August 3, 2005

In Which We Discover That I am NOT All That Mentally Ill After All, But Rather, a Dumb-*ss.

I have to say, Mental Illness and I have always had a good relationship. It's like an arranged marriage, where maybe you didn't pick the guy, but you are bound and determined to make the best of it, and the guy is too.

My brain and Mental Illness share a skull, and they each keep to their own side and try not to bother each other in significant ways. OH sure, Mental Illness is not a GREAT roommate...I mean, there was that year I didn't leave the house or answer phone calls or e-mails, ha ha ha! That was a fun year! And I am a veteran insomniac---I do not sleep well, period. On vacation I still popped up awake and on full-worry-alert at 6 am, every morning. Mental Illness is a wonderful alarm clock. And I am overly suspicious. And Hypersensitive. And there is all the weird stuff with food... (I just ate SPELT! ON PURPOSE!! And I do not even know what spelt IS!!!) And I firmly believe it is Mental Illness who gave me my fervent belief that if I could wear size six pants, I would be a more valuable as a human being, coupled with a fingers-in-ears-la-la-la refusal to understand that tall, busty girls like me can't fit their Hip Bones and Upper Curved Parts into a size six, much less if they want to bring along any internal organs.

Brain knows that when I am fit and toned, I am an 8, pretty much your regulation medium. Mental Illness does not want to hear it. Brain values OTHER people for their minds or senses of humor or their kindness, and Mental Illness thinks those are fine standards, BUT points out that for me personally, value is solely determined by the not-being-a-size-six. Meanwhile Brain has a complete intellectual understanding that if I had MONUMENTAL plastic surgeries and shaved my hipbones down and removed my shoulders and my mighty rack, and I struggled my scarred and whittled body INTO a size six, Mental Illness would then suddenly realize that what REALLY makes a person valuable is being a size two. Brain knows this like it knows the multiplication tables, but Mental Illness gets half the house, and it knows what it knows too.

Oh sure, I have to load up on Ativan to sit in a dentist's chair unless I want Mental Illness to take over and hyperventilate and projectile vomit and send me leaping across the room to bang my head into a wall 'til I pass out, but that's a predictable event. Mental Illness could have picked, say, red sports cars, or TREES, or SUNLIGHT, so that every drive to Kroger was fraught with unspeakable horror. I know when my dentist's appointments are, and I pre-medicate Mental Illness, and all is well. Dentist's chairs are only ever in Dentist's offices. You don't find them lurking in parks, waiting to spring out at you and grab you with long tentacle straps and grow arms and come at your mouth The Poinking Tool while a Fanged, Flaming Dentist apparates before you and screeches TIME FOR YOUR CLEANING.

And I have to say, MY Mental Illness has it's good points. Sometimes I am a completely unreasonable human being, and later, I can blame Mental Illness, who is ALWAYS ready to step up and take responsibility for the times when I act, well, mentally ill. And Mental Illness keeps the writing parts of Brain well-lubricated with horrific visions that Brain uses as plot twists. I appreciate that. AND Mental Illness has never been so feisty and unreasonable that Brain couldn't RECOGNIZE whatever was going on as some project or another of Mental Illness'. My Mental Illness is OVERT and PALPABLE, and it doesn't pretend it isn't there and ask me to wear tinfoil hat and live in a dumpster, as other people's Mental Illnesses have required. I try to always buy people whose brains have genuinely awful skull-mates like that sandwiches, because there but by the grace of God go I, there but by the grace of God go we all...

So you can imagine my consternation when the Panic Attacks started. The first one happened during a medical emergency with my daughter, so, okay, look, that's forgivable. OF COURSE Mental Illness goes on high alert when your child is threatened. I thought it was a heart attack, actually, but was too busy helping Maisy to die of it, and later I did some reading and realized my symptoms were more in keeping with a panic attack than a HEART one. SO! Okay. Maisy is in mortal peril, a panic attack seemed like a reasonable response, so I shrugged it off. BUT THEN! I had another. While I was sitting quietly working at my computer after a CHARMING lunch with friends and feeling, I THOUGHT, pretty relaxed and happy. I walked around the house with my heart threatening to burst in my chest, trying to remember anything I'd ever read about Yoga and becoming one with Zen and stress relieving mantras. In a few minutes it subsided. I was TICKED. THIS was not part of the deal. Mental Illness was not only taking Brain's Milk out the fridge, but drinking it directly from the carton and then peeing in it. NOT. ACCEPTABLE.

Then a week or so later, just as I am supposed to be leaving on vacation---ANOTHER ONE. I stomped around the house while my chest squeezed itself shut, but my yoga breathing sounded suspiciously like the blowing of an enraged bull, and I was chanting I AM RELAXED AND HAPPY AND CALM DAMMIT, AND I WILL KILL ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENT. Then I chanted some A Very Bad Words Indeed about Mental Illness.

I realized it was time to take Mental Illness to the doctor and get it tinkered with or even REMOVED because it was SERIOUSLY breaking the covenant.

Yeah. Well. Hrm.

Turns out it was not a heart attack. Heart is fine, thanks.
Turns out it was not a panic attack. Mental Illness remains at acceptable levels.
It is this weird problem you can get where your esophagus clenches, and it MIMICS a heart attack. It's pretty much irritating and painful, but at the level I have it, untreatable and mostly harmless....

I am thinking I might need to send Mental Illness some flowers or something. Yish.

Posted by joshilyn at August 3, 2005 11:41 AM

Aw, lamb. What My Sister The Novelist calls "a novelist's imagination" -- which has almost nothing to do with characterization and pacing and only everything in the whole wide world to do with hypothesizing simultaneous mutually-exclusive catastrophes.

On the plus side, I'm looking forward to seeing how you personify your esophagus. I mean, Mental Illness desecrating the milk, no problem -- I'm sure you could even create a fairly perky pancreas. But a clenched esophagus? I look, as I say, forward.

Posted by: rams at August 3, 2005 12:37 PM

Poor Joss. Y' reckon Brain and Mental Illness could work out an equitable arrangement with this new guy, Esophagal Clench? Like maybe only making appearances when you need to clear out all those people in line ahead of you at the grocery store? Maybe there's a for-throats-only version of Ativan. Would E.C. go for that?

Posted by: David at August 3, 2005 1:31 PM

On the other hand, Esophagas Clench sounds like a Harry Potter character. Is he going to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?

Posted by: The Weasleys at August 3, 2005 3:02 PM

Oh dear sweet Joshilyn! The price one pays to be a brilliant writer.

I am in no way trying to come across as Tom Cruise and his psychiatry is bunk/couch-jumping antics, but I too have suffered from the whole my body sucks and why can't I stop worrying fiascos and it wasn't until I really understood yoga that I finally got past it. It taught me that all that wackiness is really outside me, and that panic is just chemicals doing weird things in my body. Now it's like: hey, look, some cellulite! Hey, look, wanna see my half moon?

I always feel like such a hippie flake with quinoa sprouts growing out of my ears when I tout yoga, but it really changed my life. Not that there aren't other solutions, but this is the one that worked for me and I wanted to share with you. Children and febrile seizures are DEFINITELY a reason for panic mode, but a dear sweet person like yourself shouldn't have to deal with mental illness demons on a regular basis.

'kay, I gotta go down to the commune now and rinse out my menstrual rags with Moonbeam and Freedom. Peace. xox Katie

Posted by: Katie at August 3, 2005 3:08 PM

Katie, if she wants to deal with those imaginary mental illness demons resulting in the staged chemical imbalance leading to her withdrawal into a rocking fetal position chewing her shirt sleeve it's her choice to do so. At least she's not taking medication or zipping herself into a plastic bubble or trying to feed the baby tofu. She seems fine to me without your urging to try yoga. Tape up the doors and windows, feed the newts to the ferret and I'll see you at home.

Posted by: Tom at August 3, 2005 3:29 PM

Joss! Fling the dern kudzu offa yer neck why doncha? That'll stop that clenched feelin' once ya get that heap offa ya! How many times I gotta tell ya stay outta the kudzu? Just stay outta the kudzu. Dang kids don't ever listen to me...

Posted by: Aunt Florence at August 3, 2005 3:41 PM

Dammit, now I want a clenched esophagus. All I've got are panic attacks. I'll sell 'em to ya, CHEAP! :D

Posted by: Mir at August 3, 2005 5:08 PM

Sounds like Brain and Mental Illness need to get together and go bowling.

Posted by: lizardek at August 3, 2005 5:08 PM

PLEASE do not let Mental Illness pee in the milk, even if it is only Brain's figurative milk, because MILK is part of the Sacred Dairy Pantheon (or, as my mother says whenever she sips some fine vintage moo-juice, "ah... Drink of the Gods...").

Let Mental Illness pee in Brain's Fresca, or iced tea/chai latte, or dish soap bottle. I DO NOT CARE about them. But just not the milk.

I am so very sorry to hear about the evil Kegeling esophagus. Impending doom vibes SUCK, no matter what the physical manifestation is. Also, airplanes:Cornelia as dentists:Joshilyn. Except dentists:Cornelia isn't exactly a happy marriage, either. Hypnosis (for like, a month) helped with the airplanes (and I feel like a HUGE WIFFLE-HEAD admitting that publicly). Still hate flying, but now I don't barf and sob while hugging random strangers in the "gate" waiting lounge, muttering the Lord's Prayer.

THERE's an attractive picture, huh?

Posted by: Cornelia Read at August 3, 2005 6:38 PM

Oh, Cornelia, the Kegeling esophagus. Brilliant.

Joshilyn, my therapist once asked me, "How often do you imagine worst case scenarios?" I looked at her like SHE was the one with Mental Illness. "All the time, of course," I replied. I was shocked to learn that not everyone's Brains are constantly computing WCSs. But some Brains just can't help it.

Glad heart and MI are okay.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at August 3, 2005 7:19 PM

Edgy, who in their right mind DOESN'T calculate WCSs??? I mean, what if there were, like, a tidal wave, or meningitis like on PBS last night...

Yeah. Hokay.

Have I said here yet that my Grandmama Read used to tell these awful worst-case-shaggy-dog stories, extrapolating onto whatever someone was worried about, which always ended, "and then you'll get to the hospital and the anesthesia won't work"?

Never heard one in person, only have Cousin Mark's word for it, so I'm not sure whether she was making fun of paranoia in her children or just hijacking family members' WCS fantasies... probably both.

Posted by: Cornelia Read at August 3, 2005 7:27 PM

You know it COULD be worse, Joshilyn. This blog could be part of your medical records. Now THAT would be a WCS of gigantic proportions... But look on the bright side! Look at all that alone time you'd have to write in that nice, quiet, padded, cell. Just you, and your very own kegeling, spastic, clenching, unforgiving, mentally ill esophagas, putting lots of commas, in every sentence, if you wanted, cause you're mentally ill, and, you, can, if you, want.

Posted by: Diana at August 3, 2005 10:24 PM

Are you sure it isn't Brain who is afraid of dentists instead of Mental Illness? Because I think being afraid of dentists is very sane and sensible. Dentists are SESS.(SadisticEvilSatanSpawn) I mean, come's not like you're afraid of fluffy bunnies or something, right?

I'm sorry to hear about the clenching esophagus, but glad you aren't having heart attacks.

Also, I'm compelled to point out that Esophagal Clench would be a good name for a rock band.

Posted by: DebR at August 3, 2005 11:44 PM

Esophagal Clench is a plumbing tool. Mir, back me up here...

Posted by: Diana at August 4, 2005 8:20 AM

DebR - FLUFFY BUNNIES!!!! ARGH!!!!! Don't you know about their Sharp. Pointy. Teeth.!!!

Esophagal Clench as a medical issue - not so good.
Esophagal Clench as a plumbing tool - Oh yeah baby...especially if there is a hot plumber involved...and chocolate...and whipped there...something shiny!!

Posted by: Angela at August 4, 2005 8:45 AM

Mir, are you making a note of this? Mir? I think those leaks are back on your ceiling up there aren't they? See that? Over there? Mir? Doesn't that guy Chip need to see about this? Oh what a tangled web we strangle in...when we dare to read Joshilyn's blog every day... Maybe we can get a group rate for therapy.

Posted by: Diana at August 4, 2005 10:51 AM

Dosing out the seeds of Mental Illness illness has become the standard base of American advertising. Resulting in these basic facts of female life...

Three sizes smaller is always the best size. I will always need to lose twenty pounds more, regardless (yeah as if I could any weight) of any massive poundage I could lose. What is sane about that?

How in the heck can I lose weight when I waited until 42 to quit smoking, and went pre-men -tal -osal at the same time? They (you know they) said it should last 2 to 4 years, at the time they told me this I'd been into it two years, sanly figured I had four more ahead of me. That was seven years - and 60 pounds ago. What is sane about that? And I had just gotten into a size 8 for the first time since 6th grade, now I'm a size - elastic waist. All the crying curdled my milk and just made my eyes puffy - like anything on me needs to get puffier. Now if my but size and my shoe size were the same I'd wear at ten and lust for an eight. And I'd still be unhappy. What is sane about that?

Any thing over 6 and a half is a banana boat of a shoe - and there isn't a cute enough shoe in the world without a 3 inch heel that will make them look any smaller. What is sane about that? But, gosh, despite being 5'11" I love 3 inch heels. Now really there is nothing sane about that.

And now you tell me there is something that kegels involuntarily? Where I need to kegel doesn't, and what doesn't need to will? What is sane about that?

Pass the fiber please, and I'll take another bowl of ice cream. ;)

Posted by: Cele at August 4, 2005 12:40 PM

Egad those are so PAINFUL! I have them sometimes too and was wondering if that's what it was from your description.... OW! Mine last a couple hours - I hope yours are shorter. Same painkiller for cramps (trusty Midol) will help - if you can get it down.

Good luck!

Posted by: Karry at August 4, 2005 2:30 PM

There is nothing sane about ANYTHING in this blog topic... The voices in my head told me so.

Posted by: Diana at August 4, 2005 2:31 PM

Wow, sounds so much like Grandmother J.

Posted by: Julie at August 4, 2005 3:26 PM

I can completely sympathize with you. I suffer the same malady. It is common with a little disease called Acid Reflux AND/OR GERD. Ask for some cool little pills called Hycosamine. They use it a lot for coniditions like this. It will ease the "CLENCH" during times of the clenching.

Posted by: Cheryl at August 5, 2005 1:04 PM