Shut up…You don’t have OCD

I have written about OCD before…quite a bit, since I have lived with it in varying degrees since I was a child.  I’m not talking cutesy perfectionist shit.  Real obsessive compulsive disorder requiring real treatment.

I came across this article on Facebook today, and I only hope it gets the reads it deserves.  As I have mentioned before, and what is concisely stated in the article by an actual doctor  (if my word isn’t enough):  OCD differs from idiosyncratic quirks and/or having an obsessive personality in that it causes actual distress to the sufferer and oftentimes interferes with their ability to function on a day to day basis in a normal fashion. (One example-which is not to say all people with OCD would manifest in this way: have you ever been late to work because you wanted to be sure the stove was off even though you stood there looking at the stove knob clearly in the off position?  Your brain still sends you signals of doubt and stress so much so that you can’t even believe your eyes.)

“‘Obsessive’ is a personality trait. It doesn’t get in the way of your functioning, it’s something you prefer. What people are meaning to say is, ‘I am obsessive rather than OCD,’ ” says Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. “You’re now mixing a distressing psychological disorder with a personality preference, and when you mix them, you lose the severity of the disorder.”

With OCD, there are obsessions (unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that repeat in a person’s mind) and compulsions (acts that a person repeats in order to “get rid” of these obsessions). These compulsions are often done in a desperate attempt to protect oneself from the wave of anxiety the obsessions bring, not because the person actually wants engage in the compulsion. (source)

It’s not even about being oversensitive (although it is insensitive to downplay someone else’s suffering.)  It’s also about awareness.  As stated, there are varying degrees of this illness, and some people can live with it untreated (although they likely have their own personal rituals or adjustments to their lives that allow them to do so, some people may benefit from behavioral modification techniques (supervised by a professional,) and some, like myself, may never feel comfortable enough to be off medication.   Some people suffer in silence for years, ashamed, afraid…generally miserable captives of their own runaway anxiety and relate compulsions designed to alleviate said anxiety.  Howard Hughes, American aviator, engineer, industrialist, film producer and director (1) (2), was notorious for his bizarre behavior which was eventually attributed to OCD.

People with OCD, we’re not crazy (although we certainly feel like we are going crazy sometimes.)  There is nothing “wrong” with us, at least nothing that should be stigmatized or judged.  I really view it as no different from someone who must take insulin everyday to survive.  My body lacks a specific chemical/chemical reaction that most “normal” people have.  It may not be preferable, but it’s how it is, and I feel lucky to live in a time where there are medications to help me manage this issue.  However, even in this age, there are some people that have a startling lack of knowledge about a fairly prevalent illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD affects about 2.3% of the United States population age 18 to 54 years (ie, approximately Americans). An additional 1 million children and adolescents have the disorder. (source)

The point is that, undiagnosed people who suffer from this likely feel alone, confused, and afraid, so instead of people being glib or using OCD as the punchline in some kind of joke, wouldn’t it be better to try to help by spreading awareness and offering assistance?

I’d also like to point out that as with many “mental illnesses” in this country, people who suffer from OCD are not usually a danger to anyone, except for maybe themselves if they feel they can no longer handle their anxiety and the resultant compulsive behaviors.

Anyway, I can’t think of a neat way to wrap this up so I’ll just say, unless you’re feeling particularly distressed by your obsessions or quirks, (in which case, I feel for you and the are people who can help,) you don’t have OCD so stop telling people you do.

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Good-bye, Robin. I’m Sorry.

I’m sure people will be posting ad nauseam on here about Robin William’s apparent suicide…and that’s okay.  It has occurred to me more than once how Facebook and other social media have come to play a big part in our grieving process, from sharing memories, to revelling in our loved one’s presence for just a bit longer, to sharing our grief with others…

But I just want to say one thing, and it’s about mental illness…depression….anxiety.

It’s amazing how many people do not have a full understanding of what true clinical depression and anxiety are like.  These illnesses are diagnosed now more than ever before, and I’m sure their inevitable over-diagnosis leads some people to believe they are not that serious.  True clinical depression and anxiety are not situational.  “Why are you sad?  Why are you anxious? Did something happen? Are you unhappy?” or by extension “What reason do you have to be depressed?”

As someone who suffers from both anxiety and depression since early childhood, I don’t mind answering honest questions, but I am tired of the stereotypes, and especially tired of the use of the term “mental illness” as a buzz word or scapegoat for every dirtbag that would walk into a school with a gun and blow through a clip before shooting himself, thus putting us out of his misery.

This, what happened to Robin Williams, is the true face of mental illness in this country.  For me personally, having grown up always with this man in the periphery, his voice talents, his acting, always with good cheer and humor, (not to mention the fact that he reminds me of my Dad in some ways,) the idea that someone so warm and (by all accounts) genuine and caring, felt low enough to take his own life is unutterably sad.

Yes, he left behind a wife and grown children who will grieve him, but he didn’t take it to a public place with the intent to harm others or to garner attention or fifteen minutes more in the spot light.  He went quietly, and in the end the person who suffered the most was him.

Not with a bang but a whimper. 

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Is Confession Good For the Soul?

Before this goes any further, let me qualify that question.

–I’m not talking about religion or conversations in the booth with your priest.

–And I’m not only talking about your soul.

I’m talking about confession on a more interpersonal level.  Relationships.  Deceit.  Guilt.  Confession.  Truth.

Mostly romantic relationships, but it can really be any relationship.

Guilt has been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember.  Even before my OCD was diagnosed, and long after, part of my ritual to expel guilt was that I needed a confessor. My mom usually fulfilled this role, even though most often the guilt du jour had nothing to do with her.  Often my confessions were embarrassing and tedious, to both me and my chosen confessor, and were more often then not unnecessary, as my guilt was more a product of my OCD than anything I had actually done wrong.  Though my OCD is now better controlled, there are still times of high stress where I feel a formless guilt and a compulsion to “confess” something to the most important people in my life.

However, the majority of people experience guilt normally, in response to appropriate things, and in varying degrees.  What they do in response to that guilt is as individual a thing as the guilt itself.  Especially when the guilt involves a close romantic partner or spouse.  Relationships are complicated and successful relationships and lasting romantic connection take work.  When asked, most people would likely agree (at least out loud) that honesty is the best policy, although some of those people would likely also tell you there is such a thing as too much honesty.  I’m guessing there are many people, men and women, that would admit having told a “white lie” now and then, to spare their partner’s feelings.

 

Do you think I’ve gained weight?

Does my hair look thinner to you?

What do you think of my mother?

Sure, honey, dinner was good.

Yeah, I got off…

 

While I do agree with the use of tact and sensitivity, I am personally not a fan of the “white lie.”  I don’t lie to my husband, even about little things.  You may not believe me, and that’s okay, but I think I already demonstrated that I have a pretty overactive conscience with regards to some people.  That’s just me.  I don’t know if it’s the norm or not, or how many people do tell white lies to their spouse with little ill-effect on their conscience, and I am making no judgments.

What I am curious about are the big things?  Lies about our past…hiding money…cheating…

Any secrets or lies that would seriously damage a relationship, or at the very least, hurt you or your spouse emotionally if they ever came out.

There seem to be two main school of thought regarding secrets, lies, and whether or not to confess.  Some people feel that confessing, telling the truth, clearing the air, is the only right thing to do.  If you love someone, you don’t hide things from them or lie to them.  Period.

Then there is the school of thought that confession is actually a selfish act, done more to assuage the guilt of the “confessee” than out of any desire or need to right a wrong.  That there is no point in hurting the wronged party more by confessing, when nothing can actually be gained from truth coming out.  For example, you cheated on your spouse.  It was a mistake, a one time thing, you feel horrible, and you know it will never happen again.  What will confessing do but hurt your spouse, your relationship?

(We won’t go into the school of thought that is “deny, deny, deny,” even when confronted with evidence.  I think people that do that are operating with a questionable moral compass to begin with.  That’s all about self preservation, and guilt doesn’t much factor into it.)

Personally, I always advocate honesty, but if there was going to be criteria on “when to tell the truth,” I’d say the deciding factor should be the answer to one question.

Would the relationship change significantly, would feelings or actions of either party be different if the were the truth known?  

After all, how can a relationship be secure, be real, if both parties are not operating with all the facts ? Would your girlfriend leave you if she knew you cheated?  Would your husband forgive you if he knew you went off the pill even after he said he wanted no more children?

Anyway, I am curious to know what you guys think.  Consider this sort of an informal reader poll…

To tell or not to tell…

Talk to the Queen.

 

honesty

 

 

 

It’s A Beautiful Day

Days like this have a strange effect on me.  It’s beautiful: about sixty five degrees, bright, breezy.  The pretty little weeds that look like tiny flowers are all over the grass.  Birds are chirping loudly in the trees.  Weather like this, days like this, make me feel energized and uplifted.

photo credit: jennahsgarden.com/

photo credit: jennahsgarden.com

And yet they also make me feel nostalgic and strangely bitter-sweet.  The sights, the sounds, the feel and smell of the breeze drifting in my open window– are all like ghosts of my childhood, sneaking into the house of my mind through my five senses.  It’s subtle, because there’s not necessarily any one specific memory.  It’s more like a general and pervasive mood.  And it’s slightly depressing.

There’s some truth in the saying “You can’t go home again.”  I’ve thought about it before; in terms of my family, I can never go back to being that little girl that didn’t know that Uncle Jimmy* was an alcoholic or that Uncle Mark* used to beat Aunt Maggie up.  I can’t go back to being the little girl that picked violets in my grandmother’s huge backyard; that house was sold many, many years ago and my grandma died last May.

I’ll be 32 next month and sometimes I feel like my college and high school days were just yesterday.  Today I was outside watching my toddler run around in the grass.

It’s scary.  I blinked and got “old.”  What if I blink again and my daughter is grown up?  Blink once more and I’m old and about to die?  Maudlin thoughts like these remind me of my preteen days.  These thoughts are like a throwback to the confused kid I used to be, the one who stood looking out the window, with a vague feeling of seemingly no origin, a feeling of “something’s not right”– It was a time when my thoughts were often ruled by a nameless anxiety I didn’t understand.  I was preoccupied with the passage of time and how untenable it was.

And though I’m medicated and therefore better at being the master of my anxieties and fears, rather than the slave, it’s still something I think about.  And days like this seem to bring those feelings back in a very nonspecific, formless sport of way, almost more like an association than a complete thought.

But no amount of worrying or melancholy will change these things.  Time passes, things change, people grow old and die.  The best I can do is live every moment and live in the moment.  And today is a beautiful moment to live.

Hopeless Doodler…No, Really. I’m Hopeless.

Inspired by a post I happened upon, I decided to doodle in Paint for a while… but it seems my OCD and won’t even allow me to freestyle too much, even when I’m just doodling.  This is what I ended up with.

doodle1

doodle2

doodle3

See?  I can’t even doodle without some sort of order or pattern…  I’m hopeless.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Monk

I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it before, but Hubs and I don’t have cable (which around here, you need even to bring in the major broadcast channels.)  We’re pretty used to it, managing with our extensive DVD collection, games, and rented/borrowed TV series.  In fact, it’s kind of spoiled me in terms of TV, because I have even less tolerance for commercials than before, and if I get into a show, I’d hate to have to wait a whole week between episodes (damn instant gratification.)

Anyway, recently we acquired access to Hulu and whole new worlds of TV series have opened up to me!

hallelujah praise the lawd

Right…so, anyway, I’ve been watching re-runs of Monk, a show I had watched before, but not on a regular basis.  Here’s the basic premise, if you’ve never seen the show.

Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb in a parking garage.

Trudy’s death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown.  He was then discharged from the force and became a recluse, refusing to leave his house for three and a half years.

Monk’s compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, claustrophobia, driving, food touching on his plates, messes and risk.  The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases. These same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, such as his sharp memory, specific mindset, and attention to detail.

Talent Names - Tony Shalhoub

Well, I like the show.  I mean, I don’t ask much from my television and movies, usually.  Mostly I just want to be entertained, distracted.  Monk is pretty much your typical crime drama, except with an added element of dark humor based largely on the antics of the main character.  And it definitely has its funny moments…

But it’s also irritating to me, on several levels.

The same thing that makes the show funny in one moment can make it borderline infuriating the next moment. Monk’s inability to perform even the simplest task without making a mountain out of a mole hill, and his tendency to alienate every other person he meets with his paranoid and compulsive behaviors is often cringe-worthy.  It’s no wonder Sharona (his assistant until season 3) threatens to quit every other episode.  The man can’t function without her, yet he’s often ambivalent or oblivious to her needs or feelings.


(I think that clip is in another language, but it was the only one I could find of the beer race.)  Note the dudes are chugging straight from the pitcher, while Monk is insisting on pouring Sharona the perfect cup of beer, until she yells, “It’s a race, Monk!” and snatched her own pitcher, gulping it down, and putting her opponents to shame.  WIN for Sharona!

Aside from the small annoyances, there’s another reason this show bothers me, and that is the treatment of OCD in the series.  One thing I noticed is that although one of the early episodes makes a point of mentioning that Trudy’s death pushed Monk over the edge (perhaps implying that Monk’s behavior is extreme even for OCD,) I have yet to hear Sharona actually use the technical term/diagnosis when attempting to explain away Monk’s odd or downright rude behavior to people he’s offended.  I haven’t even heard his therapist use much actual medical terminology.  As I am not even past season two episodes yet, there may well eventually be some more direct discussion of his diagnosis, but I haven’t seen it yet.  The point is, it seems like they want to use OCD as a comedy prop, but almost like they’re afraid to actually name it.  Could it be that the show’s writers are attempting to cover their asses should they offend any actual people with OCD (like me?)  But I’m not even offended, really.  I can take a joke as well as the next person.

What bothers me about this is the stereotype it spreads.  Maybe it would be different if they were writers were to make a point of specifically detailing the idea that Monk’s OCD is an extreme version.  See, half my life I’ve heard people carelessly self-diagnose themselves as “being OCD”, or having OCD simply because they have a few idiosyncratic habits.  That’s not OCD.  OCD is an anxiety disorder wherein the patient feels significant anxiety from consuming thoughts and ideas, usually only finding relief through the performance of rituals, rituals which may or may not have any logical link to the fear.  Being a little germ phobic and washing your hands often, or checking the stove a couple extra times is not OCD, not unless you feel so anxious and upset about these things that you can’t NOT perform the accompanying rituals.  So when a person in casual conversation claims to “be” OCD, I kinda have to restrain an impulse to bitch-slap them.  That’s like a person taking some Excedrin for their “migraine” and feeling better– if you feel better after some Excedrin, you didn’t have a migraine; you had a headache.   Until you are cowering in a dark corner or kneeling in front of your toilet, until you feel like you might stroke out from the pain, until your vision is affected or you’ve been to the ER, you probably haven’t had a migraine.  You wouldn’t tell a person with skin cancer you know how they feel because you’ve had a sunburn before, would you???

You see my point right?  Anybody who has seen some ridiculously false and misinformed status repeatedly re-posted on Facebook knows it doesn’t take much to fool misinformed or uneducated people.  I wonder how many people watching Monk think that all people with OCD are like Monk.  I wonder if they’d call us freaks.  And I wonder if they truly understand, as they watch this show that treats OCD like some goofy little character flaw, how truly horrible it can be for someone who does not have their symptoms under control.

Help! I’m a Compulsive Multi-tasker!

My regular readers probably know by now that compulsions are no new thing for me.  I was diagnosed with OCD over 18 years ago.  That and my studies in psychology have led to a lot of introspection and self-analysis of my behaviors.   I sometimes wonder where my OCD ends and my real personality begins.  Or maybe I’ve dealt with it so long, in ways it’s shaped my personality.

This isn't me...but it may as well be...

This isn’t me…but it may as well be…

That said, I’m not sure if my propensity for multi-tasking is rooted in OCD, or a conditioned thing.  It’s probably both.  Or maybe it’s more closely related to an addiction-type disorder.In any event, lately I’m finding it all but impossible to do only one thing.  The two main culprits are the television and the internet.  I started watching back episodes of Grimm lately.  I’m really into the show…yet I tend to miss a lot of little things each episode because I am usually seated on the floor in front of the laptop, either bouncing back and forth between Facebook and this blog, or I’m playing Fishdom.  Fishdom, for crying out loud!  It’s actually burned into my brain!  My art has fallen by the wayside in the wake of other things, but when I draw, I often have something on the TV…like white noise.

I’m practically incapable of just sitting on the couch and watching TV now.  My blog is like my baby, so my compulsive stat checking and commenting is excusable.  What is not excusable is that my two year old finds it necessary to climb in my lap and sit in front of me to get my attention.  I’m not saying I ignore her, and all parents need and deserve a break sometimes.  She is by no means “neglected…”   But I do spend a lot of time on the computer during the day.  And maybe part of it is just that she’s accustomed to us showering her with attention or that she’s just being a normal two year old.  I dunno; this is the first time having one of my very own (a toddler, I mean.)  And even though I love playing with her and seeing her laugh and learn, it’s hard to have an extensive conversation with a two year old…especially when they barely talk…     I mean, she’s a chatterbox, but her conversational topics are few.

I find myself sneaking peeks at the computer screen even when I’m playing with her or doing other things.  Sometimes, I just have to shut the damn thing, so I leave it alone for a bit.

I’ve lived without cable TV for years.  I’m the point now where when I do watch TV, usually over other people’s houses, commercials drive me more crazy than ever, because I am so used to watching DVD box sets or downloaded shows with little to no commercials.  So I know I can live without it because I do.  Elementary, right, my dear Watson?

I’ve lived without internet before.  But these things are like many other habits, easy to form and hard to break.  When our internet connection was gone, I didn’t mind not having Facebook access so much as I hated not being able to access my blog regularly… yet I still find myself compelled to check Facebook often now that I have regular access to it once again.

One of my main concerns is that I’ve basically conditioned myself have a sort of attention deficit disorder.  I don’t mean I fear a clinical diagnosis of that, but more that I am annoyed by my need to be entertained so constantly that I need to do not just one thing, but multiple things.

All day long while doing these things to entertain myself, I also do dishes, laundry, and take care of my daughter.  I exercise and fix food.  This type of multi-tasking is necessary to run an efficient home.  The problem comes in when I can’t devote my full attention to any one task because I feel the need to do more than one at any given time.

Anyway, last night, for my daughter more than anyone, I decided that if I’m not actively writing and article or story, I’m going to try to limit my time on the computer.  I’ll get up and do my “morning check” of all my stats, comments, and notifications on both WordPress and Facebook.  But then I’m going to step away for a while.  My child deserves my full attention.  So does my husband, and even my art and writing.  Just not all at once.