In addition to the lovely and vicious Bipolar II, I also have several of her escorts: OCD, PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder. The anxiety and depression are responding to the medication. Even the PTSD is tempered, but the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder requires a medication that makes all the rest harder to manage.

OCD is a fear of death or a sense of impending misfortune if certain rituals aren’t performed. Sometimes you only have one element, but usually the two stomp hand-in-hand through a sufferer’s life.

Obsession is an idea or thought that continually occupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. The obsession is always unsettling, agitating, and/or terrifying. One of my “favorite” obsessions was visions of wrapping my infant in plastic wrap and watching him die.

He’s still alive, just turned 19, in case you were wondering. But I don’t watch the news anymore for obvious reasons. What? You think I came up with that shit on my own?

Compulsion is an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes. My life was a nightmare at one point. I woke up at night and had to leave the comfort of my bed to perform a ritual of considerable complexity.

I tried to fight it. I would lie in bed and stare at the ceiling as anxiety built in my chest, as the compulsion fed itself from my powerful imagination. It’s like Restless Leg Syndrome, only in my mind. The feeling drove me from my bed and into a loop of obnoxious and sometimes frightening behaviors.

“Logically, I knew this was a ridiculous waste of time and peace of mind, but I couldn’t stop the cycle.”

 

My ritual began with the front door. Is it locked? Never mind that I locked it myself before going to bed that evening. Afterwards I checked the sliding door and the steel back door in the basement.

After that, I walked up the stairs and checked the deck’s sliding door. Once that was done, I would check the knobs on the gas stove to make sure they were off. Then I would sniff around the stove to make sure I didn’t smell any gas.

Then I would visit my three-year old’s room. I would lick my finger and place it under his nose to make sure he was still breathing. Finally, I would return to my room, at which time I would shake out all the blankets over my sleeping ex’s body to make sure no Brown Recluse spiders lay in wait.

I followed this exact ritual three to four times a night for several months. There were no deviations in the order of the steps. Logically, I knew this was a ridiculous waste of time and peace of mind, but I couldn’t stop the cycle. The PTSD didn’t help at all because all of my obsessions and compulsions were safety-driven.

“I do believe that the rise of mental illness in America has been created over generations of dysfunctional coping mechanisms.”

 

The struggle is real, my friends. We all joke about how people we know seem OCD. But it’s not very funny. The humor alleviates the discomfort of those who don’t understand.

OCD isn’t the hell of Bipolar. It’s the purgatory of physiological brain illnesses. As if you are redeeming yourself while you struggle to shed these obsessions and compulsions.

OCD keeps you up at night. It destroys relationships, causes hoarding, and can develop into agoraphobia. I know from personal experience on all the above. I know the illness doesn’t go away, not completely.

I do believe that the rise of mental illness in America has been created over generations of dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Passed down from mother to daughter, father to son, the symptoms have increased in intensity as the culture feeds off the illness.

It’s like a chicken-versus-the egg kind of scenario. Is it physiology or culture that creates these neurotic chicks? I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t answer that question based on research, but my personal experience is that the hereditary, default factory settings create a predisposition.

“In our American culture of violence against women and children, regardless of gender, OCD is a sickness that blames the prey for not escaping.”

 

Example: your family may have a default factory setting for heart disease. Will it manifest in you? Depends. There is no condition in the physiology yet, only the possible development of the condition. Outside factors contribute, but it might only take one Twinkie to trigger the condition.

Society is a merciless trigger. The relentless lack of security in American culture develops the predisposition into a nightmare for the sufferer. Violence, abuse, social shaming, and other boundary violations are prime culprits.

OCD is an illness of fear, of an intense desire to feel secure. Because you have experienced some sort of violence, you become susceptible to the condition. It only takes one event. One. In our American culture of violence against women and children, regardless of gender, OCD is a sickness that blames the prey for not escaping.

Contra-social behavior should be treated as an illness and early on. I can’t imagine any child going out of his or her way to behave in a manner that causes ostracization from the peer group. Unchecked, the behavior is purposefully exaggerated by some teenagers. That’s when it looks deliberate but it’s still an illness. And yes, some of them are socio- and psycho-paths, but that’s still an illness.

“My Rx is this: Kindness, Awareness, and Compassion.”

 

I have suggestions on how to reduce the number of people who develop the illness. How about we all take a vow to be kind to each other? Some of our number will always disappoint, but there are plenty of “well” people out there who could create a safety net for those who are at risk.

My Rx is this: Kindness, Awareness, and Compassion. Learn about boundaries and what happens when those boundaries are violated. Understand that contra-social behavior is not a moral weakness but a physical one.

Reach out to those who could use some help. Gently nudge your “anti-social” and/or “self-destructive” friend to get help, whether a type of therapy, medication, or both. They may just be socially awkward but better safe than struggling with remorse.

You don’t have to do any of the above, but those around you, the ones who hurt, would be very grateful if you did.

©2018. I.O.Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

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