, “Alright, give me just a moment to pull up my pricing guide,” to which she replies, “Pricing guide?  Aren’t these a couple of bucks in Walmart?” Friends, Amazon lists this very car for $24.99. “Well you see, ma’am, this is a collector’s edition. It’s already 12 years old, and if kept in its original packaging, the value will keep increasing.”   “Oh I don’t care about all that,” she says “it’s just for my grandson to play with.” She plans to tear it open. Rip it right out of the pristinely preserved packaging… along with my heart. I die just a little on the inside. After a few more minutes of haggling, I wearily concede and let granny walk out the door with the deal of the day for 2 bucks.  Meh, I have another one in the stock closet anyway. I replace the doomed collectible and go back to my blogging.

An hour or so later, enter the stocky young gent with the fiery red “Flock of Seagulls” hairdo. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I found myself hoping that my jaw hadn’t visibly dropped when I saw it, it was that strikingly sculpted.  Had a unicorn walked by in front of me at that very same moment, I don’t think that it would have struck me as even half as amazing as this guy’s hair. He and his cohort, a thin, muscular, manly woman with closely cropped hair and glazed over eyes, start perusing the belt rack. From where I’m sitting at least 15 feet away, I can smell the reason for G.I Jane’s glassy eyed stare. I was getting a contact high just from their closeness in proximity. Seagull man selects a studded leather belt from among the 30 or so prominently displayed on the hooks in front of him, wraps it around his hand several times, points to the 10 or so inches on the end without studs, and says, “Now if we cut off this section here,” …he gives me a quick sideways glance… “It’ll be perfect for what we need.” Whoa there. Okay. I discreetly grab hold of my phone placed several inches away on the top of the desk , pull it closer, and load the numbers 9-1-1 up on the display screen…just in case.

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After a few more minutes of wandering around the store picking up and commenting on random items, they head to the desk to make their 50 cent belt purchase. Seagull man hands me a dollar, and waits for his change, as his partner in crime points to an old patch of dried up paint splatter on the floor and says, “Hey look, its Lady Gaga.” I give her a puzzled and slightly nervous look as Seagull man says, “Hey, yeah, wow. Look at that, that’s way cool.” He then looks at me and says, “Come here, you gotta see this.” Ummm…I do? Not in the least bit out of curiosity but for the sake of my own safety, I grip my phone just a little tighter, get up, and walk around the desk to see just what the daft duo is going on about. They point to the paint spot in unison and say, “See, look. It’s a flaming high heeled shoe just like Lady Gaga’s.” I’m completely lost. All I see is faded paint splatter, but I feign enthusiasm and exclaim, “Oh yeah! Look at that! I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before!” They both smile and nod, and after a few more moments of staring mesmerized at the paint spot and paying silent, reverent homage to the floor tile, they decide to make their departure. Phew. I relax a bit and go back to typing.

I could not make this stuff up, folks. I’m neither imaginative nor mentally unstable enough to think up madness of this magnitude on my own.

Sometime shortly after lunch, a woman and a girl of about 7 or 8 walk in, exchange pleasantries with me, and proceed toward the housewares section in the far back corner of the store. Fifteen minutes pass…then 20. They finally emerge with armloads of random dishes, plop them down on the desk, and smile as I proceed to ring up the pile of discount goodies.

We interrupt this purchase to issue a public service announcement.  Having OCD while managing a store comes with a nice mental rolodex feature, in which you’re able to store every little detail of all merchandise incoming and outgoing, what price you put on that merchandise, when it came in, where it came from, and even whether or not the price tag is in your own writing.    

We now return you to your regularly scheduled purchase…

As I start to add up the items, I immediately notice that something is off. Take the nice, unscratched Teflon pot with the glass lid for example. Just that morning I had priced that pot at 3 dollars. A little on the cheap side for the condition it was in, but hey, every dollar made is a dollar more than we had before. It now had a sticker on it for $1.25, a sticker that I recognized as being from a half missing set of Rubbermaid storage containers. I dig a little deeper and notice a few other gently peeled and reapplied price tags that were cheaper than the original prices on some other items, too. I have to admit, she did a good swapping job. No wonder she was back there so long.

I try to explain to her that these aren’t the right prices for some of the things that she’s handed me, to which she responds by pretending she doesn’t speak a word of English, even though she seemed to speak it pretty well when she greeted me as she came in. Crafty, this one. But even the most linguistically lacking folks when it comes to the English language know the word, ‘no’, and fortunately, I know enough words in Spanish to communicate on the level of a Kindergartener. So, I would point at a wrongly marked item, say something along the lines of, “No. Tres”, and shove it aside to ring up something that still sported the right price tag. She would respond with, “Oh” and then quietly say something to her daughter in Spanish. In the end, I was not willing to fall for her trick, and she seemed to want the items badly enough, so she pulled out her wallet and reluctantly paid the original prices for the items in question. Now, I’m more than willing to negotiate prices, if you just ask, but don’t try to play dirty pool with me. I don’t enjoy that game.

The cherry on top of my lunacy Sundae came about 20 minutes before closing time, when in walks a woman trailing 2 young offspring behind her. She heads straight for the desk, all the while stuffing handfuls of potato chips into her mouth from the Ruffles bag in her left hand, occasionally dropping one or 2 on the floor as she walks. Maybe she’s leaving a trail so she can find her way back out? I’m no psychic, but I sense a broom and dustpan in my future. She looks at me, sitting behind the desk all by my lonesome, without another person in sight, and says, “You the manager?” Oh boy. I’d better buckle my seatbelt.  This promises to be a bumpy ride.

Now, had my 11 year old son been at the store with me that day as he usually is, it might have crossed my mind to point at him and say, “No. He is.” No such luck today, however. I was flying solo on this trip. “Yes ma’am, what can I do for you?” I ask. She says, “Well, I’m fixin’ to have a yard sale this weekend and I was wondering if I could have it right outside your store in the parking lot.” I quickly stifled the urge to laugh out loud. I’ve been down this road before, and the idea was vetoed fairly quickly. If we open up that world of possibility to one person, we’d have to do it for everyone, and before you know it, our parking lot will have turned into a circus sideshow.  No. Thank you for the offer, but I think I’ll have to pass.

She didn’t appreciate hearing ‘no’ as an answer, though, and after the words, “I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t do that” came out of my mouth, a barrage of distasteful dialogue came out of hers. I was called a few choice names and told that I was stupid for not wanting to make the extra money that her extraordinary event would have brought into the store, before she finally gathered up her offspring and made a hasty retreat.

I ran my hand over my exhausted face and looked at the clock. It was 10 minutes before closing time. I closed anyway as a reward for surviving this deranged day…and to sweep the crushed potato chips up off the floor, too.

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Until next time, readers…stay sane.

Daily Prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land

Daily Prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land

What’s your favorite part about visiting a new place — the food? The architecture? The people watching?

When you spend each waking moment caught in the grip of a stressful, debilitating anxiety disorder that alters what others would think of as normal everyday life, it can cause you to feel like a prisoner in your own body, or in my case, your own home. When my little corner of the world becomes stifling, and the familiar walls that I see every day threaten to close in on me, getting away to a new place is nothing less than priceless. I’ve found that there’s really only one thing that I can truly look forward to, my favorite part of being someplace else, someplace new…

Freedom!!!

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To me, the sweet smell of freedom is the best part of a new place, and anywhere that happens to NOT be home smells just as sweet. Call it that “new place smell.” Getting away is often the only way that I can manage to escape my reality, my own private torture chamber that lies within my mind; anxiety.

If I just can’t get out and steal away to someplace else as often as I’d like, or even need to, I manage to virtually escape every now and then and explore a new place in an online game. Then, not only can I be somewhere else, but I can be someone else as well. It can be just as exciting to escape from being me entirely.

My family will tell you that I’m a different person when I’m not at home. I’m relaxed. I’m fun. Even though home is where the OCD is, I’m able to leave it behind and not pack it up and bring it along when I manage to get out and away. I wish I could be the person that they enjoy being around even when we’re surrounded by daily routine, but I just can’t seem to get to a place where I can be as happy on the inside as I am when I get outside.

I have high hopes for breaking free….someday. Until then, I’ll make the most of the time that I get in different, new, and exciting places. That could be just about anywhere. Anywhere that isn’t…here.

This caged little bird chirps to be free, and freedom, my friends, has many forms.

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