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Mental Compulsions

OCD

It started as a thought of hit and run

Once upon a time in a land not far enough away, a girl was minding her business when alarm bells started ringing…

My OCD really, probably started in childhood, but for the sake of time, I’ll say it became “real” last September.  I’d even consider it to be very mild in that my OCD episode lasted less than a week, and then it was gone.  My first experience with OCD was hit and run OCD.  I drove by a bicyclist, which is pretty common here in Western NC, and almost immediately, alarm bells started ringing.  Not literally, but also sort of literally.  I remember my brain telling me that I had to go back, that I had to make sure I didn’t hurt the guy, that I needed to check on him to make sure he was safe.  Of course, I told my brain that was ridiculous and I refused to turn around.  I mean, after all wouldn’t I know if I hit someone?  My anxiety and the alarm bells just kept getting worse the further I drove.  By the time I got home, my hands were shaking and I almost couldn’t breathe for the panic that was welling up inside of me.  The logical part of my brain thought if I checked the passenger-side of my car, and I didn’t see anything like dents or scratches, then that meant I didn’t hurt anyone.  So of course, I checked my car.  And wouldn’t you know it, there was a scratch that I didn’t remember being there before.  But really, how often does a person check their car for dents and scratches, especially on the passenger side?  My brain went to anxiety overdrive.  I remember walking into my house with what felt like a completely blank stare, because in my mind I had just hit someone and left the scene of an accident.  How could I tell my husband what I had done?  Or my parents or my friends? What would they think of me?  Would they think I was a monster?  What about the general public?  In my small mountain town, the community crucifies (not literally) anyone who would dare harm a bicyclist.  Would anyone believe me that I didn’t know I hit a person?  I was so wracked with guilt, shame, and anxiety, that I made myself sick.  I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t focus on my homework that was due that night, and I couldn’t sleep. I probably slept two hours.  Every time I closed my eyes, I kept replaying the scenario over and over in my head.  I was trying to find some proof that I didn’t hurt anyone.  I kept telling myself I know I didn’t hurt anyone, but my brain kept asking me “Are you sure?”  Of course, we can’t just click rewind on our lives to make sure we did or didn’t do something, so I gave in to it.  I couldn’t be sure I didn’t hit the bicyclist.  Although the anxiety subsided over the week, it was one of the scariest times in my life.  I couldn’t understand why I was having anxiety and panic attacks, seemingly out of the blue.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t know OCD was anything other than hand washing and/or counting.  My husband and I had only been married for a couple of weeks when this happened, and I kept forgetting to take the “just married” sticker off my car.  After this incident, I left that sticker on my car for a solid month, for fear that when the police inevitably showed up to throw me in jail, they might think it was suspicious that I removed something that could easily identify my car as the one in the accident.  I checked local news sources every day to see if someone had reported a hit and run.  I did this for about as long as I left the sticker on my car.  I did eventually stop thinking about the hit and run that never was.  Sometimes I can tell the story and be completely fine. Other times, my anxiety kicks and my OCD likes to ask “Are you really sure though?”.

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Pure O

February Fifteenth: My Obsession with Obsession

I was finally going to be able to live my life instead of just fantasizing about living it

When my older brother pointed out more than five years ago that we both show symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, I immediately dismissed the idea.  At the time, the only knowledge I had of OCD came from bad TV.  I’d never experienced contamination-based anxiety, and so I didn’t understand where my brother was coming from.  When he explained that there are many manifestations of the disorder, I felt defensive.  After all, I’d always harbored fantasies of winning the argument against my mind; why did he have to bring logic into this?

While my compulsive behavior is pretty fluid and has allowed me to enjoy a variety of the various different themes over the years, the one constant source of anxiety for me has been “Pure O”.  I get feelings that my life is going to be somehow incomplete or even outright meaningless, and this train of thought causes me to constantly perform mental checks to ensure I’m living the “correct” life.  I have to keep in mind what I perceive to be the official meaning of existence, and in moments when I fail to do this I feel like my actions are “unofficial”, that they don’t count as a part of my actual life.  Because of the nature of these thoughts, I assumed for years that this was some sort of ongoing philosophical/spiritual crisis; it never crossed my mind that I was ill in any way.

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OCD

“Whack-A-Mole Brain” An OCD Poem

Every freckle on my skin tells a story,
and not just about the time I forgot to wear sunscreen.
The latest freckle,
three finger widths from the inside of my left elbow is a sad one.
It’s a different story than what the freckle directly under my right shoulder blade tells. That one is from the outdoor folk festival last July.
On that day my brain wasn’t loud enough to interrupt the music.

This latest blemish is from the rooftop barbecue yesterday where I was under water (in a figurative sense, it was surprisingly scorching hot).
Yesterday I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.
My presence didn’t feel enough.
Taking up space and simply smiling like I always used to do wouldn’t cut it.
That’s the thing about experiences— once you’ve pushed the limit to what you think you’re capable of time and time again, you can rarely sit back and be satisfied.
Like Ariel the mermaid, my brain was singing, “I want more.”

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