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.

OCD and Religion

Religion doesn’t cause OCD. OCD causes religion. Wait, before you hook the rope and tighten my noose, hear me out, I mean read me out (unless someone is reading this to you, then disregard the second sentence). What I refer to here (and will refer to in this post) as religion isn’t the moderate minding-my-own-business religion. It is not the moderate practice of religion. And by religion I don’t mean the widespread definition of religion that which worships a deity or several deities or none whatsoever. I actually mean the definition of the word which is “an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Basically religion in the sense that it is a way of life.

My OCD has been very loyal to me since a very young age, never leaving my side till this day. This is why I can be positive making the first statement I did; religion doesn’t cause OCD. I had OCD long before I started caring about religion, God, prayers, fasting, and other beliefs. I was raised by nominally Muslim parents (my father is Shia, Mom is Druze, so I’m half a Durzi; so when I die only my legs will come back. Got it? Reincarnation joke? And the Druze community hates me now). Both don’t practice. They have their own sets of beliefs. We were never raised on their beliefs. My brother and I were given the freedom to make our own beliefs. That’s how awesome my parents are.

My troubles started when I finished university and went to Switzerland. It was a totally new life, new people, new culture. I had to wash my own clothes, which I did after I ran out of things to wear; you might have seen me buying groceries in a Tuxedo, as I had nothing else to put on. In the land of the Swiss, I was all by myself. All the anxiety and issues I had in my head that had to do with my social life and friends was fading away gradually. My mind now had nothing substantial to obsess about. That is when I started having religious obsessions.

Mind you I wasn’t religious when I set foot in Switzerland. I did have my beliefs but religion wasn’t in my top priorities going forward. I started having thoughts that I should focus on my religion. I felt that I was being ungrateful. I felt something was missing. The thoughts were strong and wouldn’t subside until I read something that had to do with religion. I started reading, asking questions, going to websites, among other things. I would send emails and get replies. How to do this? What is this? Why is this like that? I had so many questions and got a flood of answers. Every question has so many different answers, and every answer creates so many obsessive thoughts.

I reached a phase where I would do things I wasn’t completely convinced with, but did them anyway to calm down my anxiety. It had nothing to do with heaven or hell. Nothing to do with reward or punishment. Basically it had nothing to do with God.
There was a time when I started considering not shaking hands with girls and even implemented that for a while. I am not saying it is wrong or right, I’m just saying that it is something I didn’t believe in and wasn’t convinced by. But I did it anyway in order to calm down the thoughts. God forbid I saw a hint of flesh on the TV, I would turn my head so quickly, it would almost fall off my shoulders. Going to the bathroom was my number one problem (got it? a poop joke?) My number two problem was…..also going to the bathroom (ok no more poop jokes). I would doubt the way I took a bath. Did I get enough water? Did it cover my whole body? I would spend tens of minutes in the bathroom just as a compulsive reaction to my obsessions. Then during prayer I would sometimes repeat the same thing several times maybe. I would doubt things I just did. Things I just said. I would start feeling heat in my chest, and a cold, shivering sensation all over my beautiful soft skin. I start feeling sweat form on my forehead. My heart starts beating faster. My breath becomes heavy. Overall it’s a slightly sucky feeling. I had no chance but to give in to the demands of my captors. So I would repeat, and doubt, and think, and say what if. Even after I finish from a certain practice I would revise what I have done and try to find calmness in answering my obsessions. All I can say – now that I am at this stage looking backwards – is that I lost a lot of time. I can clearly remember the things I used to doubt, and think to myself “how in the blue hell did I let this silly crappy thought control me, and how stupid was I to think that?”. But when one is in the middle of an obsession, good luck trying to think rationally, or even just think.

That was some time ago, I am now a different person. That took time and a lot of rational thinking, but that’s a topic for another day hopefully.

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