Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms--two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse.
These symptoms include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching (TV-Free America, 2000).
During the year without television I developed a split personality. Well technically it was split into many pieces, many personalities. As such I am not sure if that is still considered a split personality or if it is a fifths personality, but on any account I started pretending to be other people. Keep in mind I have no formal drama training or experience so this stretched my skill set considerably, but all things considered I think I did pretty well.
My personal favorite is Ursula the hairdresser. Ursula came out after all the baths to ensure that everyone got their hair brushed and styled. She is from
Eastern Europe and has a strong accent. An accent that likely sounds nothing like one of an eastern European dialect, but I don’t let that stop me. Practice makes perfect and I did practice a lot. The kids so love Ursula that I find myself morphing into her on a regular basis still to this day.
I also play a restaurant worker, named Martha. Her voice sounds like a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Julia Child and she acts as flamboyant as Liberace. Even I think she is a bit silly and extravagant. Then again I have done a lot of silly things in my day so who am I to judge? Again the kids eat her up so at meal time she usually makes an appearance especially if the kids aren’t eating well and need some entertaining encouragement.
I am also an athletic trainer named Groove. Like Madonna and
Cher, she works on a one name basis. That is how incredibly cool and famous she is. Groove is an energetic, fit-as-can-be, work-out enthusiast and she has the personality that is most like my own. We get along great and because we are so alike I get a little reprieve from my overzealous acting when Groove comes over to lead an aerobics or pilates class. She has led us on many adventures of the calorie burning variety. Sometimes to make it more fun, we exercise in costume. That is when I get out my old legwarmers and leotard and the kids sport princess dresses or bathing suits!
Toward the end of the year I developed yet another personality known as Super Mommy!!! Super Mommy is a super hero mother who rushes to aid children with any need; no task is too small nor too difficult for Super Mommy. All that is needed to get her attention is good manners and a simple request for Super Mommy services. I wish I could say I have a cool spandex suit and a cape for this role, but I am just not that good at sewing. A home-made cape that is nothing more than a baby blanket with brightly colored stripes on it has to suffice for my costume. The voice and the sound effects are what really make this one popular anyways so the outfit isn’t too important. Super Mommy occasionally leaps off from furniture or climbs up on the counters to accomplish her heroic acts. A regular mom, like myself, would never attempt such ill advised stunts. But for Super Mommy the stunts are super simple!
Sometimes I not only change personalities, but I become another species altogether an imaginary one at that. Occasionally it is necessary to become a monster in order to accomplish cleaning of our house. When this is necessary the cleaning monster appears (aka Me) and once the goofy cleaning monster gets involved children become inexplicably more cooperative and helpful. The cleaning monster has helped to clean our house more times than I can count and the kids know better than to argue with the Cleaning Monster because he might bite!
A few times I nearly lost my mind. For real. I know what you are thinking. She is being dramatic; she is exaggerating. But truly during the year there were a couple times that I probably was legally crazy, or insane, or whatever they call it nowadays. I think the proper term is a "psychotic break", but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I nearly lost my mind living without television, but oddly enough I would still do it all over again. Call me crazy!
One such occasion was when the kids were all sick and then as they were all finally getting over it I unfortunately caught their gastrointestinal illness. I think the words (borrowed from one of my all-time favorite movies, Christmas Vacation) I used to describe those couple of days on my blog were, “we have arrived at the threshold of hell”. It was that bad. In short the kids were feeling really good and I was feeling really bad. I thought I was going to lose my sanity in this instance. The kids were in need of entertainment and I was not up to the challenge. A few critically important items got us through this ordeal without watching television and without permanent mental health implications. And they were, in order of importance, books, books and more books. We read for about forty eight hours straight only breaking for mommy’s frequent trips to the bathroom. This was without question one of the toughest times during the year and I was definitely precariously perched on the edge of insanity (and the toilet) on several occasions during this particular episode.
A couple of times I self diagnosed mental health conditions. Once according to Dr. Me, (who lacks any form of training or experience with mental health or psychology mind you) I had Bipolar disorder and I’m pretty sure I may actually have ADHD. Ask my friends. Unfortunately it’s true. These diagnoses seemed likely given the circumstances at the time. Due to the enormous mood swings I experienced a couple times I was fairly certain that Bipolar Disorder was coming on late in life for me. And though he would never admit it, I am pretty sure my husband shared the opinion. I do know that Bipolar Disorder usually affects people in their late teens or early twenties and is defined by major highs and lows in mood. But even given my advanced age, I thought perhaps I was an exception to that rule. Maybe I was a late bloomer because I definitely experienced some serious highs and lows generally in direct relation to Aunt Flo’s visits. It was intensely awful and gave me a new respect for people who actually suffer from Bipolar Disorder.
The ADHD is just a matter of how I operate. I forget things easily, am easily distracted and I have a hard time sitting still and focusing. I’m basically a classic case of ADHD. These were all true long before I started participating in television-free living, but in certain situations my ADHD caused problems. For instance, in the beginning I once forgot that we were living without television and my five-year old had to remind me as I was getting ready to tune into Ellen. Occasionally while entertaining the kids, I would lose focus and wander off to my own little world and the kids would have to rein me back into my role as entertainment specialist in their own little world. I don’t believe in taking pills. I just don’t. This comes from years of conditioning while living with my parents.
However, at one point during the year I had forgotten enough stuff and felt unfocused enough that I decided to self medicate my self diagnosed ADHD with Ginkgo Biloba. A good friend had recommended it so I figure it was worth a try. It didn’t work very well. First of all, I had to remember to take it and that was very hard for me. I mean I was taking it because I felt forgetful. Anyhow, operating on roughly half the recommended dosage, I would still routinely forget stuff and I still couldn’t focus very well. About five weeks into my experiment I quit. It worked for my friend, but not for me. Over all, it all worked out okay for us. We survived the year and you know what they say, “if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger”. Who are they anyways? I think I’m hearing voices?