Nasal Spray: An Awkward Addiction Story

I have a fairly high pain tolerance. I’m able to get through most instances of discomfort by simply telling myself that it’s not permanent. Either the pain will end or I will die. It works surprisingly well! I also don’t have an addictive personality, generally speaking. I am wildly turned off by the idea of being out of control of, well, anything. Let alone my own mind. So drugs and other such things never really appealed to me.

But the one thing, THE ONE THING, I have absolutely zero tolerance for is a stuffy nose. Ever since I was a little kid, a stuffy nose meant a lot of misery and absolutely no sleep. Even a little bit of congestion would spark the tossing and turning. I needed my nostrils to be absolutely clear.

I was 8-years-old the first time I had Afrin. I was going on a field trip to see the Secret Garden. My mom knew that I really liked theatre but that I would be really unhappy if I had a stuffy nose throughout the thing, so she gave me the good stuff. I remember it so well. The instant feeling of absolute, total relief. I sat on my Sun Bonnet Sue comforter, utterly obsessed with my new ability to breathe. In and out. In and out. How glorious! How exhilarating!

And how dangerous.

As a child, my parents were able to monitor my nasal spray use when I had a cold. It was essentially for sleeping or special events such as the one listed above. Otherwise, I had to tough it out. It meant 7-10 days of being the mouth-breather kid, but I was mostly okay with this.

Ay, but that’s the problem with youth. Who thought it was a responsible idea to let 18-year-olds out of the house? To unleash the monster within? One good cold in college set me back one year in smelling things.

The stuffy nose appeared. I thought I could control it. I thought, I’ll go to the store and get some nasal spray and I’ll just use it to sleep and everything will be fine. I didn’t and it wasn’t. I found myself in class thinking it would just be one time. Then one time turned into every time.

And the thing about nasal spray is that, if you use it more frequently than every 12 hours for no more than 3 days, it can actually cause the congestion to get worse, which causes you to need more nasal spray. It’s a vicious cycle. I became completely dependent upon it. Would have to have it in my pocket at all times. Would have to make friends drive me to the store to get more since I didn’t have a car. Once, I woke my friend up in the middle of the night because I realized I’d left it in his car and needed it to sleep.

I was pumping this stuff into my nose probably once every hour. If I let it wear off, it would feel like someone had flipped my over and poured cement up my nostrils. Then I would sit up at night, my heart beating fast, full of anxiety about the unhealthiness of it all. I visited doctor after doctor that winter for chest pains and palpitations, oblivious to the fact that I was worried about myself and the poison I was pumping into my body 12-15 times a day.

I think I could finally admit I had a problem when I stopped being able to smell or taste things. That’s probably the only way I could ever admit I have a problem with anything: if it comes between me and food.

And so I began my journey to recovery.

I started with doing my research. It turns out this is a fairly common problem. Which is on some level comforting and on some level frustrating because if I was going to be addicted to something, I at least wanted to be original. It was common enough for there to be a nasal spray weaning kit, which involved diluting nasal spray with saline every night until your nose adjusts accordingly. So simple! So ingenious! Yet, I mentioned already, even the teensiest bit of stuffiness won’t do.

Cue the hardest weeks of my life. There was no sleep. There was no happiness. Just lunches not tasted and a nose filled with despair. The best phase was when stuff just started coming out of my nose, like an elegant bidet. All I wanted to do was sneak into the bathroom when no one was looking, and shove more spray up there.

But a little voice told me that this isn’t permanent. That one day, either the stuffiness will end or I will die.

And so, my addiction subsided and one day my nose cleared up like the hand of God poking through the clouds.

I would like to note that I am not belittling or mocking addiction in any way. Addiction is a serious issue that we need to come together to combat as a society and find ways to help people who truly need help.

It’s just that…nasal spray addiction is such a J. Awkward Prufrock thing.

And now the cruel joke is that I have a thyroid problem and can’t take any decongestants or else it will contraindicate my medicine. Thanks a lot, Jesus.

 

An Open Letter to Winter

Dear Winter,

Why you gotta be so cold?

You’re seriously like an ex-boyfriend. I remember you semi-fondly until you show up on my doorstep and test all that’s left of my patience.

Some of my animosity toward you is due to the harsh reality of growing up. I remember when a snow day was a magical experience: a day full of endless possibilities, full of games and glory, a day to live! A day where I could grab my shiny toboggan and glide down a hill, feeling weightless and free. I thought I could regain some of this magic when I started working at a school again. But, when you’re 26 and live with your parents, a snow day does not mean a day to rest or dream. It does not mean your dad is going to load you up in the car and head over to the local golf course. It means he is going to hand you a shovel and tell you you’re on your own.

I also remember when winter meant Christmas, and Christmas meant people would be cheerful and generous and I could skip about thinking, “Gosh, I’m blessed,” as I tore open presents under the tree. Now winter/Christmas means, “Crap, I forgot to get my brother’s roommate’s girlfriend’s hairdresser’s cousin a present this year. Everyone is gonna be so upset with me,” and, “Thanks for the socks.”

Perhaps it’s not you, winter. Perhaps it’s me.

But I kind of think it’s you, too.

Because even when snowy days and Christmas were awesome, they only made up about 3 of your days.

Because, also like an ex-boyfriend, you screw with our heads so much, there’s an actual disorder named for you. And its acronym is S.A.D. You make people S.A.D. Why do you like darkness so much? Do you think it makes you deep? I feel like if we personified the four seasons, you would be the guy who wears all black and writes haikus on a typewriter in the park.

You suffocate us, winter. You make it impossible for us to breathe fresh air without it feeling like we’ve been punched in the chest.

But my least favorite thing about you is that every day, for your entire duration, my co-workers walk into the office and inevitably say, “It’s so cold outside.” To which I am required to respond, “…yeah.” You create idle chit chat, winter, and for that I will never love you.

Sincerely,

Jillian

P.S. I probably don’t hate you that much. I just hated having to slip and slide my way to work today. Forgive me, winter. As far as weather goes, you probably top tsunamis.

 

Your Perfect Woman

Hello, I am your perfect woman.

I am completely hairless, outside of the hair on top of my head

(blonde or brunette, your choice),

Long lashes, thin eyebrows.

The rest of me maintains the smoothness of a fresh wax

Without having to go to the salon,

Like a Thanksgiving turkey before it goes in the oven.

I somehow have a tiny waist,

Large, perky tits and a plump, firm ass,

That physically could not be held up by my long, thin legs,

But what can I say? I’m perfect.

I don’t wear makeup because I don’t have to,

Because I look like I’m wearing it even when I’m not;

I wake up in the morning with a smile, looking bright,

With breath that smells like a spring daisy.

I don’t fart.

Or burp.

Or chafe.

Or sweat.

My sneezes and coughs tiptoe around your important conversations.

What was that sport you like again?

I know everything about it.

I drink whiskey, but it doesn’t make me mean or sloppy.

No, when I drink, I just become more lively, more dazzling,

And more horny (but I’m not a slut).

I eat racks of ribs without getting sauce on my face

And I chew as quietly as I sneeze.

You love me because I call people out on their b.s.

But I never call you out on anything

Because I agree with you on everything.

I’m smart, but I’m not smarter than you.

I’m funny, but I’m not funnier than you.

I’m financially independent, but I don’t make more money than you.

I’m never too tired to do things for you;

I keep clean and don’t say an un-clever word.

I’m sweet and kind and innocent.

I’m tough and strong and worldly.

I need you when you want to be needed

And no more or less than that.

I call you when you miss me

And no more or less than that.

I want to have sex whenever you want to

(but I’m not a slut).

In fact, I’ve never had sex before you,

But I’m really good at it.

And I love sexy underwear.

Really, I love it.

I love how the thong nestles itself in my butt,

Like food stuck in your teeth,

And how the lace makes me itch

Like bugs crawling over me.

But I wouldn’t think of revealing my skin to others.

My body is yours, darling.

I never embarrass you because I’m always “on.”

I’m never emotionally vulnerable;

That would make me crazy.

In fact, maybe I’m too guarded

Because of my insecurities,

Because even though I’m perfect,

I just don’t realize it.

You need something to fix, after all.

I’m your perfect woman

And you will settle for no less.

My Top 5 Most Awkward Halloweens

I had a lovely post all written out for today, perfectly catered to reflect my awkwardness, and then my work computer crashed and I was told the files were not recoverable. So, alas, here we are. It was important to me to get a post out today since I missed last week, so I guess I’ll just have to wing it.

Halloween has always been such a weird time for me. You’d think it would be my favorite holiday, as it combines two of my favorite activities: being overly theatrical and soliciting candy from strangers. But for whatever reason, Halloween always leaves me with a particular, profound sort of emptiness. Maybe it has never lived up to my expectations. Or maybe I just associate it with less than fond memories.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend ahead of me: I’ll spend time with friends I haven’t seen in a while, I’ll get to sleep next to my boyfriend, I am entirely too proud of my costume. But I have no doubt I will still feel weird and moody and uncomfortable and somehow lonely. Because that is what Halloween does to me.

Anyhow, here are some of my awkward Halloween memories to share with you.

The Time I Thought I Turned My Dog into a Pumpkin

The first Halloween I have committed to memory is when I was three years old. I was dressed as a fairy princess and was upset that I wasn’t accomplishing real magic, despite having a magic wand in my possession. My father, bless his heart, convinced me that if I closed my eyes very tightly, I could turn my dog, Brittany, into a pumpkin. While my eyes were shut, my father very swiftly put Brittany into another room and put a pumpkin in her place. I opened my eyes and my jaw dropped to the floor, but my reaction was not what my father was hoping for. I became grossly upset with myself, worried that my dog was gone for good, that she was trapped in a pumpkin and terrified, and that I had used my powers for evil. Of course, my dog did come back, but I retired my wand that day, and a part of me thinks that the reason I’m so obsessed with dogs is my penance for trapping my dog inside a pumpkin. And my punishment is that they usually ignore me, for I need their love way more than they need mine.

The Time I Learned a Lesson About Society

When I was five or so, I really wanted to be Belle for Halloween. She had brown hair, brown eyes, and liked stories, so we were essentially twins. My mom, at the time, told me that all Halloween stores were out of the costume, but I knew the truth when I saw my skinny cousin wearing the costume a few weeks later: they didn’t make the costume in my size. Chubby girls couldn’t be Belle. I will believe in progress when I see a movie with an overweight woman as a romantic lead, and not a single comment is made about her weight. Dear world, promote health, promote happiness, and stop making women feel like shit about themselves all the time and then telling them their insecurity is unattractive. You’re unattractive, world.

The Time That Somehow, Every Single Year, I Managed to be Either the Only Kid in School Who Wore a Costume, or the Only Kid in School Who Didn’t

Every…damn…time

The Time I Went Trick-or-Treating by Myself

Up until the eighth grade, I only really had one close friend, and we went trick-or-treating together every year. But one year, in the fifth grade, she had pneumonia and couldn’t go. I had two options: I could mooch off of my brothers’ candy, or I could go by myself. Destiny’s Child was big at the time, and so naturally I valued myself as a strong, independent woman, because Beyonce told me to, so I went by myself. I’m not sure if there is a sadder sight than a 10-year-old going door to door, her mom waiting for her at the curb, with her head hung in defeat because she realized this was incredibly boring, miserably asking, “Trick-or-treat?” in her voice that is 50 years ahead of her body, development wise. This is the first time I can recall having the weird Halloween feelings; feelings of overwhelming loneliness that are evoked by the sights and smells of Halloween to this very day.

The Time I Had Alcohol

My first alcohol experience was on Halloween. I had approximately four sips of Kahlua, so naturally I felt wasted. I ended the night eating an entire bag of Oreos and watching Donnie Darko.

So, combine a dog’s soul forever encased inside a vegetable, the denial of my royalty due to unfair discrimination against kids who love to eat, a slew of memories of getting it wrong, a lone trick-or-treating, and the mind-fuck that is Donnie Darko, and you get one awkward time of year.

All the Things That Made Me Cry This Week

  • A video game about two brothers who search for a spring filled with magical water that will heal their father of his illness. I would like to note that there were several things in this video game that made me cry, up to and including a giant turtle getting reunited with her children and a couple of rams that just looked really happy to be alive.
  • Four dead possums.
  • Every dog I saw.
  • Especially my dog, because he is the best dog.
  • A particularly graphic scene in a book about animal torture.
  • That there will come a time when I will never see all the people I know again.
  • That I’m not living up to my potential.
  • That I am living up to my potential.
  • “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel.
  • “Do You Believe in Magic?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.
  • Because I missed my boyfriend.
  • Because there is so much hate and violence in the world.
  • The hero-worshipping of Ken Bone.
  • Bees are dying.
  • An article about a man who made his wife a real-life Harry Potter pensieve as a wedding gift.
  • That I never got to say goodbye to my cat (who died 9 years ago).
  • I have zero confidence in my performance at work and thus I am questioning all of the choices I’ve made over the past few months.
  • Because I finished my lunch.
  • Trump bumper stickers.

The Chaser

Apologies for the absence, awkward-teers. I had forgotten how hard it is to motivate yourself to do things when you don’t have much to be accountable for. Work begets work; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

That, and I do often spend the week of July 31st immersing myself in Harry Potter, and I had to spend a little extra time on that this year because I needed to realign myself into the fandom after reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What a magical mess that was.

Anywho, I am trying to be better about things and to get myself back on track. I doubt I will fully get there until I have a set plan and a routine again. Until then, feel free to enjoy my instability as I cry my way through Pitch Perfect 2!

Today we shall discuss The Chaser—and no, I’m not talking about whatever you grab after you take a shot of really cheap tequila (“Something else, anything else, turpentine! Does anyone have any turpentine?”). I’m talking about the guy who only wants to date you because he thinks he can’t, and then once he thinks he can, he’s done.

I really freaking hate this notion of “the chase” in dating. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to play games with people’s time and emotions. But I suppose when I see a cute fella, I’m too focused on making sure I don’t lean on the burning candle to think about whether or not I’m looking “too available.”

But back in the day, when I didn’t know any better, I gave a strange guy my phone number because he asked for it. This was the first time someone I had never seen before in my life just point-blank asked me for my phone number and I didn’t know what to do. He knew people who knew me, so I couldn’t give him the wrong phone number. And he was standing very close to me, so I panicked.

He texted me a few minutes later asking if I would meet him at a bar down the street. I said no. I was tired. And I had no interest in spending time with someone who asked for my phone number before I had even said a word to them. Of course this whole thing was all my fault because I gave him my phone number and I was answering him. Because I get no pleasure out of making things simple for myself.

He texted me again the next day, telling me he was going away for the weekend and I should hang out with him before that. I declined again. He texted me a few hours later saying, “Good news. My car is in the shop.” I said, “I’m so happy for you.” He said, “I like your sass.” That should have been red flag number one right there. He liked that I was being mean and withholding. He must have had some serious mom issues.

He asked me to hang out again. I said no.

This went on and on for over two months. Everyday, I would get another douchey text saying something along the lines of, “Are we ever gonna hang out or am I gonna have to return this engagement ring?” And other sexist things. I told him I had been a fat baby and he made fun of me for it ruthlessly.

He would ask me to hang out and I would say no.

One time he said, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” And I responded with the monologue from the s’mores scene in the Sandlot. He told me he was starting to think I was a crazy person. He called me Jill when I asked him to call me Jillian. He asked me to hang out again and I said no.

And then, one day, right around Christmas, he texted me again about hanging out. I had to work that night. He knew where I worked. And it was Christmas. And the thing is, I was lonely. I hadn’t been working at this place that long, so I didn’t really have friends there, and I was just out of college and all of those friends were scattered. These horrid text exchanges that made me roll my eyes were the only social exchanges I had; this had become my most consistent relationship.

So, I told him to come by the restaurant where I worked and we could have a drink after I was done.

He texted back that he would be there, albeit with some hesitance. I think he was already losing interest. I wasn’t sassy anymore. I was no longer a puzzle for him; granted, his method for solving the puzzle was shoving the same wrong pieces together over and over again until they were so worn down, they gave up.

So, after two months, he came and we sat down and we had that drink.

And my suspicions were confirmed. He was the worst. He called the dishwashers in the back “filthy Mexicans.” He told me he was kicked out of his frat in college for forcing two girls to drink so much, they got alcohol poisoning. He called me an idiot multiple times. And then, as he took his last swig of beer, I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared myself to tell him off, heavily considering kicking him in the shins in the process.

“Listen,” he said, before I could open my mouth, and I realized I had maybe said three collective sentences since this rendez-vous began, “You’re nice and all. That’s the problem. You’re nice. I thought you were a strong girl. But I guess now that you’ve fallen for me, you’ve gotten vulnerable.”

There were no words. Just the vapor from my boiling blood coming out my ears and skin pulling away from my bones one goosebump at a time.

“If you want to make a night of it, you can come back to my place.”

I let the rest of the vapor forcefully out of my nose like an angry bull.

“In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, never, ever, ever,” I said slowly.

“Awww, I hurt your feelings,” he rubbed my shoulder awkwardly and then he was out the door.

A part of me thinks he must have known what a horrible person he was. That’s why he wouldn’t give me the chance to really reject him. He badgers people until they will go out with him and calls it charm. He gets his rocks off from building someone up as strong and then accusing them of weakness.

There are all kinds of reasons some people are chasers. Some of them need the drama, the thrill; they live by the notion of getting the things they want. The thing is that once you have it, you will not be satisfied until you have the next thing you want, and you will get bored with the prior thing. And then there are the people who hate everything because they hate themselves the most and thus will try to make you hate yourself for reasons as stupid as being a fat baby.

No, I Don’t Want to Make Out with You (and Other Social Faux-Pas)

Whenever I’m at some sort of gathering of my peers, I usually have my Awkward Sensors on. It’s not always intentional, but I’m generally able to sniff out those who are just as uncomfortable as I am. And then we sit next to each other in eye-contactless silence and a new friendship blossoms.

But sometimes there is that person who clearly wants to be included, but other people are avoiding them because they’re hard to talk to or maybe a bit unpleasant. And I inevitably end up talking to that person because my empathy kicks in (I’m fairly certain I’ve been that person before) and because sometimes I prefer a little genuine unpleasantness to forced conversations about nothing.

But sometimes that comes back to take a big ol’ bite out of my behind. Because sometimes that person reads your talking to them as you wanting to hop on for a ride.

Perhaps I’m a bit naïve but I’ve never understood why talking to someone of the opposite sex when there is alcohol involved means you are randy and ready for their sweet, sweet love. That sounds like a case where I would avoid talking to that person at all costs.

So, I was at this party and wasn’t really having that great of a time, but I had promised myself I would stay for at least an hour, because this was one of several parties I had been to thus far that summer and had never lasted very long at any of them. Frankly, many people there had no idea who I was. I was hired two weeks into this summer theatre festival to do admin work and not only was everyone else on a different schedule, but I also have this habit of never introducing myself to anyone ever, in the hopes that makes them less likely to remember what it’s like to watch me eat.

Anyway, there was this guy there who I had spoken to a few times. He was a bit of a narcissist who made people feel uneasy, but he wasn’t the worst person I’d ever met in my life. We all have our flaws, and he was clearly looking for someone to hang out with, so I thought I’d go over and chat. We talked about things I like to talk about (books, mostly), and repeatedly, people would walk behind them so they could shake their head at me and make a “What are you doing?” face, and I would roll my eyes. I was getting texts from someone else I knew at the party saying, “Are you INTO him?” And no, I wasn’t. I was honestly just trying to be nice, so that when I meet St. Peter at the pearly gates, our encounter would be less awkward.

It was getting late and I wanted to leave. He asked if I would like to take a walk. We were all living on a college campus and I was planning on walking back to the dorm I was living in, so I said sure. Little did I know this was some sort of secret code for a booty call request. Now if a guy asks me if I want to take a walk, I just slap him in the face and run.

We got about a few feet from the party before he pulled me into him and said, “I’d like to kiss you, may I?”

“Uhhhh, no, thank you,” I responded.

He frowned and furrowed his brow, but he let go of me and we kept walking.

He fell in step behind me and I thought maybe, since everything was super duper uncomfortable now, he was just letting me go ahead and ending it there. For that, I would have been grateful. However…

Suddenly, there was a pair of hands on my shoulders. His thumbs were digging hard into my spine and I thought…this is it. He must know some pressure point in the spine that will knock me unconscious and then he will smooch me to death and bury my body. This is how I die.

Then he moved his thumbs outward toward my arms in a light, stroking motion.

He was massaging me. While we were walking. A mobile massage.

Well, this was a first.

“What are you—?”

“Shhhhhh,” he said, running his fingers up my neck and to my ear lobes, “don’t ruin it.”

I opened my mouth to say something anyway, but then there were two fingers in my ears. In my ears. Moving in a circular motion, rubbing my hearing holes. All I could think was, walk faster, Jillian, but it’s very hard to walk faster when someone else’s fingers are in your ears.

We were only a few feet away from the dorm at this point. My keys were in my hand and I was ready to get the fuck out of there. As we reached the door to my room and his fingers came out of my ears, I felt a beautiful Hallelujah envelop me in a warm hug.

“Well, goodnight.”

“Mind if I come in?” He asked, keeping about two whole inches of space between us.

“I’m really tired.”

“Just for a minute.” He pushed himself into the room. I made a point to leave the door wide open. Now, I’ll admit, I was a bit scared.

He pulled me into him and tried to place his mouth on my mouth. I tucked my lips so far into my mouth that they hopefully wouldn’t be back until it was time to announce it’s spring. He was biting at them, trying to get at them, chewing on my chin like a corn cob.

I pushed him away. “I’m cold,” I said abruptly, moving to the heater on the opposite side of the room.

“You know what keeps people warm? Blankets.” He started making his way over to the bed. I took him by the shoulders and pushed him toward the door. But he looked a little turned on by this. So I did the only thing I could think to do.

“You know what else keeps people warm? Calisthenics.” And I broke out into a set of jumping jacks.

It is the first and only time I have heard of anyone using jumping jacks to get out of awkward making out. Patent pending.

He frowned and furrowed again. “I get it. You’re not in the mood.”

Gee, ya think?

He finally left after that. I shut the door, locked it, and sat on my bed for awhile, pondering every moment of my life that had led to a somewhat-acquaintance giving me an ear massage.

The next morning, more texts came in. “Did you guys hook up?” “He said you hooked up.” Ugh.

As ridiculous as this night was and as good an anecdote as this has become, I consider myself extremely lucky and learned a lot from the experience: don’t leave a party with a dude you barely know, don’t assume people are into the conversations they are having or the people they are having them with, if you’re walking with someone carrying obvious tension in their shoulders, maybe you should try backing off instead of on, and cardio, man. Cardio saves mouths.