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. 

Practicing Medications

29

Do you ever feel like the second you give something up you want it back? It seems like every time I’m over something, that’s when it’s just beginning. Or when something was a problem with not much resolution, my generation had to be the guinea pig’s. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad I got my suffering when treatment was even an option but what’s it done for me? I’m forced to take all these medications that make me gain weight, and it seems like every time I have a problem I have to get a new diagnosis and a new pill to take. I was up beyond 13 at one point, and god forbid you go against what some of the dr.’s think. Because they’re the only ones that can do anything about it. They outrank everyone. But last I checked there were more mental health sufferers. 450 million to be exact. We’re learning to question all of these things in school and it’s quite infuriating looking back at what I’ve had to put up with and pay out of pocket for. So, after I was diagnosed all I wanted to do was hibernate and sleep but at the same time was battling insomnia all the same. It wasn’t my original doctor’s fault as he was doing what he’d been taught. He at least let me have a voice and would understand that I wasn’t stupid and if anyone is going to describe symptoms and know how it affects them, it’ll be the patients. I’ve been stereotyped because I’m a girl, because I’ve gained all this weight and because of what I suffer from. I’ve also been shut down because I was told to be proactive.  But how can you be proactive alongside the thing that’s fighting for your demise. Society wants us to go into the doctor’s offices and tell them what we need. You find me a doctor that can put their pride away for that long, then you’ve got a deal. But after all of the doctors who shut me down, especially being I’m a nice easy going person, and yes, a woman, they think take it offensively when you’ve actually been able to muster up any “proactive” discussions. Family physician’s want you to go see a psychiatrist if you have something like depression. Psychiatrists can’t deal with general pain and I have a really bad back, so their battle begins. The family physician swears my back pain is depression related and my psychiatrist is the opposite. Quite frankly, I don’t believe any of them. If they wouldn’t be SO pill happy sometimes and would ask how you’re doing once in awhile, you might be able to let them know patterns that you observe. But any doctor that I’ve tried to voice anything with realizes they’re power position and uses it to intimidate you into even more of the problem. I had no idea how those medicines made me feel when my depression was at it’s worst, but I did notice things over time and was forced to go with it because we couldn’t handle the “What if?” And the what if, could be really bad, but isn’t that what responsible medicating is all about, and being able to work with your dr together? I thought and was told I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. So that’s how some people treat me, especially doctors…..as imbalanced. They seem to mistake that for stupidity though, and people don’t realize that I’m not. But I do notice, the way they treat me, and I do notice that medicine is not what they’re practicing…..it’s power. And, no one knows all of my diagnosis…but me. I’ve been diagnosed with so many things I may as well be radioactive. And with each new doctor all of my diagnosis change, and the doctor that comes after the one before isn’t sure of what I suffer from because they wonder if I should really have that many diagnosis, so they have to diagnose me all over again. What a cycle. It’s just this roller-coaster ride that I didn’t pay to get on, am terrified of riding, and would give my life savings if they’d just stop it and let me go. You’d think that all my suffering is just practice for the next doctor to see if they’ll diagnose me correctly. Practice for them and practice for me if I can get this thing called life. Everyday, it’s everyday that we practice. Being who we are, being who we want to be and being far away from the things that terrify us. But here I am, riding in this circle of life that’s going to slow and too fast all the same and it never stops. Each day I wake up and I practice. More trials and tribulations about being someone, or simply just being me.

There’s Three Sheets to the Wind?

30

It didn’t take me long to feel the unease of the first drink I’d ever had, or maybe I should say the ease of the first drink being it felt so good…too good to be honest. But being young and not knowing any better I kept up with it pretty well, too well I’d realize later. I hoped everyday that I wouldn’t wind up having a drinking problem, even from a younger age than I already was at 17. But that was one of the biggest problems was the denial of it all. For so long I didn’t want the signals I gave off of being the real scared me known until nighttime when I became the real drunk me and I’d forget about it. When they say you battle an addiction they are so right in it’s terms of battling. Everyday I’d wish that I wouldn’t drink that night only to not be able to handle being in my own skin without sleep until I’d relentlessly go for the six or 12 pack. When the party finally did end, and yes it had to, I felt about as horrible as my fears would allow in the years prior. It was always my secret battle that I never talked about because, as it seemed, everyone around me was always doing so well I had no idea where to fit in anymore. And that was the thing, I wasn’t me anymore. I was this girl whose priorities seemed to shift from school to drinking and that was all that I cared about in the next few years. I feel terrible about it now, because there’s not really a real sounding board for an alcoholic who feels alone all of the time and stubbornly pushes away the people who get in the way when intoxicated. No wonder I felt like people pushed me into the corner and walked on by, I practically forced them too. In looking back beyond the haze of the hangovers, you can really see the destruction alcohol can do especially over time and the things you had to be willing to forgo in order to keep up denial. I had some of the nicest friends that would take care of me on the nights I couldn’t drive which were adding up to be too many. Once the headache wears thin and you slowly come back to reality all people would see was my smiling face that hid all the secrets within. I had to get out of the denial but shame would bring me back into the ring time and time again. When you wake up every single day dreading the time that comes that you usually drink….people that don’t suffer from addictions have no idea how hard it is to get through 24 hours without your fix. I’d always thought mine was something attributed to growing pains, but the hidden secrets that ooze out of a bottle would come to my desires of just not feeling this way, too many a time. “Bored,” they would say. “You’re just bored,” enabling just the thing I’d want. And, “yes,” I thought. I was bored. But boredom is supposed to be fixed with something healthy to do, or anything to do that doesn’t require the shame shift time and time again. You shouldn’t feel guilty about the things you do when you’re bored, and my guilt was ever surmounting in all of the times I’d hear about my boredom, all the while knowing that one day I’d probably have to come to terms with the reality of the word addiction.

Letter

31

Go to the places where the water whispers sweet nothings as you watch. With just enough hope that time will pass faster than the previous seconds. Looking to the sky as the clouds take shape of all of your emotions. Suddenly, everything seems to revolve around the way you feel. Which people think that is what I want lately. For it all to revolve around me. Why would I want that? For attention? No. I don’t know what I’d do with a bunch of attention. I think I’d ask everyone to quiet down, actually. Everything’s too loud for me. But the silence inside my scars, to the steps I hardly take in a day because there’s no where to go is all I have left. The only reason I spoke of the depression was to teach people what I was going through. To try and help them. When I got exhausted of talking about it myself I realized, “If I am still talking about it then that means someone’s still not getting it,” or maybe no one was. It doesn’t matter anymore. Sometimes this loneliness can be unbearable though. The creaks in the floors and walls are what keep me company. Or music. Music notes float around my room bouncing around with the beat of song, I still smile. But not as much. I feel like I’m underwater, reaching for that last breath because that’s the only thing I know how to still do. But no one’s there to pull me up. I wonder if they’d even try. I’ve had so many suicide attempts that I really think that certain people want me to get it over with. I was worried that might happen. And I’m out of ideas of how to take my life. I wear these two rings, one representing the past and one the future. There’s supposed to be a third representing the present that I threw away because I’m never there. I’m always stuck in the past or dreaming for a better future and for the second I go back to the present it makes me think. Think of everything I’ve got to do, have done and yet to think about. It’s ok though, I smile. I smile with a glass shield over my eyes with the reverse support of glasses. These help me go into my daze, let me out to a place I desperately need but reluctantly go. If I were a nice man, would you show me a nice world? And if I were a temptress would you show me a world free or temptation or full of it? What about if I were just a girl? A girl in a complex world that can’t figure anything out. Would you help me? Or would you say something nice and turn to laugh because I deserve this horribly unfortunate disorder? And what if I had six disorders? My lucky number is seven so I’m sure I’m missing one. I used to think that if the world didn’t have to suffer this way then I was ok taking on all of these mental setbacks, if you will. Fuck that. It’s been over fifteen years and I want it gone. I’d do anything. Anything for a real smile. Anything but to not tear up as I lose another friend. Anything for what I used to be. Someone once wrote a letter to me saying I had wit, beauty and altruistic sincerity. But I’m lost, so far lost that all I do is sit here with my bit of hope. Hope that tomorrow might be better.

Smile

32

Letting someone down wasn’t supposed to be the plan today. And why does it feel like it’s happened everyday lately? I leave the room and if feels like sighs of relief behind me. Another discussion of my marathon man depressive disorder. I’ve lost so many that decided to walk toward the light of the sun in their escape from me and my doom. But, I can smile. I do smile. Especially when I greet people, “smile, so they won’t guess,” I tell myself. But a smile is different than the eyes and what shows from beneath them. I know your soul comes out of your eyes because all I see is judgement all of the time. And to think I thought I was getting better. That just wouldn’t be fair would it? If you have a bad day and say, “Story of my life,” then you think doom and dread would be your best friends right? No, best friends are for walking out on you because they’re tired of everything about you. Even the things they assume you to be like. I think in certain people’s minds I’ve developed into this terrible individual but in reality their mind is just looking for a way out of the friendship so they twist the reality a little to get out of having to commit to it. Really, people are just tired of the “Depression.” The thing I never talk about anymore, the frowns I never show, and the tears I don’t wipe off leaves them without a good enough reason to say, “I can’t handle it anymore.” Plus, they don’t want to look like the bad guy right? Who wants to say, oh well, she was depressed so I had to bail. No, but they CAN say, well, she really changed over the years and I don’t agree with certain things about her anymore. Cop out. I’m still the same girl. But I suppose I’m a worse friend now too. So, it can’t be all their fault. I heard that it’s a cop out to kill yourself. But a real cop out is what I see on a daily basis. People scurrying away for shelter in their depression free homes. I’m sorry, are you sick of hearing about my shit? Well, I’m sick of having it. Everyone’s looking for their reasons. I can see it in their soul. Maybe I don’t have one and that’s why it’s easy for people. Where would you be if someone close to you suffered? Would you be there? Are the words Best Friends Forever just broken promises? When you say you’d die for me, would you really, because you also said you were serious. I think I’m fending for myself on this life. And the worst part is that I feel more ashamed of myself and full of blame and guilt that I surpassed you even before the word depression. Ugh, that word! What it carries is unbelievable. In an unbelievable mind, from an unbelieving world, in an unbelievable girl, in an unbelieving heart to an unrelenting heart, we go on.

Awaken

33

I was awake when you came in, the intruder I’d meet but never miss. With force you tried to teach your lesson, that you are stronger, meaner and quicker. But I’m a Tyson kinda fighter and I’ll try to keep you at bay as long as I can. I try to hit you away. But you’re relentless in life, you’re despicable in person and you are my future guilt and shame that I did not ask and do not deserve. You should’ve stayed away. I was uncomfortable with you from the get go, which is unsurprising among this anxiety everywhere I take. With your force you played a tricky hand I wasn’t ready for and all I could do was go with every instinct I knew to do, and that was to fight. But just like all else that ails me, your force became strengthened. Maybe I was your example, might in your lesson. You taught me about fairy tales failed. The goodness of a story interrupted by selfishness and greed. You’re mean, monster. You growled when I said no and took it as an applause leaving me there silenced in the end. Unable to boo, unable to scream, simply unable in everything that I tried to save. Relentless, you took me apart. Some people need to wear caution signs when they walk around this Earth because of their constant tricks. And with no magic, just dirty pool you took my soul in these moments. It felt like I’d cut myself clean as you ripped me apart. But at least I’d make it quick and painless. In your world pain is the trophy and ownership is the boss. Too bad you can’t own the girl already taken by the devil inside. My hatred will cease but you impeded in my success of it all and caused the tears another eve. I didn’t mean to ask for all the bad, I promise I didn’t. I think some can smell my weakness like meaty prey. Still in each morning I try to start over but realize this life needs to better itself also. There’s so much pain in this world that we all can see and complain about but are forced by triumphant will to keep in such misery. This was never meant to be my game. I was looking for something different but became complacent in despair and attempts for it all to hold still. I need more time to learn how to fight I suppose. But maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m really good at the ones who force themselves upon me in my plight to fight back, fight first and to find my power in a voice. On this night I was silenced, though. Silenced so much that in it’s heated degree the thermometer burst. I could say nothing. Nothing to him, nothing to me and not a peep in these outdoors where I’m supposed to scream.

Auras

34

When I told the doctor I was pregnant. I also let him know how I thought maybe if I had the baby it’d give me a reason to live. “What a selfish reason to keep a child though,” he said. And he was right. Selfish was something I’d never been called in my whole life, but now is when I knew I was. It was all selfish. And shit, how do you tell your parents at that age what’s going on? I was so confused. My parents did it the right way, I’d naively thought. Marrying then waiting to have children for a number of years. But like I said before, they’d had a tumultuous time as well. What I’d learn to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and such a thick straw it was….was infidelity. And it was close to home too. And I remember stressing out so much as a kid, wondering what was going on with them that I started having little flashbacks and began to piece together my memory of this one day I probably shouldn’t have been a part of.

I used to get migraines, well I still do. But the ones I got as a little kid were so awful. I’d go blind in one eye and then about an hour later I’d get the worst headache of my life and it would sometimes last an entire day. Ugh, they’re terrible.

It started out as a day like that. And when I’d get one of these migraines, I used to love to snuggle up in their bed and watch tv. But today was different. She burst into the room with him right on her tail. He grabs out for her arm. She tries to pull away and he just gets her elbow. “Wait!” He says to her. And I just remember their faces. So aghast and upset with the middle person that made their way metaphorically into our home. I remember hearing my swim coaches name and something about a lunch. And that was it for me, I think I got up to go back to my room. But from then on I’d remember back to the day when I heard that name and felt very strange. I didn’t realize my instincts were kicking in. But I’d lay there sometimes and cry at night to worry about my parents, because I was worried if they’d make it or call it a day. Will I sleep with insomnia tonight, or will the insomnia take over me to incessantly think….what could I have done?

Years later, my dad and I went out to dinner. Him and I were getting closer after I’d gotten married, and we’d go on date nights. I remember the softness in his voice that night when he told me that they were scared they were going to lose me. I let him know how scared I’d been too. Then, for some reason I asked about the day in their room so long ago. He simply confirmed it and I could see the dispair still in his eyes. He’d gotten his heart broken and the only one with any information on the culprit swim coach was me. I could tell he was full of questions he wouldn’t dare ask. What was he like? What did he look like? One question slipped out from him and it hit me to the core. Swimming was my everything. I was captain in high school. I’d gone to state. I loved life during that time. I loved being with my friends. They were there the days I had a hard time during school, but who didn’t? I didn’t have depression in school, but I had days where I felt like I couldn’t figure out what it all meant. Why all the stress of life? I put everything I had into that sport. My friends kept me forgetful though, too, from the bad days. They were always there for a laugh. I was in top ten for homecoming. I just loved being social. And just because there was a lot of fighting at home, my parents were still amazing. Mom and I were cleaning out a desk one day and I found a letter from Keith and Eva. “Please remember the children.” It said. I started to cry. Keith and Eva had long passed by the time I read this and I missed them terribly. All I wanted my whole life was for my family to be happy and I just couldn’t help thinking I could’ve been going more. I just, oh, I loved my family so much. I just wanted us to be together and ok. When you’re a parent that floods that house with fighting and it’s not a physical abusive household, just remember how much your children love you and how you as the parent may be able to do literally everything you can for your family; it may not matter how old your child is to understand and fear what they might have to do to help because they’re more grown up than people give credit. I remember haunting myself over that question my mom asked me. The one about whether or not they should divorce. What would I have told her. “This is about your husband, not my father,” I’d say. Because you may think you’re staying together for the kids but it can be just as, if not more sometimes, detrimental in going that way.