Constantly Being Told “You Don’t Want to Get Better”

This is a great post.

Fight Against OCD

I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve heard this over the past two years. So far, I’ve learned to just not respond.

Constantly being told that you don’t want to get better is exhausting and surely does not better the situation. If anything, saying this to someone with OCD, or any mental illness for that matter, is the opposite of what you should be doing. When someone is suffering from a mental illness, the last thing they need is someone badgering them day and night. Before you accuse someone of not wanting to get better, ask yourself if someone would want to be ill, if someone would purposively be doing things to make their life more miserable. That makes no sense. I can almost guarantee you that the one thing these people want is to be better and to feel happy and free. It’s like telling someone to “just stop…

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Grief is one of the hardest things.

Even when it’s over a decade old. Even when you no longer resemble the person you were when they left. Even when you have to fight sometimes; fight to remember her voice, fight to recall the intonation of her accent: would she have said it like this? Or like that? I never heard her say that word, so how would she say it? Exactly how would she have said ‘Barack Obama’? When I hear people with her accent, it shakes my heart. Bizarrely, it makes me feel lost and home at the same time.

It hurts to know that I won’t see her again. It hurts to know that I saw her for such a short time to begin with. I wasn’t even a proper person when she went, I was barely getting started. When she left, I knew nothing, had lived nothing. The last time she saw me I looked and sounded so different, my voice was shriller and my eyes were manic with everything that I did not yet know. I had never had my heart broken by a death. I had never sat and cried so much, the kind of cry that is so utterly helpless and broken. The kind of cry that has no resolution, because it just aches. There is a truth to the term heartache. It aches the whole body to know that you can’t see her face, how it would be now, if she were still here. I can see all of the colours that are fused together in her eyes, all the shades of blue. Where her eyes are bright, mine are murky and dull. She was an electric woman, and I found safety behind her. I was a poor consolation prize for the ones who loved her.

I hate myself for not realising at the time, that I had so little time, that we all have such little time. I should have spent every one of those remaining days telling her everything she needed to know – that she was the most loved of mothers, and I loved her so completely, and that, for all of the times I had been mad at her, I would never stop loving her. She was the first voice I had ever heard, her heart was the first sound my body had registered outside of itself. I had a space in her belly, and that belly is gone. I will never get to use the word ‘Mum’ in the same way ever again. And to know that is something that can take my breath away, every single time. I hear people say ‘Mum’ and I wish I could do that too.

Grief catches you in your days, and in your nights. In the days, it catches you when you find yourself wanting to share something with her, however small or insignificant it might seem. In the nights, you dream that she is still alive so that, when you wake, you have those few seconds of wonder: “Is she really alive? She didn’t die?” But she always dies again. I couldn’t save her in real life, with my prayers and my begging to the Almighty. She went anyway. She goes anyway.

The other day I sat with her for a while, and there was a part of me that wanted to lie there in that spot and fall asleep forever. Hug a headstone, it’s all that’s left. Cut back the branches that are creeping around her name, they are blocking her light, she can’t see. I feel grateful that I can’t hear a peep out of civilisation here. We are alone.

The love you feel for your parents, it never changes, you will always love them without thinking, without contemplation. You love your parents before you know yourself. So when one leaves, you feel like a part of you has gone. Like there is a part of you that has shut down, no one else has the access code to it, so it will die from lack of use. There is a you that they knew and you forget.

I will never see her again, and that hurts my heart. My parents, by raising me, made my heart together – half is gone, but the other half is here, is my friend, and loves me even when I don’t love myself.  I hope he knows how much he is loved by me.

It’s about eggs.

eggs

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and, the truth is, I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write. As 2014 drew to a close and the prospect of 2015 loomed ever closer, I felt less inclined to write, and more inclined to try and forget. To be frank, I haven’t been in the mood to contemplate this illness, haven’t been remotely interested in sitting at my laptop and trying to explain how I feel. It has sapped so much of my energy in recent months and years that I think I was in need of a break, a break from consciously contemplating it. A break from thinking and reflecting on it. Living with it can be tiring enough. Then, yesterday, when I was making dinner, something happened that made me want to write.

Often, when people think about OCD, they think about cleaning. They imagine people obsessively cleaning their hands, scrubbing their bodies, disinfecting their homes. And there is some truth in that. But that is not everything, not at all.

It’s also about eggs.

Eggs? Yes, eggs. On my way home from work yesterday evening, I made a plan to have a (fairly) square meal, a meal that I would prepare myself (something that I have not been doing much of lately) and enjoy, warm in front of the TV. I had a particular craving for eggs. I really love eggs: little protein bombs, versatile and delicious. I opted for scrambled eggs on toast; quick, easy and nutritious. Having purchased a pack of ten fresh eggs on the way home, I loaded up the toaster and got to work. I cracked the first egg, and into the pan it went. I cracked the second, into the pan it plopped. Before firing up the hob, I nervously scanned the contents of the pan, hoping that I wouldn’t find anything disturbing swilling around with all of the protein and goo. Unfortunately, my eye was caught by a small brownish-red speck floating in the cold, clear, egg-white. I am not sure what the brownish-red substance was, but to me, in that moment, it was blood. Animal blood. And even animals can contract HIV, I’m sure of it. I throw the eggs in the bin, and get a clean pan. I repeat this entire process and, once again, I spy a tiny fleck of something sinister, lurking around the perfect dome of raw yolk. In a depressing moment of déjà vu, it results in my throwing away the eggs. I get another clean pan from the drawer (if this carries on, I’m going to run out of pans) and try again. Fortunately, this third time round I cannot see any brownish-red flecks anywhere in the pan; relieved, I get on with cooking my set of lovely clean eggs. I clear away the offending shells and disinfect the kitchen worktop, washing my hands countless times, just in case. I’m sad, because this entire fiasco has all but ruined a meal that I was so looking forward to, the first meal I have cooked from scratch in ages. I’m irritated because it has tainted what was otherwise going to be a quiet evening in front of the TV, but now I’m tired and on edge. I’m pissed off because I’ve thrown away four perfectly good eggs, because I thought they might give me HIV.

Food can be a minefield if you have contamination OCD. Pre-packaged food brings with it images of strangers in factories handling your food with hands covered in cuts, grazes and loose plasters. Images of blood getting into the food, plasters coming into contact with what I am about to eat. Fresh fruit and vegetables leads you to imagine fruit-pickers with dirty hands, perhaps cutting their hands on shrubbery, branches and fruit-picking tools (whatever they are!) as they work themselves to the bone. And who’s to say that there isn’t blood on my fruit? If I didn’t pick it, how do I know? It’s at times like these, when my mind wanders to blood, that I wish I had the patience to grow my own fruit; at least then I would know for certain – well, almost – that no one else had been able to bleed into my food. For me, the truly ‘safe’ fruits are the ones that have skins on – at least that way you can reduce the risk of contamination by cleaning, and then removing, the contaminated cover.

If I go into Starbucks for a coffee, or even into the local deli for a quick sandwich, I have to fight with myself not to examine the hands of the person behind the counter, scanning her skin for any signs of cuts or splits in the surface. I will also, if I am feeling particularly anxious, search her neck and face for any signs of scratches or particularly sore spots. If I can see any sign of blood or trauma to the skin, I will instantly want to leave. I won’t want them to touch anything that I am about to eat or drink. I will pray that I am served by the employee who has no signs of any wounds or dry blood whatsoever – her skin is so intact she could be made of plastic, yes she will do. I will feel particularly relieved if those employees charged with preparing all of the food are sporting disposable gloves. It might look clinical and – let’s face it – more than a little bit odd to see that the person loading up your sandwich is wearing latex gloves, but it really does take some of the underlying anxiety away, if just for a moment. It’s like the moment when you realise that the public toilets have a no-touch flushing sensor, or that most wonderful of bathroom devices – the hands-free tap system. One less thing to get myself into a state about, thank you universe!

A lot of my days can end up like my eggs – seemingly okay at first, on the surface everything is just fine. But then something so small will happen – a speck of something on the pavement; someone at work will get a tiny microscopic paper-cut and then later offer to make me a cup of tea; they’ll go and touch all of the doors and surfaces near me, rendering everything a danger zone; my shoelaces will scrape the floor which means I am making a conscious effort all day not so sit with my leg tucked under (as I normally do), which means I am uncomfortable at work all day; someone will send a well-intentioned e mail to the office talking about how, at this time of year, we need to be more hygienic as an office, and be wary of coughing, sneezing and spreading our bodily fluids (!) everywhere; she’ll then promptly distribute anti-bacterial wipes/sprays/gels – which is just an invitation for me to obsess. So, you see, the egg is tainted; there is always something that can ruin my eggs. I can be working my way through on a run of perfectly good eggs, but somewhere, in that batch, there’ll be a bad one. And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to know that, to anticipate a fall. I think that’s why sometimes, when I am having a really good day, I can get so excited and hyper – because I just know that I’m on a clock and, before long, I will be ruminating and obsessing about some fleck of nothing in the corner on the carpet. And it’s so draining, and so sad, to spend days hiding in my own mind like that.

I hope that will change soon.