My pet worries

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I think that OCD is like looking after a little cluster of needy, whiny pets for a relative with a very violent criminal record who’s gone away indefinitely. You don’t want them there, they are just irritating noise that gets in the way of everything you do, but you have to care for them. You have to feed them every time they squeak or they will drop dead, and that would make the relative very angry and they would probably come and bash you with a huge steel meat tenderiser for an extended period of time.

No one wants that.

So you take the cluster of needy, whiny pets everywhere with you. And they dash off in all directions following every scent they find, they run around your feet trying to trip you up, and they all want all of your attention all the time. And you must do what they want or something terrible might happen. You know that the relative will probably never come back for them; it is possible that you are doing all of this for absolutely no reason, but there is no way of knowing for sure so you do what you think is necessary to prevent that potential meat-tenderiser-related torture.

And it just goes on and on. And it is exhausting. You are very aware of how ludicrous the situation is, but letting them die – or even passing the responsibility over to someone else – is simply not an option because you are so completely terrified of the potential consequences.

OCD is repeatedly performing some insane task which you know is totally illogical, to prevent a consequence that will probably never happen but it’s so scary that you are not willing to take that risk. 

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My storm cloud.

Anger requires a lot of energy. Some people seem quite worthy of this energy to begin with for whatever reason, but it can eat into your life in ways you never expected and before you know it you are just sat there seething with a storm cloud raging over your head over something that happened months ago that you can’t seem to evict from your memory. That’s where forgiveness comes in.

I have never really understood forgiveness. Growing up I thought it was something spontaneous, that you just said “I forgive you” and that was it, you had successfully forgiven someone, but each time I said that it felt less satisfying because I didn’t feel any better for it. Then someone barged their way into my life and instilled a level of anger I had never experienced before and I realised I was going to have to figure out how to forgive properly because after a year the storm cloud that followed me around was not letting up.

This baffled me for a long time. I read lots of self-help articles and followed all sorts of spiritual and uplifting blogs, and each time they mentioned forgiveness without explaining how then my storm cloud got a little more hostile, until it was blocking out all sunlight and all I could see was grey drizzle. Then I finally thought to stop looking for someone else to tell me how, and attempt it for myself.

I started by un-blocking the subject of my anger on all forms of social media, then eliminating the profanities that had worked their way into my pronunciation of her name, and then I tried viewing her as a human being whose flaws are simply different than mine. And I am rather astonished to say that it actually worked. There are now a few rays of sunlight poking through my storm cloud; I have breached its impenetrable wall of misery and am slowly becoming more rational and less determined to show my dislike for the individual. As much as I hate to say it, she taught me something.

So after years of confusion and skepticism I have finally figured out vaguely how to begin to forgive someone who has wronged me to that extent. You never know, a bit more practice and I might fathom how to forgive myself as well.

There is hope, and it is shining through my storm cloud with a brightness I never anticipated.

Signs school was not great: missing the teachers more than the classmates.

My school life was turbulent at best. I was generally wandering between two groups of acquaintances who hated each other most of the time. I think I handled it quite well, when they staged interventions during lunch break to shout/cry at each other across a classroom then I hid in the library attempting to reduce the level to which I was failing my ludicrous number of A-levels, and I never got too close to either group so I was generally excluded from the tension. I’m not going to go into why no member of each group was ever considered more than an acquaintance throughout seven years of school, because that is a long, dull, repetitive story of being disappointed and being trodden on to the extent that I gave up on these people altogether in the final year at that godforsaken institution.. That is another story for another (probably alcohol-fueled) blog, another day.

I was however very fond of some of the teaching staff there, and some days I would like nothing more than to appear unannounced in their teaching room and wave my degree certificate at them shouting “Look, I actually amounted to something!!”, but then they would ask what it is that I am doing with that piece of very, very expensive paper and then I would slam myself into reverse and run away whimpering. The fact I managed to weave my way through all of the obstacles my brain threw in my path and actually achieved that piece of very, very expensive paper is something I am extremely proud of, but my job ambitions change several times a day so I never have the motivation to devote my time to one cause, and therefore it is rather difficult to do anything worth noting.

I will do something creative. Sadly that is the full extent of the consistency of my many ambitions. Today for instance, I simultaneously want to devote my entire life to writing, photography, painting, drawing, baking, cake decorating, and something to do with sewing that I can’t think of a single word for.

So I am doing pretty much all of them. All at once.

The molehill of doom

A few weeks ago I realised I was hilariously poor. Having just moved to the middle of nowhere there are very limited options for such an eventuality as pretty much every shop is independent and staffed by family of the owners and I have no skills. And I guess you could also throw in the fact that I am scared of the whole entire world and everything it contains.

So I joined the job center. This was a massive step as it meant leaving the house, direct interpersonal communication, and also that I have to get a job at the end of it. I am still not sure if it was the right decision, I’m not convinced I am fit to work and would probably be better off on disability, but I’ve never really been one to take the sensible option..

Anyway. I have to leave the house in half an hour to go to my first proper appointment. This means dicing with death at every corner (especially considering my means of transportation is a motorcycle I have owned for two weeks and ridden four times) and probably breaking down in tears in the Tesco car park at the other end of the 10-mile journey.

So today’s molehill to climb is making it to the next town (which is over the border into Wales so I am actually going on an international expedition) and back fully intact and functional, and hopefully with minimal crying. And then I get to bake cupcakes and return to my dent in the sofa and shiver for a while.

And to distract me on the way there, I shall be trying to think of a name for my valiant mechanical steed.

If I leave the house, I will probably die.

My brain has a lot of rules. Some are quite helpful, like ‘don’t touch that fire’ or ‘remove your hand from that drawer before shutting it’, although it has to be said they don’t work all the time. But some of its rules are not so helpful, like the ones that tell me that leaving the house today will result in my untimely demise or entering that building will result in airborne disease and I will spend the rest of my life being violently ill, or if I let my boyfriend do the washing up we will both succumb to food poisoning. For reasons I will never fully understand these rules are far more convincing than the sensible, helpful ones and therefore I abide by them very strictly, because I am so completely convinced of the outcome.

A lot of people are familiar with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but very few would associate those characteristics with that illness. I know I wouldn’t have a year ago. I showed signs of OCD for fifteen years before I was informed of it. It came up in a few different forms over that time, it started with avoidance of people who had been sick and having to know every little detail of every time my best friend Danielle was ill at ‘little people school’. It changed quite suddenly into a complete avoidance of the subject; I stopped talking to Danielle altogether, and still haven’t to this day. My family weren’t allowed to use the word “sick” to avoid my panic reaction. The strangest reaction was the one that followed; a fascination with disease developed.

This fascination stayed with me for a decade. I kept my distance from ill people still, but I studied disease extensively. I am the holder of a degree in biomedical science, which itself is described as “a study of the human body in health and disease” and trains specifically to work in a diagnostics laboratory of a hospital. I kept my enemy closer than any friend had ever been, and aspired to something that terrified me.

…and then I wondered why I broke down.

I pushed myself way too far in my attempts to conquer my fear and ran screaming straight off the edge of the world – my life very literally changed overnight. My brain re-wrote the rules for me to live by and made so many loopholes and catches and clauses in fine print that I could barely keep up and my world got a little bit smaller every day.

Eight months of therapy and countless self-help books later I am once more just about capable of a normal day, but if you recall the first paragraph then you will see some of the rules that are still firmly in place, still draining energy I can’t afford to waste into a sinkhole of worry.

So, yeah. I don’t really do things anymore. And I think that this blog is going to be a story of coping with my limitations and trying to outwit them.