06 July 2007

New Roses

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Is this bullshit really necessary? Neuroses, while they are inarguably
a pain in the fucking neck, are not actually as intractable as Big Pharma
would have you believe.


You know what I can't wait for? Yeah, that's right - football season. I love football because it gives me an opportunity to take a gigantic emotional dump in public without getting arrested or having to buy booze. I never thought of myself as an exhibitionist or anally expulsive until I caught myself freaking out and screaming like a stone-cold lunatic at a Seahawks home game - correction - every Seahawks home game. (I hope to God you're using the term "anally expulsive" in the psychoanalytic sense and not actually firing turd javelins out of the 300 level. -Ed.) Actually going that nuts in public is so freeing that it makes me wonder why there aren't places where you can go and drop your inhibitions and just run buck-wild without having to take some kind of psychoactive substance. (There are. They're called whorehouses and football games. And neither one of them is free. -Ed.) Seems like there would be a lot less angst in the world if there was a place where you could just peel back your social mask and get batshit freaknuts without fear of reprisal. (Hmm. Well now you've ruled out football games. -Ed.)

Which brings me to neuroses.

Our talk on Sunday about neuroses - what it is and how to deal with it - got me to thinking, which is sometimes not a bad thing. Sometimes I use my brain for good and not for evil. Then again, sometimes my brain is not so good to me. Maybe it's bad to me because I have not yet given it what it wants, kinda like women I used to date who thought I could read their minds. They thought I was an incredible jerk for not simply giving them what they wanted without them having to ask for it. Maybe my brain is exactly that kind of pain-in-the-ass. Maybe my brain is in fact in my ass, like I'm some kind of latter-day brontosaurus. That would explain a LOT. It might even explain why I digress so often and so readily when I'm trying to make a point.

Oh look, a bird!

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, neurosis.

I should know a thing or ten about neurosis as my neuroses are beyond multitudinous. They are legion. It's like having a petting zoo full of comically deformed barnyard animals. Pigs with antlers. Sheep with steering wheels. Goats with extra goats on them. Fortunately, neurosis husbandry for me has moved beyond affliction into the realm of hobby. In other words, it is no longer an obsession but more of a bemusement. I take a walk every once in a while down the grotty stalls of depression, anxiety, neurasthenia and phobia, stopping to pat each on the head in turn and give it a peck of oats. Each neurosis then gives a pitiful bleat and ralphs on my Wellingtons.

Suffice it to say that I know a lot about neuroses (including the fact that phrase has 40 letters and 11 spaces in it). So to answer the questions you had when we were discussing the subject, I sewed together a number of definitions from sources medical and otherwise, and came up with a definition of neurosis that just about meets everything I know about the subject. It is this:
Neurosis is a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, all in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality. It is a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety or indecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment not attributable to any neurological or organic dysfunction.
(I think its intractability would be the indicator of whether it is a personality disorder or not. Sometimes it is and sometimes it ain't. It can also be transient, like in response to extreme stress or whatnot.)

Does that sound familiar at all? But wait, here's the good news. (My oil needs changing and my horse is pregnant? -Ed.) Neuroses arise from the inclination to focus on only the negative aspects of an event or situation. If you are so inclined, then you will have anxiety. You will be depressed. You will fall prey to magical thinking, believing that your rituals and systematic avoidances will have a direct influence on your outcomes. Worse yet, you will have manifold physical complaints without frank and objective evidence of disease or pathogens.

Yes it gets better! How do I know? Because thinking that way is just an inclination. It's not a certainty. It is not a truth about reality as a whole. It is a way that you have chosen to think about things, and other people would think differently about the same situation. On another day, with more sleep, I myself might even think differently and act differently in the same situation. I might see more possible outcomes than only the negative ones that I see right now.

To wit, I can be neurotic, know that I'm not neurotic every single day, and have faith that this neurosis too shall pass.

Martin E. P. Seligman one of the forefathers of positive psychology and former head of the APA lists depression and anxiety as the top two most curable neuroses in his book "What You Can Change And What You Can't". Considering that friggin' everybody and their dysfunctional uncle seems to suffer from those two things, that fact alone seems to offer a great deal of hope to humanity as a whole. Most heartening to me is the strong evidence that he presents that proves that panic does not respond to any medication and can be unlearned. UNLEARNED. When I was diagnosed with panic disorder in 1984, they told me it was intractable, could not be cured, and that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I wasn't satisfied with that diagnosis and did everything I could to simply not ever feel like that again. And I sure as Eli Lilly didn't want to keep eating the truckloads of brain-stopping will-withering pills that they were giving me. I didn't know at the time that what I was doing by creating a program to deal with my panic was called "unlearning it". I thought it was called "how to not feel like shit every day". In the end, panic proved to be just an inclination - a patterned way of thinking, like the inclination I used to have to smoke cigarettes or order a Domino's pizza each and every goddamn day, both of which I am now disinclined to do. And just as a ten ton flatbed truck has the nearly unquenchable inclination to barrel down a 10% grade it is therefore not easy to stop, but with the right amount of force applied at the right time, it can be stopped.

Know what this means? Mm hmm. If this idea catches on, you better dump every bit of stock you have in Big Pharma.



02 July 2007

Children, Fools And The Endodontist

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The Prince of Pie nearly torches his own
eyebrows in a fit of birthday-induced joy. His
teeth (pictured, above) would later be subjected
to assaults that no one in their right mind could
smile about.


I went to an endodontist for the first time in my life this morning. Now before you Google the word "endodontist", let me just save you some time and tell you what an endodontist does. They fuckin' torture you, that's what.

Check it out. Relive the horror with me. I was referred to an endodontist by my dentist because he couldn't figure out why'n'the shit my teeth still hurt so much after he put a couple of crowns in. That whole deal, the whole grinding-off-the-tops-of-my-teeth deal, launched me into new horizons of candy-colored pain. Tiny demons took ice picks and shotguns to my hurt bone, waking me up every night, driving me to eat Vicodin by the fistful. (I don't know why people eat those things to get high, by the way. All they do is make you feel sick and dumb. I used to get higher than that sucking the sugar coating off of mom's thyroid medication. Sue me! I was a child and they looked just like red M&Ms.) But get this: It turns out there's only so much Vicodin you can eat before it kills you. No really, it's a fact. So the dentist decided that maybe there was some more drilling or nerve pulling or something that they could do to put me out of my misery without the added risk of having me become another sad drug-related statistic.

So I go to the endodontist this morning and what does he do? He takes a cotton ball and freezes the crap out of it with some liquid nitrogen. Then he tells me he's going to press it against my tooth - not the tooth that is still causing me pain, but a completely different tooth to cause me completely new pain. He says, "Raise your left hand when you feel the pain" and then he puts the cotton ball against my tooth. I say, "GAGH!" and flip him off with the middle finger of my left hand. He says, "Good. Okay, we're going to use that as a baseline to compare how painful your crown is." And before I can say, "Baseline - what the hell?", he goes and freezes the crap out of practically every tooth on that side of my jaw. When he gets to the Hurtiest Tooth I Ever Had and presses the little frozen cotton ball against it, it causes an explosion of icy pain in my head along with a completely extemporaneous hallucination of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in its entirety (but fast-forwarded). I try to flip him off with every finger on my left hand. He says, "Good."

Long story short, I don't need a root canal. He said I was inflamed. I said damn right. I'm supposed to go back in a month for a follow up. Next time I'm going to ask him if he can use the cooling power of peppermint schnapps instead of that liquid nitrogen stuff.

I don't know why people are afraid of dentists. Dentists are the Sugar Plum Fairy compared to the endodontist. The dentist digs into your teeth and gums. The endodontist digs into your soul.

In other news - my birthday, which started on Wednesday, just wouldn't quit. I got to celebrate it again on Sunday. I was blessed with good company and several more gifts. My collection of the articles of suburban destruction has been added to quite nicely. I got a wheelbarrow, for instance. And not one of the little crappy ones either. One with real oak handles and a big fat tire that you actually have to pump up. I'm telling Teresa that we're throwing away that car of ours and taking the wheelbarrow to work every morning from here on out. Plus I got a corn knife, which if you did not know it, is kinda like a katana for hillbillies. With it I can now easily quarter, cleave twain or cleanly behead any pugnacious sister-cousin or uncle-daddy that gives me guff. It also cuts corn. Or so I am told.

Plus, I got a gift certificate to Hardwick's Hardware (since 1932), the coolest hardware store on the planet. And you should check out what I bought! I got a socket set with every size socket from Mouse's Toilet Bolt to Elephant's Nut Sack (and by that I mean sack of either stainless steel or brass nuts which are overly large and in the possession of an elephant, and not a pachyderm's man parts). It also contains the very rare 25/32nds socket which is only for parts that come from Taiwan. With that fact in hand, I'm taking my 25/32nd socket over to Taiwan and doing some damage. I'm going to loosen everything. Taiwan is going to fall apart when I'm done. You're gonna see thirty million bicycles all dissolve into a pile of loose parts - k-thwank!

And yes, there was PIE. Blueberry pie (pictured, above).

And now this word about toilets: I moved my two dead toilets from the side of the driveway into the back yard so's to stop offending the neighbors. Not that they made a ruckus or anything (the neighbors, not the toilets). I just needed an excuse to show off the pythons by lifting each toilet with one hand. (Don't try this at home. That said, I should not have tried it at my home.) A friend of mine pointed out that the problem with being burly is that it's never a question of if you can lift something one-handed, it's always a question of why you should lift something one-handed when there are things like dollies and forklifts in the world. That's the question you should always ask. Likewise, that is the question that I did not ask before I single-handedly beefed first one then the other six-thousand pound porcelain crapper ten or so yards into my back yard. And even though I did not ask that question, my back has answered for it as usual. My folly created such exquisite pain that I was entertaining the idea of opening my abdominal cavity so I could ice my spine from the inside. I'm okay now, though. My spine is back in tip-top shape and ready for the next foolhardy stunt I have to dish out. As the old saying goes, God looks out for children and fools. Thank God that despite my rather large collection of birthdays I still fit in one of those two categories.