Down the Rabbit Hole of Depression

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Yes, I fell off the face of the earth.

In much the same way that Alice fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, or Dorothy was swept up by the twister and deposited in Oz, I was whisked away…no…more like drop-kicked…into a land that only exists somewhere in the far reaches of my reality beaten mind, but isn’t nearly as glamorous as the afore-mentioned tales.

I got lost there; or comfortable there, depending on how you look at things, and I’m still there now; searching for a way back home.

Or not.

I don’t know that I’m ready to come back just yet.

It all started immediately after a nice vacation at sea; four days of fun in the sun with my husband, best friend, and other friends and acquaintances. I ate delicious food, sipped fruity things with little umbrellas, watched people go by from all circles of life, and took part in an assortment of entertaining activities. It was a truly magical experience. Like all vacations, though, it had to come to an end.

An ending is one thing, though. An abrupt and painful ending is another thing entirely. I was no sooner getting my land legs again when I found myself unexpectedly facing my demons. I wasn’t ready to face them yet. My mind was still somewhere at sea.

I was first asked not to write about certain people or past events. I considered this and surmised that it rather defeated the purpose of my writing to begin with since the things I write about are therapeutic to me. Sort of a shared diary of whatever is on my mind or heart. I share to let go. I let it out so it’s not IN anymore. I put fingers to keyboard and emotionally flow. If it pains me, aggravates me, makes me smile, or makes me laugh, I share it with others in the hopes that someone else can relate.

Then I was called onto the carpet and made to think twice about things that I had previously written. I came under fire for my OCD and the way that it affects my family. Truth be told, I hadn’t even brought my OCD with me on vacation…I had left it at home. Imagine my surprise when I found out it had followed me.

I felt like a horrible person for days after being forced to face the things I do and the way that I am. For the first time in years, I honestly wanted to die. I thought that, in my inability to “just shut it off” when others expected me to, I’d be better off if I took myself out of everyone else’s misery. Willing death is a far cry from follow-through, though, and I’m simply not capable of commitment to such finality. In reality I like certain aspects of life, even as screwed up as I am.

So, I simply shut down.

After crying all the way back home, I walked into the house with my shoes on (gasp), dropped my bags, crawled into bed, and stayed there for 3 days. I didn’t unpack, didn’t clean up after anyone, didn’t care.

Or tried not to care. Tried really hard not to care.

I thought, “If everyone wants to do whatever they want and have me not care, fine, but I can’t watch it happen.” So I stayed in bed, miserably tucked away from anything and everything that would send me into an anxiety fueled tail-spin.

Until 2 things happened.

First of all, it all got the better of me. I had to get up and clean up because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Three days is apparently my limit when it comes to what my OCD can and can’t handle.

Secondly, I thought about what I am.

I…am a human being. I am who I am. I’m in no way, shape or form perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I have hang-ups, issues, eccentricities, emotional baggage, and mental problems.

But you know what? So does everyone else. Try and show me someone that doesn’t, and I’ll direct you to the word falsehood in the dictionary.

So I got up, brushed myself off, and tried to throw myself back into life again.

Tried.

Something had changed, though. Several somethings, actually.

I had completely lost my desire to write for one thing. I still wouldn’t consider this a triumphant return. It’s more like an explanation, and writing this now is not without a certain degree of struggle. The passion and fire that I had for writing before have now been redirected into other past times; legal of course, but perhaps not entirely unsinful depending on how you view video games.

I also lost my desire to work. Maybe that isn’t all that unusual, not many people actually want to go to work. It’s just exceptionally more difficult for me now than it was before.

I don’t want to be around people, either. I’ve become anti-social. I find it easier and more enjoyable to be alone with the exception of my immediate family (at times) than I do to be among friends.

I suppose you could call the land that I’m currently lost in ‘Depression’…or ‘Selfishness’; likely a combination of both.

And there you have it.

While I may not be ready to come back yet, don’t write me off completely. Consider my absence as a hiatus until I find my way back to reality…

Which, with any luck, will be soon.

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You, Me, and My OCD

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Yes, I suffer from a mental disorder. Honestly, I bet 99.9 percent of the world’s population suffers from some sort of snafu up in their cranium in one form or another. Maybe some just aren’t as prominent as others.  Or, perhaps they simply remain undiagnosed.

Do you suffer from PMS or sometimes just get sad or irritable and really can’t pinpoint why? Well, there you go; you could be bi-polar.

Do you alphabetize your DVDs, make sure your socks are matched and folded before you put them away, or check again to make sure your door is locked before you go to bed at night? Then congratulations, I’ve just diagnosed your OCD.

Has something ever shot out of your mouth and immediately afterward you thought, “Did I just say that? That couldn’t have been me!” Bam. Multiple personality disorder.

So you see, whether you pay much attention to it or not, most of us suffer from a mental disorder in one way or another.

Mine just happens to have been diagnosed by a doctor. I guess that makes a difference in the grand scheme of things when it comes to how the world looks at you, right? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but believe me, it does.

I generally don’t talk about my mental illness to people that I’ve just met if I can help it. My husband, however, likes to throw it out there in casual conversation like it’s a truly interesting discussion piece. Who knows, maybe it is. That doesn’t change the fact that spreading the word to people I barely know gets under my skin nonetheless.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my disorder or the way I think. I know it’s “not normal”, sure, but I don’t think I’m some sort of terrible person because of it. I don’t want to go bury my head in the sand or hide out in a dark room because, Heaven forbid, people know.

No, I honestly don’t like to mention it much because people tend to get ridiculous about it.

No one should feel the need to talk to me like I’m a ticking time bomb. Don’t think I didn’t notice that your voice went up 2 octaves in my presence and that you’re addressing me like a child because you don’t want to rock the boat. I have a mental disorder. I’m not an idiot.

I don’t know if other people that have been diagnosed with OCD can relate, but I’ve been faced with all kinds of stupid remarks or reactions when my little (okay, big) mental issue is brought to the surface.

“What, you mean like that hand washing thing?” This is one of my personal favorites. Thank you for the ignorant stereotyping. Your lack of knowledge is duly noted.

People with “that hand washing thing” only make up a small percentage of those suffering from OCD, which is defined as:

An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

So yeah. It naturally must be “that hand washing thing”, even though OCD can present itself in pretty much any way that a mind with some sort of imagination can conceive.

Mine happens to lean more toward the compulsion side that the obsession side of the disorder. I have an immaculately spotless house because dust, dirt, loose hair, fingerprints, and a plethora of other things can give me anxiety attacks. I say the word can, because over the course of the past few years since I decided not to walk through my life in a drug induced stupor, I’ve had to work really hard at combatting this thing and I’ve experienced a great measure of success. There are things that used to send me into anxiety fueled fits of rage that I am now able to overlook.

It’s been a huge struggle, though, let me tell you.  I’m still not “cured” by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe never will be, but I have made some huge strides in several areas thanks to some family-inflicted cognitive behavior and exposure therapy. This basically boils down to my husband putting his foot down over certain things that I would do, even at the risk of my mental anguish, before I drove the rest of the family crazy. Yes, I resented this for a while, but I got over it.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice in the matter, all you can do is try not to totally flip out, cope, and move on. I have realized that anxiety levels can’t stay intensely elevated forever. It’s like a bad high. You have to come down sooner or later, and as soon as I realized that I would eventually come down, things started getting better.

As much as I’ve worked hard to overcome certain obstacles though, it just makes it worse when people, who know exactly what my OCD entails, throw this little gem at me:

“Wow. You should come clean my house!”

Umm…no.

You see, you’re assuming that I, in some way shape or form, enjoy this behavior. I don’t. Not at all. Doing what I do and feeling what I feel is like a ball and chain around my neck that I can’t ever take off. It’s a huge weight on me all the time. By suggesting that I branch out and take this behavior outside of my home, you’re essentially implying that I should give up the only small sense of freedom that I currently enjoy, because when I am able to step out of my home, I am also able to breathe and relax.

Which brings me to my next point:

Stop apologizing for the condition of your own home when I walk through the door. Okay, so your place is a little messy. So what? Are you honestly under some false assumption that this will cause me to freak out to the point that I’m hyper-ventilating into a paper bag while I stand in your living room?

To be honest, your mess is like a breath of fresh air to me. I’m living vicariously through your stacks of junk mail piled up on the kitchen table and the dust across the top of your entertainment center because I can’t be that way but wish I could.

You wouldn’t know it though, because you won’t come to my house.

For different reasons, people are terrified of visiting my home. This is either thanks again in part to my husband spreading the word about my anxiety disorder, or the fact that I will bend over backward to over-correct my nervousness when we have visitors so that maybe people won’t notice it. Then, my obsequiousness just scares people, so I can’t win either way.

My in laws won’t visit because I make them uncomfortable. My family won’t visit, either. I can honestly admit that it hurts worse knowing they won’t come, than it would working through my anxiety with a house full of people. It makes me feel somewhat unloved when those closest to me refuse to help me get better at the risk of their own discomfort, or mine. Isn’t family supposed to be there to help us work through our issues?

This is why I adore my best friend. She’s the only one that seems to get this. Maybe it’s because she herself suffers from Bi-polar disorder, so we’re kind of like 2 screwed up peas in a pod. She will make the 5 hour pilgrimage from her house to mine occasionally, and I love her for loving me enough to stay with me despite my issues. She knows all about my anxiety, and guess what? If she sees me get nervous, she’ll talk me through it. That’s a true friend. Other than her and my husband, I don’t seem to have many of those, but not for lack of wishing there were more. People that understand are hard to find.

So I say this to those who don’t know how to handle a person with a mental disorder:

You can get to know us. We don’t bite. We’re honestly not all that different from you, we just have heightened emotions at times, and tend do things that others might not consider to be normal. Then again, who’s to say what genuinely defines normal?

We are who we are. People, just like you. Your perception of us won’t change a thing.

The Anti-Health

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

What does health mean to me?

Well, not being the me  that I am now, for starters.

I’m a mess, but I’m not even a hot mess. I’m more like the aftermath of a hurricane.

I’m health’s biggest joke. Health laughs, points, and torments me like a bully in the schoolyard. Health sticks my head in the toilet from time to time and gives me crap caked swirlies. I, in turn, hang my stinky head in shame and retreat back into my eternally warped mind.

I’m admittedly overweight. Some 60 pounds by my own standards, 80ish by the standards of those that set an impossibly obtainable precedent for what is, in this day and age, actually considered to be fit and healthy.

Marilyn Monroe had it, I think. What I would consider to be a true, attainable picture of health and beauty. She was not rail thin. She had hips. She had curves. She gave J-Lo’s infamous backside a run for its money.  She was, and still is, a beauty icon that women compare themselves too. She would, however, be considered obese by today’s ever shrinking standard of “healthy”.

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I don’t want, nor will I ever want, to be a size zero. I think about a 6 is sufficient. We won’t discuss what size I really am, though, or how far I’d have to go to get there…

Sure, I could fix it. I have before. In all honesty, though, I have absolutely zero ambition to get me started, and, well…I like food…a lot

I also have more important things that need repairing inside before the repairing can start outside. I consider myself the equivalent of a “fixer upper” sitting up on blocks in some redneck’s yard in the trailer park of life. Nothing fancy like a Mercedes. No, more like a rusty El Camino. Sure, some body work and a coat of paint would do wonders for the outside, but she aint goin’ nowhere if the transmission’s shot, Jim Bob.

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Boy is my tranny ever shot.

I’ve officially been broken for 16 years now. Something in my head snapped like a dried twig at the ripe old age of 22. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter, when poof…the anxiety fairy came down on her crappy little cloud and sprinkled magic crazy dust over my frontal lobe. I should have ripped the little witch’s wings off.

After years of trying different medications and “highly recommended” self-help books, all the king’s horses, and all the king’s therapists haven’t been able to put me back together again. I doubt they ever will. Some of the pieces have gotten lost along the way.

You’ve gotta love the Christian crowd, too. “Just pray it away,” seems to be the ultimate answer. “Give it to God, He’ll fix it” or there’s my all-time favorite, “You must not truly have faith in God or you’d be healed by now.”

It’s not that I entirely disbelieve them, either. I know God can fix anything that He wants to. I do believe, however, that there’s a part of me that wants to be the way I am, and won’t let Him. I’ve wrapped my OCD around me like a security blanket, and I’m not sure I’d really want to meet the me I’d be without it. So, instead of letting my emotional blankie go so that I can begin the process of growing up, I’ll just pop my proverbial thumb back into my mouth and hold it tighter.  Just try and take it away from me. I dare you. I’ll scream.

I feel like my OCD is the only control I have over my life, and in reality, to those up above looking down into my rabbit hole of insanity, it’s what makes my life spiral out of control. And one side makes you smaller, and one side makes you larger, Alice…

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I used to blame my parents for the way that I am. They dabbled in prejudices the way that an alcoholic dabbles in whiskey. The term “lowlife” got tossed around like a football at Cowboy Stadium.

“Look at that lowlife, probably hasn’t cleaned her house in months. Did you see her bathroom?”

“Look at that lowlife in that piece of sh*t car.”

“Look at that lowlife white girl dating that black guy. Do something like that, and I’ll disown you.”

“You’re not going to turn into one of those lowlifes, are you?”

That lowlife stigmata has haunted me so much over the course of my lifetime, that I honestly don’t know what genuinely qualifies anymore. All I know is that I still bend over backward to this day not to become one of those people. In reality, though, I bet those people are genuinely happy. My parent’s never were. Still aren’t.

Parents, if you think that your prejudices won’t have an adverse effect on your kids, just go ahead and keep it up. Let them turn out like me.

They also sculpted my guilt the way that Michelangelo painstakingly sculpted David. I didn’t turn out to be a great masterpiece, though. “Just look at what we do for you and you won’t do this for us?” I was apparently the poster child for ungrateful and unappreciative. Thank you was never enough. Hours upon hours of household service were never enough. Blood, sweat and tears were never enough. I was never enough. Never going to be enough.

Never would amount to anything. Still haven’t amounted to anything. Always point out my flaws. Never focus on my strengths. I do have strengths, I know I do. Don’t I? I did what you asked, why is it not good enough? Will you praise me now? No? I forgot something? Didn’t do it right? Missed a spot? Sorry. Are you proud of me, anyway? Be proud of me, no matter what. Accept my flaws. Tell me I’m good enough.

Love me. Say it. Well, mom says it…now. She does. Never used to when it counted, though. When I needed it. Dad? Once a year if I’m lucky. Formative years? Yeah right. There’s a joke. I know I’m not a Mercedes, mom and dad. I turned out to be an El Camino. Love me anyway. TELL ME. Let me out of this cage of worthlessness. Break…this…cycle…

It will go on. I’ll likely ruin my kids now with my OCD. They’ll need extensive therapy because of me. I’ll have to make amends with that someday. Face them when they tell me that I’ve destroyed their lives. Pay for their therapy and try to fix them. Darned if they won’t know that I love them and I’m proud of them, though, no matter how much they screw up, make the wrong choices, or disappoint me. I will love them, and they will know.

Blame. In the end, that’s all it is. Blame that I can’t place on anyone but myself anymore. If I’m going to point fingers, I might as well aim them right back at me.

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My husband always talks about a wonderful thing called the “age of accountability”. That’s when, sometime early in the teen years, one starts to know the difference between right and wrong and becomes ultimately responsible for the choices they make. I’m well past that age. My choices are my own now. I can’t play the blame game anymore. I have the power to stop this.

So why do I feel so powerless?

I can’t say I’ve lost all hope in getting better eventually. I’ve taken baby steps over the years. I can leave the house to go to work now. I wasn’t able to before. I don’t vacuum 3 or 4 times a day like before, either. I’ve even been known to skip it for a day from time to time. It’s hard to do. The anxiety punches me in the face, but I fight through it.

Baby steps aren’t enough, though. I can’t lead a normal life on baby steps. I can’t be considered healthy on baby steps.

I can’t go on trying to gain some childhood approval that still isn’t forthcoming, either. It’s likely too late to do any good anyhow.

I’ve all but driven my husband nuts. I think he has depression now because of me. Good going. We can just add that to my ever growing list of screw-ups.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ll eventually have to pull up my big girl panties and take big girl steps. I can crawl now, sure, but I have to learn to walk…

Someday.

Later.

Not now.

Not ready.

Oh health, just shove me in a locker again, and get it over with.

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