Friday, November 20, 2009

Bothered (Mental Illness)

That's my finger. Left, ring, to be exact. Can you see that it is swollen and bent? Trust me, it is. I was playing catch with a football, having a grand ol' time, feeling like a kid again, and then the football must have got mad at me, 'cause it decided to land on top of my finger, jamming the tip down into the rest of it. Now, initially I didn't think twice about this.. we've all been kids, we've all stubbed our fingers, we've all had our moms kiss it and make it better. No big deal. It didn't even hurt that much. But as the day wore on and it began to throb, my mind began to edge ever closer towards the dark recesses of adult-onset hypochondria. I was becoming a little too worried about this stupid finger, so I took some Tylenol and drank a few beers (you know, like the warning label recommends) and tried to distract myself from thinking about it. It sorta worked, I thought, and I fell asleep eventually. Then came 2am.

I woke like a shot, felt the pain still present in my poor little digit, and immediately my mind started racing... I can't bend it now, what if I can never move it again? What if it's infected? Would it have to be amputated?? No kidding, I jumped right to amputation as the inevitable conclusion to this injury. These are the thoughts that raced through my sleep deprived, pain-addled brain. Even worse, after I absent-mindedly cracked all the rest of my fingers, my touch of OCD started to kick in and I had the overwhelming desire (that felt like desperate need) to crack this one remaining, unmoving finger... I HAD to. I HAD to complete the sequence of cracking and I HAD to do this thing that I had always been able to do. It was driving me crazy to not be able to crack this one finger. My skin began to crawl and I started to hyper-ventilate, just on the brink of panic attack mode.

All this for a stubbed finger, people! I know better. But these were not logical thoughts, my brain was not being controlled by reason at this particular moment. I couldn't turn off my crazy brain. I couldn't stop focusing on not being able to crack my finger. I was bothered. I eventually managed to regain some control and did some deep breathing exercises until I calmed down enough to convince myself that my finger was not going to fall off and I was not going to die from this. Though I still couldn't sleep and ended up playing Brick Breaker on my Blackberry to distract myself until I physically couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.

When day finally came and I woke up, finger now turning a little purple but still attached, I was kind of ashamed. I was bothered that I was bothered.. I mean, aren't I supposed to be too good for mental illness?? Then immediately after those thoughts I become bothered that I was bothered that I was bothered.. who am I to be too good for mental illness? You arrogant son of a bitch, I said to myself. Just because my self image doesn't generally include any mental deficiencies doesn't mean that I can't or don't have them. I am just as susceptible to dumb ideas and flaws in the wiring as the rest of the human race. Who the fuck am I to hold myself above anyone else? I am not anyone, I assure you.

Nevertheless, having reconciled myself to the idea that it was possible for me to be a little nuts, that did not change the fact that I was still a little nuts over this finger. As night fell on the second night of the great crazy finger incident of '09 I was going stir crazy again and told Jesse I had to get out of the house. We ended up walking all over North Beach and Nob Hill until we wandered past the Nob Hill Masonic Temple where Ray LaMontagne was playing that very night. We happen to like Ray LaMontagne, and we had even thought about buying tickets for this, but since we were passing by it seemed like a good opportunity for seeing something for nothing. We staked it out and found a way to sneak in without too much effort. Sneak we did, and we saw about three songs before we couldn't take the heat any longer and bolted. It was fun and all the walking we did made me tired enough to sleep ok. Although, I still found it necessary to distract my brain and went to sleep with my iPod on. Anything to keep my brain from focusing on the one thing I didn't want it to focus on. The one thing I couldn't do, and therefore the one thing I wanted to do more than I've ever wanted to do anything in my life. At that moment, alone with my thoughts, cracking my finger again seemed like the most important thing in the world. Like I said, nuts.

The point of all this is: Lesson learned, none of us are too good. We are all just human. I thought I knew this already, of course, but when the chips were down (and the finger swollen) I realized I still thought it couldn't happen to me. I'm an asshole. End of story. Oh, and the finger is slowly getting better and not bothering me anymore. OK, it's still bothering me a little, but what're ya gonna do? That's life.

Meanwhile, in an entirely different, more daring bout with mental illness, my friend Danie ran her first marathon about a week after I got here. I maintain that she is crazy, and that all runners are one energy bar short of a dozen, but I will say that being out there in the middle of over 20,000 running ladies was kinda cool.. the excitement and positive energy was infectious. And Danie did awesome! Click here to read all about her journey and see an embarasing clip of me running. Go #teamdanie!

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