Struggling through writer’s block wasn’t totally unfamiliar to me: There was a repetitive component. A compulsion to produce perfection. An irrational repetition of some circular and almost-totally-arbitrary task (in this case, compulsively scribbling things down and scratching out and re-scribbling) that kicked up a whole lotta dust but didn’t actually accomplish much.
With nowhere else to turn, I held my nose, lay down my dignity and my personally-identifiable information at the door, and stepped into the preferred digital meat market of underemployed millennials … online dating.
In HBO’s Girls, I believe Lena Dunham has come closer than anyone in popular culture to showing the pain and black comedy of long-term OCD treatment. But if the show wants to honor the character’s disorder, then I think she and her family (and Adam, too, if he’s committed to this relationship) have a lot of work to do.
Not every child who has an abnormal fascination with collections of things like dinosaurs, Beanie Babies, and Pokémon, or who exhibits anxiety, low self-esteem, or all-consuming guilt suffers from OCD. But a thorough evaluation for the spectrum of anxiety disorders might have revealed that we had been dealing with individual symptoms, but had not identified the disease.
In caring for a child with a mental health challenge, your responsibility is the same as any other parent’s: to support your child, to lift them when they stumble, to guide them away from dangerous roads, to help them until they’re ready to strike out on their own, if they can.
There is absolutely nothing more toxic to an obsessive-compulsive than boredom. Boredom is to obsession as an incubator is to an egg, or a compost bin is to rotten fruit: it adds heat and pressure and that accelerates the process exponentially. When you have nothing to distract you, obsessive thoughts can quickly escalate from annoying to excruciating.
The trick is knowing when you can face the symptoms and deal with them productively, and when to use escapism to check out of reality for a while. OCD can be a terrible burden, and there’s no shame in occasional escapism.
Medication withdrawal: It feels like trying to use a computer that’s old or slow or has a lousy connection. You’re staring at the screen, waiting for the content to appear - there just isn’t any content there.
There’s nothing that can actually make moving enjoyable, short of an electrode that zaps the pleasure center of your brain every time you fill another 1.5 cu. ft. cardboard box from uHaul. And sadly, an anxiety disorder only compounds the problem—but going in with a game plan can help.
The first step is learning to confront the bad stuff, or at least live alongside it, instead of hiding from it….The end result is that the trauma of those memories begins to fade, and larger parts of your history feel like they’re yours again. It’s a good feeling. It gives you room to breathe.
I have no problem with jokes about OCD, but I do have a problem with entertainment that permits audiences to laugh at the disorder without showing them the terror and despair and shame and self-loathing that many OCD sufferers endure.
With Zumba, I had high school flashbacks of the annual spring musical and cross-country; it brought me back to the bleeding-lung exhaustion of the latter and humiliating, zombie-like choreography of the former. But I found it a useful way to confront my social anxiety and phobia of looking silly in public. Because I promise you - with Zumba, you will look silly in public.
While it may not as seem romantic as catering to the every whim of your intended beloved, exposing yourself to increasingly more challenging (but still manageable) social situations is a much healthier way of building the confidence you need to find a date.
I’m wary of clichés about illness and opportunity. Being trapped in your room by anxiety isn’t an opportunity—it’s a prison sentence. But at the same time, the therapeutic process didn’t just help me recover my mental health—it led me to a new and healthier way to live.
Can you imagine how OCD interacts with religion, where absolute proof is unobtainable, and belief and tradition must suffice? Where ritual is non-negotiable? Where the punishment for failure is existential, eternal?
How do you know that you won’t be killed by a falling meteor? How do you know that you shut off the toaster oven this morning? That one of the seething millions of bacteria on your hands will not kill you? That your friends don’t all secretly hate you? Do you have religion? Do you have the right religion? Are you sure?