Monday, May 16, 2011

When "Did I leave the oven on?" causes a nervous breakdown

We all have small fears and concerns that dominate our minds in one way or another through each day. Will I make it to the bank on time? Did I call in my prescription? Do I have enough gas to make it home? Am I coming down with something?

I have what you would call normal days and abnormal days, and the normal far outweigh the abnormal. As I have disclosed in other posts, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, and have been dealing with it for nearly twenty years. About a year ago, I began a new form of treatment for my OCD which dealt with direct confrontation of my obsessive thoughts. At the time, my obsessive thoughts revolved around various scenarios in which I would do something completely out of character. True, I still have these thoughts on a periodic basis, but I know how to handle them now.

Essentially, because I think it doesn’t mean it’s true. Because I worry about it doesn’t mean it will happen. I can pour a glass of water and place it on a desk, and think at it as hard as I can. Will it topple by my willing it to topple? Odds are, no. I can’t think things into existence.

My therapist has told me numerous times my OCD is a sign of my brilliance (as if there was any doubt *g*). It is true that OCD manifests most typically in people of high intelligence whose brain functions quicker than others (I’m not saying mine does, but it’s a nice thought. LOL). The list of people reported to have had OCD keeps me in good company. Charles Darwin, Howard Hughes, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Albert Einstein, to name a few. There are a good number of current celebrities, like Howie Mandel, who have done a lot for OCD awareness by coming out with their stories.

Most people associate OCD with handwashing, nitpickiness, germaphobia, and so on. Yes, this is an accurate representation of OCD, but I haven’t had these sorts of fears or compulsions since I was eleven. That is, until recently.

It’s not uncommon for OCD to take a different method of attack. For sufferers, OCD exists almost entirely separate from the self—like an annoying acquaintance who won’t leave you alone. I’ve named mine Louise, because it’s easier to attribute the OCD thoughts (i.e, not mine) to someone else rather than claim them for myself. I’m not the only one who’s done this. Recently, I read a self-pubbed book called “It’ll Be Okay” by Shannon Shy, only to discover his coping mechanisms were remarkably similar to the ones I’ve conjured. He attributed his obsessive thoughts to a non-entity separate from himself. I likewise discovered we hail from the same state, and actually went to the same college, but that’s beside the point. OCD operates like a brilliant super villain. Once you have its strategy figured and defeated, it comes back at you at your weaker spots, targeting vulnerable areas you mastered once but have forgotten to defend.

For me, my vulnerable area revolves around contamination fears. As I’ve said, I haven’t experienced contamination fears in a long time, and no matter how bad it gets from this point out, I refuse to give into the most obvious physical compulsions. The trouble is, while I know I’m all right, I can’t get it out of my head that something might be wrong. And here’s the kicker: if I look up a disease, like cancer, and examine the symptoms, my body will begin to mimic the symptoms—or rather, my brain will interpret a particular behavior as a sign of something deadly. In the end, I know it’s just OCD, but how do you convince yourself of that? How can you be certain? Maybe it is just OCD, but what if it’s not?

With me, I’m 99.5% certain on an intellectual level that everything I’ve experienced recently is just a symptom of the disease I already have telling me I have something else. It helps to try and educate people about OCD, as well, because as I explain to my blog readers or a friend or a complete stranger the behavior of my condition, the more clearly I can understand what I’m going through. Even in writing this, I have reminded myself of the evil tricks my mind can play on me. Does that mean my symptoms have subsided? In intensity, yes, but they will be back.

As it is, I have an appointment with my physician tomorrow. Hopefully by this time tomorrow, I’ll be set back straight.

3 comments:

Kimberly said...

*HUGS* Louise is a bitch. Let me know when we can go kick her ass.

In the mentime, your OCD posts are a great way to inform the world about real OCD.

Sarah Ballance said...

A lot of what you said resonates with me. I love how you're getting this out there. I'm thrilled it helps you, but it also serves to change my perception of what OCD is and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Thank you for sharing. ;c)

Rosalie Stanton said...

Thank you both for your comments.

I'm feeling a good deal better today, and as far my doctor's appointment, I pretty much plan on telling the doctor: "I'd rather spend $20 to feel like a paranoid moron here than sit at home feeling like a paranoid moron and attempting to diagnose myself with something I don't have."

You both offer so much support. Thank you.