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  • jenepstein9

Welcome to the Slog

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

In November 2018, I published my first book, Don’t Get Too Excited: It’s Just About a Pair of Shoes and Other Laments From My Life. Don’t Get Too Excited, (DGTE), is a collection of humorous personal essays about living with OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Since its release, DGTE garnered some small successes. It’s been a finalist for a few awards, then, this past November won the NYC Big Book Award, for the 2019 best book in Humor. Now that DGTE has been out over a year, I’m looking to the future and reaching a new audience online. So, I’m starting a blog, aptly named, the Slog, an expansion of the stories I tell in DGTE and what my life has been like post-publication. I hope I’ve captured your attention and you’ll read my inaugural post, I Feel Vindicated! No, I Don’t: A Chapter From One OCD Sufferer’s Life in the Time of COVID-19

I feel vindicated! No, I don't: A chapter From One OCD Sufferer's Life in the Time of COVID-19

Many of my patients have felt vindicated lately, my therapist mentioned to me on our last phone session.

She was calling me from her coastal cull- de sac in Westhampton, while I remained sheltered in place in Brooklyn. At the time, I did feel vindicated. After all, I could boastfully claim it was my first inclination to re-heat already hot food, discard of the take-out containers and transfer my cavatelli with broccoli and oil into my personal set of corning-ware before shoving it into the microwave. Two minutes and thirty- five seconds later, even with the glass lid covered in condensation and steam wafting out the sides, I slipped on a pair of gloves while handling the contents as if they were biohazard before daring to dish the pasta onto my plate. Vindicated? I guess. I mean let’s be honest, nobody really considers this ‘excessive’ anymore do they?

I would love to be able to tell you I feel vindicated. I’d love to be able to pen light-hearted tales about living through a pandemic with my quirky behaviors and joke about how I’ve been practicing social distancing for the better part of my life.

I’d love to tell you that my biggest challenge in the last two weeks was struggling to adjust the shelves in my refrigerator to accommodate a new PUR water pitcher which I was forced to venture out to the only open hardware store and purchase because after searching for months for the right replacement filter without any luck, the old pitcher was starting to smell like algae. Only to get that new pitcher home and find out it was too large to fit.

I’d love to be able to tell you my biggest obsession was permitting my super to come into the apartment to adjust the shelves for me but instead stubbornly opting to forgo that extra top shelf-space.

I’d love to tell you about my limited excursions in the physical outside world, avoiding the main jogging and bike path in Prospect Park for side trails and then running franticly in the other direction every time someone popped out from around the corner. Or almost ending the evening in a street brawl with the guy who felt it was necessary to order fifteen pounds of deli meat from the prepared foods counter at Union Market less than the half hour before the store was scheduled to close.

Believe me when I say, that there truly is nothing I’d rather to be able to tell you. But the truth is, I can’t.

In my collection of personal essays Don’t Get Too Excited, I describe in vivid often visceral detail, the plight being OCD and dealing with the ‘what if scenario’. When you live alone and choose to self-isolate after experiencing mild symptoms, all you have are your intrusive thoughts, all you have every waking hour of the day are what if scenarios. What if I didn’t microwave that cavatelli long enough? What if I should have sterilized that sponge before using it on the dishes? What if I’ve been using that same sponge for too long? What if that smell from the sponge means I should have thrown it away before using it to wash the mug I just drank my morning tea from? what if forgetting to wipe down the T.V. remote with alcohol is the cause of my raw scratchy throat? What if I only washed my hands for 18 seconds instead of 20 and that’s why my nasal discharge had a slight discoloration after I blew my nose and then forgot to wash my hands again before touching my face? What if I shouldn’t have touched my face? What if that lump of sputum lodged in my trachea that no amount of expectorant has been able to remove is more than the result of allergies or a bacterial infection and is actually masking a bout of walking pneumonia and the beginning of the end of a mild course of COVID-19 whose fate is dire? What if I can’t get a test? What if I go to the hospital and get worse? What if I go into the hospital and never come out? What if I die alone?

This isn’t what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about that word my therapist used, vindication. I wanted to write about how well I’ve self-managed, organizing zoom happy hours with friends so they would feel less alone and scared, checking in on my neighbors, mastering food-preparation and storage, raking and bagging leaves in the back-yard to welcome spring and start thinking about what to plant once we can all safely get out to a local greenhouse or nursery. I’d like to tell you these activities and an onslaught of meetings at work successfully pre-occupy me from these intrusive thoughts, these what if scenarios, but of course I would be lying. I’d be lying if I told you any of this was vindicating. I’d be lying if I told you that Sunday nights aren’t the worst, that going to bed early only to thrash around and listen to sirens wailing over the sounds of birds trilling as you wait for the morning light to creep in isn’t fucking terrifying, because it is. I’d be lying if I said that I’ll continue to be able to convince myself that the aches in my leg are my muscles atrophying from lack of exercise, and not an oncoming fever. That I’ll continue to resist taking my temperature, because then I would be willfully bending the knee to irrational fears, because I’m not sure that I can. That I’ll continue to be able to say I’m tough enough and content enough to continue another month, or two or three of living in isolation, because it’s not true, I liked it for a week, no, actually I loved it for a week, because I can only tolerate human interaction in short -shrifts before someone does something so self-entitled or foolish and short-sighted that I want to punch them in the face. Dogs I adore and cherish, the human species, not so much.

I wanted to write about feeling vindicated as someone living with OCD that had a sort of prescient knowledge and therefore already developed the coping skills to flourish in this situation. But after twelve days of completely being cut off from the outside world, I can only say that I feel nothing other than what the rest of us feel, uncertainty, exhaustion and fear.

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