(This is me, 18 hours in to my self-imposed Facebook exile, wondering what to do with myself while waiting for my son at the library.)
Mental illness. No point in hiding the fact from any and all folks that I am an obsessive/compulsive. Manifested itself in diet and exercise issues when I was a teen because that is what my fretful mother kept me focused on, (I was miserable, thought I was fat, but in fact looked AWESOME!) ...but it was not an eating disorder, which was the diagnosis du jour in those days (early 1980s). Critics of the way women are portrayed in media will tell you that unrealistically thin women led to the explosion of eating disorders.
I'm certain it was my love of watching TV and reading magazines that led to my badly exacerbated OCD. I used to believe, get this, that they couldn't put anything on the news or in print that wasn't true, or critically important. WHY would they tell us about the threat of biological and nuclear terrorism if it wasn't something I needed to be concerned about? Or germs on my counter leading to disease and death? Skin heads wanted to slay my children because their father is a Jew, gang bangers wanted to car jack me because I was white, Saddam wanted to thwart democracy because we had freedom. They wouldn't lie to me or misdirect me! The news was populated with my friends. They kept me informed so that I could stay safe.
But I was always terrified. Utter panic, fear, and misery all the time. It never occurred to me that powerful people benefit from a terrified population. Like the royals depended on the church and fear of hell to make the people seek salvation, the oligarchs of recent decades have depended on the mass media to spread fear of chaos to make people seek government for salvation and safety. And I did. I voted Democrat (because Republicans are scary!) and defended whatever atrocities the Clintons enacted because, well, I had to support my party, right? And a Republican would have been so much worse, right?
But I wasn't just afraid of the abstract, I was afraid of my neighbors, afraid of what they would think of me if they knew my husband *consumed cannabis*! If they knew I didn't make my kids go to bed at the same time every night, that I had OCD, that I had insomnia. I was afraid that anyone of them could be that mild mannered person who turned out to be a serial killer/child molester/rapist, because life is just like the movie of the week, right? You remember all those lame, made for TV "reality based" films that later wound up on Lifetime TV. TV for women. Watch it and be afraid. And depend on the patriarchy to protect you!
I retreated to suburbia and became isolated. I was lonely too. It was awful.
One day, I took my tiny children to the Ann and Hope outlet. My 4 year old daughter was thirsty, and there was a water cooler full of water from the nearby spring in their garden center. I gave her a cup as another customers said, "It's not good." I wondered what he meant, so I tasted the water. It was awful. I made the manger taste it and he said, "Oh, that's not right!" He called over an African guy called Mohammed and asked him if he just changed the water. He had. I panicked. Mohammed? The news had been full of reports of threats of terrorist activity! He POISONED OUR WATER! I freaked out, went home and begged my parents to stay at our house with us so I could get through a night of terror, waiting for the poison to kill me and my daughter. This is how an obsessive compulsive thinks.
Well, my mother did a good job of soothing my nerves. It turns out that Mohammed, being newly arrived from Africa, didn't understand that a particular KIND of water had to be put in the cooler when he refilled it. He didn't understand that he was supposed to go to the spring water tap. He refilled the cooler with the garden hose. Nasty tasting yes, but not poisoned.
She convinced me the next morning NOT to watch the news, that my nerves couldn't take any more scare tactics from the media. So when I arrived at my daughter's nursery school the next morning, I had no idea that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. "We are under attack, we are at war" the radio playing in the secretary's office said. "It's World War III!" I thought. I had been so well prepared by the media to expect an attack that I suspected the poor dude working at Ann and Hope, but it never occurred to me at that time that I (and the rest of us) had been worked up for weeks before hand for maximum fear impact on the day of the event.
This was my life before high speed internet. If they had handed me a gun that day, I probably would have started shooting anyone they pointed me at. I just had one tiny inkling of sanity remaining... I remembered that the news the previous week was full of Gore challenges to the Bush campaign (still) and stories were emerging of strange goings on in Florida before the election...
Nope. Old news now. Story dropped like hot rock.
Fear and dread and loneliness, deep emotional dependence on my husband and parents, no social life to speak of, I shopped for consolation. Imagine that. What made me feel better was spending money I didn't have on things I didn't really need. The skinheads could come for my kids any day, if the Muslims didn't get to them first. The world was spinning out of control. I am going to buy them lots of toys and clothes to make their lives as happy as possible now before it all goes to shit, which I was certain would happen any minute.
Yes this is coming back to Facebook, but not in this chapter. Right now I am going to watch Democracy Now while I do the dishes. Stay tuned.