I recently watched a documentary called “Howard Hughes Revealed” on the National Geographic channel. This show was excellent in making me feel better about my peculiarities around my past fear of germs.
It discussed Mr. Hughes’s multiple concussions and head injuries from plane crashes. It explained his many OCD behaviors that were exactly like the ones I experienced.
It brought tears to my eyes when it showed the times he had to layer tissues to be able to touch a doorknob…because there is a relative of mine who rarely speaks to me anymore, and I think it has to do with my bothering her in a public restroom in New York City when I couldn't touch anything without her help, many years ago.
I'm sure there's way more to her dislike for me than that, but seeing Howard Hughes struggling like I did brought back all the times I used to take her to Disney World and have so much fun with her. Now, I'm not even invited to big events in her life. My brain tumor changed our relationship. Forever?
As someone stated in this documentary, “The head injuries would tend to just make the OCD worse.”
My brain tumor caused this strange behavior of mine. The brain injury I now have due to that tumor causes other behaviors I have written about at length in this book.
I hope and pray that whoever loved Mr. Hughes was able to forgive him for what he suffered from. I hope and pray the same for me.
I need to list the many things I could not do and the new behaviors I did do because of this horrible brain tumor. I thank God every day that these behaviors are done for me, and I pray for the millions who suffer from them still…
Of course, having mysophobia does not mean that you have a brain tumor, but a brain tumor caused my fear of germs. Though my list of symptoms is due to an undiagnosed brain tumor, this list can apply to many others who have no tumor but have to live this life anyway. There are strains of this phobia. Some people wash their hands just a little more often than most people do. Others demonstrate many, or all, of the behaviors listed next. And sadly, I am pretty sure there are behaviors I cannot remember anymore or ones that affect other people, but did not affect me. Here's MY list:
When we first sat down, I had to wipe with my chemical wipes the instruction card in the seat back ahead of me. I always followed along when the flight attendants went over the safety procedures, but until the cards were cleaned, I couldn’t touch them. I kept thinking about the dirty hands that had touched those cards before me, instead of concentrating on what to do if there were an emergency. Most of the time, I saw others ignoring this routine, but I am such a teacher, I had to listen.
I always had to have a window seat with Aiden sitting next to me. I could barely tolerate his arm touching mine, so I could NEVER rub elbows with a stranger. We all know how crowded airplane seating can be.
I always had to wear a hooded sweatshirt no matter what the temperature was, because I had to put my head into the hood before I could let my hair touch the headrest.
When the flight attendant came around for our drink orders, I was adamant that I needed a straw with my soda, because I could never drink directly from a can or plastic cup. If she or he forgot to give me a straw, my drink just sat on the food tray in front of me until the clean-up began.
During the flight, I used more chemical wipes to clean the buttons on remotes for the TV screen or for seat adjustments. If the person sitting in front of me moved the seat back to get comfortable, I jumped, because I was so scared of the seat being too close to me.
If, heaven forbid, I had to use the restroom on the plane, my chemical wipes went with me so I could clean off the door latch, toilet seat, and faucet. It’s quite an accomplishment to tinkle while hovering over a toilet on a bouncy plane flight, but I could do it. And that saying, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat” was done by me with such finesse.
My sisters were there to say goodbye before they traveled home to Florida. Aiden was there to drive me home (because the doctors said I shouldn't ride a train yet), and Aiden's friend was outside in Aiden's car trying to stay out of trouble with respect to parking regulations.
So, when it was time to get out of the wheelchair that had rolled me to the front door, I walked on a New York City sidewalk in my socks only. I laughed hysterically, since just a few short days before, I lugged an entire suitcase full of cleaners into the hospital so I could clean the room entirely before I even undressed.
Now, I was parading around a filthy city sidewalk with only a thin pair of socks on and loving every minute of it! I was smiling, and getting into Aiden's car, thanking God that the fear of germs was FINALLY over! I had made it to the “other side” and I was so radiant.
I know that prayer works. Once, when I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, for a conference to hear preacher Joel Osteen speak, mysophobia was taking over my life. I couldn't even sit in the bleachers without covering the seats with something because I got upset with myself on the ride there that the pants I wore were made of too thin material and the germies would touch me.
I told all this to a woman working there selling Joel's books. She told all the other workers to stop selling and circle around me, don't touch me, and pray. They did just that, and I was able to calmly return to my seat and listen to God's message from Joel.
I know there are some people who don't approve of God's word being spread in this way. But I believe I've come closer to God because of speakers like Joel. His workers could have just kept on selling, but they didn't. They talked to the Lord. Two or three years later, I was free of this phobic chokehold. Amen.
As I was putting the “last leg” on this chapter, I met a couple of friends for lunch. Of course, we discussed how it was going with this book.
We all had an amusing chat about my peculiar habits years ago when I was petrified of germs. I remembered some of the crazy behaviors they brought up.
But, then one of my girlfriends said something that I don't think I ever knew. She told me that I lost a lot of friends because of my behaviors when I had mysophobia.
That shocked me because I didn't even realize that was so. I was so shook up by that information, I didn't even ask who she was referring to.
So, I decided the way I would wrap up this chapter is to apologize to anyone I may have offended, upset, bothered, etc. when I behaved irrationally. We now know why that all took place (my brain tumor), but hopefully, whomever I've bothered, I hope they can let it go. I have to say, I still have a wonderful amount of friends who have seen me through this. Those of you who couldn't, I get it.
BOOK TALKS AND SIGNINGS
Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NY.
She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17.
She is speaking at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28.
She will appear at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3.
More signings will be coming up, and a feature about her by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month.