Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

It’s Madelene’s first day back at work since she has been sick with the flu. Last night, I tanked her up with what the doctor ordered---prescription cough medicine with codeine. What a magical potion that is. She didn’t cough all night, she didn’t toss and turn like a grilled sausage, and she didn’t even sneeze! Now, for those who know my Madelene, she can sneeze thirty times in one set. Believe me, it drives me insane. Did you ever hear that saying---that if a phone rings enough times, it can literally drive a person mentally insane? (True fact) Well, the sneezing applies as well.

Luckily, I have recovered somewhat, however Madelene will be out of the house and back in the office, while I work at home airing the fricken place out like you wouldn't believe. I woke up extra early just to do my work, and then do some ‘spring cleaning’. I’m going all out. No, it’s not a problem, and I don’t think I need an intervention thank you very much. (hehe) I just feel that cleanliness is next to Godliness. No, I promise I won’t get into a religious debating post today—saving that for a rainy day.

Those of you who are familiar with me know that I suffer from anxiety attacks and agoraphobia, among all the other mental illnesses that plague me. Lovely, right? Lucky woman Madelene is---you’re probably thinking to yourselves. Yeh. Whatever. Since my psychiatrist is an absolute waste of time and energy, I decided to use the tapes from The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety that teaches you how to change your thought process when you’re experiencing an actual anxiety attack. Now, agoraphobia is no longer defined as a ‘fear of crowds’. It’s avoidance of anything that is feared. It’s like manic-depressive gets the big ol’ label of ‘bi-polar disorder’. Same thing.

Each week, you listen to one tape. They give you projects to do in order to help with your cognitive behavior skills. This week, I had to write down all the things that I ‘avoid’ due to fear. When I wrote the list down, I thought to myself, “How the hell am I even living on this earth???”

List of avoided things:

1. Going into a supermarket. I usually just go into a small farm market that has vegetables and fresh fish to get our food. We’re not big meat eaters, and the farm market has essential things like milk, bread, eggs as well as fresh sushi-grade fish. It works for me—but it’s not helping my anxiety—it’s enabling it. Next door is the beer & soda and liquor store. How can I go wrong with this?

2. Driving more than thirty minutes away to an unfamiliar territory. Ever since I’ve been working from home, there’s no need for me to commute to New Jersey or any other neighboring state. I’ve become comfortable in my own limitations. This also puts a barrier between my friends and me, because I don’t venture out to visit them. They always come to me. Thanks guys!

3. Shopping in a mall—“alone”. I can go to a mall with someone, but I fear going alone. I used to do this all the time, and it used to be a stress-reliever for me. I loved shopping alone in the mall. There was no one to look out for, no one to wait upon and I can take all the time I wanted.

4. Family functions. This scares the hell outa’me. No kidding. Going to family functions make my anxiety so high, that I end up drinking like a fish and paying for it the next morning. I love my family—but it’s the other side of the family that I tend to avoid.

5. Going to the doctor’s alone. Oh this freaks me out. (This being a medical doctor--I can go to a chiropractor alone but not a regular family doctor...) I can’t sit there in that dreaded waiting room waiting for their next victim to be called in. I can’t read magazines to pass the time---because for the love of God---I’m in a doctor’s office. Germs!

6. Joining a class at my gym. I used to do this all the time. Now, I fear it with all my life. It’s a crowd full of women kicking and dancing around—it makes my nerves stand on end. I usually stand in the back of the room next to the door in case a leg is thrown at me.

7. Calling up my immediate family. Yep. I fear calling my sisters. Why? I have no clue. I'm best friends with all of them--so this doesn't make sense to me. I just can’t do it. I feel like I’m being intrusive. I actually conquered this one last week—and happy to report that it was a very positive experience---as it always would be. Why wouldn’t it be? I’m just a nimrod.

8. Taking a train. I always wanted to do this. I’m so scared. I guess it’s because of the ‘unknown’. Since I don’t like driving more than thirty minutes away, a train would be the perfect thing to visit my friend Tara. I’ll conquer this one for you Tara sweetie!

9. Planes. Yep. The fear that a lot of people have. I would do it if it was worth the trip. I’d do it if someone said, “Hey! Let’s go spend a month in Hawaii.” A month... A whole month though. See, if I go for just one week, I’ll be constantly thinking about the trip back home. See how my mind works?

10. Going jogging by myself in the park. My friend Tamar has this down to an art. She runs every single day after work rain or shine, hot or cold, without fear of anything. I admire that about her, and I wish I could do this myself. Instead---I have my little back up---the gym.

Now each week, I will conquer one of these on the list and report the fiasco. I’ll probably be in the hospital on my laptop reporting to you---being all happy to announce the new obstacle I tackled. Then there would be one more fear----hospital germs. Oh how I freak out when I walk into a hospital.

Getting back to the gym. I love working out and spending time there. I’m a 'people watcher'—and I love socializing as well. Here’s where the problem comes in. If the stairmaster machine is being utilized, I hop on the treadmill that is right behind it. I wait for that person to finish his/her workout, and then happily hop onto my stairmaster for a full hour workout. Now, if the person doesn’t walk up to the counter and grab those alcohol wipes---I’m fuming. Hell if I’ll get on that stairmaster after he/she sweated all over the damn place. Fine. I clean it off myself, but then again---I’m thinking, “Please don’t touch their sweat…please don’t touch their sweat….please don’t touch their sweat.” I automatically feel ‘dirty’ because they didn’t clean it up after themselves.

And yet another issue... The bathroom situation can be quite alarming if the cleaning crew has taken a few hours off. Droplets in the sink will make my head spin. I always bring down the paper towel first—so that when I’m done washing my hands, I just grab the paper towel, dry my hands, and then turn off the faucet. Why are people so damn messy? Puddles everywhere on the counter---what the?

The tanning bed. This germ infested bed full of viruses wreak havoc on my mind, as I wash it down with the strongest industrial cleaner—about five times. Can’t be two, can’t be three, can’t be four…has to be five. Then the room has to be aired out before I slip my way into this coffin-like contraption. I don’t want to be sucking in ammonia while basking in ultra-violet rays. Then I think, “My lungs will collapse!” See how this works? And yes, I do have the courtesy to wash it down five times after I leave, so the next OCD person that walks in will be safe.

I won’t even talk about the issues of handling the work out machines and free weights. I use gloves. Enough said. It does amaze me how people never wash down the machines they use, because it’s ‘weights’. Well—if they use it on cardiovascular machines, then why not on the weight machines? I never understood this. They even have alcohol wipes in that section too---which are dried up to the bone because people never use the damn things. Gloves are a must in this case. Do you see why I need to walk around in a Hazmet-like suit?

Handling cash. Oh don’t even get me started with this one. You know my thoughts already. What crotch has this dollar bill been stuffed down? Who's bra has this cash been stuffed in? Who inserted these fine bills in who’s g-string? And of course, who pissed in their pants while money was still sitting in their pockets. Do you realize how dirty money is? It’s exchanged from person to person, from state to state, and has the risk of spreading some freaky plague-like catastrophe. Okay, okay, I know---I missed my psychiatry appointment, but these are things to really consider before touching that nasty dollar bill.

With that being said, I must check if I left the stove on and then take a really hot shower and get out of here. I hope I didn’t inflict my fear upon you. I just like sharing with you all what goes in my little noggin over here. Madelene says that she loves the way I am—because I’m the ‘cleanest’ girl she has ever met. But when does it come to the point where my cleanliness becomes a sickness? Does that sound like an oxymoron? When does the concept of being ‘too clean’ get you ‘too sick’?