Pun Twelve

I just got a female dog. I think I’m going to call her Karma.

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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.

OCD and Romantic Relationships

I don’t usually kiss and tell, so let me tell you everything. It was on top of the list of hardest things to do, up there with trying to eat soup with chopsticks. It had nothing to do with self confidence. It had nothing to do with me having problem talking. It had everything to do with anxiety and obsession.

I don’t know when these issues started. I cannot pinpoint a start but I know that I reached the place I was in because of the accumulation of incidents that happened mainly inside the confines of my head. Let’s go back all the way to Prom night. Ahhhh the good old days when it was so hard to ask a girl to the prom that I had to have one of my best friends ask her for me. I do remember that clearly as it was around the same time I started feeling a change in my mental state. That period coincided with me starting to feel a lot more pressure from my obsessions. That period I was starting to go deep into the abyss of obsessive and illogical thought. Feeling sad and gloomy was a natural progression of causality. All my life I was playing so close to the hole, that period I fell into it.

After that university years came by, and with them university girls, and with them – what I call – romantic anxiety (yes psychology students, you can use it in your research papers, and then probably you’ll be transferred to another major). I used to think every girl was out of my league; good looking girls, normal looking girls, and girls who only look beautiful in a dark room (side note: I’m not serious, beauty is on the inside). The highest level I would achieve or consider achieving is when I crack a joke and all goes well, she laughs. Making a girl I like laugh was as far as I can reach climbing to the mountain top (the mountain top is when I ask her out). I couldn’t go any higher because anxiety would cut my oxygen supply off. I would start considering almost every single scenario that might happen if I flirted with her or asked her out. I’ll be slapped. I’ll be ridiculed. She’ll go tell her friends and they’ll have a laugh at my expense. Other people will know, and then start making fun of me. I also feared that things may get awkward, and at that period in time I wanted the acceptance and love of every single person around me, so just thinking of the possibility of someone not talking to me because I was a bit forward was excruciating. I always waited for the girl to do the first move, and by first move I don’t mean subtle hints and remarks, I mean she has to let me know it, get a marching band and announce it to the world. I wouldn’t dare take the first step. So scary a thought it was.

Everything I mentioned before was in the pre-stage. It was all in my head. Several scenarios, several outcomes, none of which was in my favor. However I need to consider the post-stage as well. Consider I did ask a girl out, I don’t know if I could have handled the rejection back then. It would have led to the same obsessive thoughts and speculations, the never-ending what-ifs. If you think about it that is also part of the pre-stage. Obsessing about what might happen after was one of the main reasons I kept my mouth shut and never tried to cross the line. I need to portray what I said in an image form. I was in a minefield and whichever way I think of going, a mine was going to go off (mines are the metaphorical obsessions, got it?). So the only thing I thought I could do was stay in my place. It was my comfort zone. Anxiety made me think I was in a minefield when in reality there were no mines. The mines were mine, a creation in my mind. So I was basically stuck in a MINDfield (No? Can we still be friends?).

I had zero relationships (unless you count the countless girlfriends I had, who had no clue we were dating, and didn’t know who I was. I always did the talking, they never answered back). Looking at the bright side, I had so much more money to spend on food as I was not having dinner for two.

However, now is a different time. I have come to terms with being rejected. It now feels good, but that took a lot of time and effort and will be the subject of another blog hopefully.

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