Thursday, April 30, 2015

Anatomy of Obessive Compulsive Disorder

I honestly don't know why I feel so compelled to write this post. But, I do, so I'm gonna. It's one of those live without pretending posts. So if you no likey posts like this, go HERE!

I am usually a very private person. (except for on this blog apparently) What I'm about to write I've never discussed in detail with anyone. Not even my husband. It has all been rattling around in my head the past several months as I have finally taken the time to try and piece it together myself. It has been liberating in many ways to work towards understanding me a little better. I've spent years and years of my life not understanding why I am the way I am, what made me so damn disordered anyway? I just feel a need to say "THIS IS ME" and go from there. The desire to understand myself better has come from having my daughter. Having sons is not the same as having a child as the same gender as myself. I'm not talking about how I love them, but just how I parent them I guess. There are reasons boys need a father and girls need a mother, and of course vice versa. My boys will grow up to hopefully fill some of the same roles that their father has. Priesthood holder, provider etc. While my little girl will grow up and perhaps fill the same kind of roles I do. I feel more responsibility to teach her by example. The problem is, my example sucks. I do not want my daughter to know me as I am now. A reinvention is desperately needed. I really do hope to protect her from some of the struggles I have. Possible? Oh my goodness, please tell me yes!

A few months ago someone shared with me a difficult and very emotional experience they were going through with one of their own children. The anxiety written all over this mother's face made my heart sad. What she had experienced with her child was truly baffling to her. As sad as I felt for the mother, I mostly felt sadness for the child. No one in this child's life understood what they were going through. No one. Except me. I knew exactly what this momma was describing from the second she began to tell me what had happened. In my mind I made a diagnosis, and I was right. Twenty two years prior I had been that child. 

I was the youngest of three sisters until I was nearly six years old. I had a wonderful young childhood and was very loved and well taken care of. I have many sweet memories that start at around the age of two. 

The teensy tiny cliff notes version of my story is between the ages of 6-11 eight more children would be added to my family. Three birth sisters and five adopted siblings. Two ended up not being permanent placements, and that was difficult. One adopted little sister was very ill, and it wasn't expected she would live past the age of two. She spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. My home felt a little bit like a revolving door for people and also pets. My parents had their hands full as they managed a large family with special needs children while they both worked. Right after I turned eleven we moved to a new home. I started sixth grade at a different school. Less than one year later as we sat down as a family for dinner my dad shared the news that he had a brain tumor. Mortality for the first time ever weighed heavily on me. I tried so hard to just be good. I just wanted to not add any problems or chaos to my parent's already busy lives. I retreated further and further away from people and from my family. I did not feel apart of the new family/siblings that had come into my life. The family I was accustomed to was gone.

At the age of twelve after what had been a stressful few years in my young life I broke down. Mentally. It came on very suddenly one Sunday afternoon while sitting in a byc meeting at church. Darkness filled in all around me. I will never forget it. It is difficult to describe other than to say it was as if the Jamee I knew got up and walked right out the door.

Anxieties that I don't think anyone realize existed, myself included, built up to the point where my mind gave way to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD.  It began with disturbing thoughts. I will not write them here. But if you have ever experienced this type of OCD you know what I'm talking about. The thoughts terrified me. I didn't understand them. No one, absolutely no one understood what I was going through. This wasn't the type of thing I could just open up and talk about so I tried to hold it in. I truly wished I could cease to exist. I would have welcomed death had it presented itself. Oddly, I remember feeling so tormented and afraid I would pray that I could die from cancer instead of what I was dealing with. It was a very dark time in my life. 22 years later it still haunts me. I lived in a prison created by my very own mind. My own mind failed me. Through a little therapy and different medications I became stable. That was the end of the disturbing thoughts and I've never had them again. Now, before anyone reading this thinks I'm crazy. I'm not. I mean I am some days cause I have five sweet kids, a cluttered home and a busy life, but I'm not that kind of crazy.

That ordeal left me a totally different person.

Innocence gone.
Forever.
Age 12.

Worry and anxiety became frequent companions. The OCD never went away. I developed trichotillomania. I am soooo ashamed and embarrassed by it.  Although it is obvious and incredibly difficult to hide, I still try. What is trichotillomania? Hair pulling. It started as hair twirling and picking split ends.There have been a few times where it has gone into what I refer to as remission. Those times have been few. In 2009 after the birth of my third son and an extremely difficult time in about every facet of my life the hair twirling/picking became full fledged hair pulling. This is why the back of my head is missing half its hair. This is why I never wear my hair down, ever. My hair is past my shoulders and two inches long on top in some places. It drives me mad. It really is an unforgiving, embarrassing, weird and terrible disorder to have. The temptation to chop my own hair (which I have done) or shave my head and be free of it is very tempting at times.(Although that would probably drive me to drinking or into the arms of addiction, and that's a whole different story for a different day) I would consider myself to have a moderate case of it. I don't pull my brows, I have a few eyelashes and am usually good to not pull those so long as I don't wear mascara.

Aside from the trichotillomania, I am a nail biter. Also, I am a hand washer. If I touch a grocery cart or change a diaper or touch anything "dirty" I can actually feels germs on me. I swear it's true! I also can't go without shoes. Haha, weird, right!? I am a lock checker and have endless quirks!  I totally wish my OCD could focus itself more on an impeccably clean house and mad organization skills.. I am for real sooo jealous of people with that "kind" of OCD.

In addition to OCD I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I'm a worrier. I have a difficult time in many different social situations. I can be a total faker when it comes to socializing in certain situations, especially with people that are in my same age group. I am an introvert for the most part. Large crowds of people? No thank you. I hide away often. I live in the same neighborhood I was raised in. For which I am grateful! The few times I have lived away were difficult for me. I need my people and familiarity. I have the same best friend I've always had. I don't feel a need for new people in my life. Very rarely does someone new come onto my radar. If they do, I must realllly like them! I fear death, mortality is a very difficult thing for me to process. I worry about it one way or another everyday. 

In my situation there is not a medication that helps with what bothers me most, the hair pulling. That is very discouraging as is can be very time consuming. It is very difficult to be ruled by compulsion/impulse. If I could just control it! I mostly can't. I have good days and bad days. There are times if I don't give in to the initial compulsion or if I can sidetrack myself I can have a good, productive day. 

The anxiety is helped with meds. Sometimes I take them and sometimes I don't. Let's be honest, I really love Lexepro and they should for real pay me money for touting their drug alllll the time:) I live with these disorders and manage the best I can on my own. They certainly do affect me everyday, but I am still able to live my life, I am grateful for that. I feel like I am able to manage fairly well most of the time, and the days I don't always pass. It could always be worse, a thought I keep in the front of my mind everyday.  I live a fairly normal life despite being so disordered! I have five young children and a house that looks like it. Am I overwhelmed? Yep. But, I am not depressed. I feel happy in one way or another everyday. I try my best everyday to keep my wits and humor about me. I feel like I do a pretty good job, considering. I suffer on the inside and really try so hard to not let my children see me in an anxious state. I am not perfect at this, but I do try my best.

I don't know why I suddenly feel the desire to share all this other than if there is even one person that reads this that needs someone to understand, I want you to know, I do. I for years have kept all this secret. I have felt alone at times. I have never commiserated with someone else that has trich.  For now, I stand alone in my disorder, and it is a lonely place to be.

I identify best with other people who struggle. I am so grateful for those in my life who have graciously shared their struggles with me simply so I wouldn't be alone, even if we don't completely understand one another. From experience when someone does that for you they endear themselves to you forever.

If there is anyone out there who reads this that has longed for understanding, then I'm glad I wrote it.

And now you know, I'm a disordered, broken, person living what is a totally normal life as far as anyone knows. When I say I am broken, I just mean I can't be fixed. Not in this life anyway. Of course I would love to prove that wrong, admitting I may always be this way is difficult. But, I'm going to be okay anyway. I am a more compassionate and empathetic person because of it. Everyone has a dark side in some way or another whether they know it or not. Now you know mine.



I am a realist. I often try and keep my expectations low so which keeps me happy and disappointments to a minimum. When people think that every little thing should be hunkydory in their life they are miserable. I'm thankful that's not me.

The End

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