For the record I wrote this on 6/27/13 and have just been too "blah" to post it.
It has been a rough few weeks to say the least. Nearly one month ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the phone—the voice on the other end way my mom telling me my Grandma K had died. I couldn’t catch my breath—I mean look she had been ill, but she was supposed to be transferred to a nursing home, and now? I had to ask my Mom several times what she had said—I didn’t want to hear what I thought I heard. The call quickly ended and I ran to the living room and collapsed onto the floor. My husband, startled awake by my wails, came to hold me. I could barely utter the words when he asked what had happened. My—Grandma—Died.
The next moment I could feel the all too familiar sensations of panic. My mind raced, my stomach and chest burned and ached. I wanted to run, get out, but where? Out of my mind, really. I spent the next hours lying awake, watching TV, going on Facebook, and the like. Basically anything to avoid my feelings. I finally found sleep, which was a good thing because over the next few days, the ugly beast, my arch nemesis—Panic Disorder, came back with all the fury of a woman scorned a la Betty Broderick. No joke. My four days in Pittsburgh for the funeral were pure utter hell. I turned down tickets to see a Penguins Conference Finals game—it was THAT serious.
My last day there I had been in such a catatonic state that my Mom took me to an Emergency Clinic. They gave me Xanax and I felt great—for about four hours. Then the panic of the return flight home sunk in. The only thing that got me on that plane was Jesus and Xanax. The first leg went fine, I actually slept through most of it (Thank you Xanax!), but of course when I got to Houston I had to endure a four hour delay. I was supposed to be pretty much boarding the plane back to Austin when we touched down but weather delayed every flight and it had a domino effect. Do you know how frustrating it is to keep seeing a new, later departure time when Houston is only a three hour drive to Austin? (Believe me I totally priced out renting a car and just driving home but it was WAY too expensive for that.) Do you know what a four hour delay does to the anxious mind?
By the time I finally got to Austin I had already decided that I was going to be “nervous” seeing my husband. WTF? Seriously—I thought that would be the best sight in the world, but you see my OCD/anxious mind in Pittsburgh had convinced me that he sounded distant and weird on the phone and I couldn’t picture my life with him again. Yeah, that’s totally normal, right? So thanks to OCD, when my husband picks me up, I immediately tell him “This is weird, seeing you, I think it’s giving me anxiety.” Wow. He was probably expecting something along the lines of “Hi—I missed you, how was it while I was gone?” Nope, instead he got a virtual bitch slap.
But see that’s the thing. In my fucked up mind I considered the man I love the source of my anxiety. Why? Because OCD told me so. Okay, and maybe, just maybe it has a smidgen to do with the fact that the last time this happened in 2004, I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend because I was so anxious around him I could not stand it.
B-I-N-G-O! OCD and anxiety are fueled by fears and avoidance. They practically feed off of it. I crave pasta and wine, while OCD craves a Fear Steak with a side of avoidance twice baked potatoes. To the non-sufferer, an outsider, it’s SO easy to see that my thoughts are irrational, or to suggest that I “just get over it.” Do you really think I would choose to suffer day after day? Okay, so maybe I’ve lost 15 lbs but that is the ONLY positive that has come out of this. Alright, it has also forced—err caused me to seek therapy which I have been delaying since I moved to Austin in 2009. If I was honest with myself I would have sought help months ago, when the warning signs were there. Increased anger, irritability, and random panic attacks. Then the panic attacks began to occur more frequently. But who wants to admit when they need help? And honestly finding a therapist you click with is no small feat. Really, it’s not like you can ask around for a recommendation from your friends or co-workers. It’s not a new pair of jeans or hair stylist—it’s a therapist.
As luck would have it, the first one I contacted took forever to respond and then flaked out with the “not accepting new patients” bullshit. It was a blessing in disguise—Karen, my therapist, is Ah-mazing. No really, in our free initial consult I could feel “the click.” Plus, she drinks La Croix—if that wasn’t sign enough, then the Dove chocolates sitting next to me sealed the deal.
Well, god, these last few paragraphs make the last month sound like sunshine—which I can assure you they have not. My weeks read like an Erie, PA weather forecast. Partly cloudy, chance of storms to the unexpected warm and sunny. But—if I have to be honest dark and stormy has been the predominant forecast, especially this past week.
I feel like a kid that was promised a pony, met it, fell in love with it, gave her a name—“Buttercup” of course, and then watched from the car as another family took her home and my parents came back empty handed and shrugging. Let me explain—last week I had a bad day, but then BOOM, my whole “husband causes anxiety thought” subsided. I didn’t feel 100%, but I thought damn, I’m making great progress—hell I can deal with this. Cue Patty Smyth’s “The Warrior” music. Sure I had other obsessions and felt a bit out of it, but I was no longer feeling so anxious around Taylor (yeah, that’s my husband, which I rudely forgot to mention.) Then, as with all good things—well you know.
Monday night we stared fighting about what else—money, and it all went down from there. I literally had anxiety diarrhea of the mouth. I couldn’t stop-I just kept crying and saying how bad I felt. A pity party? Really? I’m F'n 29 years old.
As my therapist later told me—you are craving understanding…but you will never have that fulfilled. No one besides yourself will fully understand what you are going though. I really don’t want pity—she knew that. She just wanted me to accept that my longing for someone to “get it” was in vain. So, I accepted that—well I swallowed the bitterness and went on. But the next few days I was once again plagued by instructive thoughts about Taylor and the subsequent anxiety surrounding them. I have cried at least five times in the last three days. I can accept I have OCD, but why does this bastard want to destroy my relationship and happiness. Why does it ALWAYS go after what I love?
OCD is cruel and heartless. It gives no thought to what you care about. In fact I’m pretty sure it enjoys it. So here I am, sitting, waiting, and wondering. I keep obsessing that this well end like last time. That I will eventually freak out around Taylor and be so anxious that I can’t take it anymore. The sickest part is I realize there is a compulsion aspect of this that only further serves to feed the beast. I literally stress all day at work and home until Taylor arrives, so I can “check” how I’m feeling. Do I have anxiety? Intrusive thoughts? I’m giving myself anxiety about anxiety. Seriously—any twitch, any weird sensation is immediately assigned to “anxiety around Taylor.” So then I spend the rest of the night dreading how awful work will be. It usually starts with me crying, scanning OCD forums, and practicing relaxation. It gets better a few hours in, but then spikes again when it’s time to go home—then I get to see if it’s different. Will it be a good day? Will I spend the latter part of the evening anxious? I do have nights, in fact, most nights I’m completely fine around him—but I convince myself that I don’t feel quite right and it’s him.
I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s me—well more specifically my OCD. It has nothing to do with Taylor, or the house, or sharing a bed. It’s a thought that gets stuck and proceeds to illicit feelings of dread and fear. A constant cycle—like a merry-go-round from hell. I cannot believe that I let a single F'n thought have SO much power. I refuse to give up this time. I have always run away from my obsessions—but that only serves to strengthen them. I don’t care if I have to feel this way for the rest of our marriage—I will not let OCD ruin love. I am stronger than that. I have to believe that. My Mom always tells me that God won’t give you something you can’t handle—and I truly believe that a weaker person would crumble.
Listen, a plan like this sounds great on paper, but the execution is much, much harder. There are days when I just want to crawl in bed with my dogs and sob—but what will that accomplish? At the worst of times I think while driving, if I were to be hit and killed now, I would be better off—or rather I don’t have a reaction to it, as if it wouldn’t bother me.
I know I can learn and grown from this. It will be different this time because I will not back down, no matter what is thrown at me. I will fight and I will win this battle. Insert cheesy song cliche “I fought OCD, and I won.”