Diagnosis

7

Among each disorder is the basis of Anxiety. First, you have the realization that the disorder is attacking at that moment so you put the pressure on yourself to not fall apart in it. I don’t know about other people but It’s unbearable how much pressure I put on myself. I feel like I’m chasing that train steaming ahead for the life I’m missing. Only to get hit by the train this time, putzing along behind to remind me I’ll never be good enough. Anxiety is when there’s too many people in a waiting room. Or at a fair, or a concert, or even driving on the road. Anxiety is the crowded elevator. Everyone’s eyes are on me right? I’m the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Anxiety is bold and triumphant in all it does. The sweaty palms, hell, the hot flashes it feels like. The shortening of breath. The hand shakiness, dry mouth, mind racing, will do anything too be heard…anxiety.
Now OCD is the leading disorder of all that practices it’s malpractice in me. It never sticks to the “rules” you read about, or moreover, the symptoms labeled in it’s diagnosis. It loves chaos in the fact that it will go beyond the borders of even Dr.’s opinions of how it’s depth can be, to let you know always, whose in control. OCD wants every strategic move planted in a physical sense within rituals throughout the day, throughout the night, throughout the worst of the worst times. And when you actually have better times, you think it’s because you ritualized correctly that day. As is when you have a bad day, you think it’s because you didn’t ritualize enough, or ritualize correctly. Even when someone in your life passes away, you might think it’s because you didn’t touch the light switch the day before enough times. Sound crazy? Crazy is in the eye of the beholders thinking OCD isn’t true, because I assure you my friends, it sure the hell is.

My rituals take mere seconds to complete. But when you add up all the seconds, it adds up to hours. It began happening with every place I’d look, even. When I’d look at letters I’d have to look in the center of them. And something I don’t think people understand, is that yes, it’s a compulsion to do these things. I don’t stop until it “feels” like I did it perfectly. Compulsions are like the “musts” of the brain. You literally feel like you have to do it. Otherwise I ritualize the same thing over and over again until I get it right. I touched a light switch for ten minutes straight once, over and over again until I could get a set of the number “four,” correctly. I’d touch it four times, always directly in the center, then if it didn’t feel right, I’d do it again…and again…and again. When I was a little girl, my best friend Tegan and I were coming in from playing basketball at her house when I needed to hit the garage button to close it. Well, I couldn’t just do it once all of the sudden. I HAD to touch it again, and I HAD to touch it just in the right spot to feel like it was ok to move on with the day. I’d done it before around her but luckily I always waited until someone was out of the room or do the ritual casually enough that no one would notice….at least I don’t think they did. At least not until that day. “Andrea, why are you touching it so many times?” My face still gets red with the embarrassment and shame left over from that moment. You see, I always knew it wasn’t something the other kids did. I didn’t know how I knew it because I’d think about how they’d probably do it in private as I would, but it just felt wrong every time I did it. “No!” I stated back. “Why would I be doing that?” I saw her look over to my hand. Then, as she turned around, she sweetly just said, “um, never mind.” We were so young. I remember doing this when I was around six years old. I was aghast to think she didn’t make fun of me. That instant confused me so much, until we got older and I knew everything she was about even into adulthood. It was never about putting people down. She’s a Psychologist today. Hell, she was a Psychologist when we were kids too. I so wanted to talk to her about it, just be able to get it out there that I was really suffering in this weird way and in this weird silence. It was the first secret I kept from Tegan. I hated it. But if I didn’t ritualize, I’d worry about things like people getting hurt, or screwing up their and my day, or I’d even worry that someone might die if I didn’t do it. And if I talked about it, what if people tried to get me to stop and it was the only way I could control any of the things that were happening to me and to others? I couldn’t do that. Plus, whatever it was I was doing was wrong, very wrong, I’d tell myself. OCD was like living a lie. People still don’t know the depths that I go to to ritualize without being seen. It’s almost a lie to myself by my denial of it for so long too. I didn’t know I could be so mean to myself at six years old. I hated OCD and began to hate myself as well. I’m the one who brought it on, so I’d be the one to have to deal with it. Little did I know, I’d carry that theory out beyond any grasp I could’ve held. I’m 36 as of last week and it’s still there, all that hate. I still have trouble with ritualizing to this day. I’ve just cut a lot of it out however, within this last year. There’s certain things I haven’t been able to kick yet, but the battle of doing the rituals vs the battle of not doing them became so great that I was willing to keep trying as I’ve done my whole life to kick it. It’s best on the days my mind gives me some time off. Off of the morbidity, the hell. The peek and tease of happiness I still get sometimes. But I never really got a peek until these past couple of years. That’s when I decided to try again. Oh hell, I’m always trying. It still carries such shame with it. If I drink out of my water bottle and look someone in the eyes at the same time, I get so scared that something may happen to them. I’ve even done it when I shouldn’t have cared about what happened to them because they were an asshole, but nevertheless, I didn’t want that on my plate. A big one for me is that I have a terrible time sleeping at night, and I would think it was because I wasn’t ritualizing correctly. Low and behold, I have insomnia. But don’t tell the OCD that, it won’t believe you.

Anyhow, usually, it’s within touch, cleanliness and putting things in a certain arrangement. For me, I had to touch things in sets of four. Four equaled an even lined square so not one part had more or less than the other. I was always looking for things to “even out.” And usually OCD sufferer’s use four or five as their number. People might argue to me that a triangle has equal sides as well, but for me, four is an even number, so that’s why I chose it, three is an odd number and I can’t handle the odds. Geez, I can’t handle the odds of anything. Two’s an even number but wouldn’t be able to make the lines form an equilateral shape if I had to draw it. I work very visually in everything I do. Especially when I try to explain things and I remember at a young age trying to think of how I would explain it if I ever had to. It’s so illogical and the craze one feels in their mind from such a disorder is just plain mean. This “thing” is making me want to keep doing it and doing it thinking it actually keeps the structure of a day going. I can’t explain how draining it is on the brain. Relaxation is out because wherever you are, you’re wondering if you’re touching things correctly, or needing to ritualize in some way. I waited tables in my 20’s and my good friend at the time would make fun of me because I’d do this weird thing with my hands when I’d walk. I’d always make a first, then rub my thumb on my first finger. He thought it was so weird and it was, I guess. But I was silently protecting myself from touching anything when I’d walk because I couldn’t afford to have one of my co-workers see me stop and ritualize. The saddest part is that I’d go along with him and make fun of it too. But it was the opposite of funny, it was awful. Feeling like you’re crazy, thinking so illogically. I never told anyone about it until my parents two years ago. But OCD is so hard to understand, even from the ones who suffer from it. Even harder to understand, well anything, is when people tell us of something we ourselves haven’t experienced. So no, I didn’t get a lot out of telling my parents. It’s really something, I should even still, get therapy for. But my past therapy experiences haven’t been that great either. Such is why I don’t jump at the chance. All we know is that we do it, and that it’s usually about trying to find control in a world where we need it. Mine started at a time when I needed it badly. I know it was right around the time of my mom’s affair, but that talk is for another night. We OCDers are good at hiding. We do things so inconspicuously you’d never know. But when we’re in private, we usually become more lax about it. And there’s the thing. The only time we become more lax about anything is when we’re alone, in private, where we can hide our shameful selves and take it out by ritualizing. Only to hate ourselves even more, every time we do it.

With the insomnia I fight, nighttime is the perfect time to sit with music and write. I get called a night owl but let’s be real about it…in my situation, this owl is exhausted! It shouldn’t take at LEAST three hours to fall asleep each night, that is if I can fall asleep at all. I’ve been known to be up for a four night stint on more than one occasion. And it’s hard getting through the day seeing spots, let me tell you, it’s not cool. Medication helps so much with my sleep. I’d count sheep and buy the time I got to 800, I was too bored at imagining them I finally would quit. What wasn’t a good thing though? Realizing at too early of an age what helps you sleep….drinking too much. Even when I took my first sip of alcohol. I told myself, “That shouldn’t have felt that good.” And little did I realize, it really shouldn’t have. But the nights would be sleepless without it, becoming a never ending cycle of yet another bad decision.

My diagnosis go on with PTSD from my marriage, but no one ever really believes that PTSD is true or fair to diagnose unless you’ve been in the military it seems like. People always brush off that diagnosis like they’re ignoring it, kind of like I’m going to do here because I don’t feel like writing about it. But coming from an abusive marriage, and all of these other things I’ve gone through. I can’t help the fact that I suffer from what I suffer from. I don’t like to define myself by my diagnosis, but I also don’t like my diagnosis to define me and with each day it’s seeming to be more true with every symptom I possess. 

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Yearly

8

I see today that I’m entering into another year. I just don’t get it. Where did it all go? And HOW in a world where everyday is so long, did I get through that many of them? I still feel so young to be honest. All of the sudden I begin questioning everything I learned in school, wondering if it should’ve been life lessons instead. “Geez, how am I supposed to battle all of these diagnosis’?” I’d think. Hell, that’s what I think everyday. I wish in life I had a map to follow, like when you get lost on the road you at least have a back up method to get you to the right direction. Can we make one of those? A map that tells us where to go when we’re clearly so lost we don’t even know left from right anymore? Ah, that would be nice. These are the things that fill my head up in fantasy. A smooth sailing life, always knowing where to turn and which hand is on which side. I feel like I hide everything from people though. At least the ones who don’t know me very well. I don’t want the judgement. The look you get when you do something out of the ordinary and everyone thinks, “Oh, she must’ve done that because of her mental illness.” All of the sudden I’ve become labeled. And the only label that feels fitting is the “Missing Person’s” picture on the side of a milk carton. That’s how lost I feel, and yet, it hits home in a hypothetical sense as well. Yes, I have disorders. And yes, they’re very real and significant in my life. But if I tell a lame joke, it’s not because I have these illnesses. Or maybe that is an illness, telling bad jokes is sort of a damn crime. 
My ADD is something you’d recognize when you really get to know me. But, it is the truth that I have it. It’s not the, “every kid has ADD, ADD.” I genuinely have it. I just don’t medicate it anymore and I didn’t start until nineteen. With ADD you go from one subject to the next within a metaphorical minute. One minute I want to work out in the gym, then drop that just as fast, then I want a different job, then a different arraignment for my room. And let’s say that happens every day. Cleaning the house, I’ll mush up all the cleaning chores instead of doing one at a time, I’ll do part of one, get distracted, then start a different one, get distracted, and so on. ADD is about distracting the mind because it can only have a certain amount of time in an attention span. I see it as a blessing and a curse. If I get down about something then I could be distracted so easily and quickly I’m off to the next subject. The curse however, is when it works backwards from being in a good mood switched to a bad one. Some days I’ll be in limbo all day long, I just hide at home. Moreover, I’d just try to sleep all day.

Whirlpools

9

I try to float inside

Swirling whirlpools

With a girl to hide.

Round and round I go,

Where I’ll stop no one will know.

Let me be alone in this strife

Not one of them to see

This girl in this life,

And let me walk down

With the duplicity

Making the most

Of all that is me.

And take what’s left

To serendipity,

Where I can hopefully

Leave behind

Depression’s cavity,

In this hollow hole

Of life’s capacity,

In a world unchanged

Of maximum security

For the likes of folks

Just like me.

To say they’ll be helped

To the nth degree,

Does not leave peace

But yes, unsettling things

With causation

Of casualties…

Of the sane mind,

Insanity rings.

No House Calls

10

I’ve been in his office for only five minutes before I can tell it’s on it’s way. The flash flood. “How do I sum up what’s going on into words?” I thought. “How’s he going to help the way I’ve been thinking?” It’s so deep now. I want to find the soul of everything all of a sudden. I just look more deeply into things. And, I always have but, now I find symbolism all over. You name it I can see the windows eyes within the souls. His nurse walks in. “Hello, Andrea.” I pleasantly responded back, “Hi” so shy this time. I wasn’t ready to expose what I’d been hiding from my family and all of my friends. I’d been going to this doctor for years, so this felt weird because usually I’m so happy. But, that “Hi,” epitomized everything about me lately. Something was changing and within it I couldn’t keep up. It was all I could muster out. I was already choking back the tears. “I just can’t stop,” I said, crying terribly. Before I’d thought she had kind of a gruff attitude. She was stern in her body language. But as she looked at me that day there was something so soft about her. You could tell she really cared. She stood so close to me I thought she was going to give me a hug, but there she stood and simply said, “I’m going to ask you something.” “You know how in every day it comes down to seconds, not minutes?” “Yes,” I said.

And mind you, I’m a really easy-going polite mild-tempered girl. That has never changed and some people wonder why I’d have the energy to be like that, while still going through this. And I’m telling you it’s because it’s all I have left to offer is who I am. I won’t change my genuine personality for anyone, or for misery either.

“Those are the moments that each life comes down to. So, instead of asking yourself if you can tolerate the rest of the day or hour, ask yourself if you can handle this one moment. Then try to get through the next and the next.” This sole piece of advice altered the way I thought in so many ways. And to this day, it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever received and been able to wrap around my thought process, especially when I get suicidal. That’s when I ask myself if I can handle the moment in front of me, instead of looking forward to a week of anything. She was so kind. And I’d come to later realize was the best therapist I’d see. But she wasn’t a therapist. She was my doctor’s medical assistant. I’ve told my story before almost looking for that piece of magical advice that doesn’t exist, but hoped that it did. My hope was the one thing that would get me to many places over the years because it was all I’d have left, and after this day she was able to even increase it a little. But as time would fade, so would the hope and the feeling that I could make it through even mere seconds. And I’d remind myself of her and what she’d said, and it always did help. Sometimes help it where you’ll least expect it I guess. I told the doctor she needed a raise. 

Bandaids

13

There they are again. The sirens someone called out for. Wailing into the night diffused by nothing but the sky. They’re intertwined with the roar of the sirens that no one could mistake. An ambulance. Here to help you and take you to the nearest hospital where the staff will then take care of you. But how do they take care of us mental illness patients? I ask. What do I do if I have no where else to turn except for options on the outside for my own demise? How can I stop the mind metaphorically bleeding and literally bound with screams of terror? I imagine myself in a crowd looking up to the sky and screaming as loud as I can. No one can hear it but me, but it hurts so much you’d think everyone could have felt it. What am I going to do? I don’t want to have these thoughts. Morbid as could be, these don’t belong here. This wasn’t always my way of thinking, what happened? I scream to let it out, I beg in my head to get it to stop. I wail inside my mind. I imagine things I won’t even say, but the terrors ring true and through and through in each day. I’m going to break. No, I can’t, I’m strong enough to deal with this….right? I’ve dealt with bad things before only then I knew it would be ok. Now, suddenly like a light switch it flipped the other way. Omigod, my mind won’t stop thinking these thoughts. Thoughts of ways to try and make it better, and thoughts of ways I thought would make it better but see now it was just the opposite. *Scream*….always in my head I scream. People talk to me these days and don’t realize how deep in thought I always am. Screaming myself to sleep. I toss and I turn not knowing what to do, as my mind races with fantasies of how I could get it all to stop for once and for all. I’m going to do it, I have to. I need the release more than I can take in air at this point. But I can’t. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart and it’ll leave me with scars deeper than the wounds in my heart. I did it earlier though, that day I pulled off the road. I did it then because I’d heard of other people doing it and I wondered if it helped, not even to ease the pain, but to ease something. And it did for a moment. But alas, cutting is like the death of you and it’s will for your taking can be the strongest thing you’ve ever encountered. It just leaves me with another reason to feel ashamed. Another thing I’ve failed at, and didn’t take the healthy route. And for just a second everything on the inside is physically real and the same on the outside, which almost makes me feel more normal again. But it all comes back just as instantaneously, and I am wading around in the depression again, only now it’s worse. Because depression carries with it such significance of guilt and shame that you think it couldn’t grow any more. But then you do something that you know other people would look down on and realize your hole just dug a little deeper. But make my mind stop, please. Make the echoes into the night not sound like the sirens of tornadoes coming. Let the screams stop and the morbid visions take a break. I’m already in a mental hell that no one really believes, all I feel is alone and all I want is to feel whole again. But was I ever whole? I think back to the days in school where I’d have a bad one and just cry. Another thing I always do…..cry myself to sleep. And I hate it because my mom can always tell when my eyes are puffy so I never have a good enough excuse. Plus, my nose gets so red I turn into rudolph for a day. What do I tell her now? Oh, well. Just another day with a band-aid. A covering to the truth no one wants, no one cares to see, and no one dares to tell. The sirens have stopped. Tonight this car wasn’t for me. Someone else, is out there with the screams too true, that tonight I do not want to delve into.

Canadian

14

We were on our way to see Eva. Keith my Great Uncle had seemed more nervous than I’d ever seen him. He was always such a dapper, strong, respectful human being and so was his wife. Eva and him met at her seventeen years old and him eighteen and they never let go. He was high up in the military flying jets and they were both from Canada. Eva had never even gotten her driver’s license because they were always together and he was going to take her. Eva was always so elegant with her salt and pepper hair with bright blue eyes you couldn’t miss. All I knew was that she was on the seventh floor of the hospital.

“Oh, Keith! You just drove through the stop sign!” My mom exclaimed to him. “Oh , did I?” “Huh.,” was all he had to say with his beret on that I stare at in the back seat. It’s got a little red ball of yarn on the top making it so cute for him. Typical Keith, I think he’d had it the entire time we had them in our lives. He was the type where you would see one of those red “Canada flowers,” that pins on your shirt…he had a plethora of.

Keith and Eva were all about respect and they earned it from everyone they came across. But it’s the little things that are so humbling when I think of Eva and her boisterous laugh at the movie, Dumb and Dumber. Her mouth opened just wide enough to show her teeth but her grace in her hand trying to cover her mouth told of her beauty right there. I wanted to be just like her. “Such a shame,” I thought she’d think after her death. “Such a shame I am to her, I must be.”

I Know

15

I know how it feels. Where you feel like you have no place to run anymore to get your emotions out without someone wanting you to talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so nice that people care, but I could see them getting tired of hearing it. And I guarantee I’m more tired of trying to explain things that I’ve yet to even grasp myself. I feel like all I do is complain, or feel sorry for myself. Either way I seem to feel like I’m not part of the daily things I do with people even though logically I know I am.  So, I wait. I wait for everybody to go to bed so I can cry. And if I cry during the daytime, I suck it up until I get in the shower. That’s where I collapse literally. I cry so hard that I just fall. And there I am kneeling down on the shower floor with my face buried in my hands. My whole body shakes. And I know I can be heard on the outside sometimes but I just wait for it to happen. “Annie, are you ok in there?” They’d ask. And what am I supposed to say? Being under this spell of mental illness. I can’t stand how much these disorders consume me. It’s despicable that I have to plan out times to cry like I’m planning nap time for a kid. So, there was me feeding off what I could out of life for a day. Off what the daily life would bring and then binge and purge in the shower of tears. I hate it because I had no choice. Living the medicated part of a day was making me gain weight as well. I called it my demon, something was in my mind that was constantly berating me, it has to be a demon….so that’s what I called it. So after all this talk, no, really guys, living sure sounds amazing still…right?