On Mental Health, My OCD and Last Night.
Tuesday January 18th 2011, 2:31 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine, Family, Health (Not Cancer), Leukemia, Me, Myself, and Reid

There is a powerful social stigma in our culture that prevents a great deal of discussion about mental health. This, in turn, leads to a great deal of mental health problems going undiagnosed and untreated. As too many of us know, the consequences of not treating mental illnesses can be as dire as not treating physical illnesses.

I am not ashamed to avow that I have received and still receive professional care for my mental health. It might not be surprising that I have been in treatment for my mental health since I was diagnosed with leukemia. But there were also times in my life before I was diagnosed that I received care for my mental health. And, while I’m at it, I don’t mind saying that there have been times in my life when I should have sought out someone to help me with my mental health, but I didn’t. Now I should stipulate that just because I don’t mind anyone knowing that I’ve been treated for mental issues doesn’t mean I’m going to publicly explain them all. A lot of that is private, exactly like a lot of physical issues and illnesses are. (Obviously, writing about my leukemia in this blog is an exception I’ve chosen to make to that privacy.)

I could talk about the sorry state of mental health care awareness and acceptance for forever–it is something I am very passionate about–but there is one specific reason I’m writing about this right now.

While writing two blog entries last night and into the very early hours of the morning, I had the worst experience with my obsessive-compulsive disorder that I have ever had. There is an amount of my OCD that I experience each time I write a blog entry: I often reread the entire entry constantly as I’m writing it, and I edit and re-edit almost every entry before and after it’s posted at least three times. One recent example that highlights my OCD, but that I do not consider atypical, is a post from a few nights ago when I had a bad headache and I just wanted to say I went to a concert, but that my head hurt too much to write anything else. I spent an hour on that one sentence, which completely destroyed the entire purpose of only writing one sentence to say my head hurt too much to write anything else.

I started off writing a blog entry at about 10:30 last night. At first, I was writing about seeing some friends who were in from out of town. That entry, as many of my of other entries do, went off on many tangents and kept growing and growing and growing. Sometimes I will spend many hours working on long entries only to decide that they simply aren’t working. When that has happened in the past, I have always deleted whatever I was working on, maybe saved a line or two that I liked, and I’ve written a new short entry. Last night, I decided that what I was working on wasn’t working, but I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to work on it. I wanted to stop working on it. Oh, how I wanted to stop working on it! But I couldn’t because I had a compulsion to keep going. The closest thing I can compare the feeling to is really, really having to go to the bathroom, but trying to hold it. Eventually, you have to go, no matter how much you dance around.

I danced around last night. I got up from the computer, trying to get away, but I kept returning to it and working on it. Finally, I stopped myself. I don’t know how. I am constantly aware of how long it takes me to write, so it wasn’t looking at the clock that did it. Whatever it was that stopped me, I was extremely relieved to be free from that long treatise. I was exhausted both because it was so late and because I was fighting with myself. After this disturbing incident, I made the mistake of consciously deciding to write a small entry that said, “It’s late, I’m tired and I can’t write anymore, so I’m going to bed.”

You can read what that entry turned into for yourself. Needless to say, I was pretty hysterical by the time I finally got off the computer. I wanted to go to bed so bad, but I just couldn’t stop writing and revising, even after I posted the entry. I stood up several times, but this only made me uncomfortable, as my hands remained on the keyboard so I had to bend over to type. I sat down. I was hitting the keyboard. I kept trying to stand and walk away. At one point, I almost threw my laptop at the wall just to stop myself from editing and writing how upset I was that I was editing. What I was thinking in my mind and what I was doing with my body were totally in total opposition. I was thinking “stop stop stop!” and eventually, I hit the power button in the middle of an edit, I closed my laptop, I took it into another room and left it there. Then I turned off my phone, which I never do in case I need to call upstairs to my parents in the event of an emergency, and I put it in that other room as well, knowing that I would use it to keep editing if I left it at the head of my bed.

I am convinced that I have always had a degree of OCD. When I was younger, I would have described myself at times as a perfectionist. By the time I was in college, I knew I had OCD, and I knew that it was annoying when it kicked in not only to me but to other people around me, but it seemed to come and go. When I started undergoing treatment for leukemia, it got a lot worse, and its effects have been noticeable and cause for frustration, jokes, and anxiety by me and other people.

I saw my psychologist this morning at our weekly appointment, which had luckily been scheduled for today. We talked about some ways to deal with what happened last night and we talked about why it’s gotten worse over the years and the reason why what happened last night happened. When I was diagnosed with leukemia, I instantly lost control over most things in my life. OCD is an anxiety disorder. My way of reacting to the anxiety of losing control over so much in my life was–and is–to control the hell out of what little there has been left for me to control (which I have to give my mom credit for telling me for a couple of years), such as the placement of things in my room, never scratching my computer, and the content of my blog entries. Last night, something completely out of my control happened that caused my anxiety to spike, which I was aware of at the time. Just like when I was diagnosed with leukemia, my mind’s way of dealing with this huge and sudden burst of anxiety over something I could not control was to try to control every single aspect of something I could control, which happened to be my blog.

I guess that’s really it. It’s 2:15 AM. I’m going to reread this once and then post it, because that’s what I set out to do tonight. Well, I set out to write about what happened yesterday and reread it once, not to stay up until 2:15 writing about it. It’s so late because I’ve written so much. I’ve fought off the urge to delete this post three times and to put it off until tomorrow six times.

I’m going to reread it now.

Hah. Okay. It’s not exactly how I want it, but I’m fighting off the urge to revise and edit and re-revise and re-edit. I’m going to post this and be done with it.

Oh, I didn’t explain why I can do that right now. I should’ve ch
My spiked anxiety level went down when I figured out exactly what had made it go up. I can choose to let this entry be as it is, even if I do feel a compulsion to keep working on it.

Tomorrow: a quick wrap up of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Maybe I’ll do another one of those things where I wrote a bunch of short statements that would fit in a tweet. That was fun. What did I call that? I called it a twitlog. Whoops. I’ve been calling my Twitter based entries Twitlogs, too. I’ll have to sort that out. Another time.

–Reid.

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Now playing: Joe, Marc’s Brother – Sleep My Friend
via FoxyTunes


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