Eyebrows: A Short Story in Journal form

September 2nd.

            My counsellor instructed me to keep this journal in the hopes to identify my obsessions and triggers. I think that it’s utterly pointless and there’s no merit in it. It’s like whining into the void and I don’t see how it will identify anything I don’t already know. I’m anxious. I have been anxious since I was a child. My mother used to scream in my face to shake me from my spiral. I would cry incessantly over something as trivial as the waiter bringing my pasta with the wrong kind of sauce at a restaurant. Mother would yell ‘ENOUGH’ in my face, and I would dissolve into a silent puddle of obedience. It worked every time, but now I am startled by loud noises.

September 3rd.

            I’m addicted to coffee. Not so much the consumption of it, but the comforting nature of a warm cup in my hands or the scent of arabica beans mingled with heavy cream wafting from its place on my living room table. (I’m also apparently addicted to treating this journal like a novel writing competition where I expound on the mundane using gloriously lavish language). I set the pot the night before with The Great Canadian Blend from President’s Choice (because it’s all I can afford and tastes more expensive than it is), a perfect hybrid of medium and light roast with notes of citrus and nuts. The blue glow from the LED interface cascades throughout the house in the early morning gloom to light my hazy path—I often forget to put my glasses on and kick a stray shoe. I smoke a cigarette and feed the cat outside. I linger and give George (the cat) gentle pets until the chime on the coffee maker rings three times. It’s finished brewing and the morning is now officially permitted to begin. The sun is not yet up, but my coffee is ready, and my laptop is waiting. 

            I’m a creature of habit and endeavor to begin every morning this way. I sip my creamy bitters from my sky-blue ceramic mug (purchased from a local artisan market) and set it on the table. I’ll drink half of it and forget the rest until I arrive home from work in the evening. I’m always disappointed at my neglected mug, but I still fail to finish an entire cup. 

            On the rare occasion that I oversleep and cannot make coffee, or I don’t have cream, my day is ruined, and I hate everything. I hate the bus—even if it arrives on time, because I have to be around people, I don’t know who ignore the “scent free zone” sign and wear a bottle of dollar store cologne. I hate the rain—even though I have a wonderfully rainbow-striped umbrella with an automatic button that ejects it into the open position with one touch. I hate the way my favourite hat that both keeps me warm (plus) and feels like a cage for my head (MINUS).

            I try never to sleep in.

September 8th.

            I forgot to write in this cumbersome notebook. Where was I? Yes, coffee. Today I drank and entire mug before leaving the house (finally I am not a failure) and purchased a large pumpkin spice latte on the way to work at Superstore—because Fall. True to self, this was the odd occasion that I finished an entire mug and I owe that entirely to it being laced with eggnog. The sugary thick nutmeg spiced cream creates a chug it all effect I cannot resist. My teeth became gritty ten minutes into my shift and I jittered frantically like a hummingbird on too much sugar juice. My heightened heart rate invented social catastrophes out of ordinary encounters even though I became more efficient at menial tasks—like using the iPod interface to shop customers’ orders. I was able to shop 105 line items in under 28 minutes (beating my average of 65 items per hour). However, my administration and customer service became erratic. My emails to the Front End Department that handles refunds to accounts were full of typos and more than once I forgot to send the attachment. I stuttered words on the phone (and to my horror in person) as I tried in vain to communicate substitutions and shortages to customers. My brain was operating faster than my mouth could keep up. I became fixated on correcting any errors in my speech pattern and kept customers waiting longer than the ideal five to eight minutes when they came to pick up their orders. 

            I blame the coffee. In no way do I admit I suffer with anxiety in the heat of the moment. Nor will I confess my perfectionism that has me crying in the bathroom on my break for loading the wrong Karen order when two Karens were expected to pick up for the same time slot. I SHOULD have asked for a last name. I SHOULD have known better. Now I will forever be the idiot that loaded the wrong order. One mistake, the slightest error, sent me into a spiral and I was stuck on it for the remainder of the day. Like a snowball tumbling down a steep hill, the impact of my accidents (literal in the case of driving the cart into the automatic sliding doors in effort to avoid colliding with a customer coming IN the OUT door—and thus knocking the very expensive door off its hinges) builds until they collide with an immovable force (usually reality). I am left worrying if they will be able to lock the store at all at closing time. 

            The store will inevitably be robbed in the night and I will be fired simply for failing to run over someone who disregarded the rules…which would also get me fired. I continued my shift on the verge of tears, which sometimes escaped. Ten minutes before my shift was over the store manager informed me, they fixed the door five minutes after I “broke” it. But all I can think of now is how much of an idiot I am and that I must do better to avoid driving a 900lb cart into anything regardless of its lack of brakes.

September 11th.

            Today at work, the store speakers were playing the same pre-recorded pop music they play nation-wide (that we’ve been listening to for three months—I’ve memorized the song order); it’s a strange mixture of obscure 80s hits and last season’s chart toppers. A co-worker decided to play me a new song they liked from their phone. At the exact same time, another staff member erupted into the room with an over-excited recounting of a scary soccer mom on the floor. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand. My heart rate increased to the point where it felt like my eyes were shaking in their sockets. I couldn’t make sense of the various sounds colliding in my ears. It was as if I was a drain and each competing noise was a large bucket all fighting to get into the tiny drain hole—I was submerged against my will and over my capacity and could not handle it. I placed both hands over my ears and yelled, “Too many sounds!” Tears poured out of my eyes and my arms began to shake in concert with the flip-flop in my stomach. They all stared at me like I was crazy but thankfully became silent. My manager had entered the room at some point during the chaos and turned the volume down on the overhead music.

            I blame the coffee.

September 12th.

            Dr. Harvey said coffee in itself is not the problem but is “exacerbating the underlying condition.” She challenged me to fast from it for a time. I hate peppermint tea. Also, she’s an idiot.

October 4th.

            No coffee for almost a month. I have no real excuse for why I haven’t been writing—except that I don’t want to. But, at this point, I can’t make sense of this crap in my head, and I’ve got no one to talk to. Like, when staring at my fish tank I am overly aware of, and concerned by, the fact that the goldfish poop has a weird thin casing on it allowing it to float about like disgusting fecal sausage and the red platy poop does not—do fish care that they swim in ever increasing toilet water? Why is it recommended to clean that tank only once a week? Why is it necessary to have a certain level of bacteria, from shit no less, in the tank at all times?  Is it safe to drink tea from a bag where a little staple holds the contents inside? Won’t I get aluminium poisoning and end up with advanced Alzheimer’s? I switched to loose-leaf tea, but that is harder to clean up after I brew it and I’m certain I’ll have to call a plumber soon to dislodge the fish-poop-tea-leaf-dam of doom that threatens to clog my drain. Inevitably sewage will begin to back up and fill my bathtub because of my poor choice in pets and hot beverages.

            Today I pulled at a thread on my sweater, thinking it was harmless and that it was better than tapping my foot so that my leg jiggles like a wiggly piece of J-ello held by a sticky toddler. I was TRYING to relieve my anxiety without anyone noticing, then, mortified, a stranger on the bus pointed out there was a GAPING hole in my left armpit. Immediately my face flushed, and I pushed the stop request button. I ended up walking an extra 45 minutes home.  On the way home, I kept pulling at my sweater—the source of the day’s awkward encounter and ended up with a jean pocket filled with white lint lacked black yarn. (My dryer must be broken, or about to die, with the amount of lint that was on those threads.) I want to blame the poorly manufactured factory sweater but more than anything I blame my inability to let things go. Like the way I spelled J-ello (gel-o) before I looked it up on Google.

October 5th

            My pulling on things has graduated to my hair. Not the way your older brother yanks on your ponytail causing you to fall on your butt in front of all his friends until they laugh every time you wear your hair up in their presence. But pulling like yanking any hair that doesn’t fit out one by one. Today the hairs that don’t fit are rougher than the other ones. Almost like crinkle fries, they are wavy coarse zig zags. If I pull one out and that little protein casing on the end of the follicle doesn’t come with it—it’s a bust and I pull another until I’m satisfied. Sometimes this takes several tries. I can feel the tension in my body release as the entire follicle comes lose and the pores on my scalp are finally allowed to breathe.

October 7th.

            I made an appointment to see Dr. Harvey sooner. I have a bald patch at the front of my head and all my socks have holes in them. Still no coffee, but I’m smoking more to try and do something else with my hands.

October 8th.

            Dr. Harvey says I have trick-o-lo-mania or something like that. APPARENTLY, it’s very common in people with obsessive disorders, co-curring was the word she used. I’m still not a fan of labels. I still rip them out of all my t-shirts. But I’ve cut my hair super short and started wearing a hat most of the time. My friends think I’ve gone alternative or something. Alternative to what exactly remains to be seen. Maybe I’ll adopt the practice of wearing gloves.

October 9th.

            I picked up the medication that Dr. Harvey suggest I try in order to “curb the compulsions”. The alliteration in that sentence makes me so angry. Like why does everything mental health related have to come with a slogan—Cipralex, curb your compulsions. I’m not convinced that medication will work, but I also don’t want to be irreparably bald. I’ve learned through late night internet research that pulling out the hair protein casings can (and often does) prevent the hair from returning. That would make maintaining employment even more difficult than my bouts of staying in bed for a week.

October 10th.

            Nothing new to report except that my forehead feels fuzzy from the inside. Like my brain is literally on a hotplate—the kind used for warming cups of forgotten coffee…I mean tea, not the kind used to cook soup in a dorm.

October 16th.

            I made it an entire day without pulling my hair and then I decided to pluck my eyebrows. I’m on my way to the drugstore that’s open until 10 pm to find an eyebrow pencil close to my natural colour as possible. People with trich should NOT shape their own eyebrows. Note to self: use an esthetician.

October 31

            I am not obsessively or absently doing…what’s the word for that…body repetitive behaviours. Makes me think of BRB. Like, I’ll be right back, just after I do this alphabetized list of tasks: a) ask Mom how to make brownies, b) but butter, c) clean the entire house (also in alphabetical order, bathroom, bedroom, compost, dishes, dusting, fish tank, floors, garbage, kitchen, laundry, litterbox, windows), d) drive to store, e) eat something, f) freeze while paying for parking, g) get groceries…Instead, I’m late. For everything. If I don’t put a reminder in my phone for each task, one on my wall calendar, and the back of my hand I will be late. Sometimes I double book myself. Other times I won’t show up. The nice side of this issue is I don’t really care. I’m more worried that I SHOULD care.

November 1st. 

            Yesterday was Halloween. Dressed up as my past self—meaning I wore yesterday’s clothes. I forgot it was Halloween.

November 2nd.

            Dr. Harvey gave me the number for the crisis line again today after I told her I’m not excited for anything at all. 

November 7th.

            I kind of miss my obsessions and my anxiety. At least I cared about stuff. I was happy, and I was sad, now I’m just numb. Now, this journal feels like me TRYING to care. I am expected to write a deep and meaningful reflection, but I don’t have one. I live here. They gave me a pen. I write stuff. If I don’t write stuff, I’ll be “non-compliant” and be checked in somewhere against my will by my parents.

November 12th.

            They took away the sharp objects. The fluorescent lights are blinking a lot. The texture of my blanket is annoying—somewhere between velcro and felt. They gave me decaf. Placebo coffee is a bigger lie than antidepressants.

November 13th.

            I have a roommate. Her name is Judy. She asked me mine. I had trouble hearing the question in real time. So, I stared at her until she left the room, then I remembered what she had said as it echoed in my brain and answered “Hailey” to no one.

This entry was posted in LGBTQ+ on by .

About cherylfolland

Cheryl graduated​ from Vancouver Island University in 2019 with a BA in Creative Writing. She is passionate about the marginalized and an advocate for those who fall between the cracks of religion and society. She loves books, music and good coffee.

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