Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm out of my cotton pickin' mind!

The human mind will occasionally make an usual hiccough. Some of these hiccoughs will manifest into serious mental disorders like OCD where the person has to make sure his light switches are all turned up or down and he can't go through a doorway without touching the frame 5 times or else suffer "dire consequences". There is no logic whatsoever to the behavior, it's just that something isn't working quite right in the person's brain for this to happen. Aside from what I suffer from myself, bipolar disorder, other such brain hiccoughs include anxiety disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, Turret's Syndrome and phobias. While there are certainly mostly serious and debilitating problems that result from these disorders, the pure illogical nature of these quirky behaviors can be sometimes be somewhat comical.

Which brings me to a confession that not all of you are privy to. I suffer from a phobia of touching an object that is completely benign and what everyone else would view as a good experience. It doesn't affect my everyday life, in fact I'd be surprised if it comes up 4-5 times a year. But, when it does enter into my life, the end result is that I freak out and everyone else around me giggles with amazement or flat out guffaws at my illogical fear and girlish screams of protests.

I can't touch a cotton ball.

Before I continue, I will answer your immediate questions-
1) Cotton shirts and other items made out of cotton don't bother me at all. It's the loose ball of fluffy cotton that gets me in a tizzy.
2) I have my wife open up OTC pill bottles. (thank you for wasteful blister packs!!)
3) Polyester balls are fine, they are synthetic enough to not have the same feeling, although I don't like looking at them.
4) Cotton candy is also a different texture and is a yummy treat that I have no problems in enjoying.

I'm not lying when I say that I now have chills up and down my spine as I write this. While the fear isn't out of control when I just look at a cotton ball, I do get a serious case of the willies just thinking about cotton. The worst is when I touch one, I get so anxious and afraid that I actually feel pain. I'll run and make a big production and scream, "GAHHHH!" as I vigorously shake my hand that touched the offensive ball of fluff. I do understand that the whole thing is absurdly funny for others to witness. My behavior makes no sense, so therefore the comic possibilities are near endless. At least, with other phobias like fear of heights or spiders, you can see why a person fears those things. The danger may not be imminent, but creepy crawlies are somewhat scary and a long fall can kill you. Most of us wouldn't think to tease a person with such phobias.

Yet, since I was a child, whenever someone finds out about my fear, they always tease me and do something to see my reaction when I encounter the harmless cotton ball. I recall that once my dorm floor tenants in Denton Hall found out about my phobia I was often was greeted to a door covered in cotton balls. I would have to wait for Jeff to get back from class for me to enter my own room. I could hear the snickers echo down the hall as I dejectedly walked away into the common living room to wait. I am grateful that I have avoided being video taped as of yet.

Even my own brother betrayed me today. My father had left a package in the warehouse for me to send by UPS to a customer of his. I guess he's forgotten about my irrational fear as he packed it in a box and used cotton for packing material. (my father is notoriously cheap, he'll use whatever he can find to accomplish his needs) Upon witnessing the box, I tried to remain calm and I paged my brother discretely so our employee Rocco wouldn't hear. He came up to the package and dutifully took away the cotton for me. As I repacked the box, I realized that my brother took the cotton balls into the office with him. When I entered the room I trepidatiously asked what he did with the "box". I immediately heard Rocco snickering so I knew I was in a bind. I then noticed the cotton balls taped to the bathroom door.

I suppose, if I can dish it out I need to take it as well. I am always the first person to needle someone when it comes to their weaknesses. I am especially fond of the absurd so I can't hate my persecutors, in fact, I even admire their tenacity (but I think their creativity needs work). Mind you, this is NOT an open invitation for you to start bombarding me with cotton balls, you probably won't like the results.

If I had to find any logic in fearing cotton balls I have to look back at my childhood. (how very Freudian!) I did get alot of ear infections as a youngster. Being on a swim team, I would get swimmer's ear alot and in the winter I would get the ear infections because I would sniff instead of blowing my nose. Back in those days, the treatment was to put in ear drops. The object that was used to keep the drops fro seeping out? - Of course, a cotton ball! I must associate the cotton ball with the pain of my ear aches. I surmise it's also why I hate the sound of walking in the snow- it's eerily similar to the sound of a cotton ball being pushed in your ear. Besides, I think this makes much more sense than what a girl in college once said to me- that I was a cotton picking slave in a former life.

I guess I could look to cure my phobia with therapy, but I don't think the amount of times it's truly made me uncomfortable that it makes it worth the expense. So, until my logical mind can somehow allow me to enjoy the tactile sensation of cotton balls, I will keep one eye open for the dreaded little suckers.

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