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. 

Blank Space

22

I hate that something happened when I outlasted the good parts of life into the bad. I can’t stand that I’ll even have good days but I’ll look back later and think that they were awful. That’s all that I remember anymore. The awfulness takes the fun out of each memory and I wonder where to. Is there a mental dump somewhere that my mind loads up and takes out every Wednesday? I just don’t get it. Most of this blog is about the trials of life with mental illness but there’s a lot that I still don’t understand. Like days when the pressure gets really bad I can’t stand that one either. And people realize how bad your OCD can get when the pressure is on for you to be at your best. Oh, who am I kidding, the pressure is just natural from having to act like a normal human being. I must smile as if I enjoy everyday, instead of looking like I feel. If I had physical symptoms of all my mental problems, I’d be in a coma by now. At least I’d be left alone finally. And every time I put pressure on myself I wouldn’t have to look at the center of everything. People think I’m just staring at something but the reality is that I have to look at something four times or in the exact center of it. Phew, what a process. It takes so much time! And it makes me so mad because the medications I take make me gain weight too. And that shouldn’t be the most awful thing today because people could just think, oh well, at least you’re on your way to being happy. But the truth is A) you don’t know that this will work and B) I’d never realized how mean people could be. I’ve been called fat by at least 5 strangers. One of which I punched in the face. He made such a rude comment about my weight that I just wham! punched him in the face/nose. I’m so sick of people being judgmental! I’m a human being for crying out loud. Don’t call me things when you have know idea what it’s like. To all the skinny people out there, I’m jealous of you. Not only is it sooo hard for me to lose weight, it’s so easy for me to pack it on! Be aware of serequil for one people. That is a medication used for so many things including anxiety but it makes you super hungry and makes you gain weight starting yesterday. Oh, how I hate having this.

I am a human being. A fair minded, light hearted, clumsy, yes, easy going kind of chick. I walk at 5’6″ and my rule of thumb every since I can remember is to “walk tall.” I’m the most self conscious person I’ve ever met. I’ll wear sweatshirts in the summertime in 199 degree weather, inside of work, sweat dripping down my forehead, kind of conscious. DO people think I’m weird? Probably. But that could also be because I am a little weird and do weird things. I’m for the most part just curious Andrea just a little less curious with every inquisition. I mean if you’re going to sit on a bench and french kiss your bf, I take things like that as an invitation to come and snuggle in as well. I mean geez, how can you not?! I just sit, extra, extra close to one of them and maybe give a little back rub, you know? No harm done. And maybe next time they’ll get a room. Or the woman who, with her kids, threw an empty water bottle underneath a car to get rid of it when there was a trash can right there. I quickly goes under the car to retrieve it. “Ma’am, I think you lost this.” As I caught up to her. “What?! No that’s not mine.” She exclaimed. “Well, I distinctly remember watching you throw it underneath that car and if you want to throw it somewhere it should be in the garbage.” I giggle running off like a little kid. When you let your arms flail about and you can just let them loose. It’s the only time running can be fun.

Side Effects

23

Growing up I’d always thought that when you have a health problem, you go see the Dr. and they fix it……right? But I went to the Dr. and I took whatever medicines he wanted me to. Hell, I was taking upwards of ten to fifteen medications a day. I even went to therapy when I was uncomfortable talking about it. I TRIED to find a hobby, or keep myself busy. I did all the things the Dr.s want you to do in these situations. I got a psychiatrist. AND, not to mention, some of those people were a little kookier than I was at the time. But am I the problem as my mind tells me I am. Or am I a side effect among the problems we live with everyday, and it has nothing to do with medication?

“Well, I also have been drinking quite a bit and that’s not good,” I tell her. “Stop!” The Psychologist abruptly exclaims and literally puts her hand in the air and shoves it my way. “My specialty isn’t in drinking, so I’m not comfortable talking about that.” But the sign just said “Psychologist,” so I don’t get it. I just needed an ear to listen to me rant so I’d hopefully not take it out on my friends. “That’s just not a subject I’m ok with.” Ok lady, I just need you to therapitize me, alrighty? I think to myself. Her salt and pepper hair was so frizzy and she’d spit when she talked, it was gross. And, you can imagine what came out of her mouth when she was all amped up. It was like a loogie shot out. So far, I’ve been to five counselors, or therapists and have a psychiatrist as well. My psychiatrist is amazing but I’m having a terrible time finding a therapist. None of them talk. And the one that does, wants me to come to a sleepover where her office is for an entire weekend, with four other people and pay her $2,000 dollars to do it. She would talk nonstop about the husband she’d lost to cancer, which yes, is terrible, but I was paying to listen to her problems in the session and I really needed help. All of the sudden I was the counselor and just wanted to be the counselee. She even got upset with me when I left her, begged me to stay and then flipped it and got angry with me. She wore an orange tiger looking fur coat with tennis shoes, it was all just too weird. I didn’t realize how many of them would just sit and write notes and never talk except to say “mmm-hmmm.” And I know that’s part of the practice but I also know they’re there to give guidance as well. I’d feel stupid after awhile because with a few of them you could tell they weren’t even listening. They just knew when to nod and utter those, “mm-hmms,” to keep me going and get to their paycheck. The one positive however, was that I’d have a little time to think about the things I was saying and give myself a little advice about them. So I kind of got to counsel myself. It’s weird how you feel a certain way and you can’t quite figure it out until you really put it out there. All of the sudden new bells turn on and you have just a little more spark of a hope you’ve been missing.

Speaking of paycheck’s, that’s another thing I’m noticing slipping. I’m a really hard worker, like, I bust my ass when I’m on the clock. And lately, I just don’t see the point in it anymore. I can’t see the point in anything. It’s not that I’m looking for a reason to slack off either, I just feel like the world’s constantly in robot mode, working 9-5 and it’s the same thing everyday. How old. I remember one of my bosses coming up to me and saying, “Well, there’s my hard little worker, I don’t even know where the rest of the staff is.” Well, they were all hanging out on a bench chatting about what they’d done that weekend. I thought,”What the hell is this? He’s not even going to tell them to get back to work and I’m standing here sweating and cleaning, why do I take this so seriously? I’m feeling a constant disappointment all of the time. Maybe I really am just this side-effect of life where the world is the problem and there is no cure. We work a long day just so we can be too tired at home to give a damn. Go to college to fulfill our passion into a career only to have it wiped away because the hours only get longer and the pay is never enough. Our passion then turns into resentment and nobody gets along anymore. I wonder why we put so much energy into the things we’re “supposed” to do, like work, but then the reality of our lives come home and we’re too burnt out to be a part of it. Every day it’s the same thing, in and out, over and over. I just don’t understand. I’m feeling more and more like I don’t belong here because it feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t get it to this kind of Nth degree. Then, when I finally do figure things out, It feels like a disappointing answer and I’m so tired of disappointments. So tired of thinking “this is it.” This is what I’ve come to be, have to be and have to accept for the rest of my life. But I’ve tried accepting it before. I guess that was just another side effect.

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.

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.