Tag Archives: OCD

7 Must-Know Facts About OCD

OCD Copper

Every now and then, I get smacked in the face by the sheer volume of misunderstanding regarding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Jokes, memes, comedy routines, and cultural norms all tend to make the obsessive or compulsive individual out to be a control freak, or a bully. But from the other side of the fence, it’s a very different experience. Here are the seven facts about OCD I think everyone should know.

  1. OCD isn’t just counting and cleaning. Any thought could become an obsession.
  2. Obsessions are primarily based on anxiety. A sense of doom, or even pain, is the engine that drives compulsions.
  3. You can’t see all symptoms of OCD. You may know someone with OCD who has never compulsively locked and unlocked their doors, or counted their steps. Some symptoms include internal monologues or mantras.
  4. OCD isn’t curable, but medication works. Many effective OCD medications address the anxiety that prompts the obsession, and drives compulsion. Without the anxiety, it’s easier to focus on healthy behavior.
  5. Individuals dealing with OCD often feel shame and doubt more keenly than others, and feel it more often. It’s pretty easy to make someone with OCD feel guilty. We’ve got a box of it by the door, ready for you.
  6. Medication isn’t enough by itself. Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and self-awareness are critical components of symptom management and treatment.
  7. The causes and symptoms of OCD are still being studied. This disease is still largely undiscovered. As with any illness, it takes years of testing, research, and peer-reviewed studies to determine new facts regarding the disease.

If you have OCD, please know you aren’t alone. If you know someone with OCD, treat them with kindness and support. They are trying, I promise.

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It’s My Fault, Can I Fix It?

blame my fault

When I was a kid, I got a glass of water, drank it, and put the cup back in the cupboard. It just had water in it, and I was young enough to not know about germs and invisible ickies. My cousin, however, was quite old enough. He also had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After he saw me do this, he was triggered into an episode of hyper-obsession. He washed his hands until they bled. He washed the dishes several times each before considering them “clean”.

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Sneaky Obsessions

With OCD, I have always had some interesting, if obvious, obsessions. Things like winking at people, or tapping my elbow. Things that are only obvious to me, like cleaning the kitchen floor with a toothbrush (because there are cracks between the boards).

But there are some sneaky ones. Devious little bastards. I’ve got a good number of them.

First, there’s cleaning. Not the scrub-the-walls-with-Pinesol type cleaning. Just the everyday keep everything clean kind. Sadly, it’s a slippery slope from “just putting things away” to “oh, let me wipe this counter” to “oh, shit, I dropped a crumb. I’d better sweep.” I get carried away, because I can justify it. It makes me feel good to clean, and it makes me feel good to see clean things. No problem there, right?

Wrong. Sadly, it becomes an obsession, and I am upset if it’s wrong. If the kids leave a glass on the counter all day (because they are smart, and don’t want to use 1,000 glasses a day) I get upset, and have to rationalize the mess. Same with the entire kitchen. If something is a little bit off, I go nuts inside. And it’s worse now, because the house is in that “mostly clean” stage. The one where cleaning for half an hour doesn’t quite feel obsessive, no matter that I meant to only be cleaning for 5 minutes.

Then there’s video games. Yes, I have been a MMO-aholic. Yes, I understand that my family comes first. But what it comes down to is this: I play video games to spend time with the people I love. Spending time online in that context is great. Spending lots more time online to get just-a-little-more-done is insane. I am upset right now because I didn’t finish a puzzle, but I’m excited because I got a bunch of achievements. That one is mostly a wash, emotionally, and Jenny plays too, so win-win, I guess. See? I can justify it!

Then  there is candy. This year, Jenny and I bought day-after-holiday-sale candy. It was awesome. Except, I keep making myself sick, because I can’t completely stop eating it. Sunday, I had a sinking feeling all day. I walked around feeling like I had just fallen off of a cliff and hadn’t landed yet. It sucked, but I’m still eating it. Because it’s there. And because I can justify it, because I’ve lost so much weight over the last several months.

It’s these “justifiable obsessions” that really fuck me up. I feel like my mind will never be quiet. It sucks. Whatever. I’m going to go eat a bag of candy corn (not a little one, either).

I Just Want This Over With

Cleaning. More cleaning. Sorting. More Sorting. Un-stack boxes, take stuff out of one box. Put it in another box, stack those boxes. There has just been so much cleaning/organizing going on around our house. It feels pretty awesome most of the time, but it leaves me so damned drained. It’s weird, though. A year ago, I would be drained in such a way that I’d be pummeling babies, and screaming at my neighbors for walking past too loudly.

I spent about 8 hours cleaning yesterday. Afterwards, I spent time with the kids, cooked dinner, and goofed off. Then I went through the 300 pictures I took of the kids last week. I still have to sort them, filter them, generally clean them up, and then have them printed. I want to give them out at Thanksgiving, so I have to get on that! But yeah, I thought I had used up all my energy cleaning and such, and then the kids came home, and the gloves came off. I had all my energy back, and got more done. It was kind of amazing.

Jenny and I just keep realizing how much we love each other, through the smallest things. We just work well together with the tasks we’ve been working on, and it’s fucking awesome. As comical as it sounds, I was about 8 seconds away from getting a ruler out to measure where to store the honey, before Jenny told me that she liked where it was, and suddenly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about where it was. Also, I hid all of her counter-top appliances, and she didn’t kill me. But she did threaten to make me sign a contract saying that I will be responsible for retrieving them from their storage places in the case of a bread-baking-emergency.

At the end of the night, though, I was just spent. I don’t care how good my meds are, I am fucking exhausted. I just want to play video games for the rest of the week, and eat cake that I don’t actually like, because I am the only person in the universe that hates cake. Yes, I still want to eat it, because getting really fat sounds awesome. That’s not healthy, and that’s my sign to back the fuck off of the obsessive cleaning spree. I’ve been outside of “healthy” cleaning/organizing behavior, and although the results are awesome, I have to calm down.

When our daughter came home, she was all like, “Holy-shit-fuck-Jesus the house looks different!” Except, without the Jesus bit, because she’s an atheist. Also without the swearing bit, because she’s a pre-teen. So really it was like, “Wow the house looks different!” But I know she meant it like, “holy-shit-fuck-Jesus,” because of the look on her face. I’m probably going to get slapped by my fiance for saying all of that.

Oh wait, she’s going to read this before she knows I’ve said it, so I probably won’t get slapped, because she’ll be all like, “I hope you don’t tell the internet that I hit you.” I will return with, “Of course I didn’t tell the internet that, I told them that you were going to hit me, and that’s completely different.” That’s when she punches my lights out. (I will say that she doesn’t actually hit me, but I won’t say whether or not she told me to say that.)

That’s all made up from inside of my head, and I didn’t knock on wood, so I’m probably going to miss out on that awesome conversation. Also, because she reads this shit. So it’s like we already had that conversation. Win-win!

Wow, I got off topic. Sorry, folks. I just want to stop cleaning. Forgive the rambling, I wrote this last night, and I was tired. Sue me. (No really, don’t sue me, I have no money.)

Symptoms of Anxiety and a New Medication

As you can see from my last post, I had a bit of a stressful weekend. It was totally worth it, but now I have to deal with the fall out. The physical and emotional symptoms will continue for a few days yet, and having to deal with them is a challenge.

Let’s start with the physical symptoms. I’ve been chewing my tongue in my sleep. The sides of my tongue look a bit like raw hamburger, and I can’t stop myself from doing it. I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep as well. This leaves my entire jaw swollen and my whole face hurts. Between these two things, I keep slipping into a speaking pattern that makes me sound like I have a lisp. It’s annoying and embarrassing.

My emotional symptoms begin with dreams/nightmares. I dream very realistic things. You know, things that could totally be plausible. For example, I dreamed that I cleaned the litter box. I also dreamed that several of my friends decided that my emotional needs were just too much, and that they needed a break from me for a little while. It’s like being broken up with, but by a bunch of people you thought would be there forever. Thankfully, the nightmare ended. Sadly, I had to wake up and clean the litter box.

I spent most of the day yesterday chewing gum, so that I wouldn’t bite my tongue during the day. I have also been drinking hot tea, and eating as many fruits and veggies as I can cram down my throat. Hopefully, I will lower my stress, and raise my energy in a positive way.

Also, I started a new medication, Zoloft. We will see if it helps, but it is supposed to take a few weeks to really kick in, so I haven’t noticed any changes yet. Hopefully, the Zoloft, as an anti-depressant, will help my depression, my OCD, and my anxiety. These are all things that are sometimes treatable with an anti-depressant. It may take care of a lot of these things, and it might not. I tried Zoloft last year, with some other medications, and the combination made me sleep all day, and have tremors. So far, I haven’t experienced either of these things so far, but it’s only been a week.

Have any of you taken an anti-depressant before? Please feel free to comment, telling me whether or not it worked for you, and what you took. I would love to learn how they affect other people. Carry on.

OCD My Silent Struggle

People with mental health issues almost all have interesting behaviors. We can’t always control them, and they all manifest in interesting ways. Some of them can be worked with, or ignored, some can’t.

Most of my friends recognize at least some of my behaviors. They see me talk too much, get too physical, dominate the conversation, and be inconsiderate of others’ needs. My friends see me behave as a bully, verbally beating people into submission until they see my point of view. I try to control these things, and sometimes succeed.

What most people don’t see are my OCD tics. The things I do when nobody is looking. I am a totally different person the moment nobody is looking. Sometimes when they are. I hate this part of me, because it singles me out, and takes away from my joy in the world. It makes me feel like the world is not safe, and that nobody can help. The underlying OCD in my mind is what makes it that much more real that I don’t matter, I’m broken, unable to cope, to handle reality.

These tics work in a cycle. Obsession, Anxiety, Compulsion, Relief, repeat. If one of my obsessions is triggered, I get really agitated, upset, perturbed. Whatever word you like there. I have to fix it. Sometimes, there’s no fix, and I just get upset and stay that way. Sometimes, as you will read, I have compulsions (tics) that I fulfill. Please don’t judge me too harshly.

I have so many it’s very hard to list them, but I’m going to try to explain some of them here, although you may never see me act on them. It’s a constant struggle, but I do it, mostly successfully, every day, every minute.

Okay, here goes.

I have to smell my fingers. ALL THE TIME. If I touch a book, or a table, my own skin, someone else. I have to smell my fingers and then wash them ASAP if they smell like anything, even, well, skin.  My nose gets sore, because I rub my nose, or scratch the end of it. I scratch my upper lip and pick my nose (kinda) all in the attempt to cover up the fact that I’m obsessed with the smell of my fingers.

I count everything. Unless I’m focusing on someone’s eyes, or, more specifically, their right pupil, I count everything I encounter. I count the number of fake bugs above my friends kitchen window. 9 when I’m sitting, 11 when I’m standing… Point of view, and what not. I count calendars to make sure the maker didn’t skip a day. I count the number of keys on my keyboard. 145, or 133 if I count only the ones that make a character appear on screen. I count my fingers. There are always 10. I judge my hands harshly because there are too many fingers on them. The perfect number is nine, and I count my fingers nine times. I always count the right hand thumb as it’s own number, so that it makes nine as well.

When I get a new ruler, I have to measure it against another ruler. They are not all perfect, and it’s exhausting to always be mentally reminding myself how many millimeters off a certain ruler is. But if I measure it against a pre-approved ruler, and it’s correct, then I’m okay.

I wink at people when nobody is looking. If everyone is looking away, I wink at the third person from the left, or the right hand person if there are fewer than three people. Really, don’t try to catch me doing this. You won’t. It takes less than 1/3 of a second to wink, and I guarantee I won’t do it when I think someone might try to catch me do it. Sometimes the only way I can keep myself from doing it, is by convincing myself that somebody is looking.

I count the scars on my hands. On the backs, there are ten total. On the palm side, there are two on the left hand and zero on the right. But I still have to count the palm side of my right hand. It doesn’t matter that there have never been any significant cuts or scrapes on that hand. It still counts.

I pull on my earlobes a lot. Like, all the time. This makes my fingers smell weird, because the skin on my ears reacts to my earrings, making this weird smell. It’s especially weird because I like the smell, but I have to wash my fingers right now.

I have to wash my hands for a number of seconds that is a product of nine. I don’t care if it’s nine seconds or 81, which by the way, is one minute twenty one seconds. Seriously. Do you know how long that is?! I dare you to set a timer on your phone and wash your hands for 81 seconds. It’s exhausting. But if I don’t pull my hands out of the water on time, I have to keep going until it’s another product of nine. If I lose count, I have to turn off the water, dry my hands and do it again.

I can’t eat meat if I’ve touched it. I can eat meat other people have touched, and I can touch meat. I just have to wash my hands afterwards, for a product of nine seconds, this time, with a minimum of 36 seconds, because, well, meat. The only exception to this rule is if I touched it the day before. I can’t eat it two days later. I can’t eat it later that day. Only the day after I touched it. This makes it very hard to eat dinner with my family.

I can’t eat bread that someone else has touched. I always insist on making my own sandwiches, and such. Today, we were having hot dogs. The Boy took out buns for everyone. Then sneezed. Then, when told that we (Jenny and I) prefer to take out our own buns, he PUT THE BUNS BACK IN THE BAG. I couldn’t even use the dishes. I had to get another dish, and I couldn’t bring myself to use any bread product, because my stomach was so soured. I forced myself to eat the hot dog bits, because cold and/or reheated hot dogs are nasty. I had to get another dish out of the cabinet.

This brings me to my next one. I can’t use the second set of dishes without washing them by hand and putting them back in the cabinet. This rarely happens because we keep the dishes clean, and have plenty of everything. But today, I had to get a sneeze free dish from the cabinet, and it was from the second set. I ate quickly, and washed it very thoroughly. This is because the second set of dishes is SO much nicer than the other set. For years I wouldn’t use glass dishes, because I KNEW they were going to break. I only use the glass ware in our house, because the regular set came from Ikea, and I know it’s not for fine dining. Also, we don’t keep paper plates in the house.

I also wash clean dishes sometimes. In my old house, I would take my dishes out for dinner, and wash them before serving. I still do it sometimes when I’m eeked out. Another example from today is that after washing the dish I used for my hot dog, I opened the cabinet and saw all the dishes the Boy put in the cabinet, and I couldn’t do it. I reached up to the shelf he can’t reach and took down a  cup that only I use. I washed it thoroughly and then opened a new bottle of soda.

I had to open a new one, mind you. I don’t know how long the orange juice (which we bought an hour ago) had been open when someone got the first glass out. So I had to open a new bottle of soda, because, well, there were no germs inside.

Right now I’m doing everything in my power to not hear anything in the house, because sounds have to be pretty. Let me be perfectly clear. If the sounds I’m listening to aren’t pretty, then I start singing inside my head, and sometimes out loud. It’s the only way I can stand to listen to dis-harmonic sounds. I just drown them out inside my head. This can be people’s voices. It can also be the words they use. If I don’t like the cadence or rhythm of someones sentence, then inside my head I start singing some soft acoustic song. If that doesn’t work, I scratch my head to make a noise that’s much louder inside my head than out. I type to the beat of the song playing. I count to the rhythm of the song in my head. There’s nearly always a song running inside my head, and I do almost everything to a rhythm. The best way for me to not do this so much is to talk. All. The. Time. This is because I speak in a rhythm that is pleasing to my ears.

This brings me around to my next point. Kinda. I have tracks in my head that all do things all the time. I have a track in my head that plays the song. I have another one that is counting how many words you just used in your sentence. Don’t ask. I’ll just get embarrassed, and rude. I have a track in my head that counts how many steps total I’ve taken since x event. There’s another track that counts the number of steps I’ve taken on shadows not made by my own feet. There’s another track that keeps track of how many times I’ve lost track of something I’ve been counting. This number never exceeds nine. If I lose track again, I start counting from the beginning.

There’s only one way to do something. There’s only one way to play Minecraft. There’s only one way to build a house out of Legos. I logically recognize that this is not correct. Like, it’s totally false, all the way around. People do things their own way. I have to not watch people do things. I have to not listen when someone is talking about their favorite way to do something. There are a few things that have their own rules. Art is a HUGE one. I like art so much, because I can do whatever the fuck I want. I don’t sing inside my head when I paint. I don’t have to have exactly the right color of red for the painting I’m working on. It’s fabulous.

Oya. I get stuck on words. I have to say the word fabulous in every conversation. I will completely derail a conversation, just so I can say something is fabulous. This is another one where different rules apply. I don’t feel like I have to use these words when I’m around people I trust, like a LOT. Jenny, the Boy, the Girl, and maybe 4 other people make it outside this rule. My twin doesn’t even fall outside of this rule. He just has a separate list of words. These words change every couple of months, or so. The more I try to shake them, the longer they stick around, though. That’s why fabulous has been around so long. Did I mention I have to say it at least nine times a day? Yep. Sometimes I say it three or four times in one sentence, just to get them all out.

I get about 9 songs stuck in my head at a time. I rotate from song to song to song to song to song to song to song to song to song. Repeat.  Currently, I have songs by Ed Sheeran, and Passenger stuck in my head. They happen to be (Ed Sheeran) Drunk, Little Bird, Lego House, Little Bump (TRIGGER WARNING), Give me Love, (Passenger) Let Her Go, Running in the Wrong Direction, Holes (TRIGGER WARNING),(Passenger featuring Ed Sheeran) hearts on Fire and (Blue October) Calling You. These are all great songs. But I have them all in my head at the SAME TIME. I think this must make Jenny nuts, because I only want to listen to the songs stuck in my head. The rest of the world of music is just out.

I also have to check all the windows, and all the doors. Some of them have to be open, and some closed. For example, all the bathroom doors have to be open. All the windows have to be closed except for the one in our bedroom, and the one in the Girl’s room. She can do what she damn well pleases. The printer has to be turned on, but asleep.

I can’t have all my projects done at once. I feel like I’m not making progress if they are all done. They all have to be going a little at a time. When I finish one, another replaces it before too long. It helps me feel like I’ve got a purpose, or a job. Even when I’m working a traditional job, I feel the same way.

I shake my hand, in this very spastic way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just raise it over my right shoulder, and shake it until the need is fulfilled. Usually it only lasts for a second, sometimes longer.

I have dozens of other little things, but not all of them are for the public. I also have to keep some to myself, because I just plain don’t want you to know. Just please keep in mind, the next time you jokingly say you are “a little OCD” that being a little OCD takes a lot of energy, and being a lot OCD takes all of it. It’s not a joke, and it’s not cute. Being OCD means that some of us can’t participate the way we want to in the world. It’s one of the loneliest things in the universe. Those of us with OCD have such unique tics that we can’t even fully understand each other, except to acknowledge the fact that understand the need to fulfill our urges. So next time I scratch my elbow three times after I shake your hand, please don’t be offended. I just don’t know how to stop it.

Here’s a little way to look inside a mind like mine. Not the same, mind you, just similar.

What Do You Do If You Think You Have Mental Illness?

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

So, we all know mental illness sucks. It sucks big time. But what do you do when you aren’t sure if you have mental illness?

It’s a simple answer, with not so simple results. See a mental health professional. One with gobs of experience, preferably. This isn’t a scam to get you to spend money. It’s the only logical choice.

Seeing a mental health professional will open several doors for you. There are tests, batteries, counseling, you name it. Your choices are not limited to seeing a regular medical doctor, and hoping he’s got enough of a clue to recommend someone for you. Ask your doctor to do so, don’t wait for them to suggest it. Check around, make sure the specialist you are referred to has a good reputation. And remember: “They didn’t give me the drugs I wanted,” is never ever cause for a “bad reputation.” Not all drugs are good for everyone.

The medical tests that might be administered to you include blood tests like thyroid panels, liver panels, and blood cell counts. Also included sometimes are sleep tests, ECGs, EKGs, and other heart exams. Even X-rays can help determine that you don’t have a physical illness. Ruling out the less severe forms of illness is always the first step.

Batteries aren’t always called “batteries.” They can be called “evaluations” or “examinations” as well. Either way, what it comes down to is that they will ask you many, many questions, and sometimes your answers will spark more questions. This is normal, and a suggested part of a treatment plan. This is so critical because your health care professionals need to know if you are a drug/alcohol/tobacco user/abuser. They won’t turn you into the police, or refuse service. They just don’t want to kill you with medication. Please just be honest with them, so they can take care of you!

Finally, counseling is a huge part of mental health care, because it provides the opportunity to express yourself in a guilt-free environment, and sometimes, just talking it out with a counselor allows you to come to conclusions that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to understand about yourself. Many paths to change come from self-understanding.

Remember, take initiative, be honest, and be your own advocate.