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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Laugh It Off

The truth is, OCD is painful, heart-wrenching, even tragic at times. But let's face it. It's also kind of funny.
I mean, seriously. Going into spasms of panic every time someone goes to shake your hand? Breaking into a cold sweat as you realize that the number of words in that essay you just turned in isn't actually divisible by three? Dashing home during your lunch break to make sure that the doors really are locked and the stove really is off and the toaster really did get unplugged?
As hard as it is, try to think of it from a detached viewpoint. You'll find that the antics you go through every day are actually somewhat amusing.
One of the things that helps me cope with my OCD is just to laugh at it sometimes. Like almost anything else, OCD is multifaceted, and you can learn a lot by looking at it from a different angle.
As an example, here's an excerpt from a letter I wrote to my brother describing an OCD experience (names have been changed to protect the contaminated.)

During the third hour [of church] we were all crammed into one of the little rooms, which had only just been vacated by another group that had been crammed into it, so it was incredibly hot and stuffy. It was miserable. You know how with my OCD I freak out about germs and touching people and stuff? Well I ended up in the back row near the wall, squeezed between Mr. Hartman and a lady, both of whom kept coughing. Let's just say that there was some serious bubble invasion happening. :) After about half an hour of barely being able to breathe and being on the verge of hyperventilating, I saw a possible escape. On the row ahead of me, on the other side of the room, was an empty chair. It was at the end of the row, which meant I would only have people on one side of me, and there was a gap between it and the door, which meant that I would have a little bit of precious breathing space. The only problem was: how to get to the chair without anyone thinking that I had been mortally offended by Mr. Hartman and the lady sitting next to me, or that I had a major crush on Matt Elwood, who occupied the seat next to the one I was coveting.
Something had to be done.
Unable to stand it any longer I grabbed my things and made a mad dash for the door. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a mad dash, but I went as quickly as I could while still waiting for everybody to get their legs out of the way for me. I went out into the hall on the pretense of getting a drink or something, and when I felt a sufficient amount of time had passed I went back into the room and snagged the chair by the door, trying to make it look like I just didn't want to go back to my old seat because I was afraid of disrupting the class. Mission Accomplished! That seat made the remaining half hour endurable, but I was so happy when the meeting was over. So you have a weird sister. Get used to it. :)

Okay, so it probably wouldn't win anything on America's Funniest Correspondence. The point is, in real life, as it was happening, this experience was rough. I was ready to jump out of my skin I was so tense. But instead of it remaining a terrible experience and leaving me scarred for life, I'm able to smile about it now. Why? Because in remembering and describing it I tried to recognize what was funny about the situation and my response to it.
You won't always be able to laugh about it, of course. It's serious stuff. But before all else fails and you're ready to dump your medication in the sink and throttle your therapist, try laughing a little at yourself. It's good medicine.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

ABC 123

I am a word nerd. I absolutely love words, which is kind of miraculous when I consider the trouble that words give me in day-to-day living.
For example, I have this compulsion where I have to count up the number of letters in a word and calculate what fraction of them are vowels. I have kind of a thing for the number three, so my favorite words, predictably, are those that contain nine letters (3 X 3) with 3 being vowels (3/9, 1/3, 0.333). Luckily I don't have to do this for every word or I would be in a mental institution, but my brain is constantly picking random words and performing these calculations on them, which can be a little intrusive when you're trying to listen to what people are saying while weighing the percentage of vowels and consonants in the words they're using. Let's just say I've been known to miss information because of that.
I didn't always have to calculate percentages. It used to be that I had to spell out the words in my mind (in white paint) and then erase them by pouring black paint over them. Thank goodness that stopped, because the black paint had a terrible tendency to miss parts of the words, so I had to mentally brush the black paint over those areas. Unfortunately they tended to either mix with the white paint and make patches of the paint gray, or the black paint would go on too thin and the words would show through. Try carrying on an intelligent conversation while cleaning up that many mental paint spills all the time.
Despite these inconveniences, there are words that give me great pleasure, perhaps even increased by my OCD. As I mentioned, I really like the number three. I like the fact that there is one part enclosed on both sides by two other parts. There's a beginning, a middle, and an end. It feels whole, complete, secure. I also like words that spell the same things forward and backward. (They're called palindromes, which really should be spelled the same forward and back, but whoever coined it obviously didn't have OCD). Words like racecar, kayak, eve, did, deified, and level bring joy to my soul.

Side note: As I'm typing this, my computer is telling me that racecar isn't a word. It's saying I should do race car or race-car. I don't think so.

I also like words such as bid, where the middle letter looks like it has the same view in both directions, like two b's or two d's are facing each other, rather than one b and one d. You know, they're like mirror images. It's not that I can't read words unless they're palindromes or mirror image words. It's just that words like that make me happy.
So, hey! Along with it's various pain-in-the-neck aspects, OCD actually increases my enjoyment of certain words. Who'd have thunk it?