“People are idiots.” That’s my standard response when a blogger writes about being mistreated because of their disability. I use that phrase all the time—with all the disabled bloggers I follow. You might wonder why I read so many blogs about disability. It’s a fair question. It abuts a question that Susan asks me all the time: “Why do you insist on wallowing in the topics that upset you?” She has a point. Bloggers with disabilities, the ones I suffer, can be a pretty depressing lot. I know I am.
I was first diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome four years ago. OCD shortly before that. With my diagnoses, I let these labels define me. As a person, I didn’t change from pre to post diagnosis, but my opinion of myself certainly did. As the author of a “blog of introspection,” I spend my free time looking inward. Analyzing. Picking myself apart. Then I write about it. I immerse myself, paint myself with words and phrases, generally wrap myself in my own disability. And, surprise, that leaves me agitated.
I follow lots of blogs. OCD blogs, Tourette’s blogs, sobriety blogs, autism blogs, general and social anxiety blogs—these all strike a chord with me. These are the disabilities that impact my life continually. I learn about myself from these blogs, but the real reason I read: people with challenges are more interesting.
For a while, I followed a talented writer from Ohio. Her partner, the father of her three preschool girls suffered a stroke and died. Years of destructive living overtaxed his body. He died young. This blogger not only wrote about grief and sudden single-parenting but also her daily struggle to stay sober. Like her partner, she has a long history of drug abuse. Like so many other bloggers, she disappeared abruptly. I’ve resisted the urge to send her an “are you all right?” email. Back when she bogged, I needed to reign in my jealousy that she had so much good material to work with. People are idiots. Am I one of them? Maybe I’m just an asshole.
I read blogs on the topics that bug me. Last fall, my primary search term became Sobriety. Going on three years alcohol-free affected me. My mantra of never again began to look realistic. Reading blogs by people who recently quit alcohol offered a sense of urgency. A reminder of why I quit in the first place.
Last week, Susan and I went to a work party. She got wine, I ordered club soda, my alcohol replacement. I always get it with a lime. It looks like a drink, a vodka tonic or one of those triple martini’s I was so fond of back in the eighties. No club soda, I could have Coke or Diet Coke. Would you feel slighted? Ignored? I did. I asked for water. They served it in a plastic cup.
I finished a short story this week, fiction (sort of). I took an event from my life and wrote about it from the perspective of the people around me. It’s called Different Lives. Today I submitted it for publication to a dozen literary magazines. They all have an online presence. A repository of stories submitted by writers more talented than me. I visited these websites, bypassing the opportunity to read some first-rate fiction, I immediately clicked the submit link at the top of the screen. I wonder if anyone ever reads the stories. Are these sites only visited by an endless parade of writers looking to publish their own work?
From the literary world, I sense disdain for bloggers. Like self-published writers (I’m one of these, too), bloggers are seen as offering subpar content. Creating their own website because they can’t get published anywhere else. The websites I visited today all stated that they publish only literary work. I had to look that up.
Literary writing is defined as creating new creative work, such as poems or novels, and compilations or volumes of creative work.
I’m not sure my story would be considered literary by publishers. It’s “new creative work,” but I think something is missing from the definition. There’s a highbrow je ne sais quoi test my story needs to pass. Looking to have my story published in a literary journal strikes me as needy. Validation from a crowd that might look down on me. I already have a place to publish Different Lives right here. History shows me it will be read, or at least viewed, by around a hundred people. I have a hard time believing it will receive that many reads if published on one of a bazillion online literary magazines.
Near the end of Silver Girl, Leslie Pietrzyk’s brilliant novel on class and self-esteem, the main character breaks off her tawdry affair with her best friend’s fiancé. Actually, affair is an overstatement. They simply meet nightly in a university bathroom and she gives him blow jobs. A few days later, in an argument, he becomes exasperated with her. “You, you’re just crazy.”
Her response: “But am I pretty?” This situation exactly captures my relationship with the writing community. I submitted my story for publication and twenty minutes later I’m checking my email. Is my story good enough?
I received my Tourette’s diagnosis from a neurologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He asked me several questions about my tics—the unwanted movements and vocalizations that define Tourette’s—and how they disrupt my life. On a scale from one to ten, I’d put my tics at a five. They don’t ruin my life, but at times they drive me insane.
He asked me if I have obsessive thoughts because Tourette’s and OCD go hand in hand. I told him about my nights, awake at two and three o’clock, worried about finances and global warming and my children’s upbringing and pandemics and whether it’s alright not to worship Jesus. I told him how I retched over a toilet many mornings as I thought about my work day ahead. All of this flooded out in a torrent, a deluge. Fast enough to widen his eyes. And he told me yes, I have Tourette Syndrome, but my problem is OCD.
Both of those conditions are medicated now. Tourette’s moderately so, and OCD effectively. I no longer worry about drinking too much, and I’ve even made temporary peace with social anxiety. It’s still there, but it doesn’t bother me much these days. My disabilities don’t impact my life right now. I’ve lost much of my good nonfiction material, which has spurred me to try my hand at fiction. And that, in turn, given me something to obsess over.