Features “The Creeper” and “Sage of Tarkus”
from The Artist, The Muse on Amazon.com
Features “The Creeper” and “Sage of Tarkus”
Features “The Creeper” and “Sage of Tarkus”
from The Artist, The Muse on Amazon.com
Being Abnormal by Valerie Parente
It’s just lonely…
when you’re not allowed to express pain
because you’re the mentally ill girl who can’t be taken seriously,
when you’re not allowed to drive the freeway
because no one has faith in the skills you’ve achieved,
when you’re not allowed to paint your face
because you never give in to a normal level of intimacy,
when you’re not allowed to respond to hate
because defending your mental state is a luxury,
when you’re not allowed to remember heartbreak
because normal people don’t take this long to grieve,
when you’re not allowed to cut to the chase
because only crazy people act with so much honesty.
It just gets kind of lonely inside my brain
when even your loved ones can’t understand how you operate,
because I know that my honest-to-God pain only frustrates,
adding a whole new layer to what should be normal heartbreak.
I guess what I’m trying to say
is that ordinary things like a broken heart or a common sickness
are a lot harder to cope with when you have a mental illness
because people always have a million rational reasons for why you’re incorrect
but your hyper-sensitive mind has never been dictated by such logic.
– Valerie Parente (10-9-2020)
Sick Cycle by Valerie Parente
The fear of intimacy comes from the fear of touch
and the fear of touch comes from the fear of germs
and the fear of germs comes from the fear of intimacy
and I’m stuck in a sick cycle of social chastity.
– Valerie Parente (9-20-2020)
This Fear Goes So Deep by Valerie Parente
I’ve got people who want to talk
and I know what they really want is touch
they’re just trying to warm me up
and that really pisses me off.
Because I’m offended by attraction
I get defensive when you want a physical reaction.
My brain wasn’t made to pretend it doesn’t notice
when men try to fool me with a thing called romance.
I’m starting to think that my anger with the men in line
is a form of anxiety designed to defend my mind;
Yes this is a fear of intimacy ultimately
but its also a fear of being challenged intellectually
because I often feel deep disgust
by the boys who admit they have a crush
It translates into “I think that you’re stupid”
because romance involves courtship
and courtship assumes I’m desperate
and desperate translates to dumb
and dumb people don’t think, they just touch.
I feel like boys are trying to pull one over on me
all control, all of my autonomy, all the things that make me unique
and I know the intention was never to make me feel degraded
but I feel so Goddamm violated
when someone is attracted to something other than my mentality
because my intelligence is the most important part of me.
So how dare you think you’ve fooled me
into being a sexual prop or something weak.
And I’m no fool, I know I’ve only ever been in love with the guys
that I secretly know aren’t really attracted to my type
and I think that my fear is getting worse these days
ever since I broke my own heart using a friend’s name.
I know this phenomena makes no sense;
trust me, I’ve scoured all of the internet
and I can’t find other people that share this mindset
so I’m not really sure where to go next.
– Valerie Parente (9-14-2020)
Love. Heartache. Death.
Rather Be Haunted documents a dark period for the poet. Emotions linger like ghosts. Interpersonal relations cause palpable frustration. Death breaks the heart but in the most beautiful way.
Through chronological poetry and prose you can feel all that haunts the obsessive compulsive writer’s psyche as she tries to understand her hyper-sensitivities through rhymes and clever lines. As frustration builds, so does resilience, making the struggles that define our humanity all the more remarkable. After all, isn’t the struggle to make sense of emotions the grandest mark of being alive? What makes us human hurts; that is the gift of the universe.
Rather Be Haunted is the second volume of poetry & prose by Valerie Parente, featuring Mannequin Art alongside writing pieces. You can now own the collection in Paperback or Kindle!
These past couple of months during the COVID-19 lockdown have been some of the most mentally challenging months of my life, as I’m sure they were with many other people. As someone with obsessive compulsive disorder, centered around a phobia of germs, this whole experience has been extremely bizarre. I wouldn’t say it was solely a positive experience or a negative experience. It was a combination of both, and in the strangest way possible.
I expressed in March how uneasy I felt as the world just began to descend into germaphobic chaos in the following blog post: https://valerieparente.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/an-obsessive-compulsives-take-on-the-coronavirus-crisis/
I remember when the coronavirus was officially declared a National Emergency many people with anxiety disorders and OCD were expressing surprising feelings of calmness. A lot of these people said that they had been prepared their whole life for some kind of disaster like this, so when push came to shove and it actually happened they were more mentally prepared and stronger. I totally understood that concept on paper, but for me personally I didn’t at all share this feeling. I’m sure it has something to do with my ego and that I don’t like being compared to other people, but I hated that everyone was freaking out about germs and feeling the fears that I’ve felt for the majority of my life. It was totally irrational to feel somewhat threatened by “normal” people experiencing my catastrophe-centered mindset, but to be perfectly honest I think that’s how I felt. It was confusing to understand how I felt because I was absolutely terrified but more than anything else I was depressed by the isolation. I wound up taking the lockdown extremely seriously, cooping up in my home, not seeing a single soul outside of my immediate family, for about a 2 and 1/2 months. Mentally, it was exhausting, as I’m sure everybody else felt. As I said, I didn’t leave the house, but I heard through my family members that did take quick trips to and from essential stores that people were wearing masks, employees at the food store were wiping down and spraying carts, limiting customers that could enter the building, and tape was on the floor to separate people by 6 feet. Officials were recommending we don’t touch our face (something I’ve always avoided because of OCD), no sharing food or drinks, limiting socialization to no more than 5 people. If anything, this should have been a dream come true for someone like me that’s terrified of germs. But I didn’t see it that way, I saw it as the world descending into a madness that I individually had the luxury of entertaining but the world as a whole, as I saw it, couldn’t afford to function like this.
When I finally snapped at said “Screw it, I need to go back in society” I started small, grabbing a coffee at my local grocery store or coffee shop. Gradually I started seeing friends again, but only in outdoor settings where we weren’t breathing right on each other. And I’m shocked to say (and maybe this is my all-or-nothing OCD mindset) that I’m extremely “over” the whole virus situation. Obviously I understand it’s still a danger, but as I take appropriate precautions with face masks and bringing wipes and hand sanitizer in my car, I’ve become completely un-phased by the fear of the virus. After one time finally going back into the real world I at ease again. I felt like everything was going to be okay. I felt like there was nothing to worry about as long as I was doing my part to stay sanitized. I think this is a perfect testament to how well Exposure Therapy works with obsessive compulsive patients. I hated Exposure Therapy as a teenager, but in my adulthood, when these circumstances in the world were dire, I sucked it up, held my breath, and I faced my fears. I can’t tell you how afraid I was in the 2 and 1/2 months; I kept telling myself that the second officials said it was safe to go out again that I would probably wait an extended month after that. And guess what? I didn’t. I didn’t do what my fears wanted me to do.
So, going back to my original statement in this post, I was not comforted by the idea of the world becoming more OCD like me when this all started. Now, 3 months later, I understand what people were saying. I understand why the world’s anxiety lessened those already with anxiety. I get it now. Because when I go out and I touch something or drink my coffee in the park, I’ve instilled in my mind through the exposure of going out that first time that nothing bad is going to happen to me. Is that true? Maybe not. But is it a healthy mindset to have now that the virus is on its way out? Yes, I think so. And when that little OCD voice in the back of my head says “You should be scared to leave the house” I just remind myself this: the world is a safer place today than it was 3 months ago. I went over a decade of my life afraid of germs but still going out in public and taking precautions with hand sanitizer and gloves, and did the germs kill me then? No. And today I’m going out with the exact same OCD rituals in place PLUS the rest of the world now has rituals to keep me safe too. Did people wipe down the carts at the food store before? Not to my knowledge. Did cashiers specifically change gloves at the ice cream shop when they accepted your cash? No. Did people judge you for not touching your face even if there’s a piece of hair in your eye? No. These were little stressful quirks that I had that were now socially acceptable. Those were things I did to stay clean, and now the rest of the world (for the most part) is doing these little things too. Things that I always thought were necessary for survival. So, if anything, the world is cleaner and safer because of the coronavirus. That’s what I keep telling myself every time the OCD voice creeps in. If anything, you are safer now than you were 3 months ago. And its this very thought that made me understand why those with anxiety felt comfort when the world addressed COVID-19. I get it now. It took a couple of months and exposure to a new world, but I get it. And this is much different than the tune I was singing in March when I made my first COVID-19 post from the perspective of someone with OCD.
If there’s anything I want anyone to take away from this blog post it’s that the mind is extremely resilient. We are so strong as human beings. And you may feel afraid now of something, but I promise with the proper mental exercises (for me, Exposure Therapy), you will see a day when that anxiety is put at bay. It’s not going to be permanent, and you don’t have to understand how it will feel before you experience that peace, but just know that it is possible even during what seems like the apocalypse.
– Valerie Parente (6-9-2020)
Black Hole: A State of Mind by Valerie Parente
This meltdown is not circumstantial
this meltdown is a state of mind
and I believe this one was looming for months now
when everyday life got flipped upside down
and I didn’t have a chance to grieve the everyday life we had to collectively leave.
I’ve been trying to cope by distracting myself with the people who matter most
which is ten times harder when you have to distance yourself to maintain physical health
and I think after two months one little straw broke the camel’s back and I only knew how to overreact.
The circumstances never changed but a heavy darkness infected my mental state.
It doesn’t make sense for me to be as upset as I am about my personal circumstance
because it’s really not the end of the world
but this state of mind made it feel like I was going to die if I didn’t testify
and this heavy mass of pressure in my soul was simply waiting to cave in
like a black hole.
This state of mind will pass with time
but I’m so scared while I try to make it there
because every second in this black hole
feels like an eternity I can’t control
and I just want things to go back to normal.
– Valerie Parente (5-23-2020)
A Germaphobe’s Hell by Valerie Parente
When someone else understands the anxiety I’ve been feeling for half my life
I don’t feel comfort, I feel competition.
I worked from the inside out to walk through this hell
and now you’re telling me to turn around and walk with everyone else.
No, I don’t want the world to change their mind and say that my mental strife was justified
don’t tell me that my fears were right all along
why would I want to see my disorder become mainstream
after you spent years telling me that my pain is unique.
I understand the necessity to chain us all down as a way to protect ourselves
but I can’t pretend it doesn’t feel like hell
to be told to back-track all your progress
because now it really is a matter of life or death.
– Valerie Parente (4-13-2020)
An Obsessive Compulsive’s Take on the Coronavirus Crisis by Valerie Parente
Day Five in quarantine, and I am full of so many uncomfortable thoughts. How odd it is to live during a time when everybody else is performing the compulsions you’ve been told were “irrational” for over a decade.
I have been wildly afraid of germs since I was 13 years old (I’m 25 now). I don’t touch my face unless it’s right after washing my hands. I deem my clothes “dirty” as soon as I exit my home. I keep bottles of hand sanitizer in my car and every bag I have. And in the past few years I have gotten really good about challenging these germaphobic thoughts and compulsions by going out more, touching my face, not taking a shower immediately upon coming home from being out in public, and doing so many more little acts. Now with the COVID-19 crisis it feels like everything I’ve been told was “irrational” is becoming the norm. Yes, this is an unprecedented situation and the rules of what is “cleanly” and “germy” have now changed, but that doesn’t make it any less bizarre for someone who has been told for the past decade that constant hand washing and not touching your face is unreasonable and compulsions of the mentally ill. Now we’re desperate not to fall ill in the name of doing these manic compulsions. The acts that were was once deemed over-the-top are now being drilled into our brains.
I can’t speak for everyone with OCD, but for me, there was always a sense of “I’m being ridiculous, but I’m going to do it anways” when I performed a compulsion to get rid of germs. I always kind of knew I was overreacting. I knew it. Did I believe it? No. Knowing and believing are two very different things. I very much believed I would get sick if I didn’t shower before going in my bed, but I knew deep down that this was not a normal thought process and that I was being crazy. This coronavirus crisis really is an OCD sufferer’s worst case scenario played out. It’s everything we’ve ever been told was an overreaction now being categorized as a necessary course of action.
People always told me it wasn’t the end of the world if I let a germ touch my skin. Now the world is in this freak situation where it might be the end of the world. We’re in a realm of danger where it actually can be a matter of life or death if you don’t wash your skin. That’s absolutely mind boggling for me. I’m not necessarily upset, and I’m not even complaining, I’m just uncomfortable. Perplexed. Shocked. I never thought I’d see the day where all of the obsessions I was told were unnecessary to entertain have now been given credibility on a global scale. I guess the best word I can use to describe all of this is wild. It’s just wild.
Social distancing. Hand washing. “Don’t touch your face”. I’m equally curious as I am concerned with how society is going to behave once we move past this traumatic chapter. My gut tells me a lot of people are going to develop obsessive compulsive disorder after this. We’re fostering that obsessive compulsive mindset and placing it on a pedestal of “life or death” importance (and rightfully so), so how can you go from that drastic and dire mindset back to “oh you’re being ridiculous for wiping down your seat every time you go to sit in it”? I really don’t have the answer. I guess we’ll all find out, together.
– Valerie Parente (3-17-2020)
Playing With Storms (Diagnose Me) by Valerie Parente
I’ve got five different disorders and I can’t afford to be diagnosed with another
But ever since the grief I’ve feel like my brain has spawned a new monster
My emotions are so intense and I freak out then repent
People ask me why I acted out
and I honestly can’t remember why
I remember doing the deed
but I don’t remember why I felt it was necessary
all I remember is that I really truly believed in the feeling’s intensity
and I played with thunderous storms even though I don’t even like the noise
and I think that’s pretty scary
when you can go 25 years understanding the string between your actions and emotions
then suddenly don’t remember why you did something so intense
its like you’re sitting in a backseat watching yourself
there’s a barrier between you and what you do
a major disconnect
and I can’t even begin to try to figure out why
I just know that my mind has become so hard to find
I’ve got five other disorders that I understand inside and out
but I don’t understand the reasoning behind this new rage filled spree
It would be so much easier to address this if someone could just diagnose me.
Please, just diagnose this storm inside of me.
Because then I can begin to master the storms artfully.
– Valerie Parente (1-28-2020)