Let me start by saying that I’m confident that I am a good person. I have a big heart and would do almost anything for a person in need. Let me then poison the well by stating that I have OCD. As many of you know, mine manifests itself largely through rituals involving checking and counting. When left unchecked, I also exhibit harm OCD and suicidal ideations. One frustrating aspect of my OCD that’s recently reared its ugly head again is my unnatural fascination with disaster. If you’re up for a read, let me elaborate.

Rewind to my childhood; it’s the cold war. We learned in school about the nuclear threat and it became an ongoing topic in History class for years. We would have disaster drills where we’d either evacuate the school, hide under our desk, or go to the hallway and sit against the wall. The thought of impending doom would replay in my mind on a continuous loop. I would go over in my head the drills, what to do, what not to do. I would worry about my family, but it was a manageable fear.

Fast forward to 9/11. I worked in NYC. I, like everyone else, was evacuated that day. We got out any way we could; I took a Circle Line cruise to nowhere ship from the West Side to Weehawken and then hitched a ride home. The days that followed, I wouldn’t move from the TV, watching the horrific images on the TV, replaying them in my mind. I came up with evacuation plans for my (ex)wife and children. I knew 5 people that died in 9/11. My news fascination deepened. I stayed up at night watching TV all night just in case we needed to evacuate. Then the Anthrax scare happened. I bought probably on the order of 30 books on bioterrorism; the history of it, how it works, ways an attack would play out, how to prepare, how to survive. I watched wind direction on a daily basis and altered my ‘escape route’ based on that since the logical distribution mechanism was an aerosol that would be airborne. I remained completely enthralled with bioterrorism for years and to this day I fight to keep that “interest” in check.

Then Occupy Wall Street happened. I had spent the better part of my career on Wall street. I had always felt as though I was overpaid for what I did, but I was grateful that I was able to feed my family. I felt dirty for being part of a ‘boys club’ where women, minorities and gays were shunned. Then Occupy Wall street gave me an outlet for that. I volunteered, I made contacts, I involved my children in protests, I brought food and clothing to Zuccotti park. Then I discovered Anonymous, the hacktivist group that afforded me the opportunity to leverage my skills with technology with my connections in Wall Street. I won’t divulge my involvement there any further, but it again became all consuming.

And here we are today. Hurricane Sandy was real, it was a threat to many of us; and I prepared…. I watched the news, I was all over the internet. Where would it hit? I had to protect my family. The storm was rough in my area, but not as bad as along the shore and in other areas nearby. I continued to watch the news. Then it happened. I came across the fact that my hometown, Staten Island, was being forgotten by FEMA, The Red Cross and others. I started tracking it, I watched YouTube videos incessantly, I sought alternative news sources to get the latest info on what was really going on. There were not just people without power like me, there were people dying, elderly living in mold ridden houses with no food or drinking water; forgotten. I had to do something. Then, my old friends at Occupy stepped in. Occupy formed the Occupy Sandy NYC effort where they refocused their efforts to focus on Staten Island, the Rockaways and Coney Island. I immediately dove into their effort, I reconnected with contacts, I started sharing information, assisting in organizing volunteer efforts. It wasn’t enough, I HAD to get out there. But the OCD makes it very hard for me to leave the house and go out in public like that… My need to help overrode my desire to remain reclusive. In my mind, over and over again, all I could think was “There are people dying” and the government agencies are sitting idle. This past Saturday, I went out to Staten Island with members of my family, we did a lot of good. We helped people. We busted our butts and cleaned houses, provided supplies, made donations. I worked with Occupy and dispatched volunteers to sites most in need. BUT, the people I met, the scenes I saw….. Now I’m left with them echoing in my mind like a violent movie. I’m left feeling, “I must do more”, “I have to help”. My wife and baby daughter have been cast aside in favor of my burning desire, err NEED to help. I can’t get the image of the woman whom I spoke to Saturday who had no power, no running water, mold in the first floor, no food, not even a bathroom, and nowhere to go. I all but insisted to my wife that we open our home to any random stranger needing a place to stay; and I posted our willingness to do so in multiple groups.

So, the end to my rant is simple. How do I stop this? How do I get the violent images to get out of my head? In this case, my OCD is clear cut… The Obsession is with the horrific events and the compulsion is to help; but I can’t stop. Even when I can rationally sit back and say “Hey, it’s happening again” to myself, I rationalize that away by saying “It’s ok, let it happen. You’re helping a lot of people and doing good”. I had a wonderful conversation with my wife about all this last night, and her and I agreed to set boundaries. i.e. How long each day can I devote to researching and collaborating with my contacts. How frequently I can volunteer, etc etc. Is that going to work? Does anyone have any ideas? What’s worked for you? I can’t outright STOP, because in the part of my mind that works, I can see that I genuinely AM helping. That is a good thing. How do I keep this in check and under control? I can’t get these horrific images to stop and it’s only getting worse.

Thank you so much for reading this, and any advice you guys might have. I’m very thankful to have some truly great friends here.

3 Comments
  1. siggy84 8 years ago

    If you want to chat and have a bitch session, Im willing to lisiten. My son has OCD and Im tring to get thru this with him

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  2. chez 8 years ago

    wow you have done really good helping the way you have it's just so sad that in all the help you are giving is making you hurt i wish i had some good advice for you the thought of having all thoughs images playing over and over is horrific especially seeing it first hand all i have seen was what was on the news. Keep talking with you'r wife she sounds like good support for you and stick with the bounaries you have made. Good luck thining of you.

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  3. Catoptromancy 8 years ago

    Wow, Barin, you're OLD! Hiding under your desk from nuclear disaster! …Tell me what Moses was like… lol. *smooch*

     

    In all seriousness, I remember the tv being on incessantly after 9/11. I immersed myself in the horror of it, as well, collecting newspapers, magazines, books…things to leave for my future children to show the full scope of the horror. I suppose that's the history degree. I think for a long time I felt…kind of lost over that. Upset and not knowing how to deal. I'm like you–I like to help. I'm a charity nutcase–my Toys for Tots bin starts over the minute Christmas ends, I'm always collecting stuff for local animal shelters or the homeless or shelters or foodbanks…and it never feels like enough. The truth is…it never WILL be enough.

     

    I love to believe that I can make a difference…and I think it's wonderful you're passing that message on to your children–that it's important to try to make a difference and help others in the world. That said…sometimes I have to drag myself out of that stuff and look at my home and my own family…who are no less deserving of my time or my money. I know you, Billy-Boy. I know you want to do what's right, but in doing what's right…sometimes you have to go against your gut feelings and desires. It isn't safe to open your home to anyone you don't know…because Evie needs protection. And while it's great that you can do all the things you do…in the end, you're one person. I think that's the way to get it under control–to just know you put forth an effort, did what you could within reasonable boundaries, and…well…those horrible images…honey, even if you single-handedly fixed the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, there are other disasters going on in the world. Are you going to go live in Sudan? Part of -helping- the world means helping the people in your immediate family–making Eve feel secure, letting the older kids know their Dad is going to be a constant in their life, letting your wife know that at 5 pm you're coming home with a bottle of milk and a jar of peanut butter. Life has to go on as normal in some ways. You're no less a good man for having a limit to what you can do.

     

    Know that just because you aren't doing something every second doesn't mean that somebody else isn't taking up the slack during those times. People work around the clock in shifts. And where there are horrid images, there are beautiful images, as well. Look for them. Look for the animals being rescued by volunteers and carried out or reunited with their owners. Look for HOPE. And you ARE doing good…even when you're not DOING. By communicating with your contacts…by spreading the message that people help (either through blog or a phone call or whatever)…you're inspiring good deeds from others. You deserve to put your head on the pillow at night and focus on the images that matter MOST, though–and that's the kids. Eve smiling and standing in the doorway during the hurricane. She saw the beauty in it…and where there's tragedy, there's also a great deal of beauty in the way people are coming together. Hope that makes things better for you.

     

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