“I am One with the Universe and it hurts.”
― Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions
This quote is from Daily Afflictions, one of my favorite books of all time. If Diogenes had written a self-help book, this would have been it. While I was looking for the link about Diogenes in case you didn’t know who he was, I discovered that there’s a mental “disorder” called Diogenes Syndrome. It’s a good thing I found this because I can use it as a checklist to keep track of the rate of my decline. From the symptoms, I’d say it’s a fancy title for somebody completely giving up on themselves.
Here are some of them:
- extreme self-neglect
- filthy surroundings
- excessive hoarding
- denial about their situation
- no embarrassment or shame about their surroundings or lack of cleanliness
- refusal of support or help
This disorder affects people over 60, so as of this year, I qualify. Every time I run across a new disorder, I have to check to see if I have it. For this one, I’m going to have to find some sort of checklist that clarifies the difference between self-neglect and extreme self-neglect. What if you’re still eating, but you’re eating mostly junk food? Or the only exercise you get is stretching in bed and walking to the car to go to work? My surroundings aren’t exactly filthy, but I still have plenty of embarrassment about their lack of cleanliness. I’m the opposite of a hoarder, although at one point I did own a ridiculous amount of clothing. It was one of the few years I earned enough to buy new clothes on sale instead of used clothes from Goodwill and I went a little overboard. I wouldn’t be writing this if I were in denial of my situation. It’s true that I’m no good at accepting help, but I don’t have any rashes caused by fleas or a rodent infestation. My fingernails are overgrown, but I don’t have body odor. I’m pretty sure that only people who don’t have to go to work anymore to survive can get this “disorder”, which bears a striking resemblance to getting old and being thrown away like garbage and then treating yourself like garbage.
Getting old has become a sin because it reminds everybody that they’re going to get old and die, too. In fact, the Denial of Death is one of the foundational cornerstones upon which our society is built. The realization of that truth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974, but people have forgotten it again since then. Sorry, I forgot to warn you in advance about the sudden change of subject. Now, back to my overgrown fingernails. I’d have to say that this is the most serious of my symptoms. If left unchecked, they could be fatal. That’s because to get a job, you have to look like you don’t need a job, just like to get a loan, you have to prove you don’t need one.
This system is based on creating debt that generates interest. Realistically, preparing for a job interview would cost a minimum of $200. First, I’d have to get my hair cut and colored to erase the gray. I’d also have to get my nails professionally done so people would know that I’m in compliance with their cultural standards. I know that I’m going to have to make that investment even though it won’t be justified by the return. I’ve just been avoiding it because just last month, I finally finished paying off my school loans. Never having any extra money to have fun for so long was one of the things that led to this breakdown. Now, to get a job, I’ll have to go into debt all over again. That $200, with minimum payments over time, will end up to be more than twice that amount.
I have to present myself as a perfectly groomed positive team player able to multi-task, prioritize, and handle any and all stressful situations with ease and grace while maintaining a warm and humorous yet highly disciplined and organized professional demeanor and consistently demonstrating a high level of competence who for some reason finds themselves unemployed and in the position of needing money to live. I think you see my dilemma here. The only thing that might save me is that I’m not 100% unemployed. Since in order to get any job that won’t eventually make you suicidal, you have to appear not to need one. Because I have credit, I still have a chance. I’d probably have a better chance if I were able to lose the 20 pounds I’ve gained while being depressed for the last month overnight. I suppose I could go all the way and get liposuction and plastic surgery in addition to coloring my hair and getting my nails done, but I’m not even able to visualize a job that would be worth paying the interest on that kind of investment.
On the other hand, maybe I should be focusing on finding love instead of finding a job. If I did all that, I’d probably be able to get a date if I were to leave my apartment to go somewhere besides work. The problem is, I probably wouldn’t want to date anyone so shallow that they wanted to date someone with colored hair and professionally done fingernails and without any fat or wrinkles.
My I’d Rather Die list is almost as long as my Lucky Bastards list. Getting involved with somebody and then later finding out they’re a child molester is near the top of it. Considering how family history repeats itself, the odds of that happening were pretty high. For example, my father’s beautiful older sister Vera killed herself by jumping off a building in Reno after her second divorce. His older brother Jack, (which became my brother’s middle name) killed himself by jumping in front of a train. Okay, maybe the birth order is different, since both of my brothers, who have already killed themselves, were younger than me, but I think you see what I’m getting at here. This is the kind of generational stuff that allows the system to continue to pretend that it’s genetic and not systemic, that it’s from an imbalance in brain chemistry instead of poverty, abuse, and neglect. My father’s father was a migrant farm worker and his mother was a cook for a wealthy ranch owner. At the very least, it’s not a matter of either/or, as in nature vs. nurture. It’s a matter of nature AND nurture. Poverty and nurture are antonyms.