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Deconstructing My Neurosis

Your psychiatrist will never require this of you, but at some time in your checkered career of anxiety and depression management, it would be wise to deconstruct your neurosis--that is find out what exacerbates it and what diminishes the symptoms.

I'm deconstructing on a regular basis because it helps me to place blame where it should go. Blame is a big thing in my world because unless I examine the genesis of it, I tend to wallow in it. Yes, self-blame can whittle me down to the equivalent of a toothpick. And we all know where toothpicks end up, right? Yes, dear, it's in the circular file along with my self-respect and self-image.

Let's start with genes. My genetic inheritance could be better. First off, my dad was a piece of work. He criticized everyone and everything. Once during a nasty interchange with my sister, she thought she'd hurt my delicate ego by stating that "Dad never liked your husband." This, of course, was no surprise to me. My rebuttal: "Dad never liked anyone, including your husband too."

It's true. I wasn't making up anything. If my sister had really thought it out, she never would have used that barb. When it comes down to it, my sister's academic achievements far outdistance her common sense. I think all that contract bridge playing is beginning to scramble her mind. She uses logic as the basis for her arguments, and that's ridiculous. Family relationships never draw on logic. They are usually based on childish resentments such as "Why wasn't my baby book filled in as completely as my sister's? " (Never mind that you were busy caring for two kids instead of one--that's out and out bias and I protest and will continue my temper tantrums ad infinitum.)

 As for the genetic contribution of my mother, I'd have to say that shy modesty, non-assertive behavior and a predilection for book reading were what she brought to the table. I never once heard her tell my father to F.... Off, and that's a mistake because a few times I think he was really waiting for her to express her dissatisfaction in a crude and disgusting way.

Okay. let's now go on to environment. How did that affect the development of my neurosis? How could it not! When you have two  out of three people in your home reminding you that you are a moody, unattractive nobody, you tend to go with the flow. You accept their truth as yours, and not to be outdone by others, you begin a campaign of self destruction that lasts for the remainder of your tenure with The Family. By the time my husband discovered that I was hobbling around with the burden of negativity on my back, it was too late for him to back out of the relationship. Besides, his family wouldn't win any prizes either.

The last part of every psychological deconstruction (I believe experts refer to it as a psychological autopsy but that sounds like I've died and gone to purgatory and that makes me feel depressed, so let's leave it at deconstruction) focuses on relationships beyond family members. How have they shaped your neurosis? Well, teachers, for one, definitely did. Most of them pumped up my ego, but the few that didn't praise my efforts made me feel like a wack job. And that is never good. Your take-away from those people is you're good on the outside, but on the inside, there's an evil/inferior core that will ignite eventually and that fire will burn and burn until you're just a mass of ashes. Then you'll have to put yourself together again, and, whew! that's exhausting. The same goes for friends. A few of them gnaw away at your self-image and force you to take a good look at yourself. Now that business of "taking a good look at yourself" is fine for normally balanced folk, but dysfunctional people (like me) examine themselves with a microscope. Throw in some weird mirrors you'd see in a fun house and you pretty much can see that distortion is the name of the game. After a few weeks of taking a good look at yourself, you're just a puddle of protoplasm with a dynamite GPA.

My neurosis also was decimated by acne. Now you wouldn't think a common little skin ailment like acne would turn me into an obsessive, but it did. Not only that, it cut off my access to chocolate and all those good hormones like endorphins that you supposedly get from a few Hershey bars. Sadly, I didn't have a slight case of acne. It pretty much covered my face except, strangely enough, it excluded my forehead. But few people talk to your forehead. I know it cost me dates and that in itself damaged my ego and made me the unconfident person I am today. But there's always a silver lining to angry pustules of greasy eczema. It's called a skin peel and I got it under the pretext of preventing skin cancer. So I didn't have to feel like some la-di-da aesthetic convert. Yes, my friendly dermatologist, who has removed at least two dozen skin cancers on various parts of my body, gave me a freebie. It's referred to as a skin peel, but I call it a new lease on life. I now can go anywhere without makeup and people still look at me in horror, but now I know it's because I look old without makeup, not because I look disgusting due to red, angry bumps all over my face.

So, I've shared my secret deconstructing methods. Now it's time for you to contribute to the psychological labyrinth of manic depression, bipolarity, OCD, and just plain anxiety neuroses. A good deconstruction is analogous to what spa mavens refer to as a de-toxing. Only it doesn't cost you a zillion dollars. Do it. You'll feel so much better shifting the blame from yourself to the outside world! You'll be sorry you didn't come up with that solution earlier.

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