Tag Archives: OCD

This Isn’t About Robin Williams

“Many who try to bring joy to the world are often the same people who fight a great war within themselves. Every fight lost is a tragedy.”

The death of comic genius Robin Williams spawned thousands and thousands of (well-deserved) tributes and blog posts about not only his career and his life, but also his mental health struggles.

I don’t want to read them.

I don’t want to watch them.

I don’t want to hear about depression and opinions from people who just have no clue.

That’s selfish, but I don’t want to deal with it because I live it every day of my life, a life that I’ve questioned the value of more often than I care to admit. While I would like to think that I would never go to that extreme, I’ve thought about what the world would be like if I were no longer in it, if I could never get “better.”

Because of that, Robin Williams’ death wasn’t surprising to me. Tragic? Yes. Surprising? No. Addiction and depression are equal-opportunity destroyers, regardless of age, sex or class. And the thing about addictions are that they’re all just a slow suicide, no matter your weapon of choice.

So why do some people make it while others lose the fight? I don’t think anyone knows.

What I do know is that for me, it’s not about lack of resources, because if I want to get help there are a million places to get it.

It’s not about people not doing enough to help, because I know you have to want and accept that  support in order to pull yourself out.

It’s also not about attention. My dark thoughts aren’t about death but rather the fantasy of finding some peace—any peace—to quiet the storms in my head.

That probably doesn’t make sense, but I wrote a piece for Huffington Post about my OCD that I never shared on this blog because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Plus, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that reality.

But it is reality, and so are suicide and depression and all those things I don’t want to read, hear or talk about a lot of the time—all those things I am forced to think about all the time anyway.

Yet that’s probably part of the problem.

After Williams’ death I posted that quote above on Facebook and linked back to a post I wrote on depression.

The response was huge, both on that older post and to the simple quote. People sent me emails sharing their stories, and someone commented, “Thank you for things that you write. You have a medium where you can reach out to other people and truly help them with your own experiences.”

Whether he liked it or not, Robin Williams had a platform to talk about mental health, and maybe in some tiny miniscule way, so do I–whether through humor or sharing my struggles. If nothing else, I need the support myself on most days.

Of course, there’s no magic cure or easy answers. But what there is is support if you accept it, people who care and a dialogue about mental health that has been reopened up with another loss of life.

This time it wasn’t you.

It wasn’t me.

And if it was, it’s safe to say the whole world wouldn’t be mourning our passing. But somebody would. Somebody cares. And every fight lost is a tragedy.

Keep up the fight.

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That Sinking Feeling

Despite what this post might suggest, I’m not high-maintenance. I just have severe OCD and like my routine, not to mention a house that functions as it should and remains rather clean.

With that said, any disruption to my basic necessities — water, food, Internet, baseball, power, mostly food again — are classified as mini-catastrophes in my world, a world where I’m not proficient in plumbing or electrical work where hummus flows freely like water.

hungry

So when I walked into the kitchen the other night and noticed my previously functional faucet releasing a small but steady stream of water, I started to lose my crap.

After taking a deep breath, I called an old handyman friend of my uncle that sometimes helps me with things and found out he could stop by the next day. I knew this was good, but I also knew this meant tons of more stress for my dysfunctional mind.

If I don’t have a sink, how can I make my tea? Use my steamer? Would he take so long that my normal dinner routine would be shattered? And what about my semi-clean floors? How am I supposed to survive?!?

Part of my frustration with these things comes from not being able to fix them myself, but 99.9 percent of my frustration comes from the series of events that follow after someone comes over to fix them.*

*Yes, I am most appreciative, but I am also OCD with no patience for putzing or lack of respect for the Lysol.

So without further putzing, let’s take a look at how this went (all times are approximate, as I’m still recovering from the trauma.)


9 pm—Enter kitchen and notice sink is running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

9:01—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

9:05—Call old handyman guy and learn a) he really wants to engage in a “to make a short story long” type of discussion and b) he can come by the next afternoon around 3.

9:25—Call mom and ask her to meet him at my house until I can get home from work.

9:26—Ignore problem for the rest of the night.

Next Day

5:30 am—Enter kitchen and notice sink is still running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

5:31—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

5:35—Leave for work and stress about sink.

4 pm—Arrive home, find mom in my garden and give her a 6-pack as a thank you.

4:05—Full of dread, enter the house and notice he didn’t heed the “Please take shoes off. Thanks!” post-it note I so carefully placed on the door. And that he moved the blanket I had down over the kitchen rug. And that he was using my favorite coffee cup and dish towel to catch the dripping water OH MY GOD!

4:05:10—Remind myself he’s helping me out. Deep breaths are taken and possibly exhaled as a loud sigh—this part is sketchy.

4:10—Make small talk and pretend to care what plumbing parts are called while discreetly moving the blanket over the rug and his tools onto paper towel.

4:15—Learn he’ll be done in about half an hour and decide I’m pretty much a revolutionary for my survival skills in times of such stress.

4:16 to 4:45—Distract myself in the form of preparing soon-to-be used cleaning products and plan how I can clean and get dinner ready on OCD time.

4:46—He’s still putzing. Start freaking out and immediately change my mind on revolutionary status.

4:55—While searching for Xanax salt lick, I’m informed it’s fixed. Pleasantries and payment are exchanged, as is the information that his wife read my first book after my uncle gave him a copy.

4:56—Feelings of annoyance wane as I gently lead him outside my house.

5:00—Begin manic Lysol/Swiffer sweeps of the counters and floors while prepping dinner at the same time, once again applauding my survival skills.

5:05—Enter bathroom. Notice the toilet seat is up, meaning his dirty shoes and everything attached to them paraded throughout my house and used my toilet.

5:06—Manic feelings return. Cleaning commences.

5:15—Smoke detector goes off, signaling that dinner is done.

5:20—Revolutionary status restored, but my sanity? Still MIA.

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Kanye West: “Weed Digger”

It’s been awhile since I’ve serenaded you with veggie verses, so it’s my pleasure to present to you my take on Kanye West’s Golddigger,” with a gardening spin.

 Weed Digger”

weeddigger

She gives me veggies, when I’m in need

Yeah she’s a gardening friend indeed

Oh she’s a weed digger, way over town

That digs on me.

Chorus:

(She gives me veggies.)

Now I ain’t sayin’ she a weed digger (when I’m in need)

But all these plants are getting bigger, bigger.

(She gives me veggies)

Now I ain’t sayin’ she a weed digger (when I’m in need)

But all these plants are getting bigger, bigger.

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl gone head

18 plants, 18 plants

She got one of every kind, about 18 plants

I know somebody putting stakes up for all of those beans,

Her green thumb mamma helps secure it so that it never leans.

You will see her there outside on any given day

Digging up the dandelions out from the clay.

She was supposed to buy some new clothes with some of her money

But went down to the greenhouse and got seeds with that money

Now she keeping her plants safe from that meddling bunny,

So that it doesn’t eat the greens she bought with all of her money.

If you ain’t no punk, holla “We want turnips!

WE WANT TURNIPS!” Yeah.

It’s something that you need to know

‘Cause what you’ll see when you go to her home.

18 plants, 18 plants

And in her flowers you can find a happy little gnome.

Chorus:

Now I ain’t saying she’s a weed digger (she got needs)

She don’t want her yard to suck, so she pulls those weeds

Her OCD compels her every day to rake up the leaves,

There’s green beans in the back, so she rolls up her sleeves

She got that ambition, baby, look in her eyes

This week she’s picking peppers you would normally buy.

So, stick by her side

I know this girl is crazy, but the garden is nice

And she gonna keep weeding and trying

But you stay right there

‘Cause when you need some good tomatoes she is willing to share.

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head

(lemme hear that back)

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A Light In the Dark

As a writer, I try to write about everything.

It’s basically all that I know how to do.

But the thing about writing humor is that it sometimes makes me feel like I’m hiding behind a mask and pretending I’m something I’m not. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a person who loves to laugh—who loves to make other people laugh even more—but yet most of the time that’s not me, or at least that’s not how I feel.

But it’s hard to ignore what goes on in my head and even harder to write about depression. For one, there’s the fear that writing about it makes you look weak and turns people off because it’s not funny or light. Most people have their own problems, so why would they read about mine?

The other trouble is that it is often incredibly difficult to articulate just how I feel.

Deep depression is hard to understand, especially if you’ve never been there. It has manageable days that for me usually include writing something I don’t hate or spending time outside. In other words, I function and appear to be fine.

But then there are days—sometimes even that same day— when like a virus it flares up and all I can do is remind myself not to swerve my car over the center line or walk a little too close to the edge.

These are the times that I should reach out, but the thing about depression is that it comes with the sense that you shouldn’t have it to begin with, that it’s a bunch of self-indulgent navel gazing and not an actual illness like those that everyone can see looking in.

And so I swallow it down and isolate more, feeling that talking about it at all with people will only make me sound whiny. It’s hard to explain that depression isn’t like being sad and OCD isn’t just “needing to clean,” but rather that they are entirely crippling.

Unfortunately for me, it has crippled me both physically and mentally.

My concentration is barely existent, and more times than not I alternate between staring at my computer and feeling trapped behind a curtain too heavy to lift/inadequate in comparison to everyone else and doing unhealthy amounts of exercise in an attempt to distract myself and feel something, anything other than flat.

At least the exercise—the slow self-destruction in part because of my OCD —gives me some false sense that I’m coping or in control…until my body can no longer take the brunt of my mind. But no matter what I do, it’s never enough, and the addiction can only temporarily serve as distraction before my body literally breaks.

The effects devastate me not because of what they’re doing to my body, but because they take away the only coping mechanism that I feel like I have when everything feels like too much and yet not enough. The immediate consequences don’t matter because at that point, nothing really matters.

But that’s what depression does.

It twists things around in your mind. Any activity takes many times more effort, like trying to run through quicksand. Work is boring and intolerable. What felt joyful feels dull and what felt sad feels unbearable. Everything seems meaningless, including previous accomplishments and anything you used to like.

Depression is truly the absence of hope.

So why am I writing rambling this post?

Because May is Mental Health Month and ignoring that fact is ignoring what I deal with each day. But more importantly, maybe it’s because what you deal with, too, and hearing that others are in the same boat can be something you didn’t even know you needed to hear.

sky

After all, words have power. But this isn’t a motivational speech with a happy ending or solution, as I have neither of those things. It’s simply a reminder that you’re not alone. You’re not defective or broken or dealing with what you “deserve.”

No, you’re simply human.

You’re doing the best that you can with the strength that you have. You’re choosing to hold on to hope and to fight, and as much as I feel like I can’t on some days, I choose to keep fighting as well.

It’s basically all that I know how to do, but we don’t have to do it alone.

And hopefully at the end of the day—and most certainly in my next post—we can find something that makes us smile. Sometimes that’s all—and everything—that we might need.

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A Moment in the Sun

We were lucky that Easter Sunday this year was picturesque in terms of weather. For the first time since October we reached 70 degrees and had sun, something we could only fantasize about during the harshest winter in history.

I took advantage of the opportunity and spent part of the afternoon working outside before sitting in the sun on my deck, listening to the ballgame on the radio and watching the squirrels perform Cirque du Soleil moves on my half-empty feeder.

squirrel

As I sat there, I remembered scraping the ice off my windshield on those subzero mornings, driving 20 mph to work on icy roads and shoveling feet of snow. At that time, all I could think about was a) where I could move and b) how much I would appreciate days like we were having that day—warm, sunny and safe—if the frozen ground ever thawed.

But then eyes closed, sprawled out in a chair like an albino lizard on a heat rock, I found my mind going right back into my routinely obsessive thoughts on work, money, food, writer’s block, exercise, what I “should” be doing that day and in life, etc.

That moment in the sun with no obligations had suddenly turned into the storm in my head that so often clouds up my mind. And in some ways I was more present in the middle of winter fantasizing about the warmer weather than I was present in that moment actually sitting in the warmer weather.

It was then I overheard the neighbor kids say, “Poke it and see if it’s dead.”

 At first I thought they meant me, but since it came from the other side of the fence I assumed it was a small woodland creature. And while I’m sorry it took it’s probable demise to  bring me back to the present moment, I’m kind of glad that it did.

Because I do this all the time.

Part of me gets excited for or works towards something, and then when it happens I’m already moving on, dismissing it as something to check off a list instead of enjoying that moment. I don’t feel accomplished or calm, but rather wonder, “Okay, what’s next?”

It’s easy to fall into that trap in today’s society of “more, more, more.” Sitting around reading or listening to the ballgame isn’t always as “admirable” as doing, doing, doing all the time. There’s that constant need to know just what is next.

But as one warm day in the sun reminded me, I don’t have to fall into that trap.

I can choose where to place my attention and my intention by saying “yes” to a moment and “no” to worrying about that next thing all the time. If my mind would get out of my way, maybe I could relax and remember this more.

After all, the temps are back in the 40s with rain this week—Mother Nature is a cruel, cruel shrew at times—which proves how fast moments can pass.

Just ask the critter cadaver next door.

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Who I Am

About eight or nine years ago I was in a group therapy session with 10 other women when the doctor had us go around the room and do a seemingly simple exercise: tell the group about ourselves.

Now keep in mind the setting—it was a hospital and not a wine bar—but one by one we went around the room. In the span of 10 minutes I learned among other things that one woman had severe depression, one was bipolar, one was struggling with bulimia and self-harm while another was checked in for a suicide attempt after a brutal sexual assault.

The doctor sat back with this look on her face and was quiet for a minute before she looked around the group and said, “You know what I find interesting? I see something entirely different.

“I know that you are a retired opera singer,” she continued as she shifted her gaze over the group. “That you graduated from dental school with honors, that you are a nationally published writer and that you have three children under the age of five. I don’t see your circumstances. I don’t let them define you.”

That really stuck with me.

It’s natural to identify ourselves using our circumstances, our struggles or how others perceive us. There’s an odd sense of comfort in being able to fall back on those things—more as a justification than an excuse—but none of those things are truly who we are. And the problem with latching onto these identities is, in addition to limiting our growth, we start to let them define us.

Why so serious?

Because this month’s “League” question as posed by Noa is: “Identity. Who are we? How did we get to the realization of who we are?”

I hate the “Who am I?” question myself, in part because it’s something I’ve struggled with now for years. It’s been a decade of survival, of retreating into intellectualizing everything and just being a quiet observer of life rather than fully immersing myself in it at times.

The problem is that through all my searching, I never found that “one” answer I needed, but rather the answers for somebody else.

It’s not so much that I don’t know who I am—I think I’m actually quite self-aware—but that I don’t know how to align where I am with where I want to go and how I want to live my life. And as much as I wish someone would just tell me what to do and how to get to that point, I also know it’s a journey.

Identity is constantly changing, and authenticity can’t be intellectualized or wrapped up in a neat little bow and printed on high-gloss business cards. But I’ve learned that it’s vital to be more concerned with how my life feels, rather than how my life looks. This is much easier said than done at times, but most valuable things often are.

So in response to Noa, I would have to say that among other things, I am a writer, a daughter and a loyal friend. I’m funny and grateful for humor, but introspective and complex as well. I’m someone who struggles, but I’m doing the best that I can and am unapologetically myself.

I am not my circumstances, but rather a survivor.

I am a constant work in progress.

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How would you answer the question?

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Under the Weather

If you’re tired of me complaining about the weather, I can promise this post isn’t just about that. Instead I’m going to use it as a fancy metaphor for depression in an artsy attempt to complain about the weather.

The fact is this winter has been brutal already. We have about 18 inches of snow right now, are already around 80 inches this year and they’re predicting another storm this weekend. We had four days in January with no snow and haven’t been above freezing in weeks. And it’s only February.

Needless to say, FTW.

Aside from the actual cold, I struggle with a commute that gets complicated and dangerous, keeping my driveway and car clean when there’s nowhere else to throw the snow, worrying about the impact of the weather on my house, the increased bills, etc.

And more than ever before, the weather has upped my depression. Well, I’m blaming it on the weather, but in reality that could be a coincidence seeing as it’s been just as relentless for years.

But much like the weight of this winter, lately it’s crushing me down.

The OCD, the exercise, the hopelessness—it’s come to a point where I wonder when I’ll break, either physically or mentally, and yet I keep  testing those limits. I keep waiting for some event so significant in my mind that I’ll feel compelled to change, that the cloak of depression and obsession will fade and voila! The metaphorical sun will melt the snow and everything will become sun-shiny great!

But of course, that’s just magical thinking.

So instead I fight myself from both sides—the terrifyingly powerful disorder that wants me to cling to it and the part that wants to live a life without it. Finding a balance between the two might seem like having the best of both worlds —Yay! I’m a semi-functioning person balancing disorders and depression, well done!— but we know that’s not the case.

Because while everyone has heard how things have to get worse before getting better, what it doesn’t say is that you should make things worse before they magically, somehow get “better.”

So for the first time in years I actually went to a therapist.

It’s early, but so far she “gets” me. She’s a vegan holistic yoga teacher and I want to move into her office, but I think that violates some kind of ethical code. Anyway, much like dealing with winter, therapy is a lot of work. It’s exhausting. It’s expensive. It’s not fun.

But eventually you just reach that point—breakdown again or breakthrough?—and that’s where I am right now. I don’t feel like I’m really “me,” and even more scary, I’m not sure who that “me” is anymore but I owe it to myself to find out.

Now you’re probably wondering a) why I’m sharing this with you and b) when I’ll shut up. Frankly, I wonder that, too. I mean, how do you respond to this as a reader? What good does it do to ramble on about this when I would rather put up something funny?

Part of it is healing for me, getting it out there and telling someone. Part of it is that social stigma (and pride) often prevents many people from discussing these things. However, I do it anyway because maybe reading that I feel this way will help someone to feel less alone — or at least ridiculously sane in comparison.

So to wrap this all up and come back to that meteorological metaphor, I’ll say I have no control over weather, but I have faith that spring will eventually come. The sun will shine, the gray and desolate cold will recede and we’ll start to dig out of this hole.

healing

I’m ready to dig out of this hole.

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