Brain Dead Serious

The Growths On Just One Side of My Sinus Were Nasal Polyps, Not Cancer — But I Didn’t Know That For Weeks

NOTE: The author was diagnosed with nasal polyps on one side of his nose. The growths had a different look than usual grape-like polyps and surgery and biopsy were ordered by his doctor to rule out malignancy. It turned out the growths were indeed just rotted nasal polyps. This article is about his discovery of his illness, the arduous waiting game for the biopsy results, and his thoughts throughout the entire ordeal. The author apologizes if some sections sound like they make light of cancer and other serious diseases when the intent is the exact opposite. Nothing has made the author empathize more with patients of severe illnesses than what he experienced with the diagnosis and treatment of his nasal polyps. And it his hope that anybody going through the same issues finds some solace and reassurance in this story.

“Your polyp looks different. It’s a different color, black in some areas. It looks like it has veins and solid tissue. We really need to get it biopsied.” Those were the words I heard my ENT doctor say before life left me where I stood… or sat… It’s hard to remember because my mind swiftly drifted out of that room and floated up in the sky.

Mucus That Smelled Like a Stray Dog’s Butt

I’ve always been prone to colds, cough and other respiratory diseases. Sticky, green mucus–the kind that looks like the ooze that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who they are, and which healthy people would consider extremely gross–is more like a pet peeve to me. I’ve been living with it my whole life, usually a minor inconvenience but a constant reminder that my immune system unfortunately isn’t as good as others’. But some 5 weeks ago, my normally green mucus turned to brown, or more like the color of rust, obviously due to significant amounts of blood mixed with it.

My girlfriend, Erika, was horrified the first time I showed the specimen to her on a piece of tissue paper (I guess it’s a measure of intimacy when a couple can pull off disgusting stunts like this). She kept yelling at me to go to a hospital and have it checked but I tried to calm her down, saying I probably just had a wound in my sinus because of my sinusitis. No worries–it should go away soon like all other literally sticky situations before it.

A few days passed. One morning, I woke up, blew my nose, and what came out smelled like the maggoty carcass of a dead rat. Or maybe the butt of a stray dog. It had already been smelling off  and showing streaks of blood for a few days, but that morning the smell was so revoltingly strong I wanted to burn the shirt I used to wipe my nose.

I finally agreed to go to the hospital.

The Discovery

I entered the ENT’s clinic confident I would leave with a prescription for antibiotics and some advice to exercise (which I would most likely ignore because I’m a stubborn idiot). The ENT was a tall man with a calm voice but who was way less spunky than my pulmonologist (whom I loved because he’s spunky and always brought good news that my lungs are clear every year during the annual physical examination which the company I work for required). After describing my symptoms, telling him my mucus was smelly–although not honest enough to describe it as smelling like the maggoty carcass of a dead rat or a stray dog’s butt–he made me sit in a tall chair so that he could peek into my nose.

He sprayed something in my nostrils before sticking an endoscope down each opening. I told him the brown mucus and foul odor only came from the right side, so he started viewing from there.

“Oh. You’ve got a polyp.”

Immediately, my heart sank. Polyp? Did he say polyp? Where did I hear that before? It was such an unexpected development that he actually found something in my nose that shouldn’t be there in the first place that I found myself already panicking.

He definitely said “polyp” and I didn’t know what the heck a polyp was but even then, all I could hear was the “C” word.

“Uh,” I grunted because the long, thin steel instrument was still up my nose as the doctor watched the live feed on a screen.

“It’s big. We need to remove it by surgery. Don’t worry, everything will be done through your nostril. Nothing would be opened.”

There was a rush of images in my head of me lying on a cold table, wearing a hospital gown, and a group of unaffected medical people silently talking among themselves as they poke my nose with long instruments, longer than the one my doctor had already jammed up inside my nose. This was very bad, I thought. Erika would be worried sick and she’d kill me because my hardheadedness to see a doctor was already proving to be a seriously big mistake.

“Hm. It’s really just on this side. Your left side is clear,” said the ENT as he explored the left side.

“There’s mucus. We need to suck that out.” He told me when he went back to the right side. He proceeded to get another instrument from his drawer and switched it on, letting out a buzzing sound, which I assumed was a motor.

In spurts that were slightly satisfying, the instrument sucked out the mucus covering that side of my sinus cavity. All these procedures were new to me and I actually marveled at the fact that my nose wasn’t hurting even as the doctor kept poking it with the endoscope. Again, he expressed his alarm at the size of the thing he discovered.

“It’s huge. That’s why your mucus is smelly. It gets stuck in here and rots.”

Ok. That explanation clarified things. In fact, I had already read about that explanation before I went to the doctor because I did some online research about sinus infections to prepare myself for what I was going to find out. Sometimes, when sinus cavities get extremely inflamed, mucus gets stuck there, serving as plentiful grazing grounds for bacteria, resulting in smelly mucus and sometimes foul breath (which scared the hell out of me for obvious reasons).

“It’s really just the right side. We really need to remove it and have a biopsy done.”

My heart further sank into the floor.

Wait–biopsy? It’s THAT bad?

All of this already felt unreal to me. I could sense my brain trying to block the truth of these quick, unforeseen developments because that’s the only way it could protect itself from the deluge of dark thoughts and emotions trying to burst through.

Immediately after he slid the endoscope out my nostril, I asked him whether polyps are dangerous… Of course what I really meant was did it have any connection with the “C” word.

“Not really… usually. But it is abnormal tissue growth, so we need to do a biopsy.”

Right around this time, I realized how the mind tends to focus on certain words and phrases when it tries to cling on to hopes that everything is fine and nothing terrible is happening. The words “abnormal” and “tissue growth” echoed down the chambers of my being moments after the doctor uttered them, so did the words “biopsy,” “huge,” “surgery.”

“You also need to do a CT scan,” he continued.

All the words the ENT were saying were raising alarm bells in my very soul; he never said the “C” word but that was all I could think of. And I couldn’t believe I was thinking it, given that I arrived at the hospital thinking all I was going to get was an advice to exercise.

I had the CT scan done right after I left the ENT’s office. As the platform lifted me up and slowly conveyed me into that dome, I found myself remembering all those movies and shows I watched of people entering this cold, lifeless machine.

The worst thing was knowing none of those movies or shows ended well with regard to those characters. I was so terrified I’m amazed up to now that I didn’t pass out because there were definitely times that I felt myself trying to automatically shut down the swift unacceptable realities happening one after the other by switching off my own consciousness.

The Horrors of Online Research

Obviously, I didn’t wait ’til I got home to Google what polyps were. Searching the terms “polyp” and “nose” returned encouraging results, which nipped my worries for a short while. Multiple websites would tell you that:

“Nasal polyps are common, noncancerous, teardrop-shaped growths that form in the nose or sinuses. They’re usually found around the area where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity. Mature ones look like peeled grapes.”

“Common.” “NON-CANCEROUS.” Good.

That’s from WebMD and many other sites describe nasal polyps almost the exact same way–with that slightly amusing comparison to grapes (it kind of helps calm you down when you imagine these growths look more like fruits than something nefariously uglier).

The WebMD article further explains that:

Often linked to allergies or asthma, they may cause no symptoms, especially if they’re small and don’t need treatment. Larger ones can block normal drainage from the sinuses. When too much mucus builds up in the sinuses, it can become infected.

Unlike polyps that form in the colon or bladder, nasal ones are rarely cancer. Experts think that long-term inflammation causes them or that they run in families. Nasal polyps aren’t painful to the touch. Medications or surgery can treat most. They may come back, though.

“RARELY CANCER” (still good though the word “rarely” was unwelcome). “Aren’t painful to the touch.” Well, that’s exactly like mine. The doctor kept touching it with his instruments and all I felt was a slight tingling sensation. Again–that’s very encouraging that all I had was a simple, non-cancerous, nasal polyp. “They may often come back, though”–not a problem as long as I could get rid of this batch that’s making the air I breathe in and breathe out smell like the worst kind of infection.

I’ve always advised Erika against diagnosing herself using Google whenever she got sick because I’ve had numerous experiences searching mild symptoms and then finding out later that they exactly match a type of cancer or some other frightening disease, but usually cancer. It always happens. But given that nasal polyps were a mystery to me, I gave myself the license to break my own rule and I kept on browsing site after site, looking for more articles that could give me more assurance that I was all right, so I could actually tuck in that night and not have nightmares about chemotherapy, losing my hair, and losing all our money.

And then somewhere along my fervid online research, I stumbled upon something that stabbed my heart like a cold dagger:

However, there are growths in the sinuses and nose that may look like polyps but can be precancerous or very rarely actually contain cancer. These masses are often on one side of the nasal cavity only, while most true benign nasal polyps are present in both sides. Polyps present in one nasal cavity but not on the other, should be biopsied or removed if they are suspicious.

“Precancerous.” “Often on one side of the nasal cavity only.” “Should be biopsied or removed if they are suspicious.”

Immediately, I remembered with horror how my ENT kept on repeating “Yours is really just on this side.” I thought nothing of it before and actually kind of felt it was a positive thing that my polyp was just on the right side. If both my sinus cavities were blocked, surely that was more serious?

Turns out that was completely wrong when it came to these things.

Digging further, I found more and more articles telling me the same chilling fact: growths on just one side of the nose are unusual and may not actually be polyps (those friendly grape-like things I was just reading about minutes ago), but something else. I realized that’s why my doctor wanted mine to be removed and biopsied–he wasn’t sure he was looking at a benign nasal polyp.

Reading more articles as blood started to drain from my head, I also learned that polyps that bled were even more suspicious. Didn’t my mucus have a ton of blood in it? I was alone in the room because my girlfriend works night shift, but if she were there, I would’ve probably collapsed in her arms as I tried to digest all these dreadful bits of medical knowledge I was discovering.

I probably wouldn’t have slept that night if I didn’t stumble upon an old forum thread where a woman described her own diagnosis of nasal polyp. Hers also appeared on just one side of her nose. Like me, she thought she was totally fine until she checked the Internet and found out “unilateral” growths (appearing just on one side) are unusual and suspicious compared to “ipsilateral” growths (appearing on both sides).

The woman was so wrecked with worry that she maybe had cancer that she was begging for people on that message board for stories where unilateral nasal polyps turned out all right for the patient. And the kind users there did share stories of their friends or loved ones getting diagnosed with unilateral and ipsilateral nasal polyps that were completely benign. Some had theirs removed by surgery, others were able to shrink or cure theirs using nasal sprays, one guy said he was so fed up with his that he blew his nose out so intensely one day that his polyp came out. Gory but it worked (though he responsibly advised against doing it). The woman thanked them all for helping her calm down.

But the stories just weren’t enough. As days went by, the woman described how thoughts of cancer were consuming her day and night, and how she couldn’t wait to get her polyp surgically removed and biopsied. In her last message on the board, she shared the good news that her operation was over and her doctor informed her that her unilateral polyp was benign.

The bad news was she was so overwhelmed by anxiety that she lost her baby. She was pregnant.

It was probably the darkest thread I’ve ever read and I felt so sad for the woman, but perhaps unsurprisingly, her story was the only piece of writing that calmed me down enough to sleep that night.

‘Your Polyp Looks Different’

After a week’s worth of using a corticosteroid spray and tablets, while also taking antibiotics and spraying an additional saline spray into my nose, I went back to the doctor to see whether all those things I did had any positive effect on the growth inside my face.

“It’s still there,” said the doctor, again with the camera in my nose.

“It shrunk a tiny bit but it’s still there.”

I had already talked to my family about the surgery and biopsy in the horizon, while watching my mother’s face sink into worry. I was thinking it might be a while before I needed to do that because all those medicines I was taking could help shrink the polyp–maybe even get rid of it all together because based on what I read, in some cases, corticosteroids handily took care of business.

They didn’t. And the doctor (whom by then was already my least favorite doctor in the world, especially compared to my spunky, bringer-of-good-news pulmonologist) had more bad news to say to me:

“Your polyp looks different. It’s a different color, black in some areas…”

The endoscope kept on poking, turning side to side, looking at various angles.

“It looks like it has veins and solid tissue… We really need to get it biopsied.”

Life left me where I stood… or sat… It’s hard to remember because my mind swiftly drifted out of that room and floated up in the sky.

At that point, it was impossible not to say it out loud in my brain: “cancer.”

We maybe talking about cancer here.

In my nose.

Me.

Me?

Of course, me. Nobody else was in that room after all, sitting in that chair, with a camera up his sinus.

Using the term “C word” in my head was already ridiculous even though that’s what I called it the week before as I tried to push that possibility out of my mind. After the doctor said those words, I could only call it by its proper name, like a devil finally breaking you down so that you can yell out his monstrous name: “cancer.”

Everything turned grey. The ENT’s office with all the books and instruments melted into a haze and nothing was real anymore aside from that dreaded word and the reality it defined.

“Doc,” I asked him after he sucked the mucus out again. “Is this dangerous?”

For about two seconds, his face clearly worked up the best expression to tell me the facts without causing me to have a panic attack. He then said in his calm, almost vacant voice: “Well, we’ll have it biopsied. That could take 3 to 4 business days. Then we’ll know if it’s benign… or malignant.”

That last word squeezed the remaining life out of me.

Nothing Matters–Not Even Game of Thrones

Every single day leading up to the biopsy–not the operation, the biopsy–was torture of an inhumane kind. I still went about my day-to-day tasks, including working my day job, but I couldn’t muster any smile that was genuine. I held everything back from my friends because the thought of dragging them down into the depths of my worries with me was intolerable. My only source of comfort was Erika and my family who showered me with the best food when I came home. But even that food I could barely taste because the prospect of cancer only made you think of cancer. Nothing else.

Not even Game of Thrones.

This might seem like an insignificant detail but I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and the fact that its most epic episodes were not having any positive effect on my mood was a great indication of just how deep depression and anxiety had sunk in. While waiting for my turn to do some tests for the surgery clearance, I remember watching the episode where Daenerys rode her dragon for the first time to burn a massive opposing army, but none of the epicness rubbed in. On the contrary, I found myself wincing inside as I watched fictional characters getting burned alive.

That’s when I realized that any thought of death bothered me, made-up and real. I just wasn’t comfortable thinking about death and I certainly didn’t enjoy seeing it onscreen.

Which wasn’t the case when I was healthy… or part of the fully living crowd. It was then I understood that fully living meant having the freedom to laugh at death while it played its themes safely away, usually behind a screen. Watching death on TV or in the cinema thrilled me, whether it’s characters whose lives are in danger or characters who were actually dying–sometimes the more horrible the method, the better.

All of that stopped the moment it was me whose very life was in peril.

There was a strange, eerie transition from being the audience to the object, feeling like your life–your tragedy–is playing out onscreen for someone to marvel at or cry over. And the worst thing was you couldn’t get out of the situation, like you’re trapped in your own story.

The title of the story would either be “Nasal Polyps” or “Sinus Cancer” but you just didn’t know because you’re inside that story and you couldn’t see the script or the credits.

I had read somewhere that sinus cancers were very rare, and many patients actually had real reason to develop them, such as mining workers whose sinuses were exposed to various harmful elements like nickel. I’ve also been inhaling pollution in the streets my whole life as I travelled to and from school and then later, to and from work; and since two years ago, living in condos had exposed me to more dust, triggering a seasonal allergic rhinitis, which prevents me from breathing normally for months. Living in a third world country was bad–but I was damn sure I wasn’t inhaling anything like nickel.

Despite that, death by sinus cancer still felt like a genuine possibility to me. One horrifying article actually described that your eyes could pop out when sinus cancer spreads, and I kept remembering this documentary I watched in my youth featuring a man whose face was operated on because doctors discovered he had a rare sickness that manifested itself through recurring colds.

Half of that man’s face was removed and replaced with a horrendous prosthetic.

I couldn’t imagine having to go through anything like that.

I couldn’t imagine death or the process by which one gets there.

The Longest Month of My Life

From the moment I heard a biopsy was needed to determine whether my growth was benign or malignant, the results were all I could look forward to. I marked the date on my calendar. I repeated it in my head like a mantra. Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. Then it changed. Friday, Friday, Friday. My life revolved around it, and there was nothing beyond it–no plans, no future, no nothing. It’s like a curtain of static has been pulled over my life and I couldn’t see beyond that day regardless how much Erika told me that it’s going to be all right and that we should plan a trip for our anniversary. I imagined myself reaching a fork in the road and one led to long suffering for me, my family, and friends, while the other led back to life where I left myself waiting a long, long time ago.

I’m not a religious man but it was God whom I talked to throughout this period. I implored him to spare my life and others in the same boat as I was (I kept remembering the woman who lost her baby in the forum thread I read), to give me the strength to face people every day even while I was on the verge of buckling underneath the pressure of it all. Pretending to live was mighty difficult when there was a real chance I already had one foot inside my grave, and I just didn’t know it.

There were times I actually wanted to drop everything all together. What if I just stopped all these checkups and tests? What if I just cancelled the scheduled operation? I mean–I could just live my life not knowing whether I had cancer or not. After all, the smell in my nose had been gradually subsiding since using the saline and corticosteroid sprays.

Perhaps I could just give up and continue my life?

Isn’t this like Schrödinger’s cat–I’m both alive and dead until I actually read the results?

Both alive and dead kind of sounded better than definitely dead.

These were the thoughts that occupied my mind throughout my waking moments but a lot of them were fantasies and an excuse to pass the time.

The day of the surgery (which is by the way called FESS for Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery), I almost didn’t even care what was going to happen, which was probably irresponsible of me. I didn’t think there could be any complications or that I could bleed severely or that I might feel excruciating pain. Somehow, I just knew that my ENT was going to pull it off without a hitch. I kept wishing I could jump forward in time to when I’m already reading my biopsy results–learning about my ultimate fate.

The operation took around 4 hours–or at least that’s the span of time from when my mind totally shut down because of the general anaesthetic to the time I opened my eyes in the recovery room of the hospital’s surgery suite. There wasn’t any pain at all although I was extremely thirsty when I regained consciousness. My doctor repeatedly warned me beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to breathe through my right nostril after the surgery because of the packing inside, but I could breathe in and out just fine when I woke up. There was some relief–but not because the operation was over, but because I knew I was one step closer to Friday.

I plodded through seven more days before I was finally in that room I imagined millions of times in my head, waiting for a hospital clerk to hand me the documents that would reveal my destiny. I was with Erika whom I missed terribly even though I was with her every day. Minutes from now, I knew I was either going to collapse crying or scream with joy… or maybe I would still collapse crying regardless of the results. Looking around the medical records office, it was haunting knowing that countless people have retrieved their results from that small room, many of them probably breaking down in the arms of their loved ones when they saw their future at last.

I was still putting my signature on some acknowledgement forms when the clerk handed Erika the test results. I didn’t ask her right away but I was watching her in the corner of my eyes, looking for any sign that spelled my doom. For a couple of seconds, I was almost sure that my nightmares had come true because she was reading the papers so silently–no smile or any sign that there was good news at all.

“What does it say?” I finally asked her, my voice cracking, as I took the documents from her hand.

I immediately scanned for familiar words. No mention of “cancer” nor “tumor.” Nothing said “malignant” or “pre-malignant” or “pre-cancerous.” Nothing.

To my surprise, I didn’t fall down bawling nor jumped with joy. Perhaps it was just my severe exhaustion after reaching the end of this long treacherous journey, but I simply smiled, embraced Erika, and said “It looks like I’m ok.”

We immediately went up to my ENT’s office and showed him the results. He confirmed the good news–the great news–that my growths (because there were two of them that were removed) were indeed just nasal polyps. My doctor had shown me pictures of them after my operation and they looked nothing like grapes. They were unevenly shaped shiny masses colored brown and red with some parts yellow. According to my doctor, the reason for that was because the polyps themselves had rotted (not only my mucus) because of the legions of bacteria that had thrived there.

The packing in my nose was removed by my doctor after another week. Once the ordeal was over, I saw my ENT in a different light–somebody who had saved my life by taking away the main culprit for my recurring infections, which I thought could’ve developed into something more serious had no action been taken to correct the situation. Needless to say, I was thankful to him, and to Erika, to my family, and to all my friends who supported me and expressed their concern for me throughout that dark period.

The truth is I was grateful for everyone and everything. Even people who never knew I was sick. People who never knew who I was. People in the streets. Stray dogs and cats. To God.

I was–I am thankful for life.

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Brain Dead Serious

8 Ways to Find Your True Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life

A life without meaning is a life not worth living. If you wake up every day not really knowing why you should even go on and not just go back to sleep for all eternity, well, one could say without being too blunt that you’re overdue for a personal session with the good ol’ rope and bucket. To help you avoid such a gruesome ending to your days, and be a complete human being who greets the world with a sunshiny smile every morning, we have compiled tried and tested ways that will aid you in your desperate search for that elusive meaning of existence.

1. Travel around the world! — Have you ever stopped to wonder just how tiny the portion of earth you’ve covered contentedly going to and fro your office every single day? Shame on you if you haven’t even visited another country or gotten to know a different people! Everyone knows you won’t find any meaning in the same boring hellhole you’ve been living in for the past 25 years. The secret of existence is a precious nugget of knowledge only starving people in the slums of Asia and the deserts of Africa can give you. In exchange for some clean water. And chocolate bars.

2. Start living the beach life. — Did you know that all life came from the oceans? Yes, evolution tells us that we all started out as glorious sea creatures before adaptation gave us ugly legs that enabled us to walk the earth, thus, effectively condemning ourselves to centuries of toiling this godawful land. It’s high time we go back and embrace the high tide. Sell all your belongings and move to a seaside community where you’ll be in touch with your early evolutionary roots. But we don’t mean just spend your days getting a tan and riding a banana boat–that stuff is for common tourists who might as well drown themselves for living meaningless, hedonistic existences! You have to sell everything, even your clothes, and essentially… become a fish. You can start by cutting gills into your neck.

3. Surf! — Of course, not everyone is ready to go full fish. That’s ok. You can still be one with the water while retaining your mammalian respiratory system by surfing! Get your own surfboard and start riding the waves, contemplating the purpose of all this–everything around you–in between troughs and crests. Propelled by that strange force only the laws of physics can sufficiently explain, you can begin by pondering that question pulsating right at the very heart of this existential conundrum: why are you trying to stand on a plastic plank in the middle of a goddamn body of water? Also, why are you listening to reggae and acting all Rastafarian when you don’t really give a shit about anything except the height of your waves? These are basic philosophical puzzles that you will nonetheless fail to answer because you have the attention span of a Brazilian wax landing strip.

4. Climb mountains. — Meaning is one of the hardest things to get on earth, second only to 8 hours of sleep. So if you can’t find meaning on the seafloor, it could be on a mountaintop. Pack your mountaineering equipment and brace yourself for hours and hours of miserable walking like a Hobbit on a mission to Mordor. Hiking is a prime, literal example of the journey being more important than the destination because discovering the key to the mystery of Being lies along the arduous trek to the top. What basically happens is that you’re putting yourself in so much unnecessary pain and anguish that when you finally see there’s nothing at the top but the same crappy soil you’ve been trudging on forever and a sky that looks as plainly sky-ish as skies get, cognitive dissonance kicks in and you tell yourself blatant rubbish like “Those people down there need to see this or they’re missing out on life.” Maybe. Or maybe they can just simply look at your pictures on Facebook in the comfort of their own basements while munching on Cheetos.

5. Do yoga. — Meditation is so passé. Unless you’re ready to go full monk and burn yourself (alternative to going full fish), you’ll never find meaning in mere meditation. What you need to do is yoga. It’s deep and hip, and it’s filling your Instagram with mutant women doing cartwheels. This spiritual and ascetic discipline from India is your expressway to existential enlightenment–and the best part of it is you can do it every day after work or on weekends (if you’re a filthy casual). Stretch your muscles in various torturous ways and bend yourself in horrific shapes reminiscent of nothing less than the human centipede. The goal is to achieve complete spiritual calm in the midst of all this bodily chaos. The more farts you unintentionally release and the more bones you crack, the better. Snapping your own neck and rendering yourself in a vegetative state actually gets you nearer Nirvana because perfect immobility opens up all those stubborn chakra valves that get in the way of true self-understanding.

6. Collect things or build stuff. — The very purpose of our opposing thumbs is to enable us to hold little things that our ape cousins can’t. You’re wasting your potential as a perfect crafting machine if you keep your hands idle. So get into the building business and start disappearing for days only to randomly reemerge in the living room with a neckbeard and stinking of vomited nachos to the utter shock of others. You may also collect stuff like action figures, stamps, dried bugs, toenail clippings, and your neighbor’s underwear (if you’re that kind of sick). The point is to shut yourself in so much and drive yourself to unholy levels of unkemptness that the world will only be too happy to leave you the fuck alone. And in those long, lonely moments when your introspection is at maximum, you’ll surely stumble upon some kind of meaning to the utter madness. If not, well, at least you have a badass sailing ship replica that screams “voluntary self-castration.”

7. Fall in love! — How often have we all heard that love is the answer? Well, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear it because it’s true–love is the answer! Or rather, it’s kind of a lazy summary of the answer. The answer in its complete form is this: “You are an incomplete shell of flesh who’s pretty much useless and obviously pathetic if you are unable to find someone who has a great need to suck your face in public. Someone who has such a great appetite for sucking your face in public that he or she will do it frequently and over a lengthy period of time even as you start showing him or her the true you who’s an overall idiot and couch potato. Once you find this strange person with an insatiable need for sucking your face, never let him or her go because you’ve made it, baby, and it’s all that really matters in life.”

8. Drink. — And finally, when all else fails, drink. Gulp that alcohol down until you find some meaning at the bottom of the glass. Repeat ad infinitum if no sobering existential epiphany happens. As a last resort, you may try breaking that glass or bottle against the table and then holding the jagged teeth close to your heart. Do it quickly like you’re grabbing the hand of someone you love whom you’ve not seen in a long time. Trickling blood is a good sign life is finally leaving you, and you’ll soon be able to ask god himself just what the heck the point of living is. Of course, you’ll soon find out that everyone up there already knows the big secret; they’re laughing their butts off about it every day before sermons. Too bad none of them can actually go back and tell the tale, including you.

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Brain Dead Serious

A Man Who Can’t Shake the Feeling that People Around Him Can Tell He’s Dying Slowly

DON: Good evening. This is Don Fernandez, your host for another edition of The Human Condition, bringing you the most striking interviews of common people you wouldn’t normally think about if you had something better to do. Tonight–Mr. Felix Castaneda–a man who can’t shake the feeling that people around him can tell he’s dying slowly.

Mr. Castaneda–can I call you Felix?

FELIX: Sure, sure. Please call me Felix.

DON: Felix. You called us for this interview to say that you have a suspicion that people around you can tell you are dying slowly. Is that correct?

FELIX: Yes, yes. Correct. I think it’s pretty obvious that they know I am dying slowly, right this very moment.

DON: And pray tell what makes you think that?

FELIX: Well, for the most part, I just feel it. But something happened that made me confirm without a shadow of a doubt my deepest suspicions. See, the other night, I was walking toward the train platform and was panting really hard because the stairs were so high, and I almost ran into this man who stared at me as if he was looking down on my coffin slowly being lowered six feet into the ground. Like he was ready to throw flowers down on me and getting ready to stomp the fresh earth above my grave after listening to my eulogy and disrespecting the priest.

DON: I see. That is quite a detailed and descriptive way of interpreting a stranger’s single look. Or glance. How long did he actually take a look at you anyway?

FELIX: Uhm, about 2 or 3 seconds…

DON: 3 seconds?

FELIX: Uhm. More like 2…

DON: 2?

FELIX: Probably 1.5…

DON: 1.5? You can tell all that from a stranger looking at you in just 1.5 seconds?

FELIX: Yes. And I can tell he didn’t feel too sorry for me, too. Like he was glad I’m dying. Like he was blaming me for all the wrong choices I’ve made in my life. That I never took great care of my dogs. That I married this woman who really didn’t love me but whom I only got pregnant on a particularly drunken night when I got retrenched from my first job. And I could also see it in his eyes that he condemned me for all those years I failed to go to church even after secretly believing in God again because atheism didn’t seem to be that cool anymore after college. Especially when I was accumulating all sorts of terminal illnesses–

DON: Wait, wait. Felix. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’m sure that guy never really thought of any of that because he only looked at you for more than a second.

FELIX: 1.5 seconds.

DON: Yes, 1.5. I mean, if he were looking at you for like, I don’t know, 5 or 6 seconds perhaps… he might have actually shown you something more tangible.

FELIX: That’s jumping to conclusions.

DON:

I’m sorry. What did you say?

FELIX: I said you’re jumping to conclusions.

DON: That’s… Felix, can I please remind you that it was you who got this crazy idea that a random stranger on a train station thought you’re dying slowly because he looked–glanced–at you for 1.5 seconds.

FELIX: Correct.

DON: And that I was only positing the possibility that you might be incorrect because such a time span is too short. But maybe–just maybe, 5 or 6 seconds of looking could be more, er, revealing.

FELIX:

You’re jumping to conclusions.

DON: Wha–I can’t believe this.

FELIX: You should check your facts.

DON: I can’t even… Jesus. Anyway…

You mentioned you were actually accumulating terminal diseases. How long exactly have you got to live?

FELIX: Uhm, let’s see… If I take that into account… and that… and that one.. my rough estimate is 3 months.

DON: 3 months? YOUR rough estimate? What does your doctor say?

FELIX: I’m sorry. Whose doctor?

DON: Your doctor.

FELIX: I don’t have a doctor.

DON: You don’t have a doctor. So this is just you estimating that you’ll only live for 3 more months.

FELIX: Hmm. Actually I just remembered that other thing… so it’s more like 1.5 months.

DON: 1.5. Why am I not surprised?

FELIX: I don’t know. Should you be?

DON: I don’t think so. Ok, let’s discuss that. So according to YOUR estimate, you only have 1.5 months more to live…

FELIX: Yes.

DON: And what illnesses are causing you to die right this very moment such that you’ll surely be gone in 1.5 months?

FELIX: Oh, you know, the laundry list. Cancer, HIV AIDS, advanced heart disease, ebola, the bubonic plague–

DON: And I assume all these diseases weren’t actually diagnosed by a doctor, but were actually just… conjured by you one morning while you were, I don’t know, sipping a cup of coffee in your porch?

FELIX: How did you know that? That’s amazing!

DON: Frankly I’m not surprised. Because I think in addition to all these terminal illnesses, you also have a mental problem.

FELIX: Why now… that’s unsubstantiated!

DON:

FELIX: That’s plain preposterous! Why would you wish something as serious as a mental illness on someone?

DON:

FELIX: You think just because you’re a popular reporter with your own TV program that you can just barge into someone’s life and tell them what’s wrong about them? How could you? And my god–actually accusing someone of mental illness! There are thousands of people who actually suffer from mind diseases, you know. You should try to be more sensitive about the things you say. It’s 2015, people have got to learn to respect their fellowmen…

DON: I’m afraid we have to cut our program short for tonight. ‘Til next time. This is Don Fernandez, host of The Human Condition, saying goodnight and good luck.

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