After what feels like almost a lifetime of trying to hide my symptoms from others, it feels nice not only to admit having OCD and tics but to be open about this with others. That means sharing with people in a way that is meaningful. That being said, I’m still reluctant to tell every single person I meet that I have OCD right away; I have no way of knowing how they will react. In fact, I still wonder how many of those close to me are secretly ashamed of who I am after finding out. Would some people rather me hide my flaws, and pretend they don’t exist, than admit them? But also, some people just don’t take it that seriously — the casual, faux “I’m so OCD” type of people. And I don’t even want to judge or be rude to those — they just misunderstand, after all. So while I don’t necessarily announce to everyone, it’s nice to be comfortable with being open about who I am and why I am that way. I like not feeling like I have to hide anymore. I wish that I could trust everyone to be reasonably understanding. If I knew that, I would tell everyone right away.
Upon publishing my last entry to WordPress, I found out it was my 100th post. So in honor of 100 posts on this OCD and Tourette’s weblog started almost one year ago, or rather in honor of 101 posts now, I present to you: The Best of “Will It Be OK.” The following is a list of hyperlinks to what I feel have been my best — or most memorable — posts throughout this blog’s short life. These picks do not necessarily reflect what I think is my best writing, but also sometimes what links to the most interesting material or important points.
OCD Meme: This is an image post, and I link to it because I’m proud that I made this meme myself. It describes the way different parts of society may sometimes view OCD, fused with humor. This image is featured on my “About” page along with a Tourette’s (non-meme, non-humorous) image which I did not make myself.
Monk And The Lamp: Probably should’ve been titled, “Mr. Monk And The Lamp.” In this “episode” I pick apart an episode of Monk and how that particular story doesn’t portray OCD accurately. That being said, Monk is a great show, and I’ve watched it frequently. At times it does accurately represent OCD — just not always.
PANDAS: Now that I’ve lost my father, I especially treasure this one because my sense of humor therein reminds me so much of his. I feel like he was kind of writing through me with this post. Not that I’m the greatest comedian, but I don’t get many chances on this blog to be humorous, so it was a refreshing change. Also, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus is a super interesting topic! More research needs to be done on this controversial issue.
Link Time: Contains links to several very informative videos (not mine) about OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. If you don’t know much, this is a great place to start!
“The Spectrum”: Autism is not the only spectrum.
Tourette’s Brains = Greater Motor Control?: Do people with Tourette’s syndrome have greater motor control? Are they less likely to respond reflexively?
You Might Have OCD If…: While I was kidding when I wrote this, it’s probably half-true!
Alphabet Soup Syndrome: When you have so many disorders that it’s like, OCDTSASADHDADDALKFLKSJDFKJDF.
Game Illustrates Inner Struggle of Tourette’s: A videogame to help people understand Tourette’s syndrome? Sweet!
Tourettic OCD: It’s not alphabet soup, but we’re getting there.
Dude, I Know You’re OCD…: Another image post. This one shatters a stereotype (albeit with another stereotype), and really cracks me up.
Dealing With Crises: Are people with high levels of anxiety, especially OCD, better equipped to deal with real emergencies than normal people?
Don’t Hate Me Because I Look Crazy: Insane or dangerous people don’t always look that way.
I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’s Doctor’s 8th Cousin Twice Removed: Because someone in the blogosphere finally had to say that.
Easy Hand Washing Guide: Another humorous image post. What if the air was germy? Better wash your hands again.
My obsessive, intrusive thoughts are a lot like an itchy bug bite. When bitten by a mosquito, I know it’s best not to scratch. But it itches so much that sometimes, I can’t help but give in. As I get older and more mature, I realize more the reality that scratching does no good, and in fact makes the situation worse; each time I get better at avoiding it, though sometimes I take a few steps back. It might take all of my effort and chip away at my sanity to avoid scratching that itch. But when I can avoid scratching it, and I let the itch be, at a certain point a threshold is reached where the itching stops. The wound will heal with no scar.
You can’t get rid of an itchy bug bite — you just have to wait while it runs its course of healing. You also can’t get rid of an intrusive thought caused by OCD — all you can do is accept the thought and let it run its course. Just like you don’t really need to scratch that bug bite, your body in both situations is giving you a false alarm. The sooner you realize that and treat it like what it is, the sooner you can get better.
Here’s a funny new acronym — Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders, also known as SCARED. I discovered it reading this interesting little article called “OCD in Adulthood Traced to Cues in Childhood.” It discusses the proposed idea that “rituals and sensory hypersensitivities in a child may be early warning signs of adult obsessive-compulsive disorder,” which is interesting to me because I have some odd sensory quirks and sensitivities that might not put me in the realm of diagnosis with anything, but are unusual to say the least. The article discusses primarily two studies which explore the (potential) link between OCD and sensory sensitivity.
“Consistent with the results of the first study, recollected childhood oral and tactile sensitivity was positively correlated with results of the OCI-R (r=0.41, P<0.001) in study two. When they controlled for anxiety, they continued to find that the sensitivity was correlated with obsessive-compulsive symptoms beyond their correlation with anxiety.”
What does this mean? For some, could rituals be a way of coping with sensory overload (or even under-stimulation)? This reminds me of tics, which often have physical or environmental triggers. Tic disorders seem to have a stronger established correlation with sensory processing problems than OCD does, but we also know that tic disorders and OCD are more related than we used to think.
The old rule “If it’s a response to a physical feeling, it’s a tic. If it’s a response to a thought or a fear, it’s a compulsion” is hard to apply in this situation. How could we truly connect OCD and sensory issues, when if there’s any sort of direct connection at all, any response to a physical feeling should rightfully be a tic, and not OCD-related (unless it’s Tourettic OCD)?
If you have OCD, or tend to worry a lot for other reasons, you’re probably very familiar with the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” People around us will frequently remind us about it, after hearing our concerns. The things we worry about often seem small and insignificant to them, particularly if they are not especially devoted to us and to trying to understand (which I admit is probably hard to do). We should be warned, they say; because if we keep worrying or complaining about things that don’t matter, when there is a real problem, no one will know. Sadly, this can be true. But what people don’t understand is that those of us with OCD can’t help our false alarms. The famous fable is intended as a lesson for liars, but we are not liars; we have sudden feelings of apprehension. We don’t hallucinate, but we imagine problems that seem very real. And I hesitate to even call it imagination — I just can’t think of a better word. If it were imagination, we would have some control over it. The feelings really seem important to us. And the accusation that we are somehow as bad as a liar, prankster, or bully, for feelings we cannot help, only makes life more painful. Not only do we have feelings that are hard to understand and control, but we are made to feel like bad people for it.
When I get ready to go to sleep at night, and I’m tired, my brain assaults me with things to worry about. Whereas most people seem to have the reaction of: “Boy, I’m tired right now. I don’t have the energy to worry about anything. I better get some sleep and deal with these problems tomorrow,” my brain is the opposite; the more tired I am, the more I am not able to stop thinking about certain kinds of bad things that take root in my brain. It would be nice if I could only not stop thinking about problems that were important, solvable, or directly related to something going on in my life at the time — but they’re not. And once these things take root and get controlled by my OCD, it’s not impossible, but very difficult to put them out of my mind. “Just stop thinking about it?” “Why can’t you let anything go?” Because I’m forced not to — that’s why. It’s not a choice.
It sounds completely stupid, but one thing I’ve found that really helps me deal with feelings is just to blatantly acknowledge and address them. This goes for OCD and non-OCD related negative feelings that I have from time to time.
The reason for this, I think, is because a lot of times I try and fight my feelings without even realizing it. Using the specific example of OCD-related feelings, there’s an immediate feeling of “Something bad is going to happen, I better do something about it, I have to get rid of this feeling.” So to be able to step back and say: “Hey. I feel really, really uncomfortable right now” and just think about that for a minute before acting is rather liberating. I’m not saying it’s always easy to do, especially with OCD. But just thinking, “I’m angry” or “I’m sad” helps a lot. There’s a natural inclination we have to dislike anger and sadness, but properly placed anger and sadness can actually be a good thing, so I think it’s really important to address the feelings that we have, right when we have them. Just like when we go through grief when dealing with the death of a family member. Not only is it OK to feel sad at that time, but it would be pretty weird NOT to. So there is definitely a place for sadness, and not just when something terrible happens, but for smaller bad things as well.
Now, this can kind of be obsessive too, so one has to be careful with this. Because also with OCD, because of the feeling of “I have to do something about this RIGHT NOW!!” I have to remember the other key part of this system: not only to acknowledge the feeling, but JUST acknowledge it, and JUST think about it for a minute before acting. Or a few minutes. However long I can delay acting, with OCD, is usually better. And sometimes with OCD, success is simply putting off a compulsion rather than not doing it at all. Baby steps.
It may not work for everyone, but lately I find myself engaging in small “exercises” to encourage myself to be open to the inherent uncertainty and imbalance we all encounter in life. One of these is purposefully wearing mismatched socks in a very obvious way (as I am doing tonight). If I wear a perfectly matched outfit, I’m more inclined to frequently check and see if my socks are pulled up all the way/folded evenly/at the same height. Looking back on it, I’ve even purposefully mismatched my shoes in years past, probably for the same subconscious reasons. Another thing I used to do was to purposefully hang crooked pictures on the wall — this was my way of taking charge of the fact that a picture I unintentionally put up crooked would bother me. If I did it on purpose, I took control of the situation, and was not as bothered. That doesn’t mean it’s about control, though, so much as awareness and acceptance. While I admit I can be controlling at times, I don’t think this is a major facet of my personality.
Are there any “exercises” you all do to combat your OCD? I can’t do the same thing with my tics, because of the intense physical discomfort I experience from not doing them. But because OCD is about mental rituals, I can assist myself in “thinking” myself free by doing these little things more often.