But I Am Me


When I woke up I felt instantly something wasn’t right. As I got out of bed I could
feel it, like growing pains. At first I thought it was the wine, the little too much
wine of yesterday’s non-celebration of being single mom for 9 months and 22 days.
It didn’t make sense as I am in my early 30’s and the physical decay should be
years away from now.
Then I looked in the mirror. My eyebrows was a forest. Really, they had grown
overnight into some nightmarish horror. And my upper lip made me look like a
creeper. A mustache had appeared like the ones you see on every cop from a
seventies movie. My memory came up with “wolfman syndrome”. I’ve read about
those people who had excessive facial hair, so I looked it up:
Hypertrichosis, also known as werewolf syndrome, is a condition characterized by
excessive hair growth anywhere on a person’s body.
I scrolled down:
Acquired hypertrichosis appears after birth. The multiple causes include the side
effects of drugs, associations with cancer, and possible links with eating disorders.
Acquired forms can usually be reduced with various treatments.
Maybe it was the wine? To be honest I had been drinking a lot more and a lot more
often than before the divorce. They say that women cry at first and laugh later. But
I seemed to be stuck in this hole of – well what was it? Self-pity? Powerlessness?
Defeat?
With 2 kids, one just learning to talk and the other learning to walk I felt I had a
right to feel a little sorry for myself. Of course I got the alimony, but I still had to
work part time. Anyway, I had an immediate problem I needed to get rid of. I
called the doctor and scheduled an appointment later in the day. By sheer luck
someone else had just cancelled. Then I cut my eyebrows, seeing the clumps of
hair dumping into the sink, as if I was cutting the hair on top of my head. Then I
shaved. Usually I plucked the unruly odd hair coming out on the upper lip, but this
was different. I suddenly remembered all the times I had killed the mood by
complaining about Matts stubble. I did my usual morning routine, brushed my

teeth, took my vitamins, ate some cornflakes with black tea.

The kids were still asleep, thankfully they both were good sleepers. So I called
Beth.
Hi. How are you?
Uh – She sounded weird – Not at my best. I’ve – uh – there’s this thing.
Yes?
Well I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a thing.
Well it must be a thing, since you said it’s a thing.
Beth snorted. Uh – very funny. But I can’t really talk right now. I’m really not
feeling well.
You want me to come over?
NO! – Beth growled, suddenly sounding like someone possessed. She cleared her
throat. – I mean, now isn’t a very good time. I’ll call you back, ok?
Ok, sure if that’s how you feel.

Beth hung up.

I fed the kids and the babysitter came. She was a godsend. Always reliable and
mostly available. I drove off to the doctors.
Well Carol. – Maugham was the family doctor. – I’m not sure what it is, but… – he
stopped himself.
But what Maugham?
I have an idea. Do you take any non-prescriptive medicine?
Well a sleeping pill now and then.
Nothing else?
No.
Hm. I’ll have to get back to you then. Did you hit your jaw?
What? No.
Oh. Well maybe it’s just a little swelling. – He sighed. – Guess that’s all I can do for
you now. If you like I can give you something that might make you sleep better?
I don’t think I need it.
If you say so. Well let me know if there’s any – uh – development.

I will, thank you.

After work and doing my shopping, I still had half an hour before babysitter time
was up. I stopped by Beths. She lived in a neighborhood up a notch from mine, in a
bungalow. I climbed the stairs to the porch and rang the bell, as I surveyed all the
well kept front yards on her street.
Who is it? – the voice was like a bears rumble.
Beth? It’s me – Carol.
Carol? I told you, I’m not feeling well.
C’mon Beth. Are you going to let me stand out here?
The door slowly opened, but I was not prepared for that: Beth looked like
Sasquatch.
Good lord! – I cried. – What has happened to you.
Beth pulled me inside, making me somewhat nervous. She’d completely changed,
all that reminded me of Beth was her eyes. When I looked closer even her body
had changed: Her hands were bigger and more scruffy and her face seemed
broader, even if she always did have a plump appearance.
I don’t know! – she exclaimed. – It started with a little hair growth.
Suddenly I was very nervous. Like your eyebrows? – I asked.
Yes! – Beth looked at me with an expression of companionship I didn’t like. – And
then it escalated. I was supposed to see Doctor Winthers today…
But you cancelled. – I concluded.
Yes. How did you know?
I saw him today.
What did he tell you?
Nothing. He was clueless.
Yeah. I thought as much. What are we going to do?
I felt very uncomfortable by her inclusiveness. Maybe her case was worse than
mine?
I have to get back to the kids.
Right. But if you learn something new, call me ok?

Of course.

When I got back home the pain had resurfaced. Molly left and I began to make
dinner. The kids were playing a video game, meaning Sofie was playing and Rad
watching in awe. I was making the dough for the pizza, as I remembered I needed
to wash. I went to put clothes in the washing machine and then returned to the
pizza.
Rad came out in kitchen. He pulled at my trousers, which was his way of calling
for attention. I turned around, but before I could tell him to stop he had. Then he
began to cry. Sofie came crashing into the kitchen to see what was up. Rad very
seldom cried. Her eyes widened and she began to sob.
Why ar oo wugly mom? – Sofie asked?
Why am I ugly? What kind of question was that?
I ran out the kitchen to check my face in the bathroom mirror. The hair had
returned with a vengeance. But what was worse: I could see my jawline had
changed. Ever so slightly, yet it gave me a look like I was trying to ape an ape. I
closed the door and frantically started to cut the hair. In a few minutes my face was
restored close to normal. I couldn’t do anything about my jaw, but if I half-smiled it
looked kind of okay – which was still terrible. As I came out of the bathroom Sofie
came running. She stopped to inspect me and decided that now I looked
sufficiently mom-like. Rad was standing in the door, then he galloped over and
hugged my leg. I felt my eyes watering, but then I also felt like a singe in my jaw. I
stepped back into the bathroom, with rad still hugging my leg and saw that my jaw

had restored it self. What was going on?

After dinner I cleaned up and felt like sleeping into the next century. Then it was
time for bed for the little ones. I knew I should read a bedtime story, but it became
a very short to-be-continued. The kids were sleepy, so it was alright. Then it was
time for goodnight kisses. I turned off the light, leaving just the goodnight light on.
Rad got a smooch on the cheek and he returned it, but then sputtered and made
some disgruntled noise. When Sofie was up, we did the same. Then she said:
Bleugh – donna like kiss an a air.
I brushed my hair away, but felt how my cheeks had gotten hairy again. To avoid
causing trouble, I got up and said:

Sleep tight and have a dreamy night.

It was in the news:
They call it Monster Mom syndrome. – the speaker announced in a coy manner.
She obviously thought it couldn’t happen to her. – Women all over is being afflicted
by an increasing hair growth and possibly other effects. Science has not yet come
up with an answer. We have Dr. Brewster – MD and a physician at Hopkins
hospital, Dr. Winston – MD and surgeon at St. Marys hospital and Dr. Jordanson –
a psychiatrist, with us tonight. Welcome doctors.
The debate went back and forth and in essence nowhere. Of the three bearded
doctors, it was Dr. Brewster and Dr. Winston who was doing the talking.
It’s merry in the hall when beards wag all. – I thought as I opened the wine and
touched my own hairy chin. Then the moderator said:
Dr. Jordanson you’ve been quite silent tonight. Care to weigh in?
Well – He spoke abruptly as if to keep his thoughts in check – perhaps my
viewpoint will seem a bit fanciful, having to very practical minds on this panel.
Uhm – it’s way too early to say anything absolute, but I would ofcourse look at this
phenomenon from a mental perspective. To avoid boring the esteemed panel and
the possible viewers, if there’s any left, I would theorize that this is a stress based
occurrence. Somehow the body is pressed to produce micro alterations, which with
the lack of a proven stimulus from the outside environment would suggest a –
should we say “mind over matter” scenario. But since we haven’t seen anything
like this before, there must be a catalyst – in the food, water or what have you.
Dr. Winston scoffed and said:
That sure sounds mental to me.
Dr. Brewster were at it like a freight train:
Change doesn’t just happen, otherwise we would have people turning into I don’t
know what. In my experience…

I turned off the tube. After sitting a while, decided to call in sick next day.

The ski mask covered it up, but was hot and I was bothered. I found his number
and called. This is Dr. Jordanson’s office, how can help you?
I’d like to see the Doctor as soon as possible.
Is it…I hope you don’t mind me asking, but is it about this new syndrome?
Yes I think I’m turning into a monster mom.
We’re so glad you called. The doctor would love to see you. When can you come?

I called Molly who was ready to babysit the whole day. She was a peach.

You can remove the mask, if you like Mrs. Dekowitch. – Dr. Jordanson was just as
cool and collected as on the program yesterday. – I’ve been trying to get to talk with
someone suffering from your condition for some time. That is, we’ve only known
about it for less than 2 weeks, but now it’s spreading like wildfire. Let me tell you
what we know so far:
It doesn’t only affect women, there’s been 14 reported male cases. But this number
is dwarfed by the more than 200 female cases we know of. Though we can’t
explain the process in detail the working hypothesis is as follows: Some catalyst
causes change in the hormonal balance. This change must occur due to some
provoked response, be it physical or mental.
Like you said on tv yesterday. – I inserted.
Yes, I’m glad you were paying attention, even if my fellow doctors weren’t pleased
with this idea. So let me speak freely: I’m inclined to think of this as a sort of
Jekyll/Hyde incident. But in a reverse manner: Where the chemicals Dr. Jekyll
consumed had him turn into the ill-tempered Mr. Hyde, this might be more like an
emotional feedback causing the physical change. Of course there’s some agent to
set the changes in motion, but the change stems from the mind.
I think he could see my confusion.
Let me try that one more time: Dr. Jekyll turned into Hyde when he took the drug,
whereas you are taking something that could propagate change, but it doesn’t
happen instantly. Your mind or emotions are controlling the change, but your
personality doesn’t change. The change as far as we know is purely physical.
Nevertheless it is YOU causing the change. That’s at least my theory.
So what do you suggest I do? – I asked.
Put your mind at ease. If theres’ something troubling you, try and deal with it. I’d
like to help you – no charge. My payment is getting to learn more about this, if you
will.

That’s an offer I won’t refuse.

It was worse than I thought. It took months to understand what had happened. I
tried to change my diet, it didn’t help. Began to exercise, it didn’t help. Bought
crystals, incense and candles, it didn’t help. The only thing that seemed to help was
spending more time with Sofie and Rad. But it wasn’t enough. I kept regressing
and changing more and more into a freak.
A lot of cures were promoted, but nothing worked.
Then one day Dr. Jordanson had a breakthrough. I was about to give up on our
therapy sessions, when he asked:
How do you see yourself?
Apart from this thing – I waved my hands to encompass myself – I’m an average
person, normal I’d say.
Okay, but on a scale of good and bad where would you put yourself?
I like to think I’m on the good end of the spectrum, I take care of my kids the best I
can and never raise my voice at the person behind the counter in the supermarket…
Yes. – Dr. Jordanson said it in the voice he had when he disagreed, I had got to
know him a bit as well. – What if I said you really know you’re on the bad end of
the spectrum, but you won’t admit it?
That’s hard to argue against, because I wouldn’t admit to it, would I? He laughed.
Let me put it differently. Most of us or really all of us know we aren’t the good
people we would like to be seen as. But we have to live with ourselves, so we
create this persona as an image of who we like to be and present it to the world. In
so many words, we live a lie about ourselves. That sounds plausible enough, but
what has that to do with me? Everybody does it, as you said.
I Think this is what causes your affliction.
How?
Something has caused your mind to act on the lie of who you are. Like a physical
proof of this mental revolt. And as long as you keep upholding this false image,
your mind will remind you in a very tangible way, that this is not who you are.
So you’re saying I am a monster?
I’m not saying it, but it seems that’s how you really see yourself. And reasonably
so. As I said, deep down we all know we’re some kind of monster.
But why does it mostly affect women?
There’s still the question of what the catalyst is. We’ve been going over this before,
but let’s try it one more time.
You mean my diet?
Yes. Wait a minute. Maybe not your diet. What else do you eat or drink?
Some juice and mostly plain water. I cut the wine and it did help a little.
I would ascribe that to a lessening of guilt feeling, which in turn will give you
some goodie points – that you actually feel and think just a little better about
yourself.
But there’s – hold on, the vitamins. Vitamins?
Yeah, I eat this vitamin supplement specially designed for women. It’s a recent

product. Could it be the culprit?

I am almost back to normal. Or in fact better than normal. I’ve begun volunteering
and it works wonders. Have revised my budget and found that I could make some
cutbacks on lifestyle. I still have to shave as the effect is slow to wear off and there
are relapses as the damage done is irreversible, but the more I do things I know are
good for goodness sake, the more I’ve become the person I really want to be.
The end.