OCD

Transmuting Pain into Art

A lot can happen in an hour, so I focus on minutes and good moments.

I woke up one morning after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, bombarded by an inordinate amount of UNWANTED OBSESSIVE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS that I found myself incapable of ridding. We all have thoughts, but these thoughts were like none other I had ever had before. Racing through my mind feeling as though someone had lit the tip of my brainstem on fire….I was debilitated. Suddenly I was checking if the stove was off, flicking light switches up down up down up down, blinking a certain number of times until “it felt right,” tapping my fingers into numbers into counting….repeating sentences…..what happened to my mind?  I didn’t know why nothing filtered out. I didn’t know why I could not let these thoughts go. I didn’t know how I was going to successfully enter my first year of college at UCSB with such bizarre obsessive worries. I was concerned about absurd topics like whether or not urine was sterile. I wanted to know that semen was not air-borne. I wanted to make sure my zipper was properly up or else something bad might happen to a family member.

August 2002, my sense of homeostasis was taken from me.

After 7 months of living in clandestine and being tormented by my own mind, I finally saw a psychiatrist who explained to me that I had a very severe on-set of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. How could my brain drastically change over night I thought? Also, from the stigma that I heard regarding OCD, it was a disorder of hand washing and cleaning. I didn’t do either, so how could OCD be my diagnosis I thought?

I was immediately put on medication, medically withdrew from UCSB, and entered an intensive out-patient program at the UCLA medical center. I worked with a team of specialists who had studied and scrutinized the nature of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They told me that in order to heal, I needed to engage in cognitive behavioral therapy and become exposed to my obsessive fears. Scared, but desperate, I did my best to abide by their strategic directions. An example of an “exposure” that I had to engage in, was to pour a bottle of chocolate on my thighs and sit with the doubt and uncertainty of not knowing if my thighs would ingest the chocolate through my epidermal layers of skin and become bigger. Humiliating but true I gave it a whirl in hopes of recovery.

My obsessive thoughts were gripping, incessant, and utterly bizarre, with no discrimination toward any particular theme or topic matter. I was worried about things that made no intellectual sense such as whether or not my zipper, if zipped improperly, could correlate to something bad happening to my family. I was afraid if one of my shoe laces was tied tighter than the other, my body would change size. If my dad hugged me and his face got near my soft skin, his facial stubble could transfer onto my skin and impute hair growth in it. I would hate to grow a beard as a girl, I thought to myself.

I was tormented and did not know how I was going to face such odd concerns.

After months of out-patient, I still struggled and lapsed into compulsive rituals. Frustrated, I began to jot down my emotions onto paper about how I felt, and I noticed something very interesting.  My words and dabblings had a very interesting cadence to them. My emotions on paper almost looked like a coordinated rap lyric. My use of syntax, sentence lay out, and phonetics began to intrigue me. I realized that in writing down my frustrations, I was essentially revealing the poet in me. It was at that point that I realized that just because pain doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. I needed to take the pain and humiliation that this disorder has caused me, and transmute it, or change it, into a new form of healing. For me, this happened to have come in the form of poetry and performance art. I began slowly sharing my words, memorizing my writing and discovered my high capacity to remember each and every poem I wrote. Not only that, I was able to revisit the pain I went through and share this dark truth with “live” audiences who too identified with the pain inside themselves. There is a great need innately inside of us to connect to dark matter and the truth we all contain, that sometimes we are afraid to talk about. Crowds’ reactions were so positive and connective that I developed myself as a performance artist and became known for  discussing the human experience and mental illness.

Although I struggle everyday with this disorder, I have learned to take things one second, one minute, and one moment at a time. I essentially bank on nano seconds.  A lot can happen in an hour, so I focus on minutes and good moments. I believe that through my articulation of having OCD, I can help change the world and bring more empathy to the table in humanity as a whole. To understand what I mean by this, please visit my TEDx Talk at : https://youtu.be/GKo4h5fk8Xs and experience the way I have attempted to transmute pain into art.

-TDH

My site: TiffanyDawnHasse.com

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