Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Getting Bitch-Slapped By The World" or "Don't Get Cocky, Kid"

Hello Friends:

Fair warning, this is a pretty 'triggering' post for those with sickness related OCDs, hypochondria, fear of V*, and such. I'm not sick, myself, but witnessed it and it has me pretty rattled. So if you don't want to read my somewhat graphic rant, you better stop right now.

The end of the cruise went great. No serious problems, and then we even found a half day excursion around Puerto Rico to fill in time before going to the airport. I was liberally patting myself on the back for making it through all the hard parts while only freaking out a few times during the entire week.

Never, never say that.

I was doing a good job of keeping my mind off of the upcoming flight. But eventually we got to the airport, and through aggie inspection (called USDA of course, but that just makes me think they are scanning for steak). And then into the excruciatingly but not totally unexpectedly long line to get through security.

I have a very tough time with lines. People get antsy. Stand too close to me. Fail to control their children. Cough or sneeze on me. Try to jump in front. You name it. A lot of people simply don't leave enough time to deal with airport issues. This is San Juan airport, not someplace really on the ball. You have to expect you can run into an hour long line. I didn't want to, but there it was. Not surprisingly, after an already stressful week, I was totally on edge. Shaking, rocking, and working hard not to dissociate. As the hour wore on, it got hotter in the line, and tougher to stay mentally present. But I kept it together, if only just, until we got into the area that was roped like Disneyland. Normally, I don't like the roped off lines, but at least they do let you know exactly where to go and do stop the line jumpers, for the most part. If you don't mind the trapped feeling ....

Now what is it that makes someone sick, and I mean really sick, try to fly? Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to be worth not only the risk to your health, but that of everyone around you. These people are morons. Did they get the whole flu season and H1N1 epidemic news? Do they enjoy endangering other people? I suppose I should say I have sympathy for the sick person who is sick and all that, but I don't have any sympathy for needlessly being put in a position where I'll be in OCD hell for the next two weeks, waiting to come down with the incredible wretched crud that had infected the woman two people away from me.

Because right there in line - three people away from the boarding pass screening - she puked all over the floor. You know that sound of that splatter? She had barely bent, and so it cascaded everywhere. People were bolting. We were forced against the ropes as far as we could get from her, but couldn't get out of line.

After about two seconds I dissociated almost completely. Feeling terrified and numb, staring around and seeing almost nothing. Except hyper sensitive to this new, horrifying contagious threat. Of course I have no idea if she had anything catching, or simply couldn't hold on to her hamburgers. Or whatever.

But she didn't stop. One puke. Then two.  And then she stood there. And then puked some more. And would you calmly be standing in line casually puking your guts out, showering the nearby patrons with viruses? She didn't try to leave the line or run for a restroom or anything. Just stood there and puked yet a fourth time. By then, my spouse and I had made it around the situation, more or less, and gotten to the main entrance to the security screening. I was so out of it I had tunnel vision, was shaking, and could only fixate on one thing at a time. All I could think of was that statistically speaking, I and my luggage were now covered in micro-droplets of God only knew what. Simple food poisoning? Bird Flu? Who even f*cking knows.

I was too far gone to hear the exchange behind me, and only put it together from conversation with spouse afterward. Believe it or not, puker and her SO were going to try to get in line behind me and spouse to go through scanning. My spouse blocked them and said, 'No'. And she tried two more times, and he simply pointed to the other line, 'You go there. You will not go here.'

Fortunately by then the idiots at San Juan airport stepped in and put puker and SO through a special line. But I can't believe they let them through security at all. There was a woman on a flight to Hawaii taken off just because the crew had an idea she might be sick. And there this woman threw up four times in line, and they let her through security. I do not f*cking get it.

So not only did I get to fly for 4.5 hours with possibly puked on shoes, I got to spend that time doing every cognitive trick in the book trying to get myself to keep from having a full blown panic attack. And trying to reassociate my mind and body so I wouldn't build up any more new trauma from this than necessary.

And now here I am. Finally, finally at home. But scarred. I'm scared. The world is so scary. Everyone on the plane was coughing and sneezing and I'd been nearly barfed on. Probably had been in a microscopic fashion. It'll be two weeks before I can be sure I didn't pick anything up from that unbelievable episode. And it might be a lot longer than that before the terrible backlash from this finally works its way through depressive rebound and all the rest.

I'm throwing out my suitcase.  By the way.

Any advice?  Kind words?  Whatever ... I could use it.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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Monday, December 7, 2009

More Fun Cruising With OCDs

Hello Friends:

Ah, the glories of travel. I love being in new places, I just hate getting there. Which makes one wonder why I yet again chose to go on a cruise. A cruise is like “all getting there and never being there.” You never stop moving, and there is a strange, new port every day. And for some inexplicable reason, I get seasick more easily than I used to. So the cruise is a little bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

Included in the downside of cruising is the general fear of the dreaded tummy flu. These viruses have, in the past, run rampant on a few cruises. But oddly enough, the fear of H1N1 may actually drive the chance of getting sick way down. For the first time, I’m seeing people actually take the “wash your hands” advice seriously. And by my estimation, at least 70 percent of the passengers are using the instant hand sanitizers that are all over the place. Hopefully they don’t think they work in place of hand washing. But people can be right stupid, so who knows.

I, of course, came prepared for my usual “room decontamination ritual.” I bring my own rubber gloves and a huge stash of Lysol wipes. And then I proceed to wipe down every single surface in the cabin that gets touched. All tables, the phone, all switches, the hair dryer, facets, door handles, drawers, all of it. I use up the whole canister, making sure that everything stays wet for the requisite ten minutes for decontamination. Yes, those are my hands cleaning my stateroom phone in the picture there.

I also keep a canister of more skin-friendly handi-wipes by the door, and wipe my hands on the way in or out. I wash my hands all the time, which is nothing new so that’s easy. And I keep a stash of handi-wipes on me to use before and after eating, to clean off any surfaces I put my computer on, etc. I do not touch elevator buttons – I have a spouse for that.

And that’s where I have to cut myself off. Once I’ve performed these rituals and allowed myself some concessions, then no more worrying, (if possible, heh). I know that unless I draw a line, I’d be looking for a million different ways to ensure my illness-free state, which we all know is impossible. And since I don’t want to go any crazier than I am now, that’s how I handle my illness fears. I do the stuff I said above, and then that’s it. It basically works. I get twinges when I hear someone cough or sneeze nearby, but that’s also nothing new.

Pluses for cruising include being able to go to new places and not have to break in new hotel rooms. One room. It gets the decontamination ritual, and then I’m done for the trip. And the stateroom attendants tend to be religious about cleaning. They don’t want a flu outbreak, either. Probably less than the passengers do since they live on these boats for months.

Also, no new restaurants to learn about. For food and eating related anxieties, there is nothing like having the exact same table with the exact same servers every night. You learn the routine, and then meals are really stress free after that. And, since all the food is prepaid, you can send anything back that does not work for whatever reason. Chicken look underdone? Send it back and get the lasagna. No problem. They’ll bring you both right from the get go, if you want.

Oh, another downside of cruising. Internet rates are like 37 cents a minute, minimum. So you end up typing out your whole post before jumping on line quickly and posting it, hoping you don’t have too many typos.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Sanity Score - I Love a Good Quiz

Hello Friends:

I love online quizzes and surveys. Especially if I can see metrics for my craziness. I'm still in that phase where defining and categorizing my mental illnesses makes me feel like I have more control over them. I thought I'd point out a survey I just took that was actually marginally helpful, and then see if I could talk any of my dear readers into taking it and sharing their own fun.

The survey is The Sanity Score on PsychCentral. It is a pretty comprehensive little test for an online evaluation, with about 80 questions covering the gamut of your usual diagnoses. For someone who is not currently in any kind of therapy, it might be of use to see if maybe you ought to be. And for those of us who are actually seeing a psychologist, it can be a tool for tracking progress.

Now, of course this sort of thing is very crude. I took the test twice in fifteen minutes, and got Sanity Scores ranging from 85 to 91 (from 0 to 288, where 288 is totally f#cked up.) Also, within the sub-categories I had major issues pointed out that had score ranges, as well. Sub categories are scored as 0 to 100, and major issues are anything above fifty on that scale. I scored OCD 56 to 63, PTSD 50 to 67, Phobias 50 to 67. Amazingly, I scored Anxiety 45 to 49, which is just below being a critical issue. But honestly I think there are some confusing questions where Anxiety and Phobias could get mixed up. I also score other issues right on the line, with General Coping 43 to 46, Depression 47 to 50, Self Esteem 42 to 50, and Physical Issues steady at 50 on both.

These numbers have me thinking. I am right on the edge for a large number of sub-categories. They are just below the 'critical' mark. This makes sense to me.  Last year I think I would have tested above critical on all of them, and that was reflected by my near total breakdown. I wish I had a score from that time. I'm doing better now, although not really 'good'. Yet I am coping a little better, and am less symptomatic. I'm surprised my OCDs rate so high, but maybe that's a general reflection of how I am during flu season; afraid of touching doorknobs and the like. Otherwise I'd have predicted my general anxiety to be much higher than OCDs.

The test lets you save your score, so you can go back and check any change with time. I intend to come back in six months or so and see if anything enlightening can be tracked.

So Adventurers, game to take a little plunge? How did you score? Any surprises? Did you think it was useful at all? Post a comment and let me know.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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