Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Back Issue 1: "I Kept Apologizing"

This is the first iteration of my new series titled "Looking Back." Each post will analyze an entry in my OCD journal from 1998 when I first received the diagnosis. In most cases I won't post the entire entry (they're pretty lengthy), but I'll highlight the major points.

"Today I apologized to Tom for the third time; I said I was sorry for criticizing him about how he could all of a sudden like a new band, when really, I had done the same thing a few times."

Tom, to my middle school self, seemed to follow the pack. Evidently he had found a new band that he liked, and I presumed it was because someone else liked it. Judging by the entry I could have said something like, "So you're all of a sudden an Everclear fan?"

Granted the subject matter is immature, my ability to express how I felt was, I feel, beyond that of most of my friends at age 13. But still, one theme is at work here that I can only understand now, looking back.

Craving Consistency
To some people with OCD, this manifests itself as a need for symmetry. For me it was consistency. I had to be sure that the way I represented myself was consistent across the board, or at least internally consistent.

Here's what that looked like to me then (pardon the insipid example, but I want to stay true to the subject matter): It was inconsistent of me to buy, on a whim, a Third Eye Blind CD and then say what I said to Tom. It was hypocritical. How could I criticize someone for something that I have done myself? The only way to set things straight was to apologize. If one time didn't feel right, or I didn't feel like he understood me, I'd do it two more times.

Questioning Understanding
Later on in the journal entry I described planning a trip to a theme park over the phone with Leah, one of my best friends. My family invited Leah, but she declined the offer.

"I hung up, but now I am compelled to keep asking her if she's able to go on Friday. Well, more like to reassure me that she's not going. I feel like there's something I misunderstood and that we'll get home Friday and there will be a message on the machine: 'I thought you were taking me to the park?!' I remember the whole conversation but I'm still afraid I made a mistake and misunderstood."

When I finished reading this entry I was amazed at the exact correlation between this second-guessing and any of the second-guessing I do now as an adult. Furthermore, I didn't realize the over-apologizing was present so early on, or the need for consistency so pervasive. But the more times I see the monster, the easier it is to recognize him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Blog Series: Looking Back

"Today I apologized to Tom for the third time."

That's the first sentence in my very first OCD journal. The entry is dated 7/14/1998. All I have read so far is that one line and it's immediate already that though my obsessions have differed, the OCD remains the same as it was 13 years ago. Same monster, new cloak.

That's why I'm starting this blog series. I want to look back at the beginnings of my OCD and see what I can learn, see what I can apply to my life now. I want to identify the red flags I may have missed then, and try to watch out for them in the future. There's a big, yellow smiley face on the cover of the journal, and I want to remember what that didn't feel like at age 13.

But perhaps even more I want this blog series to point out OCD's tactics. My favorite way of dealing with an obsession is to remind myself, mid-worry, "That's just OCD." Doing that is like shining a flashlight on the monster. I see him, I realize what he's made of, and in the light he doesn't look so bad. It brings me back to reality. Understanding that OCD's m.o. is the same no matter what the obsession will help me to more quickly catch OCD in the act. I want that understanding for me, and I want it for you.

The first installment is titled Looking Back: "I Kept Apologizing," and it will come in the next few days.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Was Asked to Appear in a Show About OCD!

It's true!

I got an email from a production company called Pink Sneakers Productions yesterday. They are casting for a show tentatively titled "Life Chronicles" that will appear on TLC. They wanted to cast me! How funny! I was flattered.

The email, written by a production assistant, said, "I came across your blog and I really appreciate your openness and honesty. You seem to have an incredible story, and someone whose strength can be so inspirational to others."

"Each episode documents the day-to-day lives of people affected by different life experiences. One of our episodes will focus on obsessive-compulsive disorder. We are currently looking for people who have been directly or indirectly (family member of, etc) affected by OCD. We realize the sensitive nature of the topic and we think sharing the stories of people actively coping with this could help let others know they are not alone- that millions of people are dealing with this. This show is being produced to foster awareness and outreach."

Thanks, But No Thanks.
Fostering awareness is good, but I am not up for it, and here's why. Revealing that I have OCD to the entire world would change my life forever. I can have my blog, and help people anonymously, but I am not willing to share the OCD with everyone.

Plus, doing so, I'm sure, would trigger a bunch of new OCD worries for me. Before you remind me that I posted about not avoiding things on account of OCD, this situation is different. There is no personal benefit to going on television greater than the benefit I'm experiencing here, with you, in the shadows. It simply comes down to weighing options, and weighing options realistically is healthy, not ritualistic. I politely declined.

It's Not for Me, but Is It for You?
If you think you are up for participating, here is the contact info: casting@pinksneakers.net. I cannot attest to the legitimacy of this offer (I personally believe it not to be bogus, despite the rather basic website and not-very-formal casting flyer), so do your own due diligence before making any decisions. I don't know what that would entail, but I would think at least a phone call. An attorney, maybe? Not sure. It seems like there would be contracts involved should they use your footage, but like I said, I don't need to worry about all of that. You might, though.
Here is the website: http://www.pinksneakers.net/.

I know they have probably sent this email out to dozens of bloggers online, but I can't help but feel excited about the idea. I fantasized about it for a little while, then resigned myself to living a life without stardom!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Checking: A Good Week

Checking is my most common ritual. I can do it physically or mentally, but the mental checking (or rumination) is most debilitating for me. Whatever the case, my major, stops-me-in-my-tracks OCD begins and ends with checking.

That's why I have to keep it, er, in check. If I see myself doing more checking of things, like asking my husband "I didn't sound mean when I said that, did I?" or running back into the bedroom before I leave in the morning to be sure the heating pad is turned off, I force myself to stop for two reasons:

  1. It could be indicative of depeer issues. The last time I let allowed myself to check and re-check, it turned out a crisis was looming. My grandfather had just died and I was in for a two month-long regression.
  2. It could make my OCD worse. As I said in a previous post, "The more I check, the more doubt takes over and I fall victim to checking things repeatedly, or worse: fearing things that cannot be checked-away. Soon the snowball effect of anxiety and depression consumes me." For me, checking is my "gateway ritual;" it leads to worse things.

And forcing myself to stop is just what I've been doing! It was a pretty uneventful OCD week, but every morning that I was the last to leave the house the disease tested me. "Did I unplug my curling iron?" "Is the computer off?" "What if it just looks like it's off?" But I obeyed the tenets of Exposure & Response Prevention and I faced the fear!

With a shrug I locked the door behind me and left for work.