Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

Coming to terms with a terrible realisation

cantankerous-robinLet me be honest, I don’t know how to start this post, so I’ll just do it – jump in with both feet, as it were. Acknowledging an illness is the first step to healing, I hear.

I’m coming to terms with a “condition” I only just found out I had. On top of that I’ve been wrestling for weeks about how to share it, wondering how I will deal with others’ responses to me when they hear … I admit, I did suspect I had a problem, but it was only after returning to South Africa in December that I knew for sure.

First, on holiday, my sister pointed it out – as obvious to her as a humungous wart that’s been in the middle of my face since I was but a wee boy. “You’ve always been like this,” she said, shrugging, as only my sister can.

And then a dear friend confirmed it while we were hanging out at a mall together. “You’ve got tactile defensiveness,” she told me, as if it was the worst disease with which one could be smitten.

“No I don’t,” I retorted, not knowing what it was exactly, but pulling away from her hand, which was resting on my shoulder lovingly. She tried caressing my arm comfortingly, telling me it would all be alright in the end, but I pulled away from that too. I sat back as far from her grasp as possible to finish my coffee while I tried to process the shocking news … Eventually we got up to leave the coffee shop and she draped her arm over mine. I cringed, turned to jelly and collapsed to the floor in a heap.

“I guess I do,” I sobbed loudly, causing our waiter and many mall patrons to look around worryingly. “What can I do to fix it?” I howled, picking myself off the floor.

We sat down at the table we’d just vacated and ordered another cappuccino. A double for me. Then she continued, quite rationally and straight-faced: “Well, we need to brush you.”

“That’s ridiculous!” my expression told her. I don’t think I’ve brushed my own hair in twenty years, and the last time anyone else did … my memories don’t even go that far back.

“No, seriously, there are these special sensory brushes but I have my hair brush in my purse – we could start with that,” she mumbled, her nose stuck in her gigantic bag as she searched for the answer to my problem.  I asked if I could rather do exercises to learn how to cross my midline, or finger isolation activities – like isolating her finger from ever touching me again – but was told those OT therapies were useless in my case.

I thought of the poor neighbour’s cat that hates to be touched but loves to be fed – how it cringes when one strokes it but purrs when one feeds it. I felt hungry and wondered why they hadn’t brought us cookies with our cappuccinos.

The neighbour's cat

The neighbour’s cat: “Don’t touch me, human!”

“Hug me,” I blubbed.

But my friend wasn’t letting go of the solution at hand: “How will you ever get married if you have problems with touch? Just think about it!”

I tried not to.

“I’m buying you some brushes,” she continued. “We don’t have much time to fix this before you’re too old to get married.”

That made me feel better.

“Your dad loves brushing hair doesn’t he? He’s forever brushing your niece’s hair when she comes to visit, right?” I heard her continue. “He could brush you!”

The thought of me, sitting at my dear 80-year-old dad’s feet, being brushed, was all I could take. We both laughed. Hysterically. Scaring all the patrons again … I can’t think of anyone else who would be able to handle that image either, so, to help you get it out of your mind, here are some more photos of the neighbour’s cat.

I’m off to wrap myself in a large comfy blanket in a quiet corner, where I’ll try to rock myself to sleep.

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11 comments on “Coming to terms with a terrible realisation

  1. Lynne benecke
    February 1, 2015

    Hi Robin. I know of two Adult brothers (your age) and their sons who had/have it, and how they are over coming it. Will give you their contacts if interested. The one son was I our school and NO-ONE was allowed to touch him…… not even his teacher with a pat on the back. It’s very real….. So you have my sympathy. It’s not as uncommon as you may think. Nathan had it…. But was fortunate to outgrow it naturally. Will be praying for you. Love the Beneckes.

  2. Trinda McIntyre Lyons
    February 1, 2015

    Aww…yer special…you just need a hug!

  3. kvennarad
    February 1, 2015

    Just thinking about the cat. I would hang out with the cat until it touched me, not vice versa. That has worked between me and an animal before. I had to lie on the floor a lot to do it, but it happened.

    If I met you, I wouldn’t offer to shake your hand; I would wait and let you offer to shake mine. The way out of this for you is for YOU to initiate a touch.

  4. denisechabot
    February 1, 2015

    je suppose que ce serait trop simple d’imaginer que ce soit juste un réflexe d’auto défense, voire d’auto destruction…. suite à une mauvaise expérience vécue, qui est tellement ancrée en nous qu’on ne souhaite inconsciemment pas la reproduire…
    je sais pour ma part que je mangeais trop pour ne pas prendre le risque d’être aimée et maintenant après mon opération de l’estomac, je suis devenue physiquement normale, mais je reste dans ce mécanisme d’auto défense (peur de ne pas être aimée en retour) et c’est pas toujours super cool à vivre 😉
    everyone has its own weirdness…

    • Robin
      February 1, 2015

      Oui denise, je suis sûr que tu as raison. Mais je suis convaincu que je dois changer… c’est ça ou d’être brossé par mon père. Je ne suis pas sûr quel est le plus effrayant ?

  5. LaBelleza
    February 1, 2015

    Oh my, so let me just get this straight..with the plasters, Celestamine and Myprodols I should add a brush to my first aid kit for tactile defensive emergencies? Love the cat in the story…you should really write that book…

  6. Andy
    February 1, 2015

    Really? You’re just realising that now? I thought you knew that years ago. Remember how we used to work on that? Wrestling, tickling, massages…

  7. Kim
    February 2, 2015

    I’ve done extensive research on this condition and it is treatable. Even curable in a small percentage of cases. Forget the little brush, that’s just not potent enough The thing you need to do is go through a car wash.

  8. pix & kardz
    February 2, 2015

    at the risk of sounding very much like someone who lives on this side of the Atlantic – what a gorgeous cat!

  9. Geraldine
    February 4, 2015

    Haha … the thought of Pa brushing you … just too much! I think you must loan me the brushes for my little one when you get them … you’re both just the same!

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