Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Am Howard Hughes...

I am Howard Hughes. Well except for the whole being a rich man that designs and flies planes thing. I am also not a playboy....or dead. I am however a Texan...and I have OCD.

Last night, I watched The Aviator for the first time. A movie that I have purposely avoided watching till now. I sat there, palms sweaty, terrified of the mirror that would be held in front of my face. Before I hit the play button, I swallowed the lump in my throat that felt like a mini bus and asked my husband, "How much of myself am I going to see in this film?"  He had seen parts of it before. "A lot." he said.

"Wonderful." I thought in my purely sarcastic tone.

I have avoided watching this film for fears of triggers. You see, Howard had contamination fears and so do I. I was very afraid of having to sit through and hour and a half, triggering while Howard was triggering and trying not to completely freak out alongside the main character. It was daunting. It was unsettling. It was... magical.

For the first time, I saw a movie that did not glaze over my disorder. It did not present my disorder as something to laugh at. It did not show the character as being unaware of what was going on. Something that many OCD depictions overlook and try to cover up with humor. He clearly saw that what he was doing made no sense. It showed the clear agony of OCD on his face when he compulsed. It showed the hesitations. The little pauses we take when triggered. I had never seen that before in any film or read that in any book. It was like my typical day of what social dictations demand vs what my mind forces me to feel and I was blown away and thankful. I mean, I do not have all of Howard Hughes's symptoms, but I totally understood them and it was, for me, a relief.

The raw meat scenes.....totally my reactions. With the door in the public restroom scene, I could feel the complete panic. Not just because of the superb writing of the script and terrific acting of the actor, but because I do that. I look at the door knob with fear of knowing that I just washed wash my hands and I do not want to do it again. The complete panic and dread that sets in.

                               ( WARNING possible TRIGGERS on video )
                           (I do not own this video or any part of this video)



There is this part when he is in the plane with Kathrine Hepburn and he drinks after her. The hesitation before he takes a sip. I was yelling at the television. Oh my God. I don't think people understand what that means for a person with contamination fears. I do, but I am not sure other people can. I remember the first time I found someone I could drink or eat after. It was freeing and it is the first time I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to be like everyone else. To be not OCD.

Yes, I was triggered watching this movie but it moved me. It made me want to scream when they used Howard's OCD against him. It made me hold back tears when he was in pain and isolated himself. It made OCD real for the viewers and no, maybe they don't understand every nuance but they got the gist. And that means something. More than anyone else (normal) will ever know.

The hardest part of the film was the reality that many of us joke about. The dirty, unshaven naked man, reduced to peeing in his recycled milk bottles because he is afraid of being contaminated. I have often said I am one step away from being Howard Hughes. That isn't true, really. I am not to the point Howard got to but the idea of that I could become like that, terrifies me. That is what has kept me from watching this film, despite it's raving reviews, for eleven years. It was too close. It was too real for me because I can not simply walk out of the movie theater and pretend it was all just a movie. I live it everyday. I can not simply just turn off the television and go on about my day like everyone else. It wasn't a film that taught me about OCD because I know it too intimately, already. No, I am not peeing in milk bottles. No, I am not unwashed living in one tiny room afraid of contamination. No, I am not repeating myself over and over and over again. But I could have been and that is the point. I didn't really need to learn about Howard because I already am Howard Hughes on some small level. I knew him even before I didn't. And I think most OCD sufferers would understand that because I know them too. Just as they know me like only we can. Because only we know what it is like to live with this disorder. But now, because of this movie, maybe others will start to know too and that is....beyond gratifying. It is magical.



Neurotic Nelly



   

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Burden....

        I have spent my whole life trying to make up for being broken. I have always been a nice person, hoping people will accept me before they know my dysfunction. My life has been full of apologies and trying to swim through the swamps of my mind while trying desperately just to keep my head above water. I have always wanted to be liked. I put everyone else before me. Laying down my feelings on the sacrificial alter for others to trample on.....I have always tried to be so good to prove the things my mind was showing me were wrong. I am always trying to help others while helping myself. Sometimes I fail on the myself parts. And I apologize for that.

I beat myself up for not being perfect. I chastise myself for not being good enough. For not being a hero. For not being able to fix myself. For not being able to fix everyone else. For not being able to be there for everyone and everything that goes on this world. I blame myself for too much and do not forgive myself nearly enough. I lay my body on the concrete steps letting others scrape away my flesh and pick apart my bones till only my faults lie there in my place. Still it seems as if it is not enough. The suffering has become something that somewhere along the line, I picked up thinking it is all I deserve.

This burden has become too heavy and exhausting.

I know now that this is untrue. No, I am not perfect but I am no longer certain that is something I have to apologize for. I am a good person and I do not need to sacrifice my emotions to prove that to anyone, least of all myself. After all of this time, I should know who I am and what I am. I do not need to prove my worthiness or my sweetness or my goodness. I am a good person. I am a sweet person. I am a worthy person. I do not need reassurance for the first time in my life and it is exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.  I feel hurt by those that have hurt me simply because they can and yet I feel stronger than I ever have. Finally, I have broken through this wall made of bricks and clay that I had carefully erected with my own childish hands trying not to keep others out but to keep myself in. Because I felt that is where the monsters belong. I can see the light shining through the holes I have clawed away and I can feel the sun's warmth on my face. I will no longer live with the darkness that I placed myself in. The empty blackened chamber I made for myself. The punishment I have inflicted upon myself for simply existing. I am no longer afraid. I do not believe that no one will ever love me, truly. I am no longer afraid others will not accept me. I am no longer unsure of my place. Those people's feelings about me do not change who I am. Their opinions on who I should be or what I am do not change my worth. I am not them. They are not me.

The more I look at myself in the mirror, the more I reflect on my own reflections, I realize that this burden I have been dragging behind me is not my burden to carry. No one is perfect.
The blame I have carried is not my blame to cock and point at myself. I do not need this damp and musty overcoat of shame anymore. It never fit me very well anyway.

I am Learning... I don't need anyone else to confirm who I am. I already know and I deserve to treated like the good, caring, responsible person that I am. I don't need to hold on to this self hatred any longer. There is nothing I could ever do that would make me deserve the punishments I have given myself on top of the suffering I already have. This stops today. I will no longer apologize for who I am or what I can and can not do. No one is held to these kind of standards and I shouldn't be held to them either. Even if those standards were something that only I have placed on myself.  So this is me dropping the lies, the blame, the guilt, and the overwhelming sense of shame and letting them all fall away. This is me accepting me, wholly and completely...and I am learning that those that can't stand be behind me on that, don't deserve to be standing beside me as my friends. It is they who are not worthy enough to be in my life and not the other way around....

Here is a short video of me talking about my acceptance of my OCD.
Neurotic Nelly







Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Insomnia and Being A PureO.....



Some things have been going on lately, making it hard to sleep. The night is my worst enemy. It is too quiet. It is too long. And my brain starts to thinking it's most when it is quiet and too long. I can't clean to occupy myself because everyone is asleep. There is nothing on television to mindlessly space out and stare at. No music to distract myself from myself because to do that the music would have to be loud enough to drown out my thoughts and my thoughts are very very loud.  I could have read but I was feeling too lazy. I could have written but the words wouldn't come to me. So, I just laid there praying to get exhausted enough to override my own mind. I just laid there and listened to the silence. Well, at least I think it was silence in the background of all of my thoughts.....I am not completely sure.

Insomnia blows.

I am so tired right now.

I will get over it, probably.



Please take few seconds to check out my new video about being a PureO. Thanks, and I promise to write a better post next Tuesday.




Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why OCD Is Not Funny....

Hurt.
That is what I feel when someone makes fun of my disorder. We live in a time where information is just a click away and yet such ignorance abounds us all, it is amazing to me we can see through the fog of it. On a weekly basis I am confronted with people making light of my disorder or minimizing it's effects with dumb t-shirts or ignorant coffee cups and I become disheartened and offended.  It seriously happens to me all of the time. And as frustrating as it is, I can not totally blame the people that do it. They just don't know any better. So I ask myself how I can change the perceptions of things like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to the masses. Granted, I will most likely not change the world with my posts on this blog, but if I can help just one person understand OCD a little better or help a fellow sufferer feel less alone, then I feel all of this has been worth the struggle.

 In looking through several videos on youtube about OCD, I have noticed that although there is a great deal on OCD, they aren't necessarily specific. There are several videos on compulsions that go hand in hand with Obsessive Compulsive disorder but not many on the obsessional or intrusive thought part of OCD and I would like to change that.

So, I have decided to make a few videos about my life with OCD and the things I have learned while suffering from it for almost thirty two years. They wont be anything spectacular. There won't be any animations or flow charts. No, art work being drawn as I speak or anything fancy. Just me talking about the things many of us OCD sufferers are afraid to talk about (the scary, guilt inducing, upsetting intrusive thoughts that rule our lives). I will be discussing what it is like to be a PureO because we are OCD sufferers too. Just not the ones most people think of when they think about OCD because our symptoms are not readily seen to the naked eye. I will be discussing why OCD is just as serious as every other mental illness and just why we do not find your Obsessive Cat Disorder shirts or Obsessive Coffee Disorder coffee mugs hilarious.  I will admit I am a little terrified of doing this. Writing is one thing, being on camera talking about it is quite another. I may even have hives and a panic attack before, after, or even during filming. Who knows. But I do feel it is important to try and I hope that it helps even in some small way.

So, here goes nothing...


             (you may need to use headphones the volume is low).
     (( I apologize for the overuse of the word "um", I was nervous))


Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

UnValidated...

" Sometimes the people around you won't understand your journey. They don't need to, it's not for them." -Anonymous

         Deflected. That is what it feels like when someone makes excuses to not sympathize with how you are feeling. I get irritated when someone assumes that because I am upset about something, that it is because of my mental illness. As if, I am not allowed to have true feelings unless it is related to my OCD. Like somehow my OCD means that I can not truthfully be angry or hurt. It matters not what has transpired during my day or what situation I am facing. Crying or showing otherwise perfectly normal emotional responses to something is thrown back in my face because, surely it is my mental illness's fault and not because I am truly upset over something. It can't be because I had a shitty day. It has to be because I have OCD. And since I do have OCD, my feelings are just overreactions. My diagnosis has fundamentally colored the way I am perceived. And I am apparently perceived as someone who can not feel unless my mental illness is dictating it.

I know it may be hard to believe, but just like everyone else I am a human being. And being a human means that on occasion, I actually have human feelings. And they can be trampled on or hurt. (Go figure.)

         Few things hurt  more than when I am discussing my feelings on something and someone's response to it, is that I need to get back on my medicine. (I have medication resistant OCD). I don't think it is meant to be insulting on purpose but it is insulting all the same.  What you may be saying is that I am really passionate about whatever we are talking about or that I am really upset, but what I hear is the soft click of the door of communication as it closes tightly shut behind me. What I hear is that you do not care about my feelings. What I hear is that you can not get on my level and understand where I am coming from. What I hear is that my opinion is not important and my feelings are annoying and should be kept to myself, lest I bother anyone else with them. You may not know it, but these few simple words have effectively swept my emotions under the heavily stained, moth eaten carpet that everyone has trampled and wiped their dirt covered feet on.  It pushes my feelings away and crushes them down. Leaving me to feel misunderstood, extremely frustrated, unbelievably isolated, a tad bit devastated, and just plain sad. No one likes to feel ignored or swept aside and it is no different for those of us that suffer from mental illness.

       
       Even when I was on medication, if I had a moment when I was struggling or upset with something that had nothing to do with my mental illness at all, I would be asked, "Did you take your meds today?"

       I wanted to scream,"What the hell does my medication have to do with the validation of how I am feeling? Is it not possible for you to see me as a whole person? To see me as someone who is hurting? What does it matter even if it is my mental illness making me feel this way, are my emotions any less important? Any less valid? Do I not still feel them just as deeply? Why are my emotions ignored and overlooked and dismissed just because I suffer?"

I want to yell these things, but I usually end up just ending the conversation. Because once my feelings have been rebuffed by someone, I have a very hard time trusting that someone with them again.

        I can not begin to tell you how incredibly hurtful the medication question is. If you really think about it, it is more of a statement rather than a question. It says you are judging me. It says, albeit subtly and well hidden, that I don't have a right to have feelings let alone express them because they clearly aren't real. It implies that no one that has mental illness has any real emotions. They are a figment of our fractured minds and therefore do not need to be validated or listened to. They are immediately suspect and mistrusted. They are almost always looked at with a wary eye and a half closed ear.


        I mean yes, sometimes my mental illness affects my mood or causes me to react a certain way. But that is not every single time I feel an emotion. When someone has been a complete asshat to me and it hurts my feelings, I get pissed. I do not get pissed because I have OCD. I get pissed because someone has been a complete asshat to me and has hurt my feelings. I should not have to explain that. I should not have to validate that to someone else. I have a right to feel the way I feel about things.


 We are not emotional zombies. We are people.


       Asking me if I have taken my pills when I am upset makes me feel like I have to constantly validate my feelings when I feel them. It makes me start to feel as if I am not trustworthy of my own emotions. Like somehow, I am defunct and incapable. That my feelings are not important on the basis that I am mentally ill and because of that, those feelings have no merit.  Your feelings count and are treated as such. So should ours.  There shouldn't be this overwhelming need to explain why we aren't faking it or not overreacting. There should be no long drawn out explanation we have to give every time we are upset by something. Our feelings matter and they are very real to us. That should be more than good enough for everyone else.

         Somehow people with mental illness are always asked to defend how they feel about something and I hate that. I hate that I have to feel like my emotions are not my own and it is okay for them to be sterilized and whitewashed over simply because I have OCD.  My feelings are not a old barn door that needs to be reclaimed and painted over. They are not grimy bed linens that need to be washed clean with bleach. They are not distasteful and something to look down upon. They are simply feelings. Not something to be scrubbed away or sanitized.  Being told I need to water down my emotions when I am hurting is total bullshit and I vehemently resent it.

We are not exempt from feeling things. We are no different than anyone else.

            I am not asking you to understand every single thing we feel. We don't expect that from you. What I am asking is that you be compassionate. That you be kind. That you listen without ridicule or judgement. That you offer support just as we do you when you are upset or hurting. That is all I want. That is all any of us want. It really isn't that complicated. We just want to be heard. We just want to not have our feelings glossed over, ignored, omitted, or have them remain unvalidated. No one deserves to remain unvalidated.

You wouldn't like if we treated you like your views and emotions were pointless, so please don't do that to us either,

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Letter.....

I didn't post last week because I was working on this post. Not because I had writer's block (as I sometimes do) but because I wanted this post to mean exactly what I wanted and needed it to mean and to represent something that I dearly wished someone had said to me in the beginning, when I was first diagnosed. It would have been a help to know that life was going to go on and that I would be able to handle whatever mental illness threw my way, even when many times I was not sure of that fact. Maybe this is but a small window into my life but also maybe it could help anyone else struggling to make sense of their diagnosis and all of the unknowns that follow when you live your life under the label of being mentally ill.


Dear self,

When you are first diagnosed with a mental illness, there are some adjectives you are going to hear that are unflattering and a tad bit scary. You will wrestle with whether or not these adjectives are true. It will be hard and humbling and frustrating. It will be an eye opener to how differently people treat you with your diagnosis instead of how they treat you if you had something physical happen to you like a heart attack. There will be those that do not understand and shun you. There will be those that pity you or fear you. It is almost as if your diagnoses has changed who you are in their eyes and they are blinded by the words "mental illness" and unable to see you through those words. It won't be everyone in your life (thank God) but you will see it. Then and only then, will you come to understand the stigma that surrounds carrying around the moniker of being "mentally ill".

Not to fret, we all have walked down this path and learned which winding roads to avoid and which ones are safe to cross. We have all heard the negative adjectives describing our umbrella diagnoses and we are not impressed. We know them to be false and about as scary as two years old's favorite teddy bear. These adjectives are not based in reality and are completely created by ignorance and apathy. We are not bad, or dangerous, or freaks. We are not weak, or lazy, or attention seeking. We are not broken, or ugly, or damaged goods. That is the stigma talking and we need not listen to it's lies and unfair and untrue accusations. It doesn't matter where it comes from or whose mouths it pours from. We are none of those things. You are none of those things.

Having a mental illness is not something to beat yourself up about. It isn't your fault or because of something you did or did not do. It is not something you can help or something that you choose. It is not indicative of your strength as an individual.  It does not speak for your personality. It does not mean that you have all of a sudden become weak, less than, stupid, worthless, or undesirable. It changes nothing about who you are as a person. All it means is that you have a different struggle to deal with.

Yes, there will be times you are on the floor balling your eyes out and wiping away the snot with sleeve of your sweater wondering ,"What the fuck am I doing? What good am I to the world? What life can I possibly lead? What is the point in all of this?"

There will be times when you believe the negative adjectives stated above because it is so much easier to believe the bad lies about yourself rather than the good truths. Because you now doubt who you are, now that you have a label placed upon your head like a two day old ham hock or a discontinued piece of Tupperware. And there are always ignorant people willing to step on you further when you are already down....be weary of those that trample on you and use your diagnoses as an excuse to treat you like dirt. You deserve better than that.

I can not tell you that life is going to be easy or that you will come out of being mentally ill unscathed. That is not reality. Reality is, that you will struggle against the tides until your arms ache and your chest hurts and you are out of breath. You will try and try and try and fail. You will pray and beg and plead and get discouraged. You will.... and then you will get off your ass and up off of the floor and slowly and deliberately carve out a life for yourself because you deserve a good life. Because you are strong. Even though you can't see it yet. Even though you doubt the validity of that strength. Even though, right now you look in the mirror and fail to see yourself as anything but weak and broken. You will prevail. You will one day see that you are never broken and are incapable of being something as paltry as weak. Because being mentally ill doesn't define you anymore than being diabetic does. Because you were never a quitter and failure is not an option. Because struggling against stigma makes your muscles stronger and your responses wittier and you always have liked a challenge. Because you can only see what you are truly made of in the face of adversity.  Yes, you will struggle....but you will also learn who you are during that struggle. You will learn what is important to you and how much courage it takes to be someone with mental illness and still be present in your own life. To still be who you are in the face of stigma and ignorance. To still be compassionate and kind and brave and honest and open. Because mental illness can do many things but it can not change who you are deep down and neither can other people's judgments and stupidity.

So, don't fret. You are going to be fine. No, you are going to better than fine, you are going to be strong. And you are going to realize that you have a purpose with mental illness. It could be to have your dream job in spite of your struggles, or raise happy healthy kids, or to go back to school and learn something new, or to advocate and fight for others that are just like you. And all of those purposes are just as good as any other purpose in life.   Because, fundamentally, this is your life and it is you who gets to decide just how much you are willing to surrender to stigma and bias. Only you can stand up for you. It doesn't matter if you are in a room full of other people that believe in you, if you don't believe in yourself, it will never work. So believe in yourself, because you can do this. In fact, you already have.

Neurotic Nelly

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inhuman....

           May is Mental Illness Awareness month! I am glad that mental illness is being more openly talked about because to get help and eradicate stigma we have to be more open and be more in the spotlight to further awareness of all that we go through.

And while we are talking about ways to be more aware of things like mental illness, I wanted to touch on a topic today that isn't directly about mental illness but often times has a negative affect on those of us that suffer. I read comments on news stories often. I play video games occasionally. I am on the internet almost everyday and I have noticed a trend that highly disturbs me.

Apathy is rampant. In this country and in this world, there is a great amount of apathy and that bothers me. It has gotten so bad that I felt the need to sit my twelve year old son down and have a discussion about apathy, not because he is insensitive but because in a world where so many people are I want him to be able to see it for what it is. I want him to be able to pick it out so that he never becomes apathetic to someone else's suffering. Because pain is pain and no one is immune to hardships. Something that I think is paramount to keeping all of us connected and to remind us all that we are all human.

I can not tell you how many times I have read comments about how mentally ill people should all be rounded up and put somewhere like an asylum. I have read comments calling for the sterilization of all mentally ill people. I have read indifferent posts about how mental illness affects it's sufferers but also their loved ones. And my son needs to understand that when people negatively talk about mentally ill people they are talking about me and my mother and my grandmother.

I can not count how many times I have read stories about drug addicts overdosing and read comments that say it is a good thing or that the person deserves it. I have even read a few where people have said they don't feel anything about it at all. And that bothers me because all loss of human life due to drugs and or violence is a tragedy.

It is a shame to me that I have to have this conversation with my child so that he doesn't do what many children have done and just slowly accepted the apathy of the world towards other people and their plights. Not because they mean to or are inherently bad people but because they simply know no better. Whether it be because of race, religion, age, social status, mental stability, life ideals, sexual orientation, or upbringing we are all subject to comments and opinions by those suffering from a bad case of apathy. There is a lack of responsibility for what people say because those that are apathetic hide behind the excuse that it is only the internet and the internet is where such things are acceptable. And that is a bullshit excuse in my opinion.

We live in a world where just stating an opinion or playing a video game can get you bullied or threatened. And often times, it is ignored by those that hear or read it because they feel vindicated that it only being on the internet makes it okay to do so and to not stand up for that person being victimized. In a world full of keyboard warriors, people have become apathetic to the things that are said and that is wrong.

So, as I sat there talking to my child about apathy and bullying I had to find a way to explain that bullying on the internet and those that turn a blind eye to it, are just as guilty as people who would bully you at school or at work. It is the same pain felt as it would be being attacked in person. Because words are words there is absolutely no difference between hearing them and reading them. They have the same affect to the person they are wielded at and we as humans need to recognize that.

I find that people are more prone to being rude and mean online because they sit behind a computer screen and do not have to face the person they are hurting. So, it feels acceptable to them to do harm to others and live behind an excuse that is really no excuse at all.

And to make my point clear that apathetic people often times do not even realize that what they are doing is wrong at first, I used an example.

The horrors of the Nazis did not start over night. If it had, people would have never accepted what was happening to their neighbors and their friends. It started with ostracizing and little yellow stars sewn into innocent people's jackets. Making them stick out and become something to be seen as different. Then it was the removing of their personal property and destruction of said property and propaganda claiming such things were acceptable. And then it was moving them to the ghettos where many saw them starve and die and yet many felt nothing because they were led to believe such atrocities were not only acceptable but the way things should be. And then it became the mass murder of those innocent people whose only crime was that they had been judged to be different....and yet still many were indifferent to their plight.

All of this was allowed due to apathy. Because indifference causes excuses and lack of responsibility. Apathy propagates misinformation and ignorance. And when no one takes responsibility and no one refuses to be indifferent to other people's pain, it is the same as condoning those actions and that is wrong. Apathy is deadly and it must be seen for what it is and never accepted as the social norm.  Even on the internet. Because apathy is apathy and it makes no difference what device spreads it or what source it is written on.

And in truth, we will never truly eradicate ignorance and stigma of any issue as long as apathy is accepted.

It makes me sad to have to have this discussion with my child because in a perfect world he would see these things as being bad and hurtful and yet in this world he sees it everyday. So much so, that people become oblivious of it and blind to it. And I do not want him to ever be blind to someone else's suffering. Because one person's suffering should affect us all and should make us all strive to be better people.

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity" - George Bernard Shaw

To be human is to feel. To be inhuman is to turn away and do nothing. The real question is which one are you willing to be?
Neurotic Nelly