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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I just discovered this site recently and I love it! It's basically a site of pictures of things that have been organized neatly. Some of them are a little busy for me, but I find a lot of them really relaxing. It's just so nice to see things laid out so nicely! If you want to check it out, here's the address:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Air: A Necessary Evil

Okay, let's talk about air.
I know it's necessary for survival, but have you ever wished that oxygen was not a critical element of our existence?
I've always had trouble with places where people are (and have you noticed that people tend to be in an awful lot of places?), not only because of the risk of someone touching me, but because I have to breathe the same air as everybody else. It's somewhat easier when I'm outside, since there's actually somewhere for the air to go, but in enclosed places the thought of sharing air makes me very edgy; and the smaller the space, the worse my anxiety.
I was watching an episode of the Obsessive Compulsive Detective the other day (I love that show: it's so refreshing to see somebody else acting like me!) and there was this scene where Adrian Monk (the detective with OCD) is in a doctor's office and starts holding his breath, because he's afraid of catching some disease. I started cracking up, not because it's really that funny, but because I actually do that. It's not so much that I'm afraid of getting sick, as that the thought of breathing in that particular air is absolutely revolting. So I'll breathe in through my nose (I have this idea that inhaling through your nose will admit less germs, dust, dirt, and general grossness than inhaling through your mouth; no idea if that's true, but that's the principle I operate off of), hold my breath for as long as I can, and then exhale. The thing is, I have this other idea that if I move my lips too much, or open my mouth at all, the germs will get in my mouth and I have to blow them out. So then I'm inhaling through my nose, holding my breath, and blowing out through my mouth, while trying to keep my mouth mostly closed so that nothing gets in. I have gotten the weirdest looks for doing that.
I thought I was doing it inconspicuously, until I got a few of those 'and-what-planetary-system-are-you-from' looks. Then I did it by myself in front of a mirror. Yeah, not that inconspicuous. Not that it matters. I keep doing it anyway.
Apparently most of the air we breathe is produced by little algae things in the ocean, so I'm thinking of buying a houseboat and living life on the waves, so I can get the freshest air in existence. Only problem is, I'm scared of water, too. Hmmm. Scared of air, dirt, and water. What planetary system am I from?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hugs, Handshakes, and Other Horrors

If you're anything like me, the very idea of physical contact with people sends you into a panic attack. A smiling individual approaching with outstretched hand is a vision of horror that always makes me shrink back in dread. I will go out of my way to avoid a handshake, ducking into conveniently placed doorways, artfully arranging whatever I'm carrying so that it somehow takes both hands to hold it, acting preoccupied, blind in one eye, and/or partially deaf as occasion requires, or suddenly remembering that I've forgotten something and fleeing the scene until the threatening handshaker has moved on to another victim. When I'm cornered and there is no escape, I have tried chanting under my breath, “Don't touch me. Don't touch me. Don't touch me.” This method has proved remarkably ineffective.
Knuckle bumps are not quite so traumatic, but I still don't see what's wrong with a friendly nod.
As terrible as handshakes are, hugs are infinitely worse. Depending on the person who decides they dislike me enough to embrace me, hugs may require a shower and a load of laundry to get rid of. At the very least, a change of clothes is required. I don't know the precise number of times I have stood frozen with somebody's arms around me, as I try to return the hug with equal enthusiasm and not scream, “STOP TOUCHING ME!” but I'm sure each embrace has taken time off my life.
As for kisses . . . don't get me started. Let me just say that whoever decided that wiping their mouth on somebody else's face was a good way of showing affection should be shot. (Calm down, I'm just kidding. I think.)
Unfortunately, much as I may wish it, it doesn't look like these social customs are going anywhere soon. In the meantime I suppose I'll just have to hang a sign around my neck saying, “DO NOT TOUCH,” and invest in some antiseptic wipes such as Adrian Monk is so fond of. At least they'll save me a trip to the nearest sink to wash my hands.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Check It Out . . . and again . . . and again . . . and again

One thing OCD makes me do is check, double-check, and recheck. And then do it again. I've heard that checking is a fairly common symptom of OCD. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I know it's certainly a part of mine.
I periodically check doors throughout the day to make sure they're locked . . . and dead-bolted. When I'm in the backyard I like to lock the front door (and vice versa) so that an intruder would have to come around to wherever I am to get in. (Why, I don't know. It's not like I actually want to meet a criminal.) Of course I also worry that the door will somehow get locked accidentally while I'm out there and I won't be able to get in. My family always teases me (good-naturedly) about one of my greatest fears being locked doors, and the other being unlocked doors. Welcome to the world of OCD!
I do the same type of thing at night, except that it's a little more extensive then. I have to make sure that the toaster is unplugged, the dishwasher is set, the doors are locked, the curtains are drawn, any knives, tools, or other potentially dangerous instruments are put away, and no one is hiding in the closet. When I get into bed I make sure I have a phone and flashlight on the shelf next to me, and I set and reset my alarm clock at least three times to make sure it really is set correctly. I used to open the window a crack too, to prevent suffocation, but my brother and bad weather managed to convince me that the amount of air in the house is more than sufficient to keep us alive through the night.
I think you get the idea, so I'll spare you any further details about my checking routines. Suffice it to say that I think the constant checking illustrates the fact that fear is a big part of OCD. I once read a children's book called The Liberation of Gabriel King by K. L. Going. Without going too much into the plot, it's about this boy who is scared of just about everything, and how he overcomes his fear. In the book, he and his best friend make a list of things they're scared of. Hers has ten things on it, his has thirty-eight. Some of the fears are serious, like death, and some not so much, like the rope swing, or falling into the toilet. The day after reading this book, I decided to make my own list of fears. Like Gabriel's, mine was quite lengthy. Also like Gabriel's, my fears ranged from things like losing one of my family members or getting in a car accident to things like—you got it—locked doors and unlocked doors.
It doesn't really matter how long your list of fears is, or what kinds of fears it contains, or whether you think the fears are legitimate or ridiculous. What does matter is that you do what Gabriel did, and try to overcome those fears.
Oh, a word of warning. It's great to try to overcome your fears, but go at your own pace. Start small. This is the voice of experience. I've tried the baby-steps method, where I try to overcome my fear of germs by deliberately touching a contaminated object and then waiting for progressively longer periods of time (like, two seconds, four seconds, six seconds) before washing my hands. I've also tried the crash-course method (literally) where I try to overcome my fear of getting in a car accident by getting in a wreck. (Note the omission of the word 'deliberately' in that last sentence). I'm not a therapist, but trust me when I tell you that you will get much better results with the baby-steps method. Not to mention that your insurance company will be eternally grateful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


When I was about seventeen, I found out that I had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Okay, 'found out' is a little bit misleading. It makes it sound easy, like I just went to the doctor's one day and he checked my pulse and said, “Mmm, yes. It looks like you've got OCD.”
In fact, 'finding out' was anything but easy. It was a few years of struggling through bizarre behaviors, trying to figure out what made me do these weird things, wondering if there was something wrong with me, piecing together scraps of information about mental illnesses and disorders, etc. etc. etc.
But that's a story for another day. The point is, finding out was both a relief (“Whew, there is an explanation. I have a mental disorder”) and a blow (“Oh my gosh. I have a mental disorder! There really is something wrong with me”). Once I figured it out, or at least had a pretty good suspicion that that was what was going on, it became a lot easier to find information about it. But finding out about this disorder was very similar to finding out that I had it in the first place. The information was both relieving and depressing. On one hand, as I read the limited number of books on mental disorders that were available from our local library, I was comforted by the fact that there were other people out there with the same problem, and at first, that was where my focus was. “Yes! I'm not the only nutcase out there. I'm not even the worst nutcase out there!” But as I continued reading, I became increasingly alarmed by the ends of the OCD anecdotes. Because there really was no end. There were stories of marriages broken up, jobs lost, relationships ruined, and self-esteem destroyed, all by OCD. There was never a happy ending. Eventually, I stopped reading about it. As a matter of fact, I have not picked up a book about OCD since then.
It was a few years later that my family suggested I start a blog about OCD. I admit, I was hesitant at first. I'd written about it, but only in my journal. Putting personal feelings like that on the internet? I wasn't sure. But those books I'd read kept coming back to me. If there were other people out there with OCD, I didn't want them to have to learn about it from sad stories like that, all written by therapists who probably only saw those people when they came in crying. People with OCD ought to have a chance to learn about it from somebody who actually has it, and whoever tells them about it ought to tell them that, as tough as it is, it's not the end of the world.
So, while I'm not a therapist or a doctor, I do have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I can assure you that, OCD or no OCD, life goes on. And you know something else? Life is good. While the books I read portrayed this disorder (unintentionally, I'm sure) as a sad but true end to all things joyful, I live with it, and I know that OCD and a great time are not mutually exclusive. So if you have OCD, or if you know and love somebody with OCD, relax. It'll be okay. There will definitely be rough times, but I'm hoping that with this blog I can make it a little easier to deal with them. So whether you're able to learn from experiences I've had, or you just like to know that there's somebody else out there who's kind of like you, I'm glad you're along for the ride with me and my OCD.