Friday, October 30, 2009

The sickness that is part of me


I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive disorder when I was 13 years old. For the 21 years since then, I have continuously taken medication for it. I have gone through compulsive behaviors, obsessive fears, and panic attacks. I have gone through more obsessive thoughts than I want to even try to think about, some of them very innocuous or even enjoyable, others disturbing, others potentially dangerous to myself or other people. This is a disease of my mind, but it is also so bound up with most of my thoughts and emotions and behaviors that it is an inescapable part of who I am. Sometimes I hate it as an alien presence that deprives me of full control of my own mind and makes me hate myself, other times I regard it as just a part of life, and sometimes I actually revel in it as something that makes my internal mental life interesting even when my external life is stupefyingly dull.

Perhaps the worst part of it all, though, is when my own obsessive thoughts turn from fear and guilt to repeated thoughts that involve possible harm to others. For me, this usually involves harm through neglect or carelessness rather than malicious attack. There is no particular feeling of anger or aggression, more like (for example) "What if I don't stop for that person crossing the street, but keep on going at full speed instead." As far as I know, I haven't actually hurt anybody ever, but the fact that these thoughts go through my mind again and again is enough to make me feel somewhat afraid, not to mention guilty. There is something else that worries me even more, though. Constantly worrying about these things tends to, ironically, desensitize me. A thought that is shocking and repulsive at first becomes less shocking and repulsive when it becomes obsessively routine. I lose the sense of people around me as being important in their own right, and evaluate them merely in terms of what kind of obsessive thought or feeling they might provoke in me. I grow tired of feeling guilty and worried, especially when I haven't actually harmed anyone. All of this seems to desensitize me further, and I have a deep and lurking fear that one of these days my thoughts might transform into action (or deliberate negligence), and that I might actually harm someone.

I talked to Dad about this earlier this evening, and he advised that I needed to start seeing my psychiatrist for more than the occasional brief session to review my medication. I need to start talking to someone in detail about this again, someone who knows a lot about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but who is not all bound up with it themselves.

I have to give a huge amount of credit to my psychiatrist, who I have been seeing at varying intervals for over 20 years. He was always very honest about the fact that medication could help, that therapy could help, but that OCD is something that will never completely go away as long as I live, that my mind will always have a tendency to move into obsessive patterns, and that I would have to be mindful of this for the rest of my life. It is a very light burden in the better times, a very, very heavy burden in the worst times, but when it starts to effect how I relate to other people in a potentially dangerous way, it takes on a whole new dimension that I can not afford to ignore.


Clio Bluestocking said...

Solidarity, friend, from a lifelong clinical depressive. You describe life with a mental illness perfectly. It feels like an invasive creature, like a possession, sometimes, and you need an outside voice to talk you through it because you can't entirely trust that inside one.

RPS77 said...

Thank you very much. The feeling that you sometimes don't have full control of your own mind is sometimes as bad as the actual symptoms. This feeling also seems to me to really set a person with some form of mental illness apart from people who do not have one. I think that it's very, very difficult for someone who has not experienced it to understand it - I don't really understand it in spite of having experienced it many times over the years.