I Once Was A Tiny Being

There’s something many of you readers might not know about me: I saw my pediatrician until I was 20.  No, I’m not a freak (well, yeah, I kind of am), but there’s a valid reason for this: I stopped growing at a young age, and if not for modern medicine, I’d still be child-like in stature.  Yep, my body decided to stop producing growth hormone, so I was technically a dwarf.  Okay, that’s not totally true. If I’m going to be honest, my growth hormone deficiency can be referred to as pituitary dwarfism due to the pituitary gland being a lazy asshole, but all I see in that name is “dwarf,” so I’m running with it.  Wouldn’t you?  I think I’ll call myself Quirky.

In any case, in 10th grade at the age of 15, being only 4’10” and well below the average line for height and weight, I began growth hormone injections twice a day.  I was told that I’d be lucky if I reached 5’1”, dashing my hopes of being an airline stewardess.  I didn’t really want to be a flight attendant, but when I was a dwarf, one of the medical professionals, in an attempt to shed some positive light to enduring multiple shots per day, pointed out that certain jobs had height requirements, and her example has always stuck with me.  I didn’t need coercing to start the therapy, but one factor that scared me into wanting to begin immediately was when my pediatrician told me I needed the shots if I wanted have children in the future; which I did.  Gentlemen, you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph.  But hoorah alas, I was fifteen and had yet to start my period.  I cheered and loathed the day it came two years later at age 17.

Even with the late onset of puberty, I still had a ways to go with my injections.  A quick x-ray of my wrist allowed my doctor to see how much further I could grow.  Apparently, our joints show how much room is left for growing because they fuse together once we’ve reached our maximum growth potential, and as long as mine had space and weren’t fusing, I could still grow.  Armed with this knowledge, I placed a $10 bet with my cousin’s future husband (who’s really short, but was taller than me at the time) that I would be taller than him by his graduation day.  Not knowing I was taking shots, he agreed.  I totally won that bet, but didn’t see him after graduation and never got paid…that is, until almost 10 years later when he began dating my cousin and reunited with me with a $10 bill in his hand!

I took my needles and medicine with me to college, where it was a bit harder to hide from others.  Living in the dorms and actually being social, it was common for friends and acquaintances to witness me injecting myself.  Once I was out of high school, I was more comfortable with putting my true self out there for people to accept or not, so people knowing about it wasn’t as big a deal to me anymore.  By my sophomore year of college, I was still growing, and my x-ray showed that I had the potential to continue to do so.  At that time, I was 5’ 4 ¾” and a healthy 120 pounds.  My goal for beginning the therapy was to reach puberty and reach an acceptable height of at least 5’1”, which I had more than surpassed.  By 20 years old, I was taller than most of my friends, but not towering over them.  If anything, I was finally “average.”  My doctor was honest with me and said that my joints showed room for growth, but that it would be safe to stop the injections now, and my joints would fuse together at this height with no problems.  It was my decision, and despite being an indecisive individual, it was an easy one for me.  After four plus years of twice daily shots, I was done.  As expected from a non-functioning pituitary gland, I grew no more, I am currently the same height as the day I stopped the injections, and I have no regrets.  I was born to be this height!  Well, not literally, but in my head, I was born to be of this stature and feel incredibly lucky to be standing where I’m at today.

Me, my cousins and BFFs at ages 13 and 14.  I'm the one on the left in the dorky pink hat: the shortest and oldest of us all.

Me, my cousins and BFFs at ages 13 and 14. I’m the one on the left in the dorky pink hat: the shortest and oldest of us all.

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My immunes! (A story of yellow toenails)

I was told that while the stitches in my ankle’s tendon are holding, my tears have likely not healed.  I did not find this surprising, as my body has competed against my desire to be healthy and normal my entire life.  Next week, I will be undergoing a natural healing process where my blood’s platelet rich plasma will be separated and injected into my tendon in the hopes that those beneficial growth factors will speed up the healing process.  In the meantime, it’s two more months of complete inactivity (besides regular walking, and thankfully, no wearing of the boot).

While grateful for an answer, this means that I will have to forgo the marathon I had planned to race in this coming Sunday.  Being that I wasn’t able to train properly anyway, it’s probably more of a blessing.  Also, surprise, surprise, I managed to gain not one, but two ingrown toenails over the last week and a half that has disallowed me from wearing any shoes.  (I wore a pair for three hours last week, and I paid for it horribly that night.)  My toes would not have held up for 26.2 miles anyway!

I used to get ingrown toenails frequently growing up, but never as throbbing or painful as the ones I have now.  I believe this has to do with the fact that, up until a year and a half ago, my toenails were thick and yellow.  (My guess: the thicker the shard of nail to dig out, the easier it is to remove.) When I was young, doctors said that nothing could be done about my nails because it was genetic, and so I endured years of embarrassing yellow toenails.

As a child, it was hard enough fitting in while being painfully shy, abnormally tiny, and possessing a nose that was far too big for my face.  Unfairly, but fittingly, I was given disgusting, embarrassing, crumbly, yellow toenails to mix into my cocktail of ailments.  I couldn’t do anything to hide my large, dysfunctional sniffer, and I took the teases in stride.  But my toes; those I could control…or so I thought.

Besides going to the pool and curling my toes inward on my quick paced walk to the water, I was able to cover my unsightly feet with socks and shoes all day long!  That is, unless you go to Sports Camp for the summer, and the gymnastics leaders force you to take off your socks even though you beg them not to, and plead with them to get your dad (the one running the gym at the camp) to vouch for you.  Adults don’t always listen to kids, and those adults had the final say, so I slowly and reluctantly peeled my socks off my feet.  I did my usual toe curl that I used effectively at the pool, but when it came time for tumbling, I just couldn’t perform the proper technique without uncurling my toes.  This meant, as I came out of my roll and stood, feet together, hands held high for my “stick,” a mean, pretty girl was able to grab my ankle, hold it with a tight, zombie grip, and announce to the gym, “Oh my god!  Look at her toes!  Her toenails are yellow!  Hurry, come look!”  As you can imagine, tears of embarrassment sprang forth, and I wished that the blue felt of the mat covers would open up and smother me away from the gawking girls gathered around my feet.  Of course, after the gym leaders were able to pry those girl’s fingers from off my ankle, they allowed me to wear my socks, but the damage was done.  My dignity was lost, and I dreaded going to Sports Camp.

However, as most kids do, I grew to accept myself.  I even learned how to manage my toenails with a 7-speed electric sander battery operated toenail file and some nail polish.  A few years ago, I discovered that modern medicine had advanced, so I made an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor who prescribed me Lamisil tablets.  Those pills worked wonders, and currently, most of my toes are cured.  However, I believe that as my toenails were growing into their thin, clear, beautiful selves, that they followed the thick, curled path of the old nails, and viciously cut their way into my nail bed like the knife of a surgeon.  I’ve since dug them out (with twice the effort and pain as before) and have accepted that I will most likely always have ingrown toenails.

Anyway, that entire story is to say that I’m unusually optimistic about my upcoming natural healing process next week.  (I love long tangents, don’t you?) Yellow toenails might not sound like much, but trust me when I say that my body conspires against me, and if not for modern medicine, I’d probably be dead, or abandoned to some colony of misfits.  My little platoon of “immunes,” as I like to call them, obviously couldn’t heal the tears in my tendon (even with the aid of stitches–poor little troopers), so I’m eager to witness all of my strongest immunes being clustered together into a battalion of health.  Here’s hoping for the comeback of a lifetime!

Future Zombie


Confession: When I get nervous or anxious, I eat myself.  Literally.  I pick at the skin around my nails and tear it away with my teeth.  And when I’m trying to give the open wounds on my hands a chance to heal, I start gnawing on my bottom lip.  For the most part, I don’t even realize that I’m doing it until I’ve drawn blood.  I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, and because of it, I have callused thumbs and a permanent crater on my bottom lip.  I can’t seem to shake this anxiety trigger no matter how mindful I try to be.  I’m starting to think that this gross habit of mine predisposes me to becoming a great zombie.
Greg and I have had countless discussions about what would happen to us during the zombie apocalypse.  Though I’ve instructed him to shoot me in the case of our apartment getting overrun, there’s a huge chance I’ll be bitten too quickly for him to help.  The reality of it is that I would be eaten immediately (my hopes being that enough of me survived to become a walking dead).  Greg would likely survive, and he may or may not come back to collect me and lock me up in a cage waiting for a cure. 
We’ve thought about the different options for me as a zombie.  Because of my passive personality and love for everything, it wouldn’t be so far fetched to see me sitting in someone’s front lawn eating daisies as opposed to the helpless child wandering the streets.  Greg and I have laughed over the humorous prospect of me trying to convert my zombie friends to vegetarianism. 
However, with relation to my skin biting, it’s likely that I may find brains delicious.  My worry is over the execution of retrieving said brains.  I’m a pacifist by nature, and I just can’t see myself hunting down an innocent human, no matter how black my own brain becomes.  It’d probably be more likely that I would just be softly growling from a distance and gnashing my teeth together ever so lightly in the hopes that the living would approach me.
Or maybe I’ll just end up resorting to this:
Zombie Erica enjoying a chicken nugget.

Quirky Blogger

“Most bloggers are emotionally unstable and are often awkward in social situations, which is why so many of us turned to blogging in the first place.” –Jenny Lawson Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

While I don’t believe I’m emotionally unstable, I do attest to being quirky (the nice word for weird) and slightly uncomfortable in social situations; especially with people I don’t know well.  So yes, I couldn’t help but laugh and kind of relate as I read that line last night. 
I totally turned to blogging because I have stories I want to share, but I hate telling long stories in front of people.  Besides the fact that I turn beet red and start stumbling over words whenever I notice undivided attention turned on me, I also tend to get cut off every time I begin talking, and I immediately assume it’s because people aren’t interested in what I have to say (part of my very mild self-diagnosed OCD that I’ll get to soon).  When I’m in a big group of people, once I get cut off, I can usually just trail off and am luckily forgotten about.  But if I’m one-on-one and get cut off, I feel like I need to follow through with what I began, so I’ll usually just cut to the chase, leaving out all the entertaining parts and ending with a lame ass story that not even I was interested in hearing, which then leaves me blushing and ashamed that I opened my mouth again. 
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m pretty sure I have a very mild case of OCD.  If anyone else got cut off while talking, they’d brush it aside and continue on with their story or leave their tale for another day.  But not me.  I sit there thinking how dumb I was to have even started talking, and put myself down for even thinking people would want to listen to what I have to say.  I begin to wonder if others are secretly laughing at me and privately glad that I was shut up.  I seriously obsess about this for the next minute or so, completely ignoring the other conversation around me, but putting on a fake smile and nod so that I can hopefully fit in while I calm my ass down.  That’s the tip of the iceberg to my social awkwardness, and the showcase to my quirkiness.
When I was a kid, my hands always had to be equal; and a lot of the times, this equality revolved around the staircase in my house.  If my right hand lightly slapped the banister, my left hand had to slap it as well.  Sometimes, I’d even go back up the few stairs so that I could hit the banister in the approximate same place.  We also had a light switch at the top and foot of our stairs that controlled the same overhead light.  If I flipped the switch upstairs, then I had to flip it downstairs with my opposite hand.  This worked well if the light was off, because ultimately, the light would end up off again.  It led to issues when the light was on, however.  I would flip the switch off upstairs, then switch it back on downstairs, which would leave me with a sense of guilt for leaving a light on in an area I wasn’t going to be in, so I’d flip that same switch back off (with the opposite hand of course), then be left with two uncomfortable options: leave the light alone and walk away with my other hand feeling left out, or let equality prevail at the expense of running electricity.  I usually chose the latter; assuming one of my brothers would save the world’s energy problem for me.
For some reason, I grew out of that; maybe it was moving out of the house for college.  Nowadays, my OCD is mostly manifested in my placement of objects.  If an array of items is in front of me, I’ll usually line them up neat and tidy.  Everything on the desk of my classroom had a specific place that I would fix constantly throughout the day.  Just last week, as I was eating a clam dinner, Greg noticed me carefully stacking my empty shells off to the side of my plate.  After he knocked them over, I wanted to stack them back up, but instead, I stubbornly settled on making the fallen towers more spread out equally across my plate.  One of the shells that used to be on top was sadly layered by another shell, and as much as I told myself to let it go, I had to pinch it from the bottom of the plate and set it delicately on the top: it’s rightful place among it’s fellow shells.
I’ve been delighted reading the above-mentioned book, and pouring over her blog.  Jenny Lawson has not only given me the renewed energy I needed to get my own blog up and running again, but she’s validated the reasons I write, and makes me feel not so alone in my weirdness.  I actually feel pretty normal compared to her, though after this entry, many of you might disagree. 

Bunion, perhaps?

Until a few days ago, I’d never really known what bunions were.  I correlated bunions with wrinkly old lady feet jammed into uncomfortable leather slip on shoes.  I also knew bunions could be relieved with spongy, donut shaped stickers.  But what were they exactly?  I never really cared to know, until recently.
About a week and a half ago, I realized that I’d injured my right foot while running.  The pain ran from the top of my foot at the base of my pinky toe down along the outer side of my foot, stopping just before my ankle.  Instead of giving myself a break from running, I threw on my sturdy Asics in lieu of my 5 Finger Vibrams in hopes that the stability would ease the pain.  And it did; however, my injury never got better.  Being unemployed, uninsured, and concerned over the increasing pain, I had no choice but to use Google to diagnose this injury myself.  I found many people with the same problem, but never any solid answers.  After days of searching, I came across a thread where one of the commenters gave five words of support.  These words ultimately did not solve my injury, but still managed to turn my world upside down: “Sounds like a Tailor’s Bunion.”
Of course, the first thing I did, was Google “Tailor’s Bunion,” and I was shocked to discover my “6th toe” disfiguration ALL over the internet!  (No, I don’t really have a 6th toe, and before you go and Google it yourself and start thinking that I have those horribly disfigured feet that you see plastered all across your screen, do me a favor and please click HERE first to see a picture of what mine looks similar to.)  Also referred to as a Bunionette, this gem of a disfigurement is basically the 5th metatarsal bone jutting out while the rest of the toe bends inward.  Supposedly it’s really painful, but I’ve never had any problems.  That’s probably due to the fact that mine doesn’t stick out as much as those you see in pictures.
 
As subtle as it was, I never really saw it as a disfigurement, and I played it off as another thing my little brothers could make fun of me for, and thus, my “6th toe” became a joke among us.  I think I was in a state of shock when I discovered it was an actual disorder!  I couldn’t stop laughing and feeling taken aback.  After living thirty years thinking one way, and then discovering everything you thought was wrong, is the weirdest, and creepiest feeling ever! 
Despite the internet making it extremely clear that I have a Tailor’s Bunion on both my feet, I still don’t think of myself as someone with a bunion.  Even though I now know better, I can’t drop my preconceived notion that bunions=old lady feet.  I don’t have any of the problems associated with Bunionettes, so I prefer to just push the thought from my mind.  Besides, they’re the feet I’ve always had.  They’re my 6th toe jokes.  They’re my feet.  And they’re not a disfigurement.  So there!

Stop and Inhale the Air Around the Roses

I can’t smell.  Never could, never will. 

What’s funny about this condition of mine is that I didn’t realize it until middle school, and didn’t really grasp it until high school.  It wasn’t until college that I fully understood that I was missing out, and only a year and a half ago was I informed that my disorder had a name: anosmia.  (Thanks for your random knowledge, Greg!)  It’s not like it’s a sense anyone else can immediately notice is absent, and not being born with it, I never really knew what I was missing.  Turns out, this is common for anosmatic people.    

My very first recollection of not smelling something was in first grade.  As my classmates and I were walking back to class from recess, Angela, my best friend at the time, turned around to hand me a Tinkerbell brand lip gloss that she wanted me to smell.  I inhaled deeply through my nose, and caught nothing.  Angela was smiling, her eyes gazing at me expectantly. 
“It smells good, right?” she asked as she nodded waiting for my approval. 
“Mmm, yeah!”  I enthusiastically answered, while thinking to myself, “She’s crazy.  That stuff doesn’t have a scent at all.”
That was the first of countless times in my life that I’ve pretended to smell something.  Nowadays, it’s not ‘cause I’m embarrassed about my condition; it’s just easier.  As soon as I let someone know I can’t smell, the next 5-10 minutes are spent describing the how’s and why’s: 
You can’t smell anything?  (Pretty sure that’s what “I can’t smell” means.)
You’ve never smelled anything before in your life?  (Nope.  Maybe if you ask again, I’ll change my answer.)
Here, try to smell [insert object of choice].  (Seriously?  You think the one thing you hand me is going to miraculously cure years of anosmia?)
Is it just allergies?  (No, it’s like being blind.  I just can’t smell.)
So, can you taste food?  (Ugh, here we go…)
In all seriousness though, if I’m going to be around that person again, I like fulfilling their curiosity.  It gives me something unique to talk about, which I rarely can come up with on my own, and it makes it easier for me in the future.  No more faking it all the time.
Don’t feel sorry for me though.  I believe that it’s more a blessing than anything.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be constantly blasted with scents all day long!  I hear my friends and family gripe about nasty smells more than they chirp about good ones.  And no picky eating for me!  Food is all about texture and temperature. Pretty much, just don’t give me soggy cereal or a cold dinner with course lima beans, and I’ll be happy.  Next time you take a bite of food, pinch your nose while you chew and swallow; that’s what I get out of it. 
Maybe it’s sad for you, but for someone who has never known any other way, it’s normal, and it’s shaped who I’ve become.  Who else can fart in the car, lock all the windows, and truly enjoy the pain they’re causing to their fellow passengers?