Archive for ‘OCD’

2 April, 2011

Saturday Seven: I’m Not Afraid…Much…

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List the things you’d do if you weren’t so afraid.

Oh Lizz, how appropriate. How did you know that I was afraid of things?

I try to pretend that I’m not really afraid. And I seek out things to do to prove it. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I gave blood. I’m TERRIFIED of needles, but I did it as part of a bargain I made with myself. The letter of recommendation I so desperately needed went through – and so, I gave back. I am on my way out the door as we speak, to stand up in front of a crowd of people and speak. I like to climb things.

But the truth is, as you all know, that I am afraid of a lot of things. Maybe not heights or public speaking, but other things.

If I weren’t so afraid, I would…

1. Give Myself Permission to Fail. Because cognitively, I know that we learn as much from our failures as from our successes. Because I spend so much time worrying about what might happen if I fail, that I sometimes forget to enjoy the process. And chances are, failure wouldn’t happen. But if I could just give myself the permission to do it? That would be golden.

2. Write a Novel. SO MANY times I’ve started. So many. And I get halfway through, start hating everything I’ve done, questioning my plot, my characters, my story… and then I either stop, or start over from scratch. It would be nice to actually finish one of my stories, without being so afraid that I’m not doing a good job at it.

3. Go out Dancing. Kelly wishes I’d do this. I’ve done it… once. But crowds scare me. I’m claustrophobic as hell, and being stuck in the middle of a crowd of people, unable to move, with their sweaty bodies all over mine? Panic attack waiting to happen.

4. Ride Rollercoasters. I don’t know if this really counts. I hate them. I hate rides. I hate the feeling of sickness and anticipation. I have drugs for that feeling, dammit, and I don’t go out of my way to seek it out. But I see other people having fun on them, and I’m jealous. I wish I liked them. I wish that they didn’t scare me so much.

5. Eat Healthier. I think this one is a combination of the OCD and the Sensory Processing issues I have (certain textures are just intolerable to me). I have a confession. I don’t like vegetables. Or many fruits. Or anything whole grain. And trying new foods for me is scary – I don’t know why. I’ll get a forkfull of something in front of my mouth and just…can’t…open… because it might be nasty. As if eating nasty things is the worst thing in the world. I know my diet is lacking. And if I weren’t so afraid, I would try new things. For now, I stick to my meat, cheese, bread, and potatoes.

6. Throw Away the Boxes of Rubber Gloves that are stored in my apartment. Boxes. In all shapes and sizes. Latex and vinyl – just in case. The OCD hasn’t been bad enough for me to wear gloves in public in almost a year, but I still use them to clean out my refrigerator, take out garbage, and do other things that are, well… scary… because I’m afraid if I get anything on my hands, I’ll go off in a washing fit and scrub myself raw. They take up room I could be using for something else. And I really wish I wasn’t so afraid to be without them.

7. Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth. I usually do that here. But out in the real world, I still falter sometimes when people ask me how I’m doing. I still hesitate to tell people when I’m struggling with my OCD. I still hide when I have panic attacks – afraid of what people will think of me… ME, the successful, on the ball, all put together one… if they see me in a moment of weakness. As an advocate, I try to speak as much as possible. As a human being, I’m still self conscious about other people’s perceptions of me.

For me, things like riding motorcycles or singing in public are scary, but in a good way. Those are the fears I’ll face head on. Hang-gliding? Deep sea diving? I can do extreme if I must, and will seldom let fears stand in my way. It’s the little things, the small what-ifs, the day-t0-day challenges that get me. And I’m working on them… one plate of broccoli at a time.

*Bobs

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The Saturday Seven was created by Lizz over at Am I a Funny Girl. It is inspired by the ever-popular book List Yourself: List Making as a Way to Self Discovery. I’m playing because it’s fun. I encourage you all to play too!

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28 March, 2011

An Open Letter to OCD

*Warning: Language Advisory*

Though I have the mouth of a sailor in real life, I seldom curse here. This is different. If you’re offended by four letter words, best skip it. But honestly? Sometimes you just need to let loose and talk about how you really feel. When it comes to this? I have strong feelings.

An Open Letter to OCD

Dear Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,

We’ve had a long relationship, you and I. You came into my life before I was old enough to understand what you were, and you’ve been here ever since. I’m not sure who told you that you were allowed to pitch a tent in my head and camp out, but you did it.

Even if I cut you some slack and say that you didn’t exist before my earliest memory of you, that still leaves eighteen years that you’ve been a recurrent uninvited guest in my life.

And apparently, you aren’t ever going away.

That means that we have about seventy more years, if I’m being optimistic, to spend with one another. And seventy years is a long time for two beings to exist in the same space without being completely honest with one another. Complete honesty is important in any relationship, don’t you think?

Wait… you don’t think that. You spend every day lying to me and planting thoughts and images in my head that aren’t true. You don’t value honesty. Manipulation is your game. I forgot. See, I don’t play that way. So regardless of how YOU prefer to handle things, I think it’s time for a little come-to-Jesus discussion between the two of us. It’s high time that I told you what I really think.

I think you suck.

In the words of my best friend, you suck big, hairy donkey balls. And you blow goats. And as far as I’m concerned, you can go to hell in a hand basket while fucking yourself.

There, I said it. Now don’t you feel better, knowing how I really feel?

But I’m not quite done.

What you do to me is bad enough. You come into my life and bring your friends… your panic attacks and your depression and your sensory processing disorder. You do your damnedest to render me non-functional. You have, at times, succeeded. I’ll give you that. You took years from me – my teenage years, when I was 15, 16, 17… afraid of my own shadow because the pictures you put in my head were terrifying and I had no idea what they were. I curled up on my bed and cried, consumed with terror. You made me hide in the corner and want to suck my thumb. You made me feel alone and crazy.

Oh, you were a sneaky bastard. Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out, eventually? Did you think I’d just accept it? That I’d spend the rest of my life as your pawn, ordering magazines and vacuuming in straight lines to prevent car crashes and unknown disasters?

I suppose you did. I did too, for a long time. You robbed me of so much joy. You made me afraid of people. You made me afraid of myself. You sat back and watched, while I scrubbed the skin off my hands. You told me I’d get sick. You told me that if I just kept scrubbing, I’d feel better.

You tried to rob me of my faith. You made me afraid of church, planting images of armageddon in my mind and telling me that I needed to ritualize every time I committed a perceived sin.

You robbed me of my friendships. At least, of some of them. But you know, I have to thank you for that one. Because I learned, along the way, which of my friends would stick by me, even when I was losing my mind. Now, the friends I have are the ones worth keeping. So those friends you took? You can keep them. I don’t need them anyway.

You try to rob me of my education. You force me to check my papers and make me sick with anxiety over exams. You make it hell for me to learn, as I have to re-read sentences. You send me panic attacks in the middle of class. You embarrass me, as you make me repeat words over and over again. But I suppose, at least, that helps me learn Russian better. There’s that.

Still, you’re nothing but a fucking thief.

And while all of that is horrible, the pain and suffering you put me through, what’s worse is what I’ve seen you do to those I support.

Did you know that? I suppose you must. You see me every day, and I see them. I’m not the kind to just lie down and take your bullshit. I’m an advocate. All those other people you visit? We’re fighting you. But it’s hard as hell, and I’ve watched you do things to do them that make me feel helpless.

I’ve watched you steal their dreams. I’ve watched you steal the little moments from them, making parenthood into a nightmare because you tell them they might hurt their children. Making home ownership a trial because you tell them they can’t throw anything away. You take their money, as they pay for storage facilities to house the boxes you tell them they HAVE to keep. As they pay for the medications and treatment and doctor bills. You cackle with joy every time a medication doesn’t work. Their desperation – my desperation – to find relief feeds you. And each time a treatment option fails, you get a little stronger hold.

I’ve watched you zap their relationships with their friends and families – these people I care about. You tell them to isolate. You tell them it’s just safer that way. You try to take their lives…

You know, I watched you very nearly succeed in killing someone I love. At making a life that was so miserable, so filled with fear and dread and pain and pictures that wouldn’t go away, that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to keep living that life at all. And for that alone, I would hate you, you cowardly son-of-a-bitch. You never show yourself, but you wield the power to destroy lives? To take people from us? To take someone I love from me?

I watched, helpless, as you destroyed the relationship I had with the first man I ever truly loved. As you ate away at me and at him, and planted doubt in our minds, and built a wall between us. You, OCD, succeeded in tearing apart a bond that was strong. You broke our connection. You stole my love from me, almost forever. You make me fucking sick. I don’t have enough words to describe the hatred that bubbles in my chest when I think of you and what you’ve tried to do.

But you didn’t really get it, you know. Oh, you killed the relationship. But you didn’t take my love for him. You didn’t take my capacity to love. You certainly didn’t kill me.

And for all that you’ve done, I’ve learned from you. How to be strong. How to be stubborn. How to keep fighting. You taught me these lessons, and I learned them the hard way. These lessons are the ones that saved me later, when other demons and monsters entered my life – some real, some made up in my own mind. You taught me how to survive.

You’ve made me meticulous. You’ve made me serious. And I’ve learned to use these things. That education you try to steal from me? I get it in spite of you. Because I’m damn good at what I do. Because the need you’ve programmed into my head to be good at everything I do prevailed over the fear that I might fail. And the fear of failure ensures that I work hard.

And of all the things you took and tried to take – you never managed to steal my hope. You buried it at times, you and your friends, under panic and depression. Under despair and terror. But you never took it from me. It’s still there. Along with my laughter and my capacity to find humor in even… in even you.

Everything you’ve done to me has made me stronger. Everything you’ve done to those I love has made me hate you enough to fight you with every ounce of that strength you so carefully built in me. And now, you filthy fucking obsessive-compulsive monster, I am stronger than you.

So come on. Give it your best. Show me terrible pictures. Make me feel like I need to cleanse and wash and ritualize and count. Give me your panic attacks that steal my breath and make my heart race. Show me dread. Try, you just try, to take something else from me. Because you know, you might be winning the battle right now, but I guaran-fucking-tee you – you won’t win this war.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to let you rule my life. And you know, once I get something in my mind… I can be just a little obsessive. I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that.

Sincerely,
Bobbi

27 March, 2011

The Bad Auntie

Last night, I babysat the Chaos children.

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. I was there, in the house. I watched them. I didn’t let them kill one another. I fed them. I diapered them. I put them to bed.

Did I take care of them?

I’m not sure.

Last night, I wasn’t a very good babysitter. I wasn’t a very good aunt.

It started well enough. The Munchkin Girl ran to greet me, and smothered me with hugs. She knocked me over and climbed on top of me, using me as her personal jungle gym and giggling wildly when I tickled her stomach. For the first time I can remember, when Kelly and the Computer Guru left, she just said “bye!” and went back to clinging to my legs as I tried to start dinner.

The Monkey Boy was more upset over mommy and daddy leaving, until he found out that I was making macaroni and cheese. He then hopped back up the stairs to play his computer game, periodically shouting down “Bobbi…Bobbi….BOBBI…. you need to make macaroni for dinner, okay?”

So I did. And things were okay right up until dinner. As the macaroni timer beeped, I received an e-mail.

I shouldn’t have read it. I knew when I got it that it wasn’t going to be good. Call it a sixth sense. I just knew that the contents of that e-mail were going to change my evening. But I read it anyway.

The news was bad.  A friend of mine – someone I care for very much – had tried to get in touch with me the previous evening. I was out, and the message didn’t seem urgent, so I didn’t think to worry about responding briefly. I assumed that we’d get in contact at some point the next day. What I didn’t know then was that this friend was considering self-harm, hoping maybe to put an end to things. I didn’t know that my friend would go through with any plans like that. If I had, I certainly would have responded differently.

My friend was okay, but disappointed about having survived the evening. My friend was upset with me.

And me? I found myself in a house that wasn’t my own – the sole care provider for two blissfully clueless children – and having a small breakdown.

Anger. Anger that it had happened. Anger that I hadn’t seen it coming. Anger that promises were broken. Frustration. Guilt. Sadness. Tears. Fear.

I launched into solution mode, but my hands shook so badly I could barely hold the phone. I was consumed with thoughts of “what if…”

Meanwhile, the Monkey Boy ate his macaroni and tried to tell me something about digestion. Munch spit milk all over the table. She dumped macaroni on the floor. Monkey told me, “Bobbi…Bobbi…Bobbi…BOBBI BOBBI BOBBI…. *Munch dropped her macaroni on the floor.”

She probably could have hurled the macaroni at me, and I wouldn’t have noticed. I was starting the barrage of phone calls I would make in the next hour. Text messages to my friend, who wanted nothing to do with me. Calls to our mutual friends – unable to form complete sentences on the phone as I explained the situation. Calls that felt like betrayals, sharing secrets, trying to make sure that the people who needed to know what was happening knew what was happening.

“Bobbi…Bobbi…BOBBI! I’m full.”

“Okay. Stop eating then.”

It went on for awhile. I let the Munch out of her high chair. Monkey called down from upstairs, “Bobbi…Bobbi…BOBBI…I have an idea… let’s go outside!”

I told him fine. We’d go outside. He had to find his shoes. And his sister’s shoes. And put them on.

“But Bobbi…Bobbi… we’re not wearing shoes. We’re wearing sandals.”

And then, in my fear and frustration and anger, I snapped. I turned, and shouted, “I don’t care WHAT you wear. Just FIND your shoes and put them on!”

I immediately felt guilty.

Outside, it wasn’t much better. The Monkey Boy has a new obsession with sticks. He plays with them perilously close to Munch. My nerves were already fried, and I felt like I spent the entire time barking commands.

“DON’T play so close to your sister!”

“LEAVE HER ALONE!”

“IF YOU TOUCH YOUR SISTER WITH THAT STICK, I’M GOING TO TAKE IT AWAY.”

Finally resorting to the kind of commands I use with The Cooper Puppy.

“DROP IT!”

It got dark. We went inside. I bathed the Munch and put her to bed. And then I found the Monkey playing in his room. Watching him, I felt waves of guilt. My anger and fear at a situation that had nothing to do with him had led me to behave badly. Where I’m usually patient, innovative, and even-tempered with the children, I was short-sighted and short-fused.

And the kid really hadn’t done anything.

In fact, compared to some nights, he was an angel.

So I cried. And then I apologized.

“I’m sorry I was angry earlier. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know. I was just trying to *unintelligible something about buzz lightyear, I think*”
“I know. Bobbi was just upset and she was naughty because of it.”
“Why you upset?”

Why? So many reasons. None of which a four-year-old should understand.

“Well, my friend is really sick. And that made me sad.”
“Oh. Why is your friend sick?”

I wish I knew. If I did, I could be more help. If I knew why, I could take away that pain.

“I don’t know Monkey. Sometimes people just get sick. You wanna go brush your teeth now?”

The teeth were brushed. Hugs were given. We read a book about the body and Monkey explained to me the intricacies of how germs work. I told him I loved him and put him to bed.

In the long run, he probably won’t remember this night. He’s more likely to remember the fun we’ve had. He won’t ever know how bad I feel about losing my temper with him. He’s probably already forgiven me.

I haven’t.

Did I take care of the children last night?

I’m not sure. But in a lot of ways, they took care of me – with hugs and kisses and sticky fingers, reminding me that there’s always hope.

Last night, I was a bad auntie. But we survived it. And maybe today will be better for all of us.

*Bobs

23 March, 2011

Some Long Overdue Gratitude

She’s known me for seven years and some change.

That’s seven LONG years, during the majority of which I was a teenager. In fact, she’s knew me through the entirety of my teenagerdom. What’s even more amazing is that she still likes me.

Today, I need to take some time to say the things that I haven’t been saying. She blogs here, of course, where she tells the stories of the children I call Monkey Boy and Munch. And she writes beautiful stories. But unless it’s to be funny, Kelly doesn’t usually write about herself. Today, I want to do that for her.

Kelly and I fight. We fight hard and often. Really, it’s more of a bicker. A constant battle of wills in which nearly anything might be said, but whatever it is will be forgiven in a few hours. That’s just how we roll, and I’m okay with that, because it makes the relationship real.

Everyone has arguments. Even best friends. Maybe especially best friends.

And the arguments? They don’t matter. Not in the long run. I only start with this because five minutes into writing this post, Kelly and I had a bit of a disagreement. Or perhaps that isn’t the way to describe it. It was more like… well…

If a train carrying hormones leaves Albequerque at 9:00, and another train carrying hormones leaves Tulsa at 7:00…

And then, instead of the trains crossing paths, or doing whatever it is they’re supposed to do (I always HATED those kinds of problems), they collide in a fit of anger and tears?

That’s what happened.

But it doesn’t matter. Because I am grateful for all of the little things that have served to cement our friendship over the past seven years.

Let me tell you about Kelly.

She makes me laugh, even when I’m anxious, sobbing, or angry. One look, a raised eyebrow, a sound effect. A propensity to break out into outrageous dance moves and quoting bits of The Princess Bride at me.

She understands my phone phobia and has been known to: talk to my credit card company, talk to my bank, order pizza, order chinese, talk to my boyfriend, and, on one occasion, field a “breakup” with a stalker who sent me fifty text messages the day after our first kiss (while I HID under a blanket on the couch across the room).

She took the time to learn about OCD.

This is huge, and it’s something that I’m reminded of once or twice a day, as I encounter others who don’t have the support system I do.

This woman, who knew next to nothing about OCD and panic attacks in the beginning, took the time to go to therapy with me. She read the books. She LISTENED to me. She paid attention. She trusted me when I didn’t trust myself because the OCD put horrible thoughts in my head. She was strong enough – mentally, emotionally, physically – to refuse to allow certain compulsions. She REMOVED her vacuum cleaner from my hands after an hour of compulsive carpet line straightening. She wrestled the broom from me. She held me when I’ve fought her during panic attacks. And once, I’m sure that she actually came to my house and MADE ME LEAVE, when agoraphobia threatened my functionality.

She knows the dialogue of my OCD loops. She knows how they work.

And when many friends would have simply chalked me up for crazy, during the years when the OCD really did rule my life, she not only stuck it out, but she grabbed me by the wrist and told me that I was getting out of that hell, whether I believed it or not.

Last October, she spent the first six and a half hours away from her children since her daughter was born… at a conference I was running for OCD. And she followed it up by asking me to write a guest post about OCD for her blog, and then making sure that blog post got pasted all over Facebook. Why? Because she said it was important that people know.

Just a couple of days ago, I wandered into a post on another blog that was written about mental health and I saw that Kelly had commented. Six months later, she’s still spreading the word about OCD and linking to the post I wrote for her.

It made me smile and go all warm and fuzzy. The thing is, I’m a huge advocate for OCD awareness. I spend huge amounts of time doing work here in Austin to promote the treatment and understanding of this disorder. I do it because… I have OCD. Because it makes me feel useful. Kelly does it because it is important to me.

And that’s just it. The things that are important to me… they tend to become important to her, in one way or another. I see that.

Kelly knows me well enough to spot the signs of anxiety and call me out on them. Am I twitchy? Jittery? Did I just repeat a word four times in a row?

At this point, I don’t have to tell her what I need from her. She just does it.

Often, it involves telling me to get off my ass and do something about whatever it is I happen to be whining about. That’s another thing. She doesn’t take any shipwreck from me.

Good or bad, I always know where I stand with her, and while it frustrates the hell out of me sometimes, because I go in looking for sunshine and optimism and am met, instead with “Okay, but…,” I trust her.

She is the one I call when I’m in OCD hell, manic, looping, and terrified. “Okay,” I’ll say. “I need a reality check.” And somehow, she manages to sort out the tangles and help make things make sense.

She’s the one I trust right now, as I sit through this tidal wave of depression and anxiety. As hard as it must be for her to listen to me vent, night after night, she just does. And then tells me it’s okay, and that it will get better. And also… to get off my ass and do my Russian homework, whether I want to or not.

She makes sure I’m not ignored. She introduced me to twitter and made a point of letting people know that I was new and worth talking to.

She’s there, even when it’s 11:30 at night, I’m calling her from Arizona because I don’t know what to do, and she’s exhausted.

And she always reminds me when I should take my umbrella to school.

I could keep going, of course. In seven years, we’ve had a lot of these little moments. We have a lot of little routines. Inside jokes and shared secrets, at the core of which is the kind of trust that you don’t find every day. It’s woven, bit by bit, string by string. The rest of the world may go to hell in a handbasket, but Kelly? She’s a constant in my life.

I was recently told (not by Kelly) that I wasn’t so great at expressing myself verbally. That I didn’t say thank you, or show much appreciation. It’s probably true. I’m not good spoken. I’m a listener. I’m a writer. But on the whole? I’m not much of a talker, especially when it concerns emotional things. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realized that it’s true. I don’t always say what I should.

And even though I know that I don’t have to – because she already knows – it’s important to me right now to say this.

Thank you. You anchor me and hold my kite string. I appreciate your comments, your feedback, and your support. I wouldn’t know how to function without you in my life, and even though I don’t say it nearly often enough, I am grateful to you for all of the little things that you do. I don’t always deserve them, and I’m lucky to have you in my life. Love you. Mean it. Always. Dork.

*Bobs