I recently read a wonderful post by a fantastic writer that spoke volumes to me. It also brought back memories of things I haven’t thought about for a long time. Some of those memories are not pleasant, but they aren’t horrible either. The really sharp edges of the memories are worn down because I understand a lot more today than I did when I was young. It all has to do with anxiety disorders, which are a lot more common than you would think. Don’t confuse an actual disorder with having a troubling period in your life. Usually, but not always, they are something you are born with and you will battle them your entire life. Luckily, there is a lot of help available and it doesn’t have to totally ruin your life. The way I look at it, everyone has something in their life that makes it a challenge, so we’re all pretty equal. Some of my friends and even family might be surprised at what I say here. Even within a fairly close family unit, there are secrets. Nobody shares every detail of what they are thinking or going through. Plus, when I was young, there wasn’t as much information as there is now. A lot of the things I did were considered odd, so I learned to hide them fairly well. I still try to.
One of the annoying things about obsessive compulsive disorder is that the illogical thinking isn’t lost on us. By that, I mean I KNOW if I don’t perform a certain ritual the world won’t come to an end, but the stress it causes me makes me almost wish it would. I beat myself up because I know it’s silly, the thoughts I have, but I can’t turn them off. I have a lot more control over it now because I have a lot more information now. When I was young, it was a different story. Let me give you an example. This is something that happened when I was in middle school. I was probably 12 or 13. Before school that morning, I was putting the lid on a jar of peanut butter. My mom was in the room, so I had to just put the dang lid on once and leave it at that. Usually what I do (and still do) is put the lid on, take it off, swoop the jar and slam the lid on. That way it’s been done an even number of times and I’ve trapped as much air in the jar as I can. I can’t stand the thoughts of closing a jar and not leaving air in it. This particular morning, I wasn’t able to do this. During the next few hours, all I could think about was that jar in the cupboard. I was terrified of what horrible thing was going to happen to me as a punishment for not closing that jar properly. I imagined all kinds of horrible things, from a death in my family, to just plain bad luck falling upon me. I was useless and sick the entire day. This is the type of anxiety that can be caused when your routine, or rituals are not performed.
If I was reading a book, I could not stop reading until I was on an even number page, and an even numbered sentence. Usually that number was four. So, even if I was on an even numbered page, I had to read the first four sentences on that page. If I accidently read the first word of the fifth sentence, I had to keep going to the next even number. I still do this. I had to turn lights off and on four times. Any less and I was a mess. I opened and closed drawers four times. It took me forever to wash and put away dishes. All you heard was drawers and cupboards being opened and closed. If something happened to mess me up, I had to start over. I would get mad and so frustrated with myself sometimes that I would be crying as I was trying to close the lids just right so it felt right. It has to feel right, or you have to keep doing it. There is no logical reason for the anxiety, but it can get bad enough to create a full-blown panic attack. I’ve had many of those. I thought for sure I was dying.
I’m happy to say, after years of working on this, I can now do most of these things only once and I’m pretty okay with it. Any type of lid still has to be done twice or I can’t stop thinking about it. I give in to that one. After my son had an official diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder, and I learned so much about it, the light just clicked on. I had a reason for what happened to me. I wasn’t crazy, as I once thought. I read and researched and learned as much as I could. We have always been too poor to pay for counselling, but made enough money that we didn’t qualify for any type of aid. My son takes the maximum dose of Zoloft, and it has done wonders for him, but I never have taken medicine for this. He was so much worse, though, the poor guy. He had to quit school as he was suicidal and just a mess. He could barely make it through a day. Now, even though he struggles, he can do so much more! I think he’s about to the point he could finish school and get on with life. I worked with myself to slowly overcome the horrible fear when I wasn’t able to do all the rituals I needed to do. I might still freak out if a can is upside down, and I might still put a lid on more than once and try to make sure it has air in it, but that’s okay. I can live with that.
What you have to do is just keep going. I never thought to have it checked out until my son was very bad. I have always worked and supported myself and my children (my husband died when he was young). You find a way to work around the anxiety. I still have days that I’m so stressed that I can barely function. I’m scared of everything. I don’t feel so alone in this anymore, and it passes.
Sorry for the bland post. I couldn’t think of any pictures that really applied. Mostly, I’m just rambling and writing as this helps. It’s a way to tell the world that it’s okay to be different. I think we are all one step away from OCD, honestly. The comfort of routine is just too hard to ignore. Just don’t let the routine take over and you will be fine.
Thanks for listening and letting me ramble on!