XXXXX WARNING POSSIBLE TRIGGERS FOR CUTTERS XXXX
My legs are scarred but not by my own will. I am clumsy and really have no business wielding a razor, but culture dictates that a woman must have smoother legs than her husband or words like "odd", "weird", or "gross" get thrown around. I am often considered "odd" and "weird" anyway for other reasons. I don't really need to add "gross" to my repartee as well, and certainly not called "odd" or "weird" because my legs resemble a yeti in the summer time. So I shave...albeit it badly and often times dangerously.
What I found is I am used to cutting myself. I do it so often, I no longer feel the sharp stab of pain when the razor slips. I only feel the tug of the razor as it slowly drags across my skin. I curse not because of the fear of the pain, but simply because getting the bleeding to stop is a pain and requires more attention than I really wanted to give. It doesn't really hurt. It isn't pain as much as a slight sting. A sting that I no longer consider abnormal or unfamiliar. It reminds me of how when I was a child, I would cry at the doctor's office because I thought I was going to get shots. My mother had coined an adage that I say to my children today,"Shots don't hurt they sting." An adage that turned out to be true as I got used to the needle pricks growing up. I guess all things considered it is a good thing I got used to them, as now I have to purposely stick my fingers four times a day for my diabetes testing. I have become used to the pricking of my fingers as I have the cutting of my legs. They no longer wield immense pain, or the fear of it, they leave only a nagging sting that I quickly have learned to process and ignore.
I find that having a mental illness for over thirty years has had quite the same affect. I no longer am terrified or upset greatly by the intrusive images and thoughts that my OCD throws into my face. I hate them. I am displeased that I have them in the first place but the stabbing pain of being tormented by them is much less than when I was a child, a teenager, or a young adult. I guess at almost thirty five I am no longer a young adult. Maybe I am a middle aged adult, or old? What is old anyway? I often feel we are old the day we are born. Cranky, angry, wailing, disgruntled, tiny bald people shaking our fists at the cold hard world and the injustice of it all. Who knows?
I am not sure that the pain of these thoughts is less because I have had them for so long or because I have had them in rapid succession so often that even they fail to surprise me, anymore. Maybe the fear levels have been raised so high for so long that I have become accustomed to them like an adrenaline junkie, that no longer gets a rush from roller coasters and now has to sky dive for the same endorphin release. Except that OCD is more scary than roller coasters or sky diving or spear hunting a pack of ravenous lions with nothing but a dull toothpick and a can of silly string. There is no more fear to be raised, I have already reached my intrusive thoughts adrenaline peak... I am no longer shocked by what OCD says or shows me. It has simply become a faulty pictured, static educed cable channel with nothing but old reruns playing over and over again. I have seen all the episodes and know exactly how they end. It has become old hat. It no longer eviscerates my emotional capabilities. It no longer feels like my soul is shattering from the pressure of guilt or my heart is breaking from the pain. It is numbed by experience. The pain has become muted. It no longer hurts. It now only stings. I often wonder, if like my legs my mind is scarred. Big ugly red welts zigzagging across my cerebral cortex implying the deep cuts my OCD has tortured me with every second, every minute, of every hour for thirty years. I wonder a lot. I ponder on such things too often. Maybe I wonder too much?
To me the intrusive thoughts and images have become nothing more than the slipping of the razor, inconvenient and messy, irritating and annoying but no longer earth shattering or devastating. No longer completely time consuming or guilt educing. I have learned I can not prevent them or hide from them but I can choose to not let them take over my life.
I am not saying I am cured or I don't suffer from extreme anxiety. I absolutely am not going to sit here and lie to you. I sometimes feel so much anxiety it feels like it is it's own entity, taking up it's own space in the room beside me. I can feel it's chest heaving up and down and hear it's deep gravely breaths. I can feel it's warm air, fetid and disgusting beating down on the back of my neck. But the fear of what OCD tells or shows me is nonexistent for the most of the thoughts. The harm thoughts, the sexual thoughts, the relationship fears, the homosexual OCD fears, the blasphemous fears ...all of the fears that used to stop me cold and make the palms of my hands sweaty and the bile rise in my throat, now cease to trigger the deep fear they used to. I find them disturbing because they still occur and I hate them, but I know who I am and that I am not what my OCD says. I am not capable of doing or being such things. I never was nor will I ever be. I see them for what they are, lies. That is not to say that I don't still have the health fears and the other OCD tendencies. I do have them and sometimes the health fears do ramp up the anxiety levels. Sometimes I do have to throw out a sandwich I just made and remake it one, or two, or God forbid, three times because it may have touched the counter and it seemed "unclean". Sometimes I do get caught up in the OCD webs of deceit and terror but I am getting better with dealing with them. It is as it always has been, a work in progress. I have bad days and good, like most people suffering from a mental illness.
For over thirty years I have had almost all of the OCD fears at one time or another. Sometimes, they overlapped and I would deal with multiple symptoms at a time. What if I am gay....What if I am a sexual deviant and I just don't know it yet...What if I stab someone with this sharpened crayon....What if I have murderous tendencies....What if I have contracted Ebola from this library book....What if I accidentally poisoned the food with bleach I used in the sink two weeks ago ...What if I didn't unplug the coffee pot and the whole house burns to ashes.....What if I said something inappropriate and upset others.... What if....always what if... Sometimes it was just one really big one that halted my progress as a "functional" member of society. Leaving me to shut myself away and stay at home so there wouldn't be any triggers that would pop out of nowhere leaving me feeling vulnerable and exposed. Many times the fear was so great I had thought about ending my own life. I was in so much pain. I felt alone and lost. I felt unworthy of love or acceptance. I felt dirty, guilty, and ashamed. And what's worse, I felt totally and completely insane. I knew what was happening in my mind wasn't normal. I knew what was happening to me wasn't normal and I had no idea how to fix it or make it go away. But it doesn't go away. Not in the traditional sense and you can't simply "fix" it. What you can do is learn to live with it and learn how to get around it. Learn how to forgive yourself for not being what you think you should be or for not being able to do what you think you should be able to. You can learn to choose not to give it power over you. To dictate how you feel all of the time. To let it steal away the most precious moments of your life minute by minute. It takes treatment and hell, maybe even thirty years but it can be better. The intrusive thoughts and images can be less like an knife to the heart and more like a shaving cut. Not completely painless but not a deep throbbing pain. It can become a sting instead of an amputation. More of a nuisance and less of an infliction. Will you be magically healed and cured? No, but you will be more in control of how OCD makes you feel. It can be done.
It has taken me a really long time to get to where I am now. Maybe for some of you it will take half the time or even less than that. When I was diagnosed there was not nearly as many treatment options as there is now. I mean, most people had never heard of OCD at that time. I don't know everything, but what I do know is if you are suffering then reaching out for help now, can literally save your life. It can make the bad times easier. It can make the OCD less rigid and smothering. It can help you feel like the magnificent and strong person you really are but are unable to see it. Whether you choose to get therapy or medication or just blog about it to the world. Please don't just suffer in silence. I did that for way to long and I know how painful and devastating that can be.