Fighting Back: The Road to Emotional Bliss

The worst feeling I have ever felt. Worse than giving birth. Worse than being hit in the testicles….with a chair! That feeling I am talking about is the one a person gets when he fights back, when he doesn’t comply with the obsessions and tries not to think of them. It sounds simple enough. Oh no it isn’t….It’s tough. It’s hard. It’s tiring….paralyzing….debilitating….but it is the only way out. In the short run it sucks so bad it makes you feel so much better in the long run.

I am writing about this as I have been going through this recently. I have done it before but not this intense and not on such a broad scale; I have been exposing myself and fighting my obsessive thoughts and behavior. I’ve had to have an increase in my medication dosage in order to help with the fight. The medication cannot (in my case that is) do all the work; cure you and let you stop getting intrusive thoughts and being obsessed. The medication at first provides a stepping stone and a launching pad, and then becomes an agent responsible for giving the person with OCD an extra push. The individual with OCD has a lot of work to do, depending on how far he is in his obsessive behavior. This is a fight of epic proportions. It’s one fighting one’s self; his own thoughts, and his own feelings. And to see results you have to suffer. And suffer you shall. It’s the only way out.

I start heavy breathing; I feel like my lung is going to come out of my ass. My heart starts beating faster than a cheetah on cocaine. Tiny droplets of sweat start forming on the top of my forehead. I feel a warm sensation in my chest and a knot in my stomach. I get fidgety and I start to nervously shake my foot. I start getting thoughts that only get worse by the second. I keep on thinking or wanting to think. I start feeling like the walls are getting closer and tighter. Important things start to seem unimportant and trivial. I start feeling a dark feeling; an unpleasant, unwelcomed feeling. I’m now anxious and depressed. I can’t control that when it comes. What I can do is fight back. I just don’t give the obsession the time of day. I don’t give it any attention; I just treat it like a Raja in a room filled with cute girls (don’t laugh at my misery). It sounds pretty easy. Au contraire!!! It really is the absolute opposite.

You get the obsessive thought. You say I’m not thinking about it. At first it starts easy. Every second it gets harder and harder. It reaches a point where it tries to force you to think of it. It makes you feel like if this isn’t resolved, it is the end of the world, and your life will never be the same, and you will always feel gloomy and depressed. It goes on to hijack your whole thought process. Your whole mind. Your whole brain. You can’t think of other stuff. The thought is lurking in the back of your head. It never wants to leave, and it seems as if it will always bother you unless you resolve it by thinking or doing its compulsion. You feel paralyzed. Getting out of bed seems so hard, discomforting, and damn scary. You don’t feel like eating, talking to anyone, getting out of the house, or even taking a shower. Even if you wanted to use the bathroom for when nature calls, you keep pushing it back until your bladder is about to burst. Doing anything while having a thought lurk in the background of the mind, will give you more depression as you feel like you want to enjoy what you’re doing but can’t. You feel like you are wasting your time and emotions. That’s the trick the mind plays. It makes us think the end is near and gives us doomed thinking, all in order to let us submit to the obsessions. This intense and severe discomfort is normal when fighting back. Believe me it won’t last forever. When I fought back it first took months to feel better, the second time it took weeks, then days, then hours, and now some take minutes. The time to get over it and feel normal depends on how severe the thought is and how much time of day you have given it.

In closing I say don’t succumb to the thoughts. The thoughts YOU DO NOT generate should not be allowed to take over. Fight them. You may lose sometimes, but fight nevertheless, even if you broke down while fighting it; the time spent from when you started fighting to when you broke down is so helpful in the future. Baby steps. Believe me every second spent fighting will help. Just be ready to go through hell because that’s what it feels like in order to cross to emotional bliss.

That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.

OCD and Romantic Relationships (Part two)

I have obsessed about several girls. I have stood next to their bedroom windows. Followed them wherever they went. Broke into their homes and smelled their clothes. I have also made shrines for them in my bedroom. Hey Hey…none of what I just described is real. I did not – I repeat – DID NOT have stalking-like obsessions. I didn’t obsess the way some creeps or psychopaths in the movies do. My obsessions were of the type that I thought I had romantic feelings for those girls. The thoughts gave me the impression that I have strong feelings for a certain girl. I start obsessing about how it feels being with her and talking to her. My thoughts weren’t of any sexual kind. They didn’t tread on the bizarre and weird. Although I did have arguments with my imaginary girlfriend; I told her that I felt like she’s not really there for me (if you did not get this one, please review your life choices so far).

On several occasions, my mind bombarded me with thoughts that were based on real things but were of no real value. But when one is an obsessive individual, and doesn’t know that it is a disorder, these obsessions seem real as real could be. I fell in that trap and got sucked into thinking a lot as well as into disillusionment. It was not easy. On the one hand I thought I had feelings for a certain girl. On the other, I could do nothing because of my “romantic anxiety” (refer to my previous blog post “OCD and Romantic Relationships (Part 1)”). Just like in bondage sex, my hands were tied. It was a vicious circle. I thought I liked someone, and then I felt like I couldn’t do anything which in turn increased my obsessive thoughts about that certain someone. The vicious circle went on to become a vicious snowball which only grew bigger – and a lot more depressive – with time until I became overwhelmed with an avalanche of annoying feelings.

None of the girls I obsessed about, as it turned out, did I have true romantic feelings for. The thoughts were filled with lies and half truths. I found that out later, after medication and therapy, which allowed me to have moments of clarity where I was out of any obsessive thought and in a rational and logical state of mind that took reality as is. These were the moments I found out that the only girl I think I have truly liked (and probably still do) has never been subject to my obsessions in the aforementioned manner. But the conclusion of this post doesn’t have a happy ending. I was too late and took so much time to realize what I truly felt that 5 years have passed and she’s now moved on and engaged. Honestly I’m completely okay with how things turned out (*starts crying* I want her so baaad *sniff*). Would I like to be with her? Does a guy with a lisp have a problem saying lisp? Hell yes! (I really dislike he who invented that word. I have a lithp…a lithp…thon of a bitch!!) However what I feel, is causing me no discomfort or annoyance at all. That is because it is far away from my obsessions, so I can treat it and deal with it with total control. You never know when my dreams will come true and a girl will come on a white horse, and I will finally have a horse.

That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.

Going to the Psychiatrist

Popping my therapy cherry, so to say, was a very difficult thing. I first dabbled with the issue in the summer months of the year of our lord the two thousandth and eight. I took two appointments with two different doctors. I went to a total of zero sessions. Every time I got cold feet. It was something so far outside my comfort zone, as if I had to travel to another zone, so much that I wasn’t really ready to take that ride. It is as if this new zone was Japan, and my brain was saying: “let me Tokyo out of going”. However in 2012 that all changed. In the four years that came between, a lot had happened that made me reconsider taking that long ride. My comfort zone wasn’t comfortable anymore. I was packed and ready to go.

Seeing a total stranger is unnerving enough. Well how does telling them your most inner thoughts and feelings sound like? I think that some leave that as the penultimate choice. I know I did. I was in a much worse place than I was in 2008. These things never heal with time. I got more addicted to the reassuring feeling that comes with complying with the compulsions. But soon the addiction, just like any addiction, turned from sweet into sour. I went deeper into depression, something I started having long before 2008, and most probably due to my disorder. It used to be anything but okay; however it was still something I could live with. The pain was tolerable to a certain extent. But now the feeling was unbearable. The pain was too much and it crept into everything. It is as if the topics in my life started getting infected one after the other. I used to say “I am going bananas” (that’s what I used to tell my bananas before leaving the house). That is when I realized this is not normal. It isn’t something I want to keep living with. I wanted to feel happy and calm on the inside.

That’s when I decided that the uneasy feeling I’ll have from talking to a stranger is much better than the uneasy feeling I’m having on a daily basis. I was desperate. I didn’t want to keep living like that.

If I go back in time with the knowledge I have now, I would definitely have gone to my appointment in 2008. I would have even gone as early as I started feeling something different (no it wasn’t puberty, I know the difference because I know when puberty hit; I was twenty four. It was a Monday.).

I hate to sound like a wise person, or someone who likes to throw advice like pies in people’s faces, but bear with me. If anyone is feeling a bit of discomfort that is either justified or out of nowhere, trust me see someone. Just like going to France, there’s nothing Toulouse (baaaam, pun!! I’ve been dying to use it……Guys… guys? Where did everyone go?). There are a lot of professional people out there that are easy to talk to. I know a good number of them if anyone needs a referral. I have been to – as well as know – so many psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists, that I now have a membership badge and a family discount card. So believe me just go. If you are feeling that something is out of place call an expert. And if you have this feeling that’s keeping you from going to see someone, in my opinion, this is one of the signs that you really need to go. Believe me these people have the tools (medication and/or therapy) that will, and good God I mean they WILL help. Believe me, I know.

That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.

Funny Obsessions are not Funny

I am not fishing for compliments. I am not in need of attention (I do have a lovely cuddle buddy). I am just stating the following as I have received the feedback from most people I have encountered.

Some may find me funny. Some may not. It’s okay. I’m totally fine with it (screw you, you can go to hell). But when I was deeply indulged in my obsessions it was anything but. One of the things I obsessed about was the fact that I wanted every single person – and I mean every single person of whom I knew or didn’t – to find me funny. I also wanted them to like me. I was obsessed with being accepted and found humorous enough so that people would actually want to spend time with me. Trying to be funny was the only thing I can do as I had a face suitable for a radio show and a voice suitable for a silent movie.

I used to get so anxious talking to people that I once asked a cab driver “so what do you work?” I said things that I regretted while (not after, while) saying. You might catch me saying nonsensical stuff, things that might seem out of nowhere. Things like “I love scotch tape”. “My favorite planet is the Moon” (I knew later it wasn’t even a planet). Things even I go “huh?” after I said them. As if I had no brain. It would have been much easier if I had made a bunch of noises instead of words; they would have made the same freaking impression.

I used to – I still do but I used to too – talk a lot. I talked more than….more than….someone who talks a lot (could not for the life of me find a suitable analogy). I always felt I needed to hog the spotlight. I wanted to be the one who, after everyone leaves home, was talked about in a positive sense and applauded for his humor. I used to spew anything that came to mind.

The thing is I always felt – and still feel sometimes – like I am the one responsible for the entertainment, and if I weren’t then I would start losing friends. I was a self appointed jester. Whenever I went out with someone I felt the anxiety of the situation. I felt that I had work to do, so it was never fun for me. I used to work hard (not like male pornstars. Got it? Hard….sexual innuendo?) I always felt like there is a bar above people’s heads that indicates their satisfaction with me the more it is filled. And I was the one who had to fill it. I was the one to make the decision when it was filled and when it was lagging behind, by listening to my obsessions and what they dictated. When that going out was done, I would sit alone and revise the whole scenario, including their expressions, both facial and verbal. I would also start obsessing about the minute details and grimaces and associate a negative attribute to each. Oh they didn’t think I was funny enough. They think I was lame. They think I am a pushover. They can’t wait to leave. They won’t go out with me again. And when we used to go out again, I would think all these things over again and sometimes might feel like they are doing that just not to hurt my feelings and that their going out with me is out of sympathy or because they don’t know how to get out of it.

So basically it was a mess. So if anyone out there is feeling social anxiety, know that it’s alright. It’s all in your head. Just try to let things go. Don’t obsess and don’t self-doubt. Believe me if people don’t like you the clues are very clear. Don’t try to read between the lines, because there’s nothing there but crap.

That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.

Depression and Life by Suicide

This is going to be my darkest post so far. It deals with death. Not the physical state of being dead but the mental one as well as wishing to die in order to end the pain. People with mental disorders wish death upon themselves or even commit suicide not because they don’t want their lives to continue, but because they want their suffering to end. Suffering is a very big word some might think, but believe me it still underestimates what one passes through and cannot convey what it is to truly have a mental disorder push someone into depression.

To me depression feels like sitting alone in a dark room where the walls touch you on both sides and your head hits the ceiling. That’s not just it. The walls seem to be moving closer, tightening you ever so more. Thinking of anything may bother you and cause you greater sadness. Even if you think of a happy thing, the simple notion that you are unable to feel happy for this happy thought makes you go deeper into depression and despair. In its essence, depression is a vicious circle. The more you try to get out of it, it pulls you deeper. Just like quick sand, the more you try, the deeper you go. The only solution is to let someone pull you out of it. But for depressed people, asking for help isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s when their thoughts push them toward ending their life.

Mostly people who suffer from depression tend to have suicidal thoughts. A number of these individuals go through with it. People feel that nothing will make them feel better. They think this is the end. Depression causes one to lose interest in almost everything especially the things he likes and enjoys. Losing interest makes life not worth living. Imagine you lose joy in eating, in going out, in talking to anyone. You basically lose interest in living. This makes people go toward something that seems easy and doesn’t need more than one person to accomplish. It’s the only thing they think is the solution. It’s the easiest. It’s the quickest and to them, the most efficient. It’s not a coward or selfish move. It’s a desperation move. It’s the last shot (no pun intended). It seems to them like through suicide they will finally live without pain.

In my case, I think most probably depression was caused by obsessive behavior and intrusive thoughts. It was as if I lost control of my thoughts and my brain was dictating what I should be thinking of. It almost always dictated I think of the negative side of things. Almost all things. Negative thoughts cause negative feelings and with time, depression. It’s a very difficult thing knowing that you cannot trust your brain and don’t have control over it. The brain controls itself and you can do nothing but watch and feel like crap. That’s when my thoughts of “I want to die”, or starting to think of how much rest I might have have I been dead. Thinking of death is probably the only thought that generates good feelings, so logically it seems as the right thing to do.

So let’s not blame those who have killed themselves. Let’s not call them cowards. Let’s not call them selfish. Let’s not call them losers. They did not have weak personalities. They were warriors who tried to overcome a huge obstacle. Let’s instead learn from their death and work on helping people with depression. Let’s work on knowing that disease better and show every person in one’s life that he’s not alone, you might not know who might have depression. Let’s break the taboo and stop making fun of people seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or a shrink. And let’s stop belittling what they are going through.

This was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.

OCD and Telling Others

“It’s okay, what you are feeling is normal”, “We all feel like this”, “Give it time it’ll go away”, “Stop being such a pussy” or “Man up”. If I had a single facial hair for every time I heard one of these sentences, I’d have a fully grown manly beard by now. These are probably the worst support or advisory remarks a person dealing with OCD and depression, or mental illness in general, could be told. No it’s not okay, it’s not normal, not everyone feels like this, time will only make it worse, and no it doesn’t mean I’m weak if I feel this way. And finally I am not a pussy, I have never felt like a cat my whole life.

I am not blaming anyone. I’m not even blaming myself. It’s just how things were. Trying to open up to others was such a hard feat that I thought so much before doing. I tried telling a lot of my close friends but not once, not a single time, was I met with support or understanding. Again I am not blaming anyone. If I didn’t have what I have, I might have had the same approach. It’s just the lack of understanding and awareness that is very difficult to deal with. Having understanding and support (as well as a support group or system) would make life so much easier for people with mental illness.

It is very difficult for a person with a mental illness to come out and say it publicly and let it be known to people close to them. It’s very difficult without taking the prevalent stigma associated with mental illness. It’s very difficult without some people’s view that the mentally ill are crazy or attention seekers or even wimps.

I was always the smiling guy. The happy-go-lucky guy, who seemed liked he had no care in the world. I would always be met with “You? No way!! You are always laughing and being silly and happy”. There’s a book by Ross Szabo and Melanie Hall whose title captures this perfectly. It’s called “Beyond Happy Faces”. Three simple words that capture the hell out of most people’s experience with mental illness. Not every “happy face” is a happy face and a happy life. I wasn’t even happy if I ordered a Happy Meal (Dear McDonalds, who can I talk to in order to get my lifetime supply of happy meals after this free plug for your delicious healthy burgers. Even our health minister would eat there; provided he brings his own food).

Even after I started treatment I kept my case on the down-low. I never felt comfortable sharing except with a select few. Even with them it was never easy. Then something happened that would change this for me. A very beautiful childhood friend of mine, whom I had known since we were very young, mentioned an organization whose main goal was to break the stigma. That organization is called Embrace (it’s a fund at AUBMC). You know the cliche saying that says “the day that changed my life” well that was it. It was a process that helped me day by day get to the openness I am having today. Some might say it is too much, and I should keep things to myself due to the aforementioned prevalent stigma and stereotyping which may lead to less job opportunities for me. I really, seriously, honestly don’t care about that. I don’t care if I never get a job opportunity in my life, I know I can do many things to make ends meet even if barely, because for once in my life, I am happy. I feel like due to all this I am sleeping better at night. I am content. I am grateful. I am enjoying the small things in life. I can read a book, go out, meet people, do so many things while being happy on the inside, not just putting on a happy facade.

My goal in life is for people who are still suffering alone to be able to come out and talk more freely, and know that they are not alone, there are others. Believe me it’s gets better when one becomes part of a whole.

That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.