Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Hair. It's a thing. It's often a big thing. Politics of hair for many communities. Personal feelings for many people.

I've had my own long, winding, personal politics of hair.

My dad has been almost bald on top since he was in high school. I've never known my dad to have a full head of hair. Here's a picture of us from when I was probably 2. See that head? Not much hair.

My mom has alopecia. Her hair on her head has taken many forms throughout my life and she's managed/dealt/coped with it in many ways. When I was little she often wore wigs. No pictures of her to show -- her pictures are hers to share. My dad has always worn his bald head without fanfare; typical for males. Women and their hair are a much more tender subject.

It seemed very normal to me -- and as a child with two parents with little hair on their heads I just thought it was a natural state of being. My mom tells a story of how once when I was little I asked her when my hair would all fall out. After recovering from the shock of the question she assured me that my hair wasn't going to fall out (probably -- since we don't really know what causes alopecia) and not to worry.

I was also the first born in our family. And I think, as is fairly typical in American families, I was the pretty little baby doll. Now my parents are not inherently gendered in sort of stereotypical ways and are both super open to all forms of expression, but they both come from pretty traditionally gender roled families and they were born in a time where questioning gender roles was just beginning. So like a lot of young parents I was their first experiment in parenting, as well I was the first granddaughter on my dad's side and the 4th granddaughter on my mom's side (no boys!). High femme presentation just seemed to be a pretty natural conclusion. This was aided in the fact that I'm naturally a high femme kind of girl. I loved every sequined, glittery piece of clothing I could put on, loved dolls, loved sitting still and having my hair done, loved posing, etc. So there was definitely no pushback from me. See example A.

Now when my sisters came along, not only did my parents have more experience under their belt, they also had two and then three kids and well, easy maintenance was more important than dressing up three dolls. Plus, neither of my sisters were super feminine as kids. They both were more up the middle, equally likely to like "boy things" as "girl things" so neither of them would play along with feminine gender stereotypes.

When both of my sisters were little they had very short hair. Mybe, partially their idea? But mostly my parents. Just so much easier to deal with short hair.

Due in part to our different experiences with hairstyles, while I have had tons of different hairstyles (some ill advised) both of my sisters have basically had long hair (no shorter than shoulder length) for all of their teenage and adult years. Now, I can't say that all of this is a true statement of fact. I'm talking about 4 other people's lives in this post, and really I can only speak for mine. They might tell a different story of their relationships to hair. But this is how I've thought about and experienced it.

Unlike the rest of my family, however, I'm the queen dynamic hair. I try new things, dye my hair new colors, buy zillions of new hair accoutrements, and passionately engage in political discussions about hair.

Which now brings me back to my personal history of hair.

I hate hair.

I hate my personal body hair.

I hate the way my personal hair feels on all of the parts of my body.

I hate the way I can feel beads of sweat cling to my hair on all of the parts of my body.

I hate the dirty feeling I associate with hair, especially as I have sweaty clingy hair sensations on all parts of my body.


This is where my OCD and my history with hair intersect. 

I am not a very hairy person. In fact, I'm really, really lightly haired. Like a Chinese Crested dog really. My body hair is extremely light both in volume and in color. But I can feel it. One of the things I've discovered about being an Extra Sensitive Person who has OCD and zillions of little things cause anxiety is that my nerves and body feelers are way more sensitive than anyone else's for the most part. Everything is overwhelming to me from a tactile, body experience sort of way.

I've gotten used to the feeling on my hair for the most part, but when I was a teenager going through puberty? Oh. My. God. Kill me. The hair was so uncomfortable. I know this sounds completely bonkers to most people -- who can feel their individual hairs on their body? Believe me or don't, but my sensory receptors are so hella elevated that I can. Throughout high school I shaved every inch of my body. Not just my legs like all the rest of the girls. Not just my armpits. All. Of. My. Body. Hair. I gave myself Brazilians before that was all the rage. I shaved my arms from shoulders to fingers. I obsessively got rid of my body hair. It was the worst feeling ever. And this was just around the time that my OCD was ramping up for a full showing and my struggles with OCD were huge, but yet I had no words or experiences to describe it, so I just thought I was a total weirdo. I fantasized about shaving off my eyebrows -- my boyfriend in high school told me he'd dump me if I did that. I dreamed about getting cancer so I'd lose all my hair. Serious, serious obsession. And really, you can't tell people you prayed for cancer so your hair would fall out because what the ever-loving fuck? And especially knowing that my mom had struggled with her hair loss throughout her life, I felt like a total fucking asshole for wishing I had no hair, when she would love to have my hair. Struggles.

I often wouldn't let people touch me (which I still do to this day for many other reasons) because if they touched my arms they could tell I had shaved arms and then it would be a DEAL and I'd have to talk about WHY I had shaved arms. Luckily I was also on the swim team for a while so that was a convenient excuse. I also was able to pull off the "someone dared me to" every once in a while. And luckily Indiana is freezing half the year so I could wear long sleeves during the cold months.

It eventually got to the point that I couldn't stand talking about my lack of arm hair so I just let it grow back rather than suffering through more unbearable conversations. But the rest of my body remained clean shaven. I shaved every single day without fail. No hair growing on me! I eventually got used to the feeling of hair on my arms and it was tolerable, even if it wasn't desirable.

Fast forward a decade and I'm all hella gay, radical feminist and surrounded by people who don't believe women should have to shave. And not only shouldn't HAVE to, but also that shaving was a form of being brainwashed by the patriarchy. Gah. Why am I always surrounded by people who question my hair choices?!?!

Now, I must interject -- although I had a problem with MY hair, I didn't have any problem with anyone else's hair. I could care less what other people do with their hair, body or otherwise. Even if I were sleeping with them, I didn't give one crap about their hair. Their hair is theirs and my hair is mine. And I just would rather not have mine.

Over the past few years as I've been working on me and my identity and my OCD I've come to a bit more of a place of peace with my hair. I still sometimes fantasize about waking up like a hairless chinchilla, but I've grown accustomed to my body hair for the most part. I am no longer a daily religious shaver. I no longer go full Brazilian. Last November I participated in my own version of No Shave November and didn't shave my legs for 6 weeks. Then I got grossed out one day and shaved them clean again. But for the most part, I don't think too much about my hair. I probably think about my body hair more than most people times about 10, but for me, that's hardly at all! I'm sure hair will be a life long struggle, but at least I'm at a place in my life where I'm more equipped to deal with my hair and my OCD than ever before.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"I have an announcement everyone, I have an announcement"

Stop the presses, big announcement. JK. I mean, it's big for me, but I don't expect y'all to care. But I've gone from vegetarian to vegan. After 9 years (minus a brief point when my life fell apart and it was a struggle to just feed myself) of being a vegetarian, I can no longer deny the animal cruelty linked to milk, eggs, etc. I've know about the horrible things that happen in the production of dairy and eggs but I've willfilly ignored it and minimized it for long enough.

Why the change?

Momma cows. Oh my god, momma cows. I am so sorry. I was perusing Facebook a week ago and came across this story about a rescued dairy cow who gave birth to her calf in secret and hid the calf for days because she was worried the farmer would take away her baby, like so many of her other babies had been taken away.

And then at the end of the article I read about a momma cow who had twins and had the ultimate Solomon moment and took one of her twins to the farmer and hid the other one so she could at least keep one of her babies.

The tears. The heartache. My god. If there is any clearer indication of animals being sentient beings who are smart and emotional and so much more like humans than we give them credit for...I don't know what could be.

As usual, I will continue to keep this a personal choice. I haven't turned into a food evangelist. I believe food is a deeply personal choice and I'm not going to shame anyone for their choices. MYOB is still my personal mantra. Maybe with close friends and family I'll crack a joke every once in a while :)  but otherwise, you do you. If you want to know more about veganism, I'm happy to chat of course, but no worries -- I won't be patrolling you.I just can't have animal suffering on my conscience anymore. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Although I mostly deal with anxiety on a daily basis, on occasion I get bogged down with depression. But it's often not a deep-I-can't-get-out-of-bed depression, but much more of a melancholy-what's-the-point kind of depression. I've been there for about a week or so. 
I'm not entirely sure what caused it...maybe because I had to lecture about abortion...which although it's one of my most important lectures and one that I get a lot of positive feedback from students's just a draining not-so-fun topic that I have to cover. I worry about students freaking out and going all "BABY KILLERS!" in the middle of class, worry that I'm being too preachy-too liberal and not presenting the information in as neutral a way I can as possible...and it drains me. My teaching style is very much one of letting students figure out their own feelings, morals and values about topics and not shoving things down their throat. So while I am wildly pro-choice, I try as best as possible to not be the shouty scary feminist that turns off students from the message. I believe in attracting bees with sugar. But it takes a lot of effort. 
Actually it might have more to do with all the political hubbub in Indiana. Day after day after day of people debating whether or not it's ok to shun you is mentally and emotionally exhausting. So exhausting that that's all I'm going to say about that for now. I'll write more about it later. 

The weather here has also been weird. Raining, cloudy, cold, tornado warning the other day. After weeks of sunshine and warmth this feels like a step back. And that usually hurts my moods. I don't want to take off my sandals and put my sweaters back on! 

My therapist has been out sick for a couple weeks. Not having my weekly therapy sessions is a drag. Not that anything major has been coming up for me that I NEED to process with her, but there's something calming and reassuring about checking in with her each week. It gives me a stability that I worry I can't maintain on my own sometimes. 

The hard part about the melancholy is making sure it doesn't spiral out of control into larger fatalistic moods. Those are much harder to rebound and recover from. I'm getting better at reaching out to my support system when I start to feel that happening. I used to keep it all bottled up inside. Or would suffer needlessly because I couldn't stand to burden anyone. So when I realized that I was spiraling to the "OMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION AND I CAN'T MADE GOOD CHOICES ANYMORE" I knew I had to reach out to one of my most favorite melancholic confidantes because she'd know exactly what I was feeling and would be able to help me find perspective. It's lucky that my friends and I rarely fall of the edge of sanity at the same time. There's always one of us to support the other(s) when shit starts to get too real. 

And then I talked to my lovely, neverendingly patient partner. Who listens and doesn't judge. Who seeks to understand and doesn't strike out. Who reflects and responds rather than scolds and blames. Lord she's the best. 

And now here I am blogging two days in a row. Maybe the fog is lifting. I hope so.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Music Moves Me...To Laugh or Sing or Cry

Like any good kid growing up in the 90's I dabbled in all of the popular "alternative" bands. We might call them emo now, but in the day, they were all "alternative." It was in my teens that I first noticed how much I used music to evoke emotions and work through things that were weighing on my mind. My family didn't really do emotions and feelings and talking, but we did do music. Both of my parents are big music fans. They also both like pretty different music so we were exposed to wide ranges of musical tastes.

Remember how I have OCD? Yeah, that fucks with your musical inclinations. At least it does with mine. I don't like change. Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty can be uncomfortable and that's just scary. So it's really hard for me to venture into new music. I'm usually about 6 months behind everyone else in listening to new music. I've had to be exposed to it a zillion times in various public places before I can even think to adopt it into my musical library. This has drove many partners and friends nutty.

Another side effect of not liking change is that I am VERY comfortable with a certain level of monotony. I can listen to the same playlist every single day for months. Which is usually do. If I liked that music enough to download it and put it in a playlist, then I'm probably going to like it for life and probably ok with listening to it every single day. Again, this tends to make other people batty.

Another thing about me that combines my upbringing and my OCD is that music often will work on feelings that I'm having deep deep down that I am not yet able to consciously access. And often times that means one particular song will get stuck in my head. And I'll fall asleep hearing it in my head, and I'll wake up hearing it in my head, and I'll listen to it 793 times on repeat for days on end. Even I can recognize that this is very strange. Most people cannot listen to the same single song for a week straight. But they don't have compulsive behaviors that soothe them. So I try and refrain from playing the same song eleventy million times in a row when other people are around. But when I'm alone? Bam. Back to repeat.

Most of the songs that get stuck in my head tend to evoke some sort of negative emotion. I rarely have a problem with being happy. But I often have trouble processing harder feelings. So I listen to a lot of emo music when I'm struggling. It's one of the easiest ways Andrea or close friends can cue in on my mood. If you hear Jane's Addiction "Jane Says" out. Dark, gloomy and wounded mood. Marilyn Manson? Angry, angry, annoyed, pissed. Certain Goo Goo Dolls songs...wistful, clingy, wanting love and reassurance.

Sometimes when I've been down for many many days and I'm struggling to overcome I'll listen to insanely happy music. And usually fake big goofy smiles. I read an article one time about how if you fake smile it activates endorphin releasers in your muscles and eventually you'll feel actually happier instead of just fake happy. So if you ever hear me listening to Judy Garland "Come on Get Happy" and looking like I'm having some sort of spastic happy stroke? No worries. Just trying to dust out the gloom in my head and doing it one of the most accessible ways I know how.

Monday, March 30, 2015



That's one of my favorite phrases. It's also sort of my Hail Mary desperation statement. When all my logical (or illogical) reasons for why I'm scared, anxious, worried, what-have-you have run out, I usually end with "BUT YOU DON'T KNOW!!!"

Andrea has created the perfect retort: "No I don't know, but neither do you." Boom. She always roasts me with that one. 

Anyone with anxiety will tell you that most of the anxiety comes from what we don't know. What could happen. What if. And that's hard. But it's even harder if you have OCD. Because not only do not know what could happen within the reasonable, rational world, but you can also dream up eleventy million implausible, maybe impossible, totally ridiculous things to also worry about.

I think it's important to note that we/I do not sit around thinking of ridiculous scenarios that COULD happen just to annoy people around us. Those things just pop into our heads that seem just as likely as any of the "real" sort of things you could/should worry about. Is it likely that the stranger walking behind me at a restaurant will all of a sudden grab my head and snap my neck and kill me? Highly unlikely...but you never know! And the more I worry about it the more likely it seems that it could happen. That's the main difference between people with OCD and everyone else. Other people might have that thought but then say "Oh, that's silly" and laugh it off and continue with their day. People with OCD might know that it's silly, but it's no laughing matter. And the more we try to NOT think about it, the more we think about it, and then the more it becomes real life. Believe me, if I could stop these ridiculous thoughts from a) entering my head and b) leaving quickly if they do come in, I would be a much happier person! But the problem with having OCD is that your brain conveniently disposes of logic and reason for you. Even if you can say "I know this is silly and unlikely to happen" the small part of your brain where OCD lives whispers "But what if it does?" and then you spend time quieting the OCD and in the process obsessing over why it might be right. It's exhausting.

The best thing about having a completely non-anxious, calm, steady partner is that she can act as a nice port in the harbor of crazy town that is my brain. When I come up with a particularly ridiculous "what if" she can respond that it would have never occurred to her that that could happen, but yes, maybe it could but it's super unlikely. There's something immensely calming about her responses. She doesn't act like I'm ridiculous, so then I don't feel shame and embarrassment -- which often heighten worries for me -- but she considers it like it's a serious potential and then says it's unlikely to happen. And I'm much more likely to believe her because I know her brain is more rational than mine. And the fact that it has or never would occur to her often makes me think "Hmm, that probably means it's really unlikely to happen or she would have thought about it." Not always...sometimes I say "WELL IT'S A GOOD THING I WORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING OR WE MIGHT DIE 12 TIMES TODAY!" And in her steady, reassuring way she says "You're right. It's a good thing we have you to keep us safe. And a good thing we have me to make sure we don't become agoraphobics and keep us moving forward." Ah, yin and yang.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What if I maim a garbage collector?

In 7th grade home economics (yes it was really called that and yes we were required to take it) we learned how to properly dispose of broken glass. If you broke a glass or a mirror or anything glass you were to put it in a paper bag, tape it up securely, and mark it BROKEN GLASS.

To this day I still do this whenever I dispose of broken glass.

Because if I don't? I may maim the garbage man (or woman).

I cannot have that on my conscience. Even if most garbage collection is automated these days and most garbage collectors never handle the garbage themselves. Because what if behind the scenes there is someone sorting through garbage that I don't know about? What if they are sorting my garbage and I haven't placed my broken glass securely in a paper bag and clearly marked BROKEN GLASS? What if they reach in my garbage and my broken glass slices off their hand? What if they are alone in the garbage sorting area and they bleed to death because of my improperly disposed of glass? No. Cannot risk that. I better wrap up my broken glass and write in huge letters on every inch of that paper bag CAUTION: BROKEN GLASS. Just once is not enough. I need to cover every side of the bag. Just in case they only see one edge of the bag and think it's just a bag. Nope. Gotta make it clear. Someone's life might be riding on my broken glass. I cannot fail them. Their life depends on me. Whoever they are.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brain Aneurysms

When I was in junior high a family friend died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. She was in her mid-30's. She had just given birth to her 3rd child in the past year. I babysat for their family sometimes. I remember my dad told me after softball practice. And I was like "what the heck is an aneurysm?" And then my life was never the same.

Every time I have an intense headache...which lets face it, is often since headaches are triggered by stress and hello? My life is stress. But luckily, as I've gotten older, understood my OCD, my anxiety and started taking meds my stress has gone down and so has my frequency of headaches. Thankfully. But every time I have an intense headache I am sure I'm having an aneurysm.

Welp here it is. My fatal brain aneurysm. I'm ready to drop dead at any moment.




And every time I don't die? I think whew. Just a regular headache this time.

But it's probably a headache because there is a clot forming in my blood vessels. So next time I'll die.

And then I massage my head vigorously because I reason that massaging my blood vessels externally will break up any of the clots that are starting to form. Because obviously I have magical de-clotting fingers and if everyone would just massage their brain blood vessels more often we could stop dying of brain aneurysms.

See how OCD works? Obsess, obsess, obsess...oooh. Some sort of compulsive, repetitive solution to soothe the obsession. Brain aneurysm -> magical de-clotting massage -> reduction in anxiety...and then the cycle starts all over again.