Sunday, July 11, 2010
Sadness: Coming to Terms with My OCD
It's hard for me to put into reasonable perspective what has happened in my life over the last year. It doesn't seem shocking or abnormal or strange anymore...I mean, I have lived day to day with the changes that have occurred over the last several months. It's like watching something grow...if you are watching it all the time it is hard to notice the changes, but if you only see the growth at extended intervals, the change can be quite shocking.
In reading one blog in particular, I have come to realize that this disorder, and particular the effect that it has had on my life, is serious, and not something that I necessarily just have to push away and ignore. Not that I want to do that, in fact, I'm terribly afraid of doing just that. But it is very easy for me to shove away the changes in my life as insignificant or nothing compared to what others go through - to think that my struggles are nothing. That my disorder and the effect it has had on my life aren't that serious. That I should get over it. It's nothing. I tell myself that people with OCD all over the place go through worse. Again, I am convinced my struggles are nothing compared to theirs. I should shove it into the past and forget about it because it is insignificant in the grand scheme of how bad it could have been.
That I was probably just as bad or worse than individuals who were selected to be on a reality show for this disorder is just starting to sink in. I mean, I hate to admit it, but I watch other reality shows that are probably exploitative of the patients in treatment. They are spectacles of the bizarre things that psychological and psychiatric disorders can result in. They are interesting precisely because they are so bizarre, so different from most of our lives. They are the extreme.
Maybe the OCD Project is different. Maybe these patients' lives don't seem as severely compromised to those without the disorder as patients on other shows with disorders that I don't have appear to me, if that makes any sense at all. But sometimes I wonder at the possibility that perhaps OCD really does seem that strange to those without the disorder. Is this secret inner life that those of us with OCD live really that different from what most experience? How do those on the OCD project appear to those without any experience with OCD? Does their fear really seem that bizarre. Do the things they do to relieve their anxiety really seem that odd to the average person? I haven't experienced all the subtypes of OCD that appear on that show, but I can relate to the powerful sense that, if I just do this one thing and in the right way, whether or not it has any connection to reality, I will feel better and will be able to move on.
Sometimes I feel like I have always been so accustomed to hiding the irrational compulsions that I felt needed to be performed (even before I developed severe contamination issues) that I don't understand how anyone could not know what that was like. I have lived this way for most of my life. I have performed varying compulsions to varying degrees for years, especially mental ones. How did I not know that these compulsions didn't have to be done? Why did I never question my desperate need to do them? I feel like I never really thought about it. It was just my way. I had woven dealing with such compulsions into the fabric of my life. I knew how to perform them, and I knew how to hide them.
I think I take for granted how serious a disorder OCD is. I think I also take for granted how severe my bout of OCD became and the toll it took on my life in many different areas. Watching a show where people are affected enough by the disorder to make a TV show out of it perhaps put the severity of the disorder and my particular version of it in perspective. That the individual whose OCD severity seemed closest to my own was give a recommendation to seek residential treatment after the show drives that point home even further. I spent the first several months in OCD treatment, when I was at my worst, believing that I didn't deserve the specialized treatment I was getting. I felt that I was too demanding, too difficult, complaining about struggles with a disorder that must be much worse for everyone else who sought treatment at the particular office I went to. I didn't deserve their highly-skilled and specialized help because my case wasn't that bad. Even when my therapist conceded to me that I was one of his most severe clients I was still doubtful. It still didn't sink in how far things had gone. I think that it is only as I continue to recover that I am able to assess more clearly the severity of the situation. And with my ability to start to see how bad things really were, the sadness begins to seep into the emotional wasteland that was my life when at my worst. I am beginning to feel again.
I feel like writing about these thoughts and feelings here, as they occur, is part of the healing process for me. It allows me to accept and attempt to understand what happened, instead of just dismiss, ignore, and shove away the past as I have done before. OCD has impacted my life, and it has changed my life significantly over the last year. So much of the time I am worried about so many OCD things in the present that it is hard to devote any sort of emotional energy to what I have lost - and what I have gained. But I welcome back feelings from their long, cold winter of hibernation. I hope that if I can feel more sadness, I can also feel more happiness. At any rate, it is an extremely liberating concept that, even if I do feel sad, I don't have to do anything about it. I can be sad. Sadness is not something that must be immediately banished, even if it seems to come from an irrational source or happen at the wrong time. Feelings are feelings and sometimes they occur in strange ways at strange times. With this realization, it is nice to be able to feel sad. Nice to be able to feel sad and not feel obligated to fight it.