To Tear Me Down, a Broken Flank
To tear me down, a broken flank
Would be ungodly to my health
The anger of the hardwood floor
Would rock those splinters till they fell;
A guilty thing, it would have been
To loathe one’s own perpetuity
But what is time, if I could not
Bequeathe a shred of dignity?
The ship would sail horizons wide
And then ingrain the views in me,
I could not move, for side by side
My loathesome conscience nailed to me
To tear me down, a broken flank
Would rear an angry capain’s head
To hear surrenders from us all
Would snap those incorporeal threads
This is a story of self-love,
The loyalty of My family and friends’ support,
But the lack of patience from myself-
A social conundrum that utilizes the good and bad of humanity-
The good and bad that I channel:
It all started back in high school, when I discovered my natural talent and love for fine arts. I was 17, and found myself having vocal flubs when I got frustrated while drawing or painting.
I suppose you could say stress has always been fair company to me: graduating high school with honors, a 3.7 GPA, playing varsity basketball and flute in varsity band for three years, shotput / discus, powderpuff, AP English, honors classes, three years of German, being voted the most creative in senior superlatives. But stress was never threatening- neither were my newfound flubs I’d have when I messed up drawing, until I went off to college.
My freshman year, I had a horrible experience living in the cramped doubles of the honors dorm. I had such bad conflict with my roommates that my only personal space became a battle ground. I had nowhere to relieve my stress. I was somewhat blind toward the magnitude of the pressure building because of how bad I wanted to succeed.
I was overstimulated by the college lifestyle, and I LOVED it. I took five classes at a time the whole year, settling for nothing less than an A or a B. Having money was also a thirst of mine, being 18 on my own for the first time. I felt I could handle 35 to 40 hours a week at the pizza shop down the street.
I slept only 4 hours a night. I felt okay with that, and even felt refreshed after that small amount of sleep.It was May of that year where I started to snap under pressure. I was in intermediate drawing, replicating a still life with at least 200 different objects. The whole process was a constant flow of logic: every detail, every last shadow was accounted for.
I remember feeling sick of being bottle-fed towards the subject because I had so much skill, so I desired more and more challenges.
Much like my ‘art Tourette’s I experienced at Wayne High School, I felt an overwhelming urge, except this time it was a hook of my right hand at the wrist and a high-pitched exclamation whenever the details weren’t lining up right. It was obviously an OCD issue, since I only made involuntary movements and sounds whenever I’d make a mistake.
It made marks on my drawings I couldn’t erase all the way.
What was most alarming was how quickly it took over: it advanced from happening 3-5 times within a 2 hour still life session to 30-50 times within 3 days. It was very disruptive to my other classmates; I began to get more and more dirty looks.
I was upset to find that my involuntary flubs followed me to work very soon after. While I was concentrating, making a high volume amount of pizzas, I’d mess up and shriek while hooking my hand, sometimes tossing ingredients across the room.
I got a good amount of wide-eyes stares; people began to notice.
“Yeah, this whole hand thing has just been happening lately. Just ignore it, I’m fine”
The glare- the worry some what-the-fuck glare. It was my first bitter taste of the social awkwardness caused by my repetitive itches.
The next day , my urges changed from my wrist jerk to my whole right arm upper cutting in to the left and my head jerking to the right while wincing, along with the same repetitive shrieks. It was a quick, violent motion.
I hit myself in the face often in this fashion, sometimes boxing my ear.
“I’d better not piss you off!” joked one of my fellow colleagues, “that’s one hell of a right hook!”
“I think it’s a legitimate defense mechanism,” opined senior psych major Andrew Cheatle, “animals in the kingdom respond to mass amounts of stress in the same way, with neurological responses that are out of the ordinary”
It was out of control- I was swinging my right arm violently at least twice a minute, interrupting most everything I said in a conversation. It was set off by any type of stimulation- bright lights, loud noises, and any type of thought.
My honors biology lecture was one of the toughest experiences.
The lecture hall was seated with around 300 people that day, with a bright PowerPoint presentation in the dark room, microphone screeches, light coming through the window, paper and food wrapper crinkling, whispering, talking and the clickers- I could not hold still. I bit my lip and tried not to look at the scrunched faces surrounding me.
The professor, whom I was well acquainted with, was distracted with me sitting some 20 feet away from her.
“Whatcha doin down there in the front, Steph?” It resonated throughout the acoustically enhanced lecture hall: “Are you swatting a fly or something?”
I was appalled. Everyone’s attention turned on me. “No!”
I gathered my books and left as quick as I could, jerking violently and having outbursts all the way up. There were 78 steps.
I sent emails to all my teachers explaining what was happening. My bio professor never apologized because I never told her about it.
I ran to my friend David’s dorm and cried, since it was the only safe place I could. He, like a few other people, grabbed my arm while I was jerking and tried to physically keep it from happening. I was incredibly self conscious- it stressed me out any more.
His friends, on the other hand, were not as understanding. Unfortunately I was making a distracting scene while everyone was watching a movie. At one point I was holding my hairbrush and accidentally launched it across the room.
“Dude, are you fucking serious?”
Everyone was suddenly quiet. I ran out, tears streaming down my face and David following close behind.
There was an amazingly wide range of reactions of everyone in my social circle:
My best friend Erica, whom did not know how to respond to the awkwardness, burst out in laughter every time I violently jerked.
A good friend Helen in my English class whom overheard girls gossiping about it. She got really pissed and burst out in”What’s the big deal? What makes you two so fucking perfect??” in the middle of an argument structure lesson. The class fell silent, and a few seconds later the lesson resumed.
Those whom I was on friendly terms with thought I was just trying to get attention: “Come on, Steph. Don’t you think this is all in your head?”
My parents were worried sick. They tried their hardest not to show it, but it was obvious. My mom would invite me home where she’d give me full body massages, focusing healing energy to my arm and neck.
I felt incredibly guilty for worrying her and my stepdad as much as I did. All of their support, Tom cradling me while stroking my hair, I felt like I didn’t deserve it because was my fault for stressing myself out too much. It made me feel even worse.
“Look at you, ” scolded my psychologist, Sue Van Allen “you’ve bottled up all your stress past your breaking point and now your body’s rejecting it”
It pissed me off when she put me on the spot like that; I felt a strange mixture of hate, frustration, guilt, shame, embarrassment, a complete loss of dignity, and self consciousness at the same time.
“WHY WON’T YOU LET YOURSELF BE HUMAN??” She yelled, “YOU’RE NOT A MACHINE, YOU’RE A HUMAN!!”
I responded in an uncontrollable crying, releasing a good amount of my built up stress. The whole process, while it was beneficial, was disturbing and haunting; I still hear her scolding in my head when my tics get really bad.
Mom made sure I saw a neurological doctor as well, where he ran a few tests and asked questions about the disorder.
“Well, it’s highly unlikely it’s Tourette’s syndrome,” he declared, as he flipped through the few papers in his chart “you’re a little bit too old and a little but too female for that. But we can run some more tests after we get some blood work done”
Frustrated, I decided not to go back.
In June, when school ended, I moved home and took 3 weeks off work to destress. It was very relaxing. My tics slowed way down, and began to consistently cycle: a week to a month of ticking once or twice an hour everyday and about 4 months of very little sporadic outbursts.
My urge started to change from a shriek and an arm hook to jerking around a claw-like hand (or ‘derp hand’ as I called it to make light of the situation), lasting 2-3 seconds.
I felt I had better control of my tic at this point: I could feel it coming, so I could put it off for a split second if I needed to switch hands driving or put down whatever I was holding to prevent myself from launching.
It was much easier to hide.
It averted my eye contact with those I was talking to, making it a less- shameful experience.
It resembled the actions of those who are mentally handicapped. It was obvious that it was a disorder, so no one asked questions.
My mom believed that my tics are bursts of creative and artistic energy, because I had so much built up on the inside.
I’m 21 years old today- I live in a cozy, one bedroom apartment in the city with the love of my life, Dan, in a stable, loving and supportive relationship. I’m a waitress at Waffle House on the slowest shift, still in college, taking a class here and there.
It’s a genuinely happy life: I’ve found my spirit partner and the man I’ll be spending the rest of my life with, I have a really good relationship with my parents and my family. I’m good with my money and can pay all my bills. My life is moderately stress-free, but I still am haunted by my involuntary tics. They tend to get the best of me when I’ve ran out of mental energy to fight them off.
I wish I could give a heroic ending to such a courageous story – one that’d make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside- but that’s the thing about a tic disorder: it has the tendencies to screw up nice things like that.
It’s been 3 years since my tics have started, and are now at a stage where it’s solely a vocal tic on its own: a loud, high-pitched and sudden bark that sounds like I’m barking an ‘ew’ noise. They are out of control; I’m really struggling.
When I got to the point of actually accepting it as part of who I am, I started to openly scratch my itch. Nobody else understood it and made it an awkward situation. It made me feel self conscious again; It’s repeated almost every time.
The ones that love me, the ones that invested their time, money, love, good blessings, advice, therapeutic energy, understanding, and support- they are my backbone. They are the good voices in my head, instructing me how to react- especially my mother’s voice.
“Strength, baby. Look at me… Have. Strength.”
Or my stepdad, while holding me in his arms when I was having a barking attack: “Sing, baby. Sing your song so pretty”
This is a very critical step to trying to make my involuntary actions stop: telling my story and reaching out for help, whether it be anonymous or not.
All I can do is suffer the hardships and confess to getting caught up in barking attacks, having to excuse myself from the tables I’m serving, having to walk away from everyday tasks that make loud noises or involve counting, reading, concentrating or analyzing because I can’t get a hold of myself, biting my finger in the back room at work, trying not to get overwhelmed about my disturbing behavior, always looking over my shoulder, surveying the reaction of the general public and my coworkers, attempting to fool myself into thinking that no one is noticing, when its obvious that they’ve only trained themselves not to say anything about the disruptive and annoying behavior, feeling an increase in my heart rate every bark, not being able to handle normal amounts of stress, suffering through the jokes, strange looks, questions, awkward responses, confused reactions, and the altogether ignoring of the explanation of why I was barking to myself like a homeless person would- this is my confession.
Now that I’ve laid it all on the table, I can say this justly and honestly and believe it for the first time: My name is Stephanie and I have a stress- induced tic disorder- I cannot help it.
That evening, the petrichor was unbearably stirring, the ground wet with dulcet summer rain. Something ran up my spine, the clanky bones of my back and I felt it; it changed something in me since that night.
The lissome fingers across my skin, those eyes full of felicity and ebullience. Our souls transcended reality and waltzed a ballad so mellifluous, so utterly beautiful not even the viridian hills of Italy can describe the sheer beauty between the two.
“You and me, we’re a lot of like” he cooed, those comfort eyes radiating charm, “and you’ll never be alone. I’m with you, not in your heart, but in your head. Think of me fondly, always”
He was the sand flowing through my fingers, the quintessential means of my lover’s philosophy. My heart lain prey to his cognitive dissonance, the poor creature broken by that speck of doubt. His depth rendered hope to my fathom-deep pools of thought, but his heart fell into desuetude; his affection, dissembled. He was the perfect paradigm of a fleeting, yet sempiternal love; one that never existed, and one that will never exist again.
Any ingénue will preach the same: a world of trust is a world of agony, for it only takes one quick, passionate romance to turn the heart to stone.
Mind Throw up: A Day in the Life of Stephanie Staup
Why is she still asleep? I’m sorry, not until July 29th. Court parking and $3.79 a gallon. Pookie! Naughty Pookie. Huuuush! 5 minutes and a cigarette. That’s my girl. $40 and a manicure. It’s too big. Split a milk? It’s a special kind of success story, you are a special young woman. Nice to meet you. 10 am this next Saturday.
12:08 bus. $375 a month. Bleach and brown. Vision, cataracts age 40, blind in left eye. Anorexia, amenorrhoea. I’m proud of you. They went away.
Brown eyes, rub it in. Grave site with clouds, spiked hair and red beard. Do you ever talk to it? I’m extremely delusional. Really high at a record store. Scream death metal. Did this really happen? Grandma car. No more money. Did it mean anything?
Bright sun and drawing boards. Italian hugs and conversazione. Splatters and tears. Anxiety and young glory. Bald head. 90’s music and that pregnant bitch. Freudian slips. Mi piace la tua bocca. Greek Gods are humans. Not allowed over any more No text back. Whyyyyyyyyy did I do that. Toys r us and pokemon shirts. repeating hamster. David is gay, fuck this shit. Pink dolls, teddy bears. I want, I want I want. White hair, south park. What am I doing?
Heart mush. I don’t know what I’ll do without you in the summer. cafe, laundry crystals. Nappy, raw emotion hidden. Death, and death doom die. That was me in high school. Don’t ever grow old, it’s a bitch. La banca e cameriere. He knows. Sono STILL un uccello, e ho aperto la mia stessa gabbia cosi il mio cuore puo libero. Menlo park library. Tim and Eric show great job. Not my assignment. Laying in the street in snow, blue eyes. off key guitar. Vesuvius and paid. Memories I’ve never had. Children, its a child, It’s a child. No base, or weight, or hair. That one guy, twitch much?
SI. Success and sweet breaths. Brown, new, freckles, bronzer, woman, legs, cut toes. Crepe e pasta, per piacere. Anzi! World War II, Arriveh-Durchi. Smoke, oh that’s mine. Dog and Chickens, blue eggs and seriousness. Beard? Failure, the only one, no drawing, death. Lies. Tape and names. Pearl erasers. Kitchen sets desk tops, wood graine, corner, disembowelment. Posters and paint, form. Emotion, not logic. Undo it all. Still no text back. No kitty! Hip skirt coins, passive aggressive anger. Darf ich auf de toilette bitte gehen?
Bad Little Girls Like Me
The McDonalds on Brandt Pike, 1996 before it got redone when it had the outdoor sunfaded playplace and ball pit. I remember June of that year the sun setting, casting pink on the windows behind it. I was surrounded by woe- my mother greiving heavily and my family doing the same thing. Hot tears rolled down my aunt’s plump cheeks with mascara following.
We passed the McDonalds as I squeezed the doll I just got out of consolation. I wanted escape, an escape I knew as going down plastic slides and chasing playmates through tunnels. “Mommy mommy, I wanna play in the playplace, the playplace mommy!”
She continued her sobbing. My aunt rubbed her shoulder to calm her down.
“No!” Her voice cracked. “Now is not the time for fun!”
“But mommy, I wanna goooo..” My voice trailed off into five year-old sobs and squealing as my bottom lip curled over my teeth in a childish manner. I pounded my fists on the seat.
“Stop it Right now!” she swerved a bit.
My aunt whipped her head around the seat and put her finger to my face. “If you don’t shut your mouth right now I’ll give you a spankin so hard and you’ll regret it.” Her threats always had a low tone and was said so quick, it made my head spin.
I gazed at the McDonald’s play place I didn’t know what was happening and why I was such a bad little girl to be surrounded by so much sadness. I didn’t want to go there any more The pink cast haunted my grief and mocked the idea of having fun in the play place And we drove by it, the shadows on the rusted fence around the shoe rack and the plastic Ronald McDonald that I always climbed on first. It was not a place for bad little girls like me.