Three is a stigma in America that if you seek out someone to talk to about your mental health you are crazy, not normal, weird, not to be trusted, ill.
That can’t be any farther from the truth.
Case in point: Me.
Years ago I thought I had something wrong with me. I’ve spoken briefly about my OCD issues in this forum and kept it light hearted. In the wake of recent events I feet it necessary to mention that seeking out psychotherapy isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a sign that someone is willing to deal with what they think are their demons.
Think keeping your feelings inside is manly? “Suck it up pussy!” Yeah, good luck with that. The absolute worst thing you can do is shut down and ignore your mind’s reaction to events.
Even worse, I learned, is when your mind draws a correlation you’re not aware of and to deal with it suddenly must adjust other elements of your life.
That is the basis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s funny to see it depicted in movies as a desire to triple check that a light is off or the washing of hands for seemingly no reason, but the subtlety of the illness can almost literally drive you mad.
Have you ever seen a picture on a wall that is not level? Have you ever wanted to fix it? Not in your house, but someone else’s house? Or an office? Or even on TV? Seems silly, right? Now imagine you not only want to fix it…you HAVE TO. It has to be fixed and if you can’t fix it it sticks in your mind for days or weeks.
Have you noticed the rings of water left behind by your water glass at a restaurant? I sure did. So much so that I had to place my glass back directly on top of the same ring every time. HAD TO. I didn’t want to, but if I didn’t I had to fix it and if someone else wasn’t doing it I noticed and it bothered me.
Once at a restaurant my OCD noticed that the little sugar packet holder was not in the center of the table. I subtly (or so I thought) adjusted it and a friend put it back with a smile on his face. Then I put it back and he moved it off center again. I was immediately angry. For nothing at all, and yet because it HAD to be in the center of the table, just HAD to.
The worst part was that I had no idea WHY I felt this way and it led to frustration, stress, even to anger some days.
I finally reached out for help. I was lucky that my union bargains to ensure I have access to mental health care.
I didn’t know what to expect. Doctor’s in white coats with orderlies in high collared white jackets who run through the halls but suddenly walk calmly when they find me? Am I going to be medicated? What can they possibly do to fix me?
Turns out all we did was talk.
I met with a psychotherapist once a week and all we did for an hour was talk. She had hot water and I was encouraged to bring tea to sip. Her office was comfortable with table lamps, couches and chairs and I could sit, lay down, stand, whatever I liked. We talked about anything and everything from favorite TV shows, music, family, life, and only on a few occasions did we discuss my need to rearrange the magazines in the hallway outside her office. Although I suspect she misarranged them just prior to my arrival to gauge my progress.
Over weeks we finally reached an odd correlation between an event in my past and the onset of my symptoms. My mind had been worrying about something so fiercely that it was doing it’s best to alter my surroundings to deal with it.
Literally the day after that realization I began to notice all the little things I used to do. What seemed perfectly normal suddenly felt forced, unnatural. The way I always HAD to roll up used sugar packets and place them into the half opened creamer packet now seemed like someone else made me do it.
My reason for sharing is that psychotherapy, therapy, talking about things, feelings etc is not a bad thing to do. If you think something might be “off” and you have access to someone who knows what to talk about, please seek them out. They understand what you are going through. You are not the first, you will not be the last, but I guarantee that if you ignore it or think it is manageable on your own you could reach a point of no return where you will begin to damage your life and the lives of those around you.
While my experience was with a low level form of a disorder, there are those who suffer from far more complicated mental health issues. They need attention and help far more than I did and ignoring their condition or if thinking that dumping them in with the “normal kids” will help you are sorely mistaken. It can be done but should be done after evaluation by a mental health professional.
Call it TMI, call me crazy, call me a fool, but I got better. I can walk right past a pile of magazines and not care that it’s a mess.
But then again, should I be worried I still notice? I say no. My OCD is a valuable tool when company is coming over and we need the house cleaned up fast. Point is I got therapy to deal with the compulsion, which is what was causing the disorder in my life. But I’m still slightly obsessive. I leave you with this observation:
“Obsessive behavior is when the toilet paper absolutely positively must come off the roll in only one direction and in your house you will change it before using it. Compulsive is changing it at a friend’s house.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with something you think is out of their control, help them reach out to resources in their community. They will not grow out of it, it isn’t just a phase or a form of grieving, it’s something that can benefit from an expert.
Thanks for letting me share.