#1886

Tanim wonders, chasing the fleeting shadow down the long hallway, if Daren even knows where he’s going. The asylum is a multi-floored compound of brightly lit hallways that to the unfamiliar eye all look the same. Can Daren have any idea where the front doors are, when patients are kept shut away so deep within the maze? And even if he does still remember the way out, how will he get past the locked doors on each level and the employees who guard them? Surely he knows escape is impossible. Mad Daren might be, but he isn’t stupid.

Rounding a corner just as Daren flies through an unlocked door and into the stairwell beyond, Tanim stumbles to a stop and stands gasping for breath. He never imagined Daren could run so fast; though then again, he’s never had cause to chase after him, at least not literally. He gives himself a few seconds to catch his breath and check for security guards – none are following as of yet – then resumes the chase. Up two flights of stairs, back into an identical hallway, through countless turns and turnarounds he follows Daren, who remains always a dark figure vanishing around a far corner.

Finally, Tanim turns and finds himself facing a dead-end hallway just as one of its doors slams shut. Straining to calm his racing heart and aching lungs, he begins checking the handles of each door. Most are locked; given the burned out fluorescent bulb in the ceiling, this particular section of the asylum seems to be rarely in use. The doors on the right side of the hall are all locked. On the left side, Tanim meets locked door after locked door until he is almost to the end. The second-to-last handle moves under his hand and he hesitates, certain Daren is inside but uncertain of what the man might do when cornered.

Tanim pulls the door open slowly, expecting perhaps for Daren to rush him and continue his unpredictable flight, but nothing happens. The smell of blood hits him instead, and he pushes the door open wider to let in the hallway’s feeble light. It falls over Daren where he kneels in the shadows, glistening as it strikes the blood coating the man’s face and trickling in a steady waterfall down his neck, shoulder, and chest. In his hands he grips an open pair of scissors, their blades covered in blood; it is these, it seems, which he has used to make the oozing lacerations which crisscross his shaved head.

“I was trying to fix it,” Daren explains, his voice and eyes eerily calm. Tanim tries to speak but finds he has no words. Instead, he kneels down and gently lays his hands over Daren’s bloody fingers to extricate the scissors.

#1885

Lie to me. Say you love me; say you’ll stay. You are a beautiful liar. Lying is an art you have elevated and perfected, and to watch you in action is to listen to the greatest symphony ever written. I have lived all my life among the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most talented and privileged – and yet I have never seen a single person who has mastered their art to such a degree as you. Every lie you offer me is a gift more precious than anything I could give in return. Tell me you forgive me, darling, for being so disappointingly inferior to you. That can be your greatest lie yet.

#1884

To be honest, I, too, am an unreliable narrator. Not that the scribe lies, per se; but her truths are the truths of her subjects. I tell you what I am told. What I am not told, I do not tell. What falsehoods I suspect remain my own and are never uttered. It is not my place to make suppositions, to theorize, to bury certain claims or drag others into the light. We all have our own truths, our own realities; why should my subjects be less worthy in the keeping of theirs than anyone else? Besides, all good stories contain a certain amount of distortion. Where fact may slide into fiction is up to the reader to decide – and every reader has their own truths as well.

#1883

I find myself suddenly very bothered by the phrase “special snowflake”. I never liked it, nor the sentiment behind it, but I have recently been gnashing my metaphorical teeth over it. What bothers me is how illogical it is. In essence, a “special snowflake” is supposed to be someone who has many identities, aspects, and labels. This is bad, apparently. What is illogical about this is that we all have a long list of labels – the only difference is that we aren’t always vocal about as many of them. If I say I’m just a girl from Washington state, well, then I’m not a special snowflake. I’m “normal”. Yet if I make a list of even just a tenth of the labels that apply to me, then suddenly that’s too many and I’m just trying to be special. But it’s just a list. All of those things are true about me whether I say them or not. What difference does it make if I state them or leave them unsaid?

I decided to make a list of whatever personal labels I could think of off the top of my head. Let’s see how special snowflake I can be:

I am female, a daughter, and a sister. I am an Italian by descent, an American by birth, and a Washingtonian by choice. I am queer, asexual, sapphic, and engaged. I am a lazy femme, anti-makeup (for myself), and pro-leg hair. I am a feminist and a vegetarian; I am pro-choice and anti-Trump. I am lactose-intolerant, nearsighted, and a supertaster. I am allergic to salmon, kiwis, and oats. I am chronically ill. I am pagan, Kemetic, and a follower of Bast. I am anxious, obsessive-compulsive, and depressed. I am seismophobic and trypophobic. I am a Research Administrator. I am a writer and a reader. I am a nerd and a geek. I am a Fannibal, an Assassin, and a Ravenclaw.

That’s pretty impressive, but does it make me a special snowflake? I don’t think so. Anyone alive long enough to have formed a conscious understanding of who they are could make a list that long, or longer. We all have hundreds of identities, some we are born with and some we choose willingly. We’re all special snowflakes, whether we like it or not. Calling someone a special snowflake just makes you sound like you oppose having a full understanding of yourself, or using descriptors to define concepts that apply to you – in essence, “I hate that you’re using words to describe things”. Well buddy, I have some bad news for you: that’s literally what language is. Words for stuff. If you can’t get over the fact that people like to describe who they are, then you’re going to have one miserable life.¬†Anyway. All this was to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a special snowflake, because all that means is that you’re different from other people, which is literally true for everyone on earth, even identical twins. The end.

#1882

Skeletons in My Closet

Trichotillomania, according to the internet, is an “impulse control disorder” wherein the person suffers from the (oftentimes uncontrollable) urge to pull out their hair. Dermatillomania is its sister disorder, only dermatillomania causes the urge to pick at ones skin. The two often go hand-in-hand and frequently occur in people who suffer from OCD, anxiety, and/or body dysmorphia.

Thanks to my anxiety and OCD, I have them both! Lucky me.

I can’t remember when the picking started; my earliest memory is of lying about the scabs on my scalp sometime during late middle school or early high school. At some point I just started… picking. At anything. At everything. Blackheads, scabs, ingrown hairs, skin tags, cuticles, random bumps, really anything 3D that could be detected on my skin. In addition, I started pulling at my eyelashes and eyebrows. At this point, I have scars from scabs and pimples that weren’t allowed to heal on their own, as well as a receding hairline at my temples from picking and rubbing at my scalp too much. I routinely over-pluck my eyebrows and then have to fight myself not to keep plucking them as they grow back. I also suspect the carpal tunnel in both my hands is a product of so many years spent repetitiously running my hands over my skin and picking or pulling at whatever I found. I’m luckier than many, especially those who have trichotillomania and pull their hair out in chunks, but if you know what to look for, you’ll see the signs on me as well.

Like any compulsion, trich and derm provide an emotional release for the sufferer. Some people pick when nervous or upset, and the sensation or pain offer a kind of comfort. For me, it’s more that picking is satisfying. I can’t properly describe what I feel when I pick off a particularly nice scab, but it’s a weird mixture of victory, physical pleasure, and productivity. When I have nothing to pick or I can’t see what I’ve picked at, I feel frustrated and disappointed. It’s fucked up, I know. I don’t enjoy the pain associated with picking, but it’s not enough to stop my fingers from digging at unhealed scabs or things that aren’t really pickable at all. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that if you pick at anything long enough, you’ll eventually tear into the skin and voila! New scab.

It’s a disgusting habit, I know, and one I can’t really hide. I pick, especially at my scalp, in a totally thoughtless, automatic way throughout my waking hours – I have to be very mindful and constantly vigilant when somewhere where I can’t pick, such as a meeting or other professional setting. Even then, I still find myself attacking my scalp while I sit at my desk, and I’m sure my coworkers know something is seriously weird with me. Honestly, I’m surprised my picking hasn’t chased my girlfriend off, as she’s definitely talked about how gross it is to run her hands through my hair and feel a bunch of scabs. Even while I write this, I’m picking at my skin. I’ll probably continue to do it for the rest of the day, and for at least 20 minutes in the bathroom mirror while I’m getting ready for bed.

The problem is that, unlike people addicted to substances, I can never get away from my temptation. My hands are always with me, and there’s always something to pick at somewhere on my body. Wearing gloves 24/7 is obviously impractical, and cutting my nails just makes the job harder but the victory more rewarding. I have methods of decreasing my picking, like pulling my hair back and wearing a spinner ring I can fiddle with, but those only work for so long. The maximum number of days I’ve gone without picking is four  – but I’ve only managed that once. My average is one, and that’s if I’m doing really well. Most of the time I can’t bring myself to even try. This issue seems insurmountable and I feel exhausted just thinking about thinking about trying to fix it.

I don’t have any advice for others in this situation, as I clearly haven’t even begun to get a hold of my compulsion. Therefore, I can only speak to others, to those who might have someone in their life who struggles with something similar. To those people I say, have patience and be kind. Compulsions aren’t just “bad habits” and your loved one isn’t doing it to annoy you. Chances are they hate the compulsion even more than you do, and they’re actively toning it down whenever you’re around. Yelling at someone, demanding they stop picking, or asking them why they pick isn’t helpful at all – all you’re doing is reminding this person that you don’t understand the issue and aren’t trying to. Instead, show your support by giving them gentle reminders to stop picking, to use their redirection methods, or to find something that puts both their mind and hands to action. Be supportive of your loved one and try to remember that this is most likely a life-long battle, not something that can be cured overnight.

To my fellow pickers and pullers, I can only say, you’re not alone and you’re not gross. I know it’s an embarrassing compulsion, but you aren’t your disorder. You aren’t your trichotillomania, your dermatillomania, your OCD, or your anxiety. These things affect you, but they aren’t YOU. Take one day at a time. You’ll get through this.

#1881

I am not your mother, but I have bled for you.
I am not your sister, but I have stood by you.
I am not your daughter, but I have preserved you.

I am very tired.

If you had hands, would you lift me and carry me to bed?
(Please lie. I don’t mind.)