12 05 2009

As a small child, I was diagnosed with OCD.

My parents didn’t understand all of my problems and mental health issues but did their best to help me as a child to young adulthood. I think that they had the best intentions but the myriad of psychologists, psychiatrists, drugs and therapy methods that they tried on me made me feel more like a guinea pig and less like a child. I always felt tainted because I had to see a therapist as a kid, for as long as I can remember, almost. In my eyes, good kids didn’t have to see therapists.

So after years of “therapy” I decided to get off the meds, get out of therapy and try it on my own…it’s been a rough road but one that I have navigated on my own…which makes me prouder than anything else.

My biggest issue as a child revolved around anxiety. I got anxious in large and populated areas filled with chaos where I felt that I had little or no control. I had a fear of being abandoned, left behind and whenever my parents were leaving for somewhere, I would have a breakdown if I wasn’t ready to go and they rushed me. I would get overwhelmed, cry and mentally break down to the point at which I would collapse in hysterics. My parents were good sports about putting up with this. One of the reasons I was always late and never ready was Rituals.

If you know anything about OCD, you know that part of it is Rituals. These are uncontrollable urges, needs, promptings from somewhere or someone that make a person do something repetitively. I used to have to make sure that every light switch was facing the same way in the house. I needed to check and recheck those switches, thinking that I had missed one or something. I had to check and recheck doors, locks, window locks, closet doors, making sure they were completely closed and locked before I could climb in bed, and then I had to recheck. I felt like there was a certain magic number of times that I had to ritualize and that if I found that number, I would be ok. I had to have my bed wrinkle-free…completely wrinkle free before I could leave the room, get in bed, lay down, fall asleep. I washed, showered, cleansed, sprayed Lysol, etc. til my skin was raw. I had to do things even numbers of times, and I had to check, recheck and check again before I could stop…and then I had to check again. The feeling that something was NOT right constantly followed me and I was constantly ritualizing so that I could control the fear and anxiety.

I wore myself out.

I wore my family out.

I had breakdowns which led to treatments and medications and therapy.

I finally had to teach myself to be more “normal” and find ways to channel the anxiety away from rituals and into other things.

I felt imprisoned for years because of the rituals, thoughts, anxiety, fears and the checking. I thought I was done ritualizing and then I would have to get up and check again because I didn’t know if I had done it enough times.

Years later, I am getting better. It still haunts me, especially when I am tired, emotional, vulnerable, scared, angry, anxious, etc. Emotions keep me broken and imprisoned in the rituals…I can hide it most of the time, but the secret rituals are what drive me nuts.

Now, the rituals are different. I feel like I have to do things in a certain order or they don’t feel right and my day is thrown completely off. I have to have things in certain places, right angles, or the world seems off.

I still have an irrational fear of germs and odd numbers. I still feel like things overwhelm me and then the rituals are the only way to control it.

I fixate.

I check.

I recheck.

I also fight urges every single day so that I don’t let OCD reclaim my life.

I spent most of my life feeling helpless, imprisoned, frustrated, misunderstood and panicked. People don’t understand that it isn’t just a choice you can make to stop. Most people can’t stop. I still give into it more than I don’t…I just hide it better than a lot of others. I wish that people could understand how it feels like you are compelled to spend the rest of your life ritualizing and how it makes you feel isolated, weird, like a freak, abandoned because no one can make it stop, and like there is something fundamentally wrong with you and there is no cure.

When I don’t ritualize, I spend every moment choking down anxiety, trying to convince myself that it’s ok, trying to keep my head above water as waves of panic crash down on me. It’s like a drowning man trying to convince himself that the waves will stop, the ocean will calm and somehow he’ll find a lifevest in the water that will save him…all the while knowing that none of that will happen. The illusion of getting over OCD is what gets me through the day…pretending that I didn’t ritualize that day. The illusion that it isn’t always in the back of my head sits on my face like a mask.







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