I've mentioned this the last few days on Twitter, but my OCD lately has been really bad. Really bad. If you've come in the line of fire from my very pleasant personality these last few weeks, I apologize. If I've offended you, I'm sorry. By nature, I try never to offend or hurt anyone. I didn't mean it. My intention is never to hurt anyone. Ever. I feel out of control--like I'm on a roller coaster holding on to the outside of the coaster and hanging on for dear life. I can't seem to dig in and get a handle on it.
Typically, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is vexed by a few different triggers. Hormones is a big one--one that I can't seem to work around right now, though I've tried various things when I was medicated. Estrogen patches were nice to regulate it, but they gave me nightmares--fairly horrific nightmares actually. Since I'm not currently seeing my doctor, even that isn't an option. I'm trying vitamins to control my hormones, but they're a piss-poor substitute for actual control.
Stress is another trigger. Another thing I can't really seem to help with. The funny thing about stress is that as my OCD escalates, it too becomes a stressor... so it cycles back to this never-ending push towards worse days. Clearly, we're just through the holidays so stress is almost expected. We had a lot of sickness over the holidays, though... the puking kind... and germs and body fluids are not my friend. I have "contamination" issues as my strongest OCD symptom.
I was at a church thing on Wednesday and one of my friends (who would be the polar opposite of me for mental health issues) said, "Just so you know, my daughter had strep and impetigo on Sunday, but she's just finished 24 hours of meds, so she's no longer contagious." My skin wouldn't stop itching from pretend contamination. I always err on the side of extreme and total caution when it comes to germs... far past what is reasonable. So, germs or the possibility of germs... always get to me. That same friend also licked her right index finger while dishing out ice cream and I said, "Did you know you just licked your finger?" She said, "Yes, but it won't come into contact with the food." I continued to stare at her finger... and stare... and stare... until I moved down the line because I couldn't handle it anymore. She has no issues with contamination. I have severe issues--and that's on me. I have to remind myself she is the normal one.
Another trigger is poor sleeping--which is both a symptom and a trigger. Over the holidays, I got nailed with some really intense insomnia. Most times, I didn't get to sleep before 3 a.m. despite hours of trying. One night, I saw the hairy side of 5 a.m. It was miserable. I'm lying there, thinking of everything and trying to think of nothing... and I just can't sleep. I even took one of my sleeping pills that should have knocked out an elephant. It didn't work at all. The insomnia jag finally broke a couple days ago.
Insomnia often leads to depression for me--a deep-rooted depression that is more about chemicals inside my brain. It's an illusion of depression. I feel hopeless and despondent as if I'll never catch up and never be okay, but it's chemicals and smoke and mirrors. It's not real. It sucks to be depressed without reason and to know you can't fix it. The depression becomes a stressor also--I hate irony.
Diet and exercise are good ways to control it, but they can only do so much... and when my asthma is acting up or I'm injured, exercise won't help. Poor health is a trigger. Sickness, not exercising, and eating crappy--all come back to bite me.
Okay, so those are some of the main reasons my OCD is bad.
Some of the symptoms you might not realize are symptoms:
I binge on things and collect things. If I take up a hobby, I have to have everything I could possibly need for that hobby. Scrapbooking, beading, and painting have all been binge hobbies where I have more than I'd ever need for those. This last bout, it was holiday-themed books, stories, and anthologies. I have read more Christmas-themed stories in the last three weeks than probably all my followers combined. I had to have access to all of them. I read them with an obsessive drive that was terrifying. Some days, I'd read three novels--just to quiet the need.
Avoidance. My husband was home and drove nearly everywhere we went. I've always hated driving, but my destinations are limited during an OCD bout to destinations where I know where I'll be parking. I have to know where I'll be parking in order to even go there in the first place. Also, I'm afraid to drive cars that aren't running perfectly... which has been a difficult job for my husband this year. Our cars are getting older--and he's been kept on his toes trying to keep them running. He's brilliant but we've had a limited budget for car upkeep. At least we went places over the holidays because my husband is as sane as I am insane. He drove and I sat clutching the armrest and hoping we didn't die in a fiery wreck or be unable to find a parking spot--which are on the same level for me.
Avoidance goes deeper than you'd guess. If I've bought your book or you've recommended a book to me--I haven't read it. I can tell you that right now. I want to. I want to read it with all my heart. It's in a category in my Kindle that says "Books I'm Anxious To Read" but the anxiety involved is stronger than my will. I'm absolutely paralyzed by the worry that I might not like it, and I might have to tell you something less than the truth. It's the reason why I read my book club books the day of the book club--I have a paralyzing phobia of not liking a recommended book. I'm an obsessively honest person, and the thought of lying is horribly repugnant to me. I'm really trying to overcome this. I want to overcome this. But, right now, it's stronger than I am. I'm sorry. I'll continue to buy books of friends and continue to ask for recommendations, but it's not something going easily into that good night. I'm trying. That's the best I can give you right now.
Then, there are some of the obvious symptoms. I'm wearing non-latex disposable gloves to do some things. I'm washing my hands so frequently that my knuckles are cracking. I want to stay inside my house and never leave because the world is a scary ugly place full of contamination. I'm triple checking everything--locks, the oven being off, the signature on checks, the innards of envelopes, anything I've written for transposing errors, etc. These are the things you expect of OCD, though.
I'm sorry my OCD is making me be a bad friend, an impatient person... it's even making me into a lousy mother and wife. I'm trying. If nothing else, believe I'm obsessing about doing better and being less of a hot mess of dysfunction. I'm trying more than I'm coping. I'm trying more than I'm giving up. I'm really trying.
I have severe OCD. It's not just bad. It's not just complex. It's severe, and it's clinical, and it doesn't take vacations. I should be medicated again. I just can't seem to bring myself to start throwing money at it--and me being medicated is expensive... and there are side effects beyond the financial drain that I've mentioned before. The physical side effects are such that I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy... not that I have an enemy who comes to mind. I wouldn't wish the side effects on anyone, though.
Okay, this was a novel. If you made it through, thank you. If you didn't, dude, there's no shame. LOL. This was far too long. I just wanted to explain why I am the way I am.
If you ever have any questions about OCD, I'm obviously very open about it. I haven't always been, but I am now. My daughter has OCD and it's not a dirty secret. It can't be. I refuse to let my daughter grow up thinking she has to hide the symptoms and seek unhealthy outlets to cope. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness, though, and it's pervasive and vicious. It creeps into everything I do. It's like a liquid... it fills up the spaces I leave for it. Right now, there are a lot of spaces in my life for it to crawl into it.
Starting a new year freed me up a bit, though. I can consign all of last year's worries and awful situations to a number--2011. I can say, "That was a bad year," and move on. 2012 isn't going great at this point. My daughter's favorite teacher and my favorite teacher at the school--apparently has cancer. I'm struggling to keep personal relationships from feeling the strain I'm under. My kids are both struggling either quietly or violently with issues related to their Autism or sensory issues. 2012 is not the beautiful new day I'd love for it to be. It's a new number. Still, it is new and that's something.
Thanks for listening.