I Missed Wordless Wednesday

Once upon a time, “Wordless Wednesday” was a thing. Then I started a blog. For a while I had lots of ideas for things to write about, but then I started to run out and posted cartoons for Wordless Wednesday. After a couple weeks of doing this, I realized I might continue the tradition. Until this week — I stopped. The End.

Seriously, I haven’t had much to write about. Writing about OCD, if one is not careful, can become very repetitive and monotonous — because OCD is very repetitive and monotonous. I don’t even realize how much me asking about the same thing over and over can annoy others, because I’m so used to thinking about the same thing over and over that it seems perfectly normal to me. So, I’m trying not to write about the same thing over and over — which admittedly I’ve been doing already, to an extent. I also can’t entirely avoid writing about things I’ve previously mentioned, so I’m trying to find a middle ground.

I’m still happy about seeing lots of positive OCD awareness promotion — images and words abound, more and more, telling us that OCD is not what we’ve previously believed; it’s not just about washing your hands, and it’s not just about being neat or perfectionistic. Lately I’ve struggled with wanting to quarantine parts of my car because I’ve seen ants crawl across a spot near there — so quarantining is the compulsion, and instead of cleaning that area, I don’t want to touch it.

We need to also not be selfish in our awareness promotion. Awareness and activism is important for all disorders and diseases, not just ones we’re affected by personally — but often the more rare the disorder, the more misunderstood and neglected it and its causes can be.

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Game Plan

Here’s another great article by Dr. Steven Phillipson, entitled “Strategies for Managing OCD’s Anxious Moments (Dance with the Devil)”. It’s the same old “OCD-as-the-Devil” analogy which actually works quite well.

It actually says “By L. Potter and the Friday Night Group — Adapted from Speak of the Devil by Dr. Steven Phillipson” so, um, I’m not sure how to correctly attribute an author here. But there’s the information; you figure it out.

The piece first goes into OCD’s “game plan,” then suggests what ours should be in dealing with it. One thing that particularly resonated me was that OCD tends “To exploit moments of weakness that come at the worst possible times in your life, i.e., when you perceive that it will be disastrous to become anxious.” That’s definitely true for me! Just like when I’m eating or expected to give a speech or sometimes even finish a sentence my breathing tic will creep in, at the worst possible times my OCD fears pop up, too. It’s not coincidental — those are moments I am more vulnerable to all my fears, especially my worst ones. Most of the time it simply means I have to watch out at the end of the day when I’m tired, because my OCD is bound to cause me to start worrying about something then. Which is funny, because normal people are like “I’m too tired to worry about little things right now” whereas my brain is like “I’m tired — that means I might’ve missed something important that I should be worried about!” But it also means I have to be wary of important times in my life — the loss of a loved one, happy occasions such as weddings, or anything terribly affecting whether negative or positive. It’s these times that I feel the need most to protect myself, and my OCD is trying to do that, but doesn’t realize it’s doing a horrible job. That’s why it ends up being called “Devil” in articles like this — it’s not a bad guy or an enemy, really, it’s just our brain, and our brain wants to protect us, but sometimes its logic is all wrong.

Also from the article: “Consider not rationalizing with the devil: do not attempt to treat the OCD by logically disputing the irrational nature of the spikes.” This is important because when you engage the OCD thought directly, you won’t win. This is probably why I have a knee-jerk reaction when people tell me “Don’t worry” which actually makes me worry even more. The thing you want to do when dealing with someone with OCD is not to tell them not to worry, but instead encourage them to objectively examine their thoughts and fears. A great way to do this is by asking questions instead of making assumptions or giving advice. Instead of saying “That’s a silly thing to worry about” or “You can’t change that” ask questions like, “What are you feeling right now? Why does this make you so upset? Is there anything you can do to affect this situation?” Or, try taking the fears at face value and see what happens. “OK, maybe all those dishes really are still dirty. But — are you sure the napkins are really clean too? What about the table? What about the cleaner you used on the table — how do you know that’s not poison?” If you can eventually get the person to realize there is some degree of uncertainty in all aspects of life, they will either A) Become motivated to accept uncertainty and begin doing so or B) Break down, shut themselves in and do as little as possible. Now of course B is a bad thing, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better and you can’t overcome OCD without learning to accept uncertainty. That’s why reassurance doesn’t help. Don’t tell me “Everything’s OK” because I know it’s not. Not only that, but I know you don’t know, and no one really knows. The only correct answer is “Things are probably OK and for now we just have to assume that and accept that we can’t be prepared for everything that happens in life.”

If reassurance works, it’s temporary. And you’ll most likely find the time-frame that it works becomes shorter, and shorter, and shorter.

One last quote from the page: “This management is not a cure: if you choose to take the leap, this will require consistent effort for as long as the devil decides to deal it out.”

Lonely

Apparently, to those closest to me, my OCD means that I will never be taken seriously. I will never be given credit for admitting or dealing with it; I will never be rewarded or even acknowledged for this. Instead, I will only be dismissed at the drop of the hat; the first time I show concern about something, I’m told “Don’t worry”, as if I asked 10 or 20 times. I’m repeatedly pressured that my concern about something is “just my OCD” despite the fact that I think it’s a valid concern, and that I dealt with it reasonably. I am not entitled to acknowledgment of my concerns; I am only worth dismissal. I guess I’m the boy who cried wolf. But to me, it didn’t really seem like a game. I was sure there really was a wolf there all those times, or at least that there was a good chance there probably was, and now that I can tell the difference, at least somewhat reasonably, between OCD and normal concerns… it’s too late. I guess it’s just too late for anyone to take me seriously at all. That’s what I get for being born this way, I guess.

Is it too much to ask that it’s not the first assumption? That maybe, when I have a concern, it could first be addressed as a regular one? Then, if it keeps coming up… well, maybe it’s OCD. I’m willing to consider that my problems could be OCD — that’s why I went to therapy, that’s why I got diagnosed, that’s why I admitted it. But it seems my friends/enemies are unwilling to consider that I might sometimes not behave regarding OCD.

Yep

OCD Santa

This is why I wouldn’t make a good Santa.

I like how you can really see the anxiety increasing on his face after the second checking. The Checking — that sounds like a great title for an OCD horror novel.

Medication

I’m curious what my readers think about medication. Do you believe that medicine is usually necessary to treat OCD? I ask because ever since finding out I have OCD, I think my obsessional fears have a lot less power over me — like just knowing where they come from has helped me become free from them — without medicine. That’s not all of it, of course, and I certainly still struggle with obsessional fears every day. However, they don’t control my life like they used to — the only problem is when a new one appears, I sometimes have trouble identifying whether it is a legitimate concern, or an obsessive-compulsive problem. People with OCD get accused of being upset over “little things” but they never feel little to us at the time! If they did, we wouldn’t be upset. If I had seen a therapist as a child, it’s possible medicine also might’ve been more necessary then, and would’ve helped me deal with my hand-washing problem before it damaged my skin too badly. As children we don’t know ourselves as well and our reasoning abilities are still developing to a great degree. But it’s hard to say in retrospect. I think most of the work really is cognitive-behavioral therapy, and I feel like relying on medicine too much is like continuing to use a crutch once your leg has healed — maybe for both children, and adults.

For Tourette’s (and other disorders) it’s different; there is no amount of cognitive therapy I can imagine taking my breathing tic away, so on days that it is really bad, I do wonder if I would be better off taking medicine. But I can’t only take it on bad days; I would have to take it every day, and that’s what worries me. Most days, it doesn’t interfere with my life that much. But I don’t envy people who have tics which do severely interfere with their lives on a regular basis, because I can very easily imagine what that is like, and I would not make the same “crutch” comparison because Tourette’s and OCD are very different in that way. OCD is a mental disorder, so to some extent many people can think their way out of it — but Tourette’s is about physical urges, and you can’t really think your way out of that. Imagine trying to think your way out of blinking or breathing when you felt like you needed to! It would be hard, and sometimes you blink or breathe without thinking. That’s the interesting thing about tic disorders — they’re a manifestation of a very normal body process that probably had a great evolutionary purpose. It’s pretty darn convenient that most of the time, we breathe without thinking about it. It’s just that people with tics do OTHER things without thinking about it, too.