Flavortown Sickboy Blues

Photo Credit: Texas Monthly

 

Guy Fieri is my blood relative,

Please, nobody look that up.  


     I’ve, primarily, been two kinds of kid in my life, the sick kid & the funny kid; usually at the same time. Sick can be funny, funny can be sick, but the connection between the two has yet to be unveiled in any number of 300-dollar appointment with my shrink. He does not see my silly boy antics as a psychiatric concern, and he may be right, but the joy of being a funny sick kid is that I never know if I’m being funny or exercising my sickness.


Seriously, don’t look it up,

Just believe me.

 

This year

On Father’s Day,

And Mother’s Day,

And on both of their birthday,

I posted a picture of my

Real life relative Guy Fieri

And talked about what a good job he is doing.

 

It is unclear if this makes either of my parents sad.


     When I was a small kid, around 2, I got scarlet fever. It was Hawaii in 1996, Kona was small and isolated and hot, it happened sometimes. They had to take the blood from me hourly. I am scared of doctors’ offices now. A small known issue associated with young kids getting bad infections of this type is Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (or PANDAS, kinda cute, right?), which basically states that the disease cooked part of my brain to the point of causing early and severe onsets of OCD and other Tic disorders.

I Also have ADHD, which I got from my father.

And Bi-polar disorder, which I think came from my maternal grandfather.

     I don’t want this to sound like complaining I’ve had a LONG time to come to terms with all of these, but I just wanted to catch you up.


Do you watch the news?

You know the moment when the

“On the scene reporter” is

On a delay from the main anchor?

So the anchor will say

“and now to Tim who is on the scene

At the world-famous Taranto cannoli fest,

Tim?”

Then they cut too him

But it’s like 7 seconds before Tim answers,

Like “Tim?”


     My mother says she had to hold me down while they took my blood, that I would kick and scream and now doctors make my heart beat fast and hot; needles make all the muscles in my body turn to a fist and punch. I get made fun of sometimes by friends and family for fearing needles but at the same time I am adorned in ink like my skin is thin paper, but a tattoo artist has never held me down and taken the warmth from my arm using a tattoo machine.


“That’s right Henry…”

How has nothing bad ever

Happened in those seven seconds?

It only takes one second to be crushed by a

Vending matching, and one of those seven

Seconds is never that funny one second.


     Justin, my shrink, thinks my mother made me sicker. That she liked having a sick kid. I’m not sure I believe him. At most, she just taught me to be vocal about it. To talk about myself in useful ways, to communicate my existence to anybody who would listen. To tell my story so that even though people couldn’t, like, relate; they would still be able to understand me.


My partner also has OCD but she got it the normal way. her brain has never been seared or brûléed.

My brain was once cooked medium rare, like a steak.

I wonder if all medium rare things have OCD? Just cooked enough to be

Interesting to those who consume them.


     I have set out to make a career as a writer, a comedy writer, and for a long time I didn’t think I could do it if I was sick/sad/anxious/hungry; but I don’t think that anymore.

     Comedy comes in 2 forms, I believe: taking a funny situation very seriously and taking a very real situation lightly; this polar rule rules for this bipolar boy, as I swing my jokes swing with me and the sick boy and the funny boy can exist alongside each other.  

It’s a beautiful thought; I’ll let you know if it ever works for me.


Guy Fieri is my blood relative.

Not an uncle, that is too specific.

A distance, a cepheid blinking

On the edges of a family tree I have

Never looked at.

 

Nobody look it up,

Please, it is not that I am

Attached to the concept

So much as it has become

Attached to me.

People ask me every day

If it is true.

 

I say yes,

Why ruin the sick kids fun?

 

By: Brennan Staffieri

This Problem to Acknowledge

Blog Post Picture

 

What is to be done about loneliness? It’s hard to say – there are ways to try to cure it, but in the end there’s no way to forcefully tell the universe, “You will give me the someone I need.” And I’m not just talking about that “perfect” significant other society is always telling us to be on the hunt for. I’m talking about the kind of person who you can connect with beyond all those surface-level friendships that are so much easier to come by.

My freshman year, sadness manifested itself in me rather unexpectedly. I left Southern California for Oregon well prepared to be homesick, but instead found myself longing for — not necessarily those I knew back home, though I did miss my family and best friend — but for someone I could know here. Deeply know, better than the group of friends I made from the start of school. There was a time when I would cry every weekend in private, often not sure why such emotions were so eager to flood. As a generally well-composed individual, I treasured those moments when I could feel emotion in its heavily saturated form. In a way, those moments felt more available to me than anyone nearby. And sadness like that can be addictive.

With the arrival of spring semester came a change in friends for me. This time, I sensed I played an important role in the dynamics of my friend group. But even so, I feared the fast-approaching future when all of us would graduate and go our own ways. I could have a wonderful career and place to live by then, but without someone to enjoy it with, I feared it’d feel meaningless.

In response to the stress of school and societal standards and what the future held for me, I turned to a coping mechanism not uncommon for college-age women like me. I took advantage of my busy schedule and used it to help develop what would end up taking months for me to acknowledge as an eating disorder. On my return home, my mom noticed my habits of extreme calorie restriction and spoke her concerns. Still, I pressed myself further. I couldn’t be expected to rely on my mother’s opinion the rest of my life, now could I? Or so my line of thinking went.

Summer break, things did not improve. Though I was back home in close proximity of my best friend and family, all were so busy with work and life that I found myself alone more often than ever. With my job unable to give me many shifts, and being confined to the house by the oppressive SoCal heat without a car, boredom and loneliness combined forces. In the need to put my mind to something, I began viewing myself as a project, depriving myself further, documenting the results. I knew it was foolish but I relished the effectiveness. So much time in the day I wasted recording my weight, my looks, what I ate, how I felt. I wanted those records, knowing I wouldn’t be that thin forever. They were capturing who I was at my prime, I thought. Pictures and journal entries I could look back on years later — in pride, pity, or scorn of myself, I wasn’t sure. But it felt precious, being empty and hungry. I could stroke my stomach and tell myself it was acceptable to lie there and not do anything, because so long as I wasn’t eating, my body was burning through calories and I was on my way to getting lighter. I was achieving something. Except there were plenty of times I felt otherwise. I often default to questioning my negative emotions and excusing my hardships as nothing compared to others’. So in seeing all the hollowed-out girls showcased in media, nearly praised by society for suffering from severe anorexia nervosa, my immediate thoughts were that my own experience was illegitimate. My efforts were laughable in comparison. Better try harder.

It’s amazing how fixated we humans can become. My mind was so content mulling over the same few things day in and day out. Food, calories, what it meant to be anorexic. How I qualified, how I didn’t. What was my end goal in all this? The answer is mixed. On one hand, I didn’t want to look like a walking skeleton, but at the same time I liked to see how far I could suck myself in, how prominent my ribs could be. I ranged from wanting to feel attractive and resilient, to small and delicate, to nonexistent. Putting myself through these trials made me feel like a character from a story, whose inner conflict served to make me interesting and worth reading into.

The most contact I had with anyone during those times was through text, with one of my college friends who I kept thinking of things to say to. Luckily for me, he was just about as bored and lonely as I was, so we were able to support each other despite the state boundary between us. I agree technology has in many ways impaired our willingness as human beings to connect on a personal level, but in this case it served a purpose dearly important to me.

As summer break finally drew to an end and I set my thoughts on a second year of college, I knew I had no intentions of stopping on my self-destructive path so soon. The setup of my sophomore living situation was prime for neglecting my needs, and I planned to exploit that. Throughout this process, my reflection on the actions I was taking varied from proud, to sheepish, to denial. In one of my softer moments, I told my good friend over text about my problem, just so I knew I wouldn’t be alone with this secret at school. I often consider where I’d be now if it weren’t for this good friend I’m so fortunate to have met. Ever supportive of me, he took the news well and did the most I could’ve expected him to. I think we both knew it was in my power alone to turn things around, so he never guilted me, or badgered me, but remained my faithful friend as I asked. Nearly any time of day, I could message him something and see the little icon drop down to indicate he saw it, followed soon after by the animated ellipsis telling me he was typing out a response. He was always happy to make conversation, be it light or heavy, and whenever he was preoccupied with work or something else, he made sure to check in on me as soon as he could. So even without him there in person, I didn’t feel like I was completely alone.

The first couple of months into my second fall semester, I treated myself as poorly as I’d expected I would. Again, I knew it was foolish but it’d become an obsession. When I finally determined I’d seek help by the end of the month, I got far worse up until the time I was to see the doctor. I wanted to make sure to give them something to work with. My entire experience building up to this point was a pendulum swing of “I’m going too far” to “I’m fine, just dramatic.” I wasn’t ready to ask for help until I could fix my beliefs on the fact I had a legitimate problem. It wasn’t enough for me that I’d missed my period five months in a row, or that my mental and physical energy levels were drained. The last time I checked my weight before I left for college, my BMI was still considered normal though I’d lost a considerable amount of weight, and the so-called “logical” part of me couldn’t be satisfied until that data said otherwise.

Finally the day came when I sought out the well-hidden scale in the girl’s locker room like a parched animal to water. Stepping onto the small square platform, I felt tremendous relief as I saw the bar balance at a number lower than I’d hoped. Here it was, something the critical voice inside my head couldn’t argue with, proof backed up by science that I was underweight. That I had gone too far – or, in my mind, just far enough. This was the green light for me to see the doctor, to eat more, to get better. And I was more than ready to start enjoying life to the fullest in that way.

For a month now I’ve been in recovery, though it feels like much longer than that. I have a lot to be thankful for, because getting better hasn’t been as difficult for me as I hear it is for some. The only reason for that I can think of is for the fact I have someone – my good college friend. To those of you wondering, we’re dating now, but that’s beside my point. He’s here as my anchor, as any close friend could be, encouraging me in every respect to do what it takes to be healthy again. We frequently cook meals together and experiment with food, amused at how repulsed our younger selves would have been at the thought of the things we share now. Thanks to him, I feel safe allowing myself the food I need and accepting the changes in my body that result. I didn’t expect a guy my age to be as happy for me as he was when I told him I gained weight. Still, I’m well aware I shouldn’t be reliant on anyone to value and take care of myself. I guess in that regard there’s a lot of growing for me to do, but having started counseling, I’m on a good track for that too.

So what is to be done about loneliness? I wish I could say. There’s still no way to demand the universe give you someone, though it does happen at times (and thank the heavens when it does). One thing I’ll advocate for is looking outside yourself, recognizing people for who they are and what they feel. Asking questions to understand, listening to hear, challenging yourself to delay any audible reply before you’ve truly thought about what the person before you has said. Who’s to say how many of us are hurting in some way, considering those who so carefully hide their pain, or refuse to acknowledge it in the first place. But hopefully in trying to be that close friend to others, we’ll find ourselves fulfilled as well.

And let me just say that solitude does have its merits at times. I like going on nice long walks alone and holing up in my room for a while. It gives me a chance to remove myself from the action and take in the whole picture, to reflect on how I feel about what’s happening and the roles I play. As for the inevitable chapters in my life when I am to be alone for whatever reasons, it’s my hope that I’ll have learned from this experience and won’t take it too hard again. I think we all deserve to be a better friend to ourselves.