Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Ways You Can Help Your Child/Teenager/Loved one With OCD.........

I read an article today that really bothered me. The author wrote about the suicide of her teenage daughter due to OCD but it seemed to me to be very one sided. It read to be more about how much the treatment for her child's OCD cost the author, how long the drives for her child's treatment were, how her child's OCD destroyed her marriage, how it took and took and took from the author. I read this and as a sufferer from severe OCD for over 32 years, all I could think of was the teenager. What about all that she had gone through? What about all that she lost, because I can tell you from personal experience it was a hell of a lot more than the author did. After all, she lost her life to it.  It bothered me that it seemed to be more of an itemized list of things that affected the author and inconvenienced the author but without it really touching on the absolute agony OCD is. This article bothered me for many reasons, but the biggest reason for me was the inability to get on the same level as the sufferer. Don't get me wrong, I believe the author loved her child very much. Maybe she was just unable to understand the immense pain and guilt that OCD causes. Maybe she was pressured for time and just wrote how OCD affected her personally and not how it personally affected her child. I don't really know. What I do know is that the article made me angry and sad all at the same time and it just clarified for me how most people just really do not understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder very well.

To rectify what I read and found to be almost offensive, I wrote down 10 things that helped me when I was younger and still continues to help me today. This is not advice as much as it is  MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION.

1. Don't say that your loved one's OCD tore your family apart and destroyed your life.
Not everything is about you so do not try and make this about you. A person's mental illness is just about them. You suffer because they suffer but make no mistake, your suffering is no where near the suffering we are going through. If you feel OCD is tearing your family apart, just imagine how much devastation it is causing us. Now imagine being told you are the one tearing apart the family on top of all of that devastation. You can't say something like that and not have the sufferer think it is their fault and that they are somehow responsible for having it. It only makes us feel like more of a burden to you. OCD is different from other mental illnesses, in that, we can tell that our disorder is negatively affecting our families and lives. We do not need you to point that out and make us feel less than because of it. Our OCD isn't something being done to you, it is something being done to us. We feel guilty that it affects you as well but it is not our fault we have OCD and saying something like only makes us unfairly blame ourselves just that much more.

2. OCD does not just pop up overnight.
 We may have less obvious symptoms. Mine started at the age of four. My parents saw it and knew something was off, they just didn't know what. No one wakes up one day and just randomly starts touching door knobs twenty five times. Their symptoms may be more obsessional and less compulsive. Less noteworthy than others. It is not like catching the flu. The signs are there, hidden as they may be.

3. Please DO NOT say that you just wish they would be normal again.
 That is a loaded statement. Once a person has OCD, normal is no longer a possibility. There is no cure. There is manageability. There is learning to live with it. There is having a good life and being OCD although, there will always be both good and bad days. The "normal" part of that person is a fun house mirror. A parlor trick. An illusion with smoke and mirrors. There is no normal, only normal for him/her. Drop the "just be normal" crap. It causes guilt we don't need and only further makes the sufferer feel bad about themselves. We aren't normal and we can learn to live with that fact. It is you that is holding on to an illusion when you say those things. It is your problem of accepting our mental illness, not ours.

4. Being a "tough love" parent is not always a good idea.
 OCD is an anxiety disorder. When we are suffering from anxiety, the very last thing we need is to have more anxiety thrust upon us because you are frustrated. We are frustrated too. Frustrated that we suffer. Frustrated at the pain and agony that accompanies our suffering. And frustrated that clearly you have a lack of understanding of what we are dealing with here. Listen to their doctors/therapist's advice on dealing with your loved one's anxiety disorder even if they point out that something you are doing is wrong. Even if it isn't what you want to hear. Again, this is not about you. Nothing says "I blame you" like yelling and pushing the OCD person to do something they feel they can't do with snide comments or condemnation in your tone. You push them gently, with many supportive discussions. You slowly egg them on with love and affection. They will have to do things they are very uncomfortable with and your job is to be there for them. Not lording over them with judgment on as to why they are failing at it and with contempt in your voice. You do not simply badger and belittle OCD away. It does not work that way and if anything it can make it worse.

5. Stand up for us.
Stigma is real and there be will people who do not believe we have what we have. They will say derogatory things to us or about us. They may try to trivialize or minimalize what we go through. They may make remarks about us being over dramatic, lazy, and or looking for attention. They may be friends, coworkers, or even family members. They do not understand but that does not give them the right to assume they know anything about our disorder or how it works. OCD is very complicated with, often times, several different symptoms. To support us, you need to stand up for us to these people. Educate them if you can. Tell them to fuck off if you can't. No one needs to be accused, discriminated, badgered, judged wrongly, or stigmatized further when they are already suffering from something that makes them feel bad about themselves. This kind of thing can make a bad situation even worse and make a toxic atmosphere for both the sufferer and the one's that love them.

6. Stop rationalizing.
OCD has no rational components. Someone who is afraid of germs may have issues with one place or object deemed dirty to them and not with another. Some one might fear being touched by a white cat and not an orange one. Someone may have to open and close the front door ten times but not the back door. We are aware it makes no sense. That does not make it any easier for us to deal with. Case in point, I am a germ-a-phobe and I hate grocery stores. I don't like to touch shelves there or sometimes even the products I want to buy. I, however, have no issue with the shopping cart even though, I know that the handle of the shopping cart has all kinds of germs on it. My OCD is not triggered by this one object but triggered by other things in the same store. There is no rhyme or reason for our fears. Don't rationalize as to why one thing bothers us and the other things don't. Just accept that the fears are what they are.

7. Educate yourself.
OCD is a mental illness and as such has many different symptoms. There are also varying degrees of severity. Some may be more text book i.e. excessive washing, fears of contamination or germs, touching, counting, checking. There are also less talked about symptoms i.e. fears of being homosexual (or if you are homosexual fears of being straight), harm fears, medical fears, reassurance. There are outward compulsions and inward mental compulsions and just when you think you have your symptoms figured out they can and do change around on you. Unwanted intrusive thoughts and images often plague the OCD sufferer. There is an over abundance of guilt and shame. There are phobias and triggers to panic attacks. Some people do outward repetitive actions to calm their anxiety and some do repetitive compulsions inwardly in their minds. No one is exactly the same and no one's fears are exactly the same. So, what freaks one OCD person out may or may not bother the next OCD sufferer. To help, you should be familiar with the behavioral therapies that tend to be helpful with OCD and also the medications prescribed for OCD. You can educate yourself easily with websites, books, blogs, and doctors. Basically, if someone you love has been diagnosed with OCD then you should be educating yourself to how OCD works. It is so easy to find out more about OCD in this day and age that there is absolutely no excuse for walking around being wholly ignorant about it.

8. Be Patient.
There is no one all to be all cure for OCD. It does not go away over night. It takes years of therapy and finding the right medications to help the sufferer cope....Not months, not weeks, not days but Years. Be patient as we figure out our triggers and work tirelessly to get over them. Be patient when we have set backs, because everyone does. Be patient while we learn how to stand on our own two legs to fight the monster of our nightmares (anxiety). Be patient when we look for reassurances, repeat ourselves or our actions, get upset with something because it doesn't feel right or takes too long. We know these things are frustrating, they are frustrating for us as well, be patient. Be patient with the drug side affects that can make us cranky, bloated, exhausted, or weak. Be patient when we have to do therapies that push the borders of our comfort zones and we freak out. Be patient as we repeat this cycle over and over and over and over and over again. We can't help it and we are working really hard to be more functional.

9. Silence is not golden, it is deadly.
OCD is often thought of something humorous or quirky. In reality, it is a devastating mental illness that brings with it self doubt, frustration, immense pain, shame, and guilt. It can lead to other mental illnesses or coincide with them. OCD needs to be treated, listened to, and talked about. It is just as deadly as depression or any other mental illness. The weird things we do may seem funny to others but they are agonizing to us. They are painful to us. We need to talk about them. The deadliest thing about OCD is silence because if we remain silent we do not get the help we need nor do we help erode the reality of the stigma and bias that surrounds it. Shame keeps us silent. Guilt keeps us silent. Fear keeps us silent and silence is a killer. Let us talk. Listen to what we say. Continue to discuss it with others. Continue to educate to the masses. Never, ever remain silent.

10. Remember we are people too.
Sometimes the anxiety seems so all consuming that people can forget that we are more than just our mental illness. We are people too. We like to do things. We like to be happy. We love, we laugh, we play. We are not just OCD, we are also human beings. We are still the person you love even though we struggle. That never changes.  Remember that although we have a mental illness, we are not just our diagnosis. We may need help but we are strong and resilient individuals. We are productive members of society. We are doctors, lawyers, moms, and dads. We are children and teachers and bus drivers. We are bloggers and authors and painters. We are factory workers, retirees, and mailmen. We are everywhere. We can be anyone. We are humans with dreams and desires and families. We are loved ones who have loved ones. Remember that we are not just OCD people. We are people who just happen to have OCD. And everything that applies to being human also applies to us as well because although we suffer, we are people too.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We All Are...

My youngest is just like me. He is sweet, intelligent, sensitive and he has an anxiety disorder. Lately, his aversion to going to school has gotten worse. He now has anxiety attacks, just as I did with school.

But he has a chance that wasn't available to me at that age. Now, they actually treat children for anxiety disorders. Thirty years ago they did not. So, while my OCD is firmly ingrained in my brain.....we may be able to really improve his. We may even make his anxiety much less or much more manageable. To do this though, he will have to be in situations that make him extremely uncomfortable. Like going to school.

Last night he was crying as he thought about school and I went through a long list of people that love him. I told him how wonderful he is. How important he is. That he can do anything in this world that he wants if he really wants to. And that these feelings that he has are called anxiety. That they feel yucky and scary and they seem impossible to overcome. But just because something seems impossible doesn't mean that it is. I told him that mommy has the same issues and then I explained to him that anxiety is an emotion that is not based in reality. That whatever he is afraid of when leaving me is not the truth. That the scariest thing at school is a possible paper cut or the cafeteria lunch that smells funny and that he can certainly get over those two things easily. Then I reminded him that tomorrow's day at school would be like all of the other days at school and that just like all of the days before it, he will come home and we will do it all again the next day because if he stays home, the anxiety wins. And it can not be allowed to win because it can make him unable to do the things he wants to do and that is unacceptable. Anxiety doesn't get to have that kind of power over him. It can only be powerful if you let it become powerful.  I told him that we have to be warriors and that warriors do the scariest things in the world. They stand up. They fight for what is right. They never back down. They are scared when they do these things but they do them anyway because they have to. We are warriors because we battle everyday and sometimes we will not win, but we will always get up the next day a try again because that is what warriors do. They fight. They never give up. They are always battle ready. They are always fierce.

And then I took out one of those rectangular pink erasers that you use for school testing and I drew a large "W" with a sharpie marker on one side. Then I wrote his name on the other side so he could take it school in his pocket and if at anytime it seemed like the anxiety was taking over, he could hold it in his hand and it would remind him that  he can do this. He can make it one day at a time. Because he is a warrior and warriors will always prevail.

Everyone has a story and everyone gets the chance to be the hero in their own story. He is the hero of his and in no small way he is also the hero in mine. Because if an eight year old can conquer his greatest fears with the courage of full grown adult armed with only an eraser with a "W" written on it, then I can too. The only thing holding me back is me and my fear and that is also unacceptable because deep down I too am a warrior. We all are.....we just have to stop and remember that sometimes.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Truth Is......

It seems to me that whenever a tragedy happens people rush to judgment. They rush to make excuses for one's behavior. They use words like mental illness to describe what could have been the possible culprit. I think it is to make a gap in humanity. To make it seem like normal people could never do what these people have done. I think it is to make others sleep better at night. To label someone who has hurt others so that they don't have to look at themselves and the possibility that they could do something like that as well. It isn't a diagnosis to understand what has happened. It is a diagnosis to separate themselves from those that have harmed. A label. An umbrella word. Infecting everyone who has a label even though it is unwarranted.

The man who drove the plane into the mountain and killed 150 people was labeled depressed. Yet he was on anti-psychotics. Depression isn't psychosis but most people don't know that there is a huge difference. That anti-psychotics are given to psychotics not typical depressed people. The media seems oblivious as they spread out the might be's and why's someone might do such a horrid thing. Someone said depression and now even though, we have no actual proof of his depression, depressed people are getting the side eye. Now, everyone with depression is suspect of being a possible mass murderer. Not because statistics support such a bias claim but because the media and ignorant people are in such a rush to make an excuse for inexcusable behavior. It wouldn't happen if he had a heart problem but because it was a mental problem, it is okay to publicly speculate.

Calling someone's diagnosis something that it is not, is like calling someone's toe cancer, finger cancer. Yes, they are both cancers but they are different cancers. Just like calling someone's mental illness diagnosis  by a different mental illness diagnosis name. They are both mental illness but they are different mental illnesses. It is not one size fits all.

This happens every time some person does the unthinkable. Adam Lanza murdered innocent children and teachers and before the investigation was even finished he had a label. Aspergers. No actual documentation of his disorder and yet it was spread over the news and media as fact. Why? Because it made people feel safer that his evil had a name. A name they put on him to make it seem like his actions were because of an illness.  It did not matter that Aspergers is not violent usually. It didn't matter that the statistics don't support what the media claimed. All that mattered is that it sold more papers, got more views, and riled people up against mental illness. All that mattered is that there was a label to assign. And so they did.

And in doing so, such a label brought a great deal of discomfort to good people that suffer from Aspergers. They were all looked at like they were capable of such horror. They did not deserve such judgment.

There seems to be a great deal of speculation as we reel with emotions of such horrid events and yet what seems to be lacking is a great deal of truth. Truth that sets people straight. Truth that sets people free.

The truth is, people suffering from mental illnesses are more than twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime rather than to be the person committing one. The truth is, that depressed people are far more likely to be a danger to themselves rather than to others. The truth is, that the media slanders the mentally ill anytime something tragic happens because it fits the general consensus that it is us against them and that we are somehow dangerous or different. The truth is that bad people can and do bad things and not all of those people did bad things because of mental illness. Sometimes they just do what they do and no one else with any diagnosis that may be similar has anything to prove. We are not the monsters that go bump into the night. We are just people. We are not dangerous anymore than anyone else.  This isn't our shame to bear. It's their's because they did the unspeakable and devastating things, not us.

The truth is, that mental illness is promoted in falsehoods, quoted with misconceptions, and wrapped in a cloak of invisibility and stigma. If we want to get people the help they need, than we have to stop labeling people that hurt others by their diagnoses. Which only promotes more ignorance and stigma. We have to see that these people did an unforgivable thing but in no way does it mean that other people with those same diagnosis need to be suspect or feared. No one deserves to be punished by other people's actions and no group of people should be sullied by the horrid acts of the few that do not represent us. And I urge you to remember that, as the media continues to peddle it's misconstrued propaganda and sensationalism of our illnesses.

Neurotic Nelly

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Post Is Up...

My new guest post is up and ready to read. Please take a moment to read it here:

There is even a tab to be able to guest post for Mental Health Talk. It is a fabulous site and I am honored to be able to have written something for them.

Hope you all have an amazing week!

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Plague and Other News....

My kids and I have the plague. I have been told it is not, in fact, the actual plague but a stomach virus. But really, when you feel this horrid, it's all the same thing to me. I was hoping to avoid catching it but alas, I failed. I want to curl up on the couch and moan in agony but my children are already doing that and those dishes aren't going to wash themselves, so I suppose it is time for me to quit complaining and get some house work done. I need to disinfect the plague zone. Ugh.

On a happier note, I did a guest blog post that will coming out on the 26th. For those of you, like me, that have no idea what day it is, it will be this Thursday. I will link it and write a small blurb about how you too can submit a mental illness guest blog post on this site. It is a wonderful site and it is always a  pleasure working with Trish. So, please excuse my absence of a coherent blog post today and check out my new post on Thursday with my guest blog post link.

See you all Thursday, and have a wonderful day. Hang in there, stay strong, and as always I am sending positive thoughts your way.
Neurotic Nelly

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Excuse Me....Rant...Rant...Rant

        I love how people say they have experience with mental illness and then start talking about it in a way that lets you know they haven't the first clue how devastating and demanding it is of your time, your space, what little is left of your sanity, and your life. The soul sucking hole that laps up your very thoughts and drains your emotions like a mummified vampire from the worst B rated horror movie ever created. I love it, I truly do.

I also love feeling like I need to get into a "whose mental illness is worse" pissing contest with someone who thinks because they might have had small case of the "Debbie Downers" once or whatever they claim to be the mental illness  they "know" about is. And it makes me feel like yelling that mine was so bad that I almost killed myself so maybe..... just maybe.... I may know what the hell I am talking about. Because I am not talking about making excuses, or over exaggerating, or being dramatic. I am talking about thirty one years of carving out a path to walk down because each road in my life has big boulders of shit blocking every way I turn. I am talking about shit balls, here. Giant shit balls that roll down hill and threaten to smother you or crush you underneath them.

I don't need to be schooled on what is and isn't an excuse of mental illness. I am pretty sure that over three decades of dealing with it, I should at least have a bachelors degree in being mentally ill. Seeing as you only need around ten extra years of school to be a neurosurgeon, I think I have earned the "right to talk about what it is like to be mentally ill" badge from the girls scouts by now....I have several doctor's sign offs on being permanently disabled because of mine. I have being institutionalized at the age of ten at the local looney bin. I have almost being admitted again at the age of 20. I have not being able to drive, or work, or go to college. I have the fact that I no longer could go to school because of the extreme anxiety and the bullying because I would have panic attacks in class, so I dropped out. I have that I have no formal education past the 12th grade. I have battle scars just from leaving my house just to go to the fucking grocery store for God's sakes. I am actually certifiable because I literally am certified as mentally ill....but no, clearly you know more about mental illness than I. Because you have supposedly "experienced" it.

Well, I haven't "experienced" it, I fucking live it. Each and every day.   And I am not bitter about it, just real. It is not some pretty package wrapped up in a crisp red bow and left on your front porch as a gift. It is not an expensive wine or an artisan cheese. It is not something you smear on an over priced gluten free cracker and choke down with a warm glass of milk as a midnight snack. You do not "experience" mental illness. It is something you deal with. It is something you struggle through. It is something that you work on. It is not a pleasure cruise to fucking Boca. It is an illness in your brain.

Excuse me, for standing up for what I know to be true from not only my experiences but also the many mental illness survivors in my family, and sadly some that did not survive it. Excuse me, for understanding the many friends and bloggers that also have gone through mental illness and taught me things about other mental illnesses I was ignorant about. Excuse me, for saying that mental illness is not an excuse but it is a reality and it needs to be talked about and understood and not vilified or stigmatized because we wear that ugly over coat of shame and guilt and stigma every damn day and maybe we don't want to wear that stagnant, moldered, trench coat of self-condemnation  anymore because it isn't our shame or our guilt to be carried around but yours and ignorant people like you that sit behind a keyboard and make snap judgments and rude comments about something that you claim you may have "experienced" once in your lifetime. Excuse me, for actually knowing what I am talking about and seeing you for your inexperience of something you are so "experienced" in. Excuse me......

and fuck you....

Now please enlighten us some more on how you know about what living with mental illness is like because you have  so much "experience" with it.....

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Seeds, Seeds, Everywhere...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Mostly in the U.S., this holiday is spent pub crawling, getting extremely drunk, and wearing funny plastic green hats. I do not drink alcohol, however, so none of that for me. I know...I know....I am lame. As a diabetic, the powers that be (doctors) frown upon alcohol consumption. I really never liked the taste of alcohol, so it wasn't that big of a deal for me anyway. Giving up cake liked to killed me, though.

My best friend swears that you are supposed to leave a glass of milk on your front stoop to appease any rogue Leprechaun's running about. We live in America, so I am pretty sure that is just a waste of milk. Also I don't have the heart to tell her, but I am fairly certain Leprechaun's aren't real in Ireland either.

Today, I will celebrate by planting some seeds in my garden. I actually come from a long line of farmers. Swedish, Scottish, English, French, and Irish farmers. That being said, I have rarely had luck with seeds. It's a good thing I am not a farmer like my ancestors and great grandparents (who could grow anything by simply looking at it) or we would have all starved to death. I have had such bad luck, even my bean sprout I was forced to grow as a child in science class never sprouted. Everyone else's did....mine was still a bean. A bean with mold on it.

Fast forward years later and every seed I have ever planted has died. Every single one. I can grow bulbs and established plants but seeds hate me. Then last year I germinated some Columbine seeds and they grew. I felt this was a fluke though, because we all know I can not grow seeds.

Last month we bought some Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, Onion Chives, Garlic, Cilantro, and Basil seeds. We had the seed starter dirt and the little cardboard holders. Nothing happened. I warned my husband, when it comes to seeds I have a brown thumb. I reinforced the idea that we shouldn't hold out much hope. I mean, I seem to have not received any ancestral farmer genes. My farmer genes are dead. As is my hope for seed growing.

Still, we went ahead and planted the accursed things to see what would happen. I waited...and waited...and bupkis. Nothing. Nada. No seedlings....

Until yesterday, and BAM! We have seedlings! Seeds, seeds, everywhere! Every single type of herb I bought sprouted. Some only two out of the twenty something seeds....but who cares! I have created life!!!!! The brown thumb curse has been lifted! I am so very excited, and I feel less like a disappointment to my long heritage of crazy farmer people. Yipeeeeeee!

So although, I won't be wearing green today (green tends to make my red hair look...yellowish), I will be planting green and surely that is kinda the same thing, right?

It just goes to show to never give up. Things can always change if you are persistent enough, and lucky. Which I am going to claim is the luck of the Irish.....in honor of today. We could all use a bit of good luck and a great heap of hope.

So, happy Saint Patrick's Day Ireland and all of the Irish people out there, be it actually Irish or those of us who have Irish ancestors. Your country is beautiful as is your heritage. Your stories and struggles are inspiring. I will leave you all with this Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you. 
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Be safe out there everyone.
Neurotic Nelly