Vocabulary Vixen

January 23, 2010

Yeah, it’s kinda like “Monk”

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I am one of those inconsistent bloggers. The bloggers that people seem to like, and really have a lot of potential, but probably won’t ever reach the Superstar Status of Heather Armstrong over at Dooce.com, or Rachel Robinson at The-F-Word.org. I do, however, still carry with me this relentless compulsion to write, write, write, about what is going on, and that has recently taken the form of pelting my friends, family, and workplace with e-mails. Yes, I type very quickly. 80+ wpm, and I can get a LOT of thinking out in a very short period of time. It was recently brought to my attention that this is a problem in The Workplace. I didn’t realize how big of a problem it was until I got gobsmacked in the face with the startling realization that: “THAT COUNTS, TOO?!?!!!!” As in, that ALSO counts as an obsessive-compulsive act?

And so, I realized that this OCD monster has gotten way out of hand. So far out of hand that it has literally affected EVERYTHING I do, and every single facet of my life. Now that I am aware of the issue, that is helpful. What isn’t helpful is that honestly, sometimes Ignorance is Bliss. I was HAPPY knowing that I could just send a quick 5-page e-mail to my boss and let her know every single key that was awry at the coffee shop. Problem solved. I felt that it was completely justifiable to send this, because I’m sort of the one that’s out “on the front lines”, and if I don’t tell them, then they just plain may not be aware of the problem. And I would then feel horrible if something awful happened and I had this knowledge that could have prevented disaster all along. So, I’d send the e-mail, and then I’d feel better knowing that I’d passed along that knowledge. The intent was good. The actual execution, and the reason behind that intent, I’ve come to realize: ***BUZZZZZZZ*** WRONG! NOT SO GOOD!

If anybody out there is familiar with the torment that this disease causes, well, you know that it’s tough. If you’re not familiar, it is Hell on Earth. There are so many obsessions, compulsions, and rituals that we go through on a daily basis that the majority of the world out there isn’t even aware of that it’s ridiculous. The problem and realization that I’ve been facing this week is confronting HOW BAD IT’S GOTTEN. And then, further, HOW BAD IT’S GOTTEN WITHOUT MY REALIZATION!!! I go from Thought => Compulsion almost instantaneously, and I don’t even think about it. Yes, I’ve been vaguely aware of “Yeah, I’ve got OCD. It’s not THAT bad… anymore… Now that I’m working through some issues, it’s abated a little. Cool.” What I hadn’t realized was that I’ve gotten so efficient at dealing with it that I just DO these things without even THINKING about the anxiety and dread that I will feel WHEN I DON’T do them…

The catalyst for all of this? I went bowling last Monday night. At the time, I didn’t even think about how disturbing it was to me that I had to wash my hands between EVERY. SINGLE. FRAME. of bowling. And that when I went to grab some snacks, I specifically used my LEFT hand to eat, because I knew that my right hand would be “infected” by whatever greasy grimy things living inside that awful, dreaded bowling ball. Um. Yeah. I didn’t realize that this was really that much of an issue until the next day in therapy. And then it hit me: “Oh.” Oh. Crap. Double Crap. I don’t even FEEL anxiety anymore because things are so automatic. I don’t really feel anxious about my hands tingling because I take care of it right away by washing them. And that, the obsessions and compulsions change on a regular basis. I can recognize some of the more disturbing ones: cockroaches, bugs, etc… but there is a lot going on in the background that I’m just not aware of. And that there are a lot of things that I’ve been doing that ALSO qualify as obsessions and compulsions… And that it’s THE SAME DAMN THINKING PATTERNS, just different shit for my brain to latch on to.

My reaction? “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.” And I’ve done a lot of crying since then. I’ve come to realize that I’ve lost a LOT due to this horrendous, horrible DISEASE. I’ve been mourning that loss. I’ve been mourning the fact that I never really went to spend time with my grandmother, who passed away nearly two years ago, because of my DISEASE. I’ve mourned the fact that I don’t go home much to see my parents BECAUSE OF MY DISEASE. I’ve mourned the fact that I’ve not lived life even CLOSE to my potential because of this bastard.

I felt like a character at the end of a movie or TV show that suddenly realizes that THEY are the ones that are insane, dead, or hallucinating. That THEY are the one that’s been living in a delusion, and were perfectly happy living that delusion until the end. I felt like House at the end of the last season… That episode where he realizes that he completely hallucinated his tryst with Cuddy. It’s a horrendous feeling. The character that looks back at ALL of their actions pertaining to that particular delusion, and then finally sees everything clearly.

Truth be told, I was a little happier being ignorant to the severity of my problem. The door has been opened, though, and now I’ve got to face it. I could keep kidding myself into thinking that I can handle it, and then I would get locked up into more obsessive thinking and resulting compulsions.

The thing is, that when I tell people this, people don’t know how to react. The normal reaction is: “Well, everybody’s a little OCD. We’ve all got our quirks.” Do your quirks take up every waking moment of your life? Do you find that you HAVE to do these things, and that if you don’t, you will feel sick? Do you feel a tingling sensation 7 minutes after the last time you washed your hands, and do you know that in order to relieve that tingling sensation, you must wash your hands again? Are your hands then constantly cracked and bleeding in the winter? Or, another reaction is: “Oh, kind of like Monk, right?” Yeah, I guess so. I’ve never watched that particular show, namely because there are certain things and ideas that I shouldn’t expose myself to. Or, the actor has never really tripped my trigger, and watching things about OCD people makes me uncomfortable. So, yeah, to answer the question: “It’s kinda like Monk.”

Needless to say, I’ve been a little bit pissed off to realize that my disease has literally taken over my life. And even MORE pissed off to realize that it’s done so without me even realizing it. Why? Because that’s the way it is. Will I ever be “normal”? Uh, I don’t know. I know what normal sort of feels like, and I know that I want to go back to that feeling of feeling good… I may need more intensive therapy than I’d ever even realized, though, and THIS is something that I’m NOT happy about.

Must I resign my life to a constant awareness, a consistent, and relentless vigilance about this monster? I hope not. Now that I’ve had a TASTE of something better, I want more. I crave more. I’m addicted to being normal. I’m addicted to higher brain function. I’m addicted to being smart, talented, and witty. It FEELS GOOD to NOT be chained down by these monsters. I’ve had brief moments of this, and like the drug addict, I’m hungry for more. I hope that these moments of happiness haven’t been due to me completely and utterly deluding myself into thinking that I was okay. Therein lies the trick to all of this.

How do I go about fixing all of this? I don’t know. I don’t know the first thing about it, apparently. I do know that if I get rid of one obsession, there is always another ready to take its place. It is wily and deceiving to the largest degree, and now I have to be aware of that, too. There’s already enough shit that I have to take care of, WHY THIS?! They say that knowledge is power. Sometimes, I disagree with that. When the OCD is running out of control, I think of all the articles I’ve read, all of the 20/20-like exposes on “How germy IS your world, really?” That’s bullshit.

I think that overall, our society has become TOO sterilized, and TOO phobic, and that does not help individuals like myself. I can turn anywhere and see: “Antibacterial THIS! Get rid of your germs HERE! Germs are Evil! They will Contaminate you and YOU WILL DIE!” Rationally, I’ve also read enough to know that germs are a healthy part of us, and that we’ve put WAAAAAY too much stock into this War on Germs. I also know that we survived for thousands of years BECAUSE of the symbiotic relationship we have with germs. I know this. Rationally. I find comfort in knowing things rationally and logically. Finding a rational and logical solution for something is what keeps me sane. Knowing that the OCD is NOT rational, or logical by ANY stretch of the imagination and that I will have to exhibit PATIENCE with myself as I poke this beast and get rid of it, or manage it effectively, does not make me feel sane.

I want the OCD to not be a part of my life. I’d rather just ignore it and hope that it will go away. Now that I’ve opened that box, though, I can’t. I’ve got to full-on FACE this thing, and learn how to deal with it so that I can live my life fully. Because what I’ve been doing? Functioning? Mere function ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH. Ignoring the problem? NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I want to be FREE OF IT. Or, at least, as FREE AS I CAN BE. I want to go to the store without having to come home and wash my hands of all of the other people that have touched my groceries before me. I want to drive my car without needing to wash my hands when I get home. I want to go more than 7 minutes without feeling the urge to wash my hands. I want to quit fucking worrying about whether or not people have gotten things taken care of. I want to just not have to deal with this.

I want to be free. There’s too much life to be lived without this shit.

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August 11, 2009

The good, the bad, and the in-between

I’ve been taking it easy, trying to slow down, relax, and figure out what makes me tick, vs. what turns me into a bomb.

Right now, I am positively bored out of my skull and my brain is actively gnawing on itself to keep occupied. This is an odd sensation, but one that I must confront and deal with, because life isn’t all about “The Next Thing.” It’s about living now. If I spend the rest of my life shooting for these goals of making X dollars per year, buying a house, having 2.3 children and a white picket fence, sure, that’s grand and all, but it’s not going to make me happy in the long run. Why am I so pessimistic on this one? I am 1.5 years post-grad in a college town that’s saturated with BA’s, and though I work damn near a 40 hour work week, it’s not in my career field, and, and, and, I guess that I just assumed when I got out of college, life would be better. I would make more money being a degreed individual, and I would make ends meet on a regular basis.

Hello, Reality.

Reality is something different. It’s been something that I’ve had to come face-to-face with over this past year and a half, and I’ve narrowed things down to a few basic ideas: Living for the future is great, but now is what’s important. It’s okay to have goals and strive for them, but losing myself in the process deflates these highs of achievement pretty quickly. I’ll achieve a large goal, say finish college or get promoted, and once the high of getting what I shot for wears off, I’m left with a gnawing, empty void. A gnawing, empty void that I’ve filled desperately in the past with 100 extracurricular activities, all in the name of “When I get X, I’ll have life on Easy Street, and I’ll be able to relax and have fun!” The truth of the matter is, I don’t relax. I haven’t “just relaxed” for awhile, unless my brain has forced me to do so in the form of a screaming, crying mess. I don’t know how to just relax, and the sad part is that I don’t know how to “just relax” and be happy while doing so. Hell, I don’t even know how to be happy at this point, but I sure as hell am trying!

I’ve really had to force my efforts inward, and what I’ve found is kind of disturbing. I’ve had to deal with these issues, behaviors, thoughts, and patterns and face them head-on. I am trying to figure out how to manage my illnesses and come out on top. I am taking an active stand against these crappy patterns and behaviors, and standing up for my right to be a happy, healthy, and functional individual.

Last night, I had to physically force my obsessions out of my head. I imagined a bulldozer clearing away the imaginary dirt, germs, bugs, and cat hair in order to give my brain a clean slate to work with. It took quite a bit of physical and mental effort to do this. But y’know what? It’s me taking a stand against these relentless obsessions and negativity in my life in the name of something better. It is a Herculean battle that I wage, but I’m stepping it up. I’m winning.

Part of winning is recognizing how bored my brain actually gets, and what the hell to do about it. What I’m going to do about it is something that I’m actively working on, day in and day out. I’m really trying to find the balance of what’s too much activity and what’s not enough. Obviously, I can’t constantly be burning the candle on both ends. That never works, and it always leads to a breakdown. I’m pretty well working full-time at the coffee shop, and that suits me just fine for the moment. I would prefer a little more income, but using that as my overriding motivation for EVERYTHING doesn’t really work, either.

When I do finally find the balance of mental health and wellness, I’ll be sure to let the world know. That will be the day that David kicks the shit out of Goliath.

August 7, 2009

I kick some SERIOUS ass!

I’ve been on a mini-hiatus as I endured a 5-day stint of anxiety-driven insomnia. I was able to sleep maybe 1-2 hours at a crack, and I had to work my full-time job while attempting to remain stable.

I succeeded.

To give a little background on my sleeping habits: Insomnia for more than one day is completely new to me. I am normally an olympian sleeper. If there were Olympics for sleeping, I would win the gold medal. I’m not narcoleptic, but I do enjoy my nine hours of sleep per day/night. I’ve occasionally in my life had 1 day bouts of being unable to sleep, usually because I’m excited for some reason or another (Christmas when I was young, etc), and any longer than that, I *will* make up for it the next day by “Power Napping” (A 5-hour “Nap”, which, I know, is more of a Sleep, but oh well!). I have had periods where I will sleep too much and just still be tired. That is because I would rather sleep sometimes than deal with everyday life.

Let’s rewind to last Saturday. I’d sort of effed-up. I’d had two days off, and I stayed up much later than I should have playing video games (not that my husband complained in the LEAST!!!). I went to work at 8:00 AM. My god, the possibilities!! I stayed up until 4:00AM. Whoa!, and that shift was anxious all-around. I was working with people that aren’t slackers, but they’re just plain not quick, and when there is a huge line of guests going out the door, speed and efficiency is key! But, I figured that I would either take a nap or go to bed early within the next day or so. No big deal.

I didn’t sleep terribly well that night, and when I did, I had a terrible, vivid dream about cockroaches coming to invade my domain, and when I found them, I sprayed stuff on them, but there was a little orange kitten in the way that got sprayed by the insecticide and got really sick. I was ashamed of myself for not checking more thoroughly for any other kitties that might have been in the vents (in the back play room of the house I grew up in). And then the cockroaches were super-cockroaches so I had to upgrade the spray, but I had to take care of the kitty-cat that I’d just gassed, and it was horrible! I woke up that day very anxious, and I had to concentrate on keeping medicated. I could feel the blackness welling up on me and getting ready to suck me in. I had that panicky, heart-thumping, shaky feeling I can only describe as headed downhill into a serious anxiety attack.

So the next night, I wasn’t really able to sleep either. By Sunday, it still wasn’t really that big of a deal. I was tired, but hey, I’ve gone through worse. I just figured that I’d sleep later that day or that night. I got home from work, relaxed awhile, and then tried to lay down and take a nap. I wasn’t able to do it. I laid in bed for two hours. I might have slept very, very lightly, but not enough. My mind was racing, and it kept going back to weird Obsessive-Compulsive La-La Land. I think I forgot my meds that day. I can usually feel it when I forget them, and I definitely felt that I was hanging on by a thread, and that that thread was fraying. I didn’t have a mental meltdown by any means, but I still felt dark, panicky, and anxious.

I should mention the experiment that I’ve been performing on myself. I have been looking to see exactly what it’s like when I’m focusing on nothing but one job, and I don’t have fifty other extracurriculars going on. For a long time, I used all of these extra activities to run away from my disease. It is much more comforting for me to be WAY TOO BUSY, because then I don’t have time to deal with all of this painful stuff that I’ve been going through lately and writing about. This has been part of it: to slow the hell down and figure out what makes me happy vs. what doesn’t make me happy.

I can say that this experiment has definitely proven to me that I do indeed have a *very* active mind! My brain moves through so much information on any given day that it’s ridiculous. So remaining completely unoccupied outside of my one job is probably not going to be the most beneficial for me. That is why I’ve decided to take on a few activities, like reading, writing, and drawing, to sort of get what’s going on in my brain out.

So basically, to continue the story about my week: I progressed further and further without sleep. I would lay down for a nap or to sleep for the night, and I was UNABLE TO DO IT. This went on for several days. Five, to be exact, and I knew it was dangerous territory. My sole mission for this week was to avoid a meltdown. My hand still kind of hurts from the last one. I also knew that the lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll as I was falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.

I started with that terrible cockroach dream. This was not the first dream that I’ve had of cockroaches lately, and I’ve noticed that it’s been a recurring theme. Combine that with a lack of sleep, a lack of meds, and this panicky anxiety, and I realized that I was diving headfirst into my next obsessive-compulsive manifestation. They change over time, really. But, to this day, I have a hard time really being outside in the wilderness, which is something that I love, and the last time I went camping, I basically had to drink myself into laying face-down drunk in the grass to make it through the night. So, this new obsessive-compulsive thing IS NOT COOL. I found myself contemplating whether or not I should inspect every nook, cranny, and crevice for potential entrance points and basically dust my kitchen with Boric Acid.

This is not a good idea for three reasons:

#1, Boric Acid must be used carefully, it’s NOT good for pets, and although relatively benign for humans, it’s only *relatively* benign. There is still a danger involved. Its a poison.
#2, I realized that if I started there, where would it end? My experience in dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder for ten years is that once I start acting on those compulsions, it is merely a temporary solution for anxiety relief. The thought will repeat itself, and I will have to repeat the cycle.
#3, While handy to at least give a visual look-over for cockroach evidence, the time involved in dealing with an obsession and then compulsion is utterly ridiculous.

Still, though, my thoughts kept straying back to the little asshats. And back to them. And again.

Finally, I had to sit myself down and tell myself:

“Hey, there is ABSOLUTELY NO RATIONAL REASON FOR THIS!!! I haven’t seen any cockroaches at work for several months now, due to persistent visits from “The Man”, and although I live in an apartment complex, I am WELL familiar with what they look like and what evidence they leave in their wake, and I have literally SEEN NOTHING whatsoever to indicate that they have taken up residence in my apartment. Yes, there are a few stray crumbs, but I have cleaned them up, and there is just no plausible, rational reason for this!!! WHAT THE FUCK GIVES?!?!!!!”

I figured it out. I know what gives. It’s me diving headfirst into obsessive-compulsive la-la land. This is a familiar pattern. I dealt with this ten years ago when I first dove into the OCD deep-end with the head lice issue. Once I realized this, I decided right then and there that I am NOT doing this. There is no rational, logical reason behind it, and I am NOT going down this road again. I am making an active decision to separate myself from my disorder, realize that it’s my disorder talking, and move on. Once I spiral out of control into this OCD nightmare, it’s hella difficult to bring me back. What I *can* control is my med levels, and knowing that I am headed into mental WELLNESS, NOT more mental illness. And I REFUSE, REFUSE, REFUSE to fall prey to my disease again. I am exuding EVERY bit of effort that I’ve got toward living a life that is not chained down by the wholly fear and dread in my brain.

So I made that decision, I regulated my meds, and I feel a whole lot better. It still took me two or three days to accomplish all of this, and I was only finally able to sleep once I took care of one of my friends. That was a weird experience. But the important thing is that I took a STAND against my problem, and I FUCKING WON!!!

Once I realized what I’d actually accomplished, I also realized something else: I kick some SERIOUS ass! In a hardcore way. I took my problem, recognized it, and then beat the shit out of it by using rational thought and recognition.

I also realized that this is definitely something that I should feel really, really good about. I’m winning. I’m winning the battle. And I am one seriously determined woman. The sights have been set. I am going to beat this. All-around, I am going to win. Hardcore.

July 30, 2009

In Pursuit of the all-elusive Happiness…

I’m still here, I am still writing, and I am still living, breathing, and being human. My god! What?! Moi!? HUMAN?!

Last week was kind of tough, but I made it through that one. I think that I used to think that once I’d make it through a breakdown, I’d be stronger and that I’d never have a breakdown again. I’d never cut myself again. I’d always make a vow that I would do it better next time, and that I wouldn’t crumble under the load again. This is in my nature. The whole denial of reality thing is in my nature as well. Plausible denial. But, as life goes, something would happen, and I would crumble again under the pressure, and keep going up and down, down and up, around and abound, until I found myself completely and utterly lost over a year ago.

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