Coming Out, Depression

It’s about time I start taking my own advice

I love books, and like most bibliophiles, I’ve amassed a collection I can’t possibly read in a lifetime. Short of becoming the world’s fastest speed reader, these books will likely remain unfinished. With such self-awareness one would think I’d stop buying books. Alas.

I’m a bit stubborn, so it takes just short of an eon to make changes in my life. (It also takes me several years to write a blog post. Mea culpa.) Back on April 15, 2016, I posted about needing therapy. I was in a bad way, and I knew it. Once again, however, that self-awareness didn’t propel me forward. Imagine me instead sitting on my futon-that-strives-to-be-a-couch contemplating therapy and then deciding life sucks anyway and then seeing what’s on Netflix while chastising myself for not cleaning my apartment.

That is, until now.

Drum roll please.

I started seeing a therapist, who confirmed that I was indeed in a bad way. Not only do I have OCD (which, thankfully, has been manageable), but I also have depression. Apparently, I’m also in the business of collecting mental illnesses. Unlike my book collection, however, I plan to deal with my disorders effectively. To that end, I’ve started taking antidepressants, which have been a life-saver. That’s not an exaggeration. I’ll devote more time to discussing my meds later. (Perhaps when the current ice age ends?) For now, I’ll just say that the medication has been working and therapy has been good.

Taking the step to get help is hard even if, as I have, you’ve done so before. I mean, I even advocate on therapy’s behalf. I go door to door passing out flyers. I write therapy fan fiction. All this to say, I’m an imperfect advocate, but that’s ok. (My therapist says I should be less hard on myself.) So I’ve gone and done it; I’ve gotten help. I think I’ll celebrate by buying myself a book.

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OCD

Here’s how to laugh about OCD

It appears I have been neglecting my blog again. But I’m back! Well…….I’m here to talk about how I’ve been cheating on my blog again by writing for another venue. I have another piece up at The Mighty called “How to Joke About OCD.” This isn’t so much a how-to guide as it is a meditation on when it’s appropriate to make jokes about the disorder.

Forgive me, blog. I will come back to you, if you’ll take me.

Anxiety, Depression, OCD

Ask for Help

The first time I needed help, I only asked for it when I hit a breaking point. I had known about my OCD for years, and only once did I try to speak up about it. It was a failed attempt that included me stumbling around for the right words to say. I forgive myself for that now, but I would love to go back and say, “You don’t have to wait to ask for assistance.”

For whatever reason, I set up my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew I wouldn’t get help for my OCD unless something devastating happened. I believed my OCD had to get so out of control that I’d have no choice but to seek assistance. Then the devastating thing happened. My friend died in a car accident, and I couldn’t handle it. I was teaching at the time, and I’m grateful for those hours I spent in front of the classroom. While up there, you’re forced to concentrate on the task at hand. There’s no time for lingering thoughts. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because it’s so true: performance has much in common with mindfulness, and it’s one of the reasons I feel at home when I adopt a persona, be it as a teacher or a comedian. Don’t get me wrong; I am myself when I teach, but I’m also performing a bit. I’m the version of me that’s not an introvert.

During that terrible time after the accident, when I was home alone or just sitting still somewhere, I couldn’t escape the rituals. Unexpected accidents are a chief concern of my OCD-addled mind. Nearly every ritual I complete is a stopgap against this uncertainty. At this point, I was checking traffic reports every time my sister went to work to make sure she was safe. I called my parents every night to see if they were still alive. I could no longer sit quietly and watch TV or read a book. And still I didn’t get help.

My body pushed me in the right direction. I became so ill with the flu that I had to go to the ER. The nurse who took my information offered me a ride to the room in a wheelchair. I thought she was joking, even convinced myself I didn’t need no freakin’ wheels. The nurse knew better. She kindly, gently got me to sit down, and I was grateful for it.

I recovered from the flu, but my mind was still wary. It took me sobbing on the phone to my mom to finally say, “Hey, perhaps I should call a psychologist.” I had reached my breaking point. But here’s the thing: there shouldn’t have to be a breaking point. I wish we could all be free to say, “I need help.” Even now, I’ve hardly learned my lesson. I’m hurting deeply, and I know I need to make a phone call. I’ll do it, if only because I’ve said I will so very publicly. But those words are still hard to write.

Ultimately, I can’t be an advocate if I don’t take care of myself. I’m going to take care of myself.

OCD in the wild

Share Your Story

Recently I shared part of my story  at The Secret Illness, a great site where people discuss their intrusive thoughts and say a little bit about their OCD. If you or someone you know has OCD, check out the site and consider sharing your own story. You can even be completely anonymous.

The more people know about OCD the less stigmatized it will be. Plus, hearing other people’s stories has always made me feel less alone. Perhaps this is true of others as well.

OCD

Hooray for The Mighty!

This past week I had a story  published on The Mighty. I love that site because the founders are truly on a mission to destigmatize illnesses of all kinds, both mental and physical.

When they agreed to post my story, I was excited. It’s my goal to become an advocate for those with OCD. I’m not sure I’m up to the task because I’m definitely not mighty all the time. In fact, while I was excited to get the story published, I was also anxious. My OCD tries to get me to believe that if something good happens, something bad must follow. This is when I like to tell it: screw you! My OCD backed down a little bit when I said that.

Please check out the site if you can.

OCD in the wild

About the Target Sweater

I have OCD and I’m not offended by a top that says “Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” What bothers me most is not the sweater itself, but some people’s reactions to those who are offended by it. I do stand-up and often make fun of my OCD, but I do so within the context of understanding the disorder; my jokes aren’t borne out of malice. Interestingly enough, so many people who are dismayed by OCDers’ dismay tell us to lighten up.

The other thing we’re told is: Don’t we have better things to worry about than a stupid sweater? I see where these individuals are coming from. We live in a dangerous world, as evidenced by the attacks in Paris, the horror in Syria, and the countless other acts of violence that are perpetrated every day. In the midst of all this, an unfunny sweater on sale at Target seems trivial. But for many of us with OCD, what’s bothersome about the reactions to the top is that such comments speak to a casual disregard of mental illness in general and OCD in particular. (Not all reactions were like this. Some people have spoken with empathy about people with mental illness.) OCD is difficult and debilitating and horrifying. Being told to lighten up and worry about what matters comes off as crass.

I’m sure most of us can agree that destigmatizing mental illness and fighting for access to affordable care are absolutely important, but these issues get buried beneath false dichotomies. We’re talking at cross purposes. The violence in the world must be discussed, and so too must the issues surrounding mental health care. There’s room in this world to have reasoned discussions about both.

I don’t believe that people are being willfully ignorant about OCD. Perhaps I’m naïve. But I do know that OCD is widely misunderstood and oftentimes misrepresented in popular culture. Instead of pushing back against the torrent of invective, I’d rather have informative conversations about the topic. That’s why I write, why I tell jokes, and why I’m open about having OCD.