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This post probably won’t be as long as some of my older ones since this focuses around a rather specific topic I’d been thinking about this morning, and it’s also an add-on to this great post at FWD/Forward on bad OCD stereotypes. This morning I did my usual run-through of social justice blogs, but since I still have a lot of internal prejudices I have to confront and work on correcting, this can spark some pretty damned ugly contrarian thoughts, that I’d much rather not share here for my own comfort and fear of being misunderstood, from my mind’s little “doubting devil.” They hit me as I was about to go downstairs to eat breakfast, and made me freeze and imagine taking a violent tumble down the stairs. But the way my mind presented it to me was in that kind of cheesy, wobbly, quick-take style typical of the sort of horrible, horrible horror movie I was subjected to in my film class at the community college I attended while on leave from Cornell last year. This made the bad thought seem almost comical, and the fact that I can actually now laugh off some of the things that would scare me into panic attacks last year makes me extremely grateful that I have that kind of inner strength.

This made me wonder if any famous (or not-so-famous) horror writers struggle with OCD, particularly since my mother, in an only half-joking manner, has suggested that I ought to channel the imagery I get from particularly anxious times into surreal or macabre stories and drawings (I really want to get back into drawing, but I’ve never been much of a fiction writer.) And while I really don’t like horror movies at all, if writing the script for one proved to be a mental or emotional catharsis for the screenwriter, I would most certainly have respect for that person. But that’s not what the vast majority of people think of at all when they hear OCD. As OuyangDan stated in her FWD/Forward post, it’s almost regarded as a synonym for “meticulous” or “nitpicky” by those who don’t have it, as if it’s just a benign little quirk of behavior that is actually nice to have as having it makes sure that everything gets in order. That’s bullshit, pure and simple. What really makes my blood boil about that attitude is that it never even takes into consideration the obsessive part of the equation—it might as well just be called “CD” to them. (And while I’m sure pure-compulsive disorder exists, I can’t speak for the people who may have it.) As anyone with OCD can tell you, what drives a person with it to undertake such compulsive behavior are tormenting thoughts of what is the absolute worst thing one can imagine, what is absolutely anathema to one’s nature. People with OCD get so desperate in trying to convince themselves that they’re not psychotic and would never actually DO the things that their minds are presenting to them (and oftentimes the thoughts are so real and all-encompassing, whether or not they’re actual hallucinations, that delusions of believing that one has actually done the action in one’s obsessive thoughts are not uncommon at all), that they are willing to do anything, even the most simple repetitive motion, to try and dispel them. This is what shows up on the outside, but on the inside is a much bleaker picture, and sadly, the torment these people feel rarely comes to the surface without guidance and understanding since in general, people with OCD, including myself when I first noticed it, are terrified of telling about their obsessions (even to close friends and family) for fear that they will be thought to be dangerous or even criminal.

Some people don’t even have the compulsions. As documented in the wonderful book The Imp Of The Mind by Lee Baer, which was more or less my Bible throughout last year, Pure-O OCD, as described in my first post, is actually the most common form of OCD out there. These people, until they learn how to manage their obsessions in a healthy way, tend to just freeze up and descend into tormenting spirals of horror and guilt, a feeling I know all too well. Some of them can get to the point where they can “pass” in public, and unless someone very close to them has become attuned to when they begin to feel anxious and obsessive (my mother, for example, would call it “the shadow falling over my face,” and I would also squeeze my eyes shut during a particularly strong or violent obsessive thought), it is hard to suspect anything is wrong with them. I’ve recently found that I’m not quite as Pure-O as I once thought—when I’m in an Anxiety Period, sometimes I have obsessions and sometimes I don’t, as it’s completely random. My obsessions are usually more subtle, though, as they’re typically not viewed as destructive—sometimes I’ve gotten so frustrated with picking hairs off my face or popping zits that sometimes it leaves little blood spots or scabs, but it’s never intentional. Some of them are even productive, as I started sewing when I was at my most anxious and sometimes I would just stay up in my room and sew for hours on end in an attempt to make the bad thoughts go away. I’ve gotten to the point now where I still sew even when I’m not anxious as I genuinely enjoy it, and I’ve made an entire quilt for myself that I’ll take back to Cornell in the fall, and I’m working on a baby quilt for my new niece in Ithaca. But as I said in my last entry, my main compulsion, when I have compulsions, is muttering. I’ve muttered all my life, actually, usually just repeating nonsense words to myself when I feel that I’m in an awkward or embarrassing situation. But when my anxiety started getting out of control, some of the words that plagued my obsessive thoughts leached into my otherwise benign mutterings, which then became vengeful-sounding, “I’m going to kill all you murderous anxieties”; that period was also a time when I over-personified my anxiety and treated it as a literal villain I had to vanquish rather than a series of mental anomalies that I had to work to get back to some sort of equanimity. As I’ve learned to not take my obsessive thoughts seriously, the muttering has decreased, but it never really goes away so I still do look sometimes as if I’m speaking in tongues. It just impels me to write more, as when there’s less junk in my brain the less it leaks out as mutterings.

Just as the mental health community cannot be pinned down as a whole, likewise, even people who appear to have the exact same mental disorder cannot be said to have the exact same experiences—similar ones, certainly, but there are as many different struggles with OCD as there are OCD survivors. Yes, some mental anomalies actually do have unexpected perks to them (I really do believe I wouldn’t be as passionate about a lot of things if I didn’t have Asperger’s—and a predilection for language) and I’m grateful that the OCD helped fuel my sewing, but trying to characterize, or worse, fetishize a particular disorder goes beyond naïveté into pure ignorance. Not all OCD patients have compulsions, but we do all have obsessions—maybe not all the time or as frequently as at a certain point in the past, but we all share the fight to keep a grip on reality and not to let our delusions take control. If you want to have someone around with organizational skills, go see an interior decorator and don’t trivialize the experiences of people with a very real and often paralyzingly scary syndrome.

(Okay, so this post did wind up being fairly long. So sue me. :P)

You know what? I’m no longer going to apologize for having big gaps between entries. It’s harmful to me and everyone around me. (Hell, I even do this when I write in my personal handwritten journal, even if I’m the only one reading it!) The fact of the matter is that blogging is an effort and sometimes I don’t have the time, the energy or the spoons to get an entry out of me, even when that entry, as this one is, feels like a baby that’s been gestating for weeks if not months on end and wants nothing more than to see the light of day, kicking as it’s trapped in my head. Reading the blogs of other mentally anomalous bloggers who often have gaps between entries for similar reasons has made me more confident in my position, even if a whole lot of the time I have to face the demon of doubt that tells me I’m not a real blogger since I only have a puny three entries (the intro doesn’t really count, natch) and there’s no way I’m going to be respected and get on people’s blogrolls unless I write at least twice a week. But that’s unrealistic for me not only because there are times when I do have a lot to write but not an endless reserve of time/energy/spoons to sufficiently drive me to write, there are others when, despite both others’ and my conception of myself as a person with far too much on her mind and a brain that often feels like collapsing under the weight of too many thoughts, there are times when I really, genuinely don’t feel like writing much, whether on here or in my handwritten journal! I tend to get far too caught up in a lot of endeavors I take on and blow them way, way out of proportion—for about five months in eighth grade I would diligently keep a journal and write in it every single night (which proved taxing for me, even though I had a far shallower knowledge of myself at the time and wrote about very trivial matters for the most part) I thought that someone would find that journal—which I later destroyed for emotional reasons, and sometimes but not all the time I regret doing so—long after I was dead and I’d become an Anne Frank of sorts, which was a horribly privileged and flippant position for me to take as there’s no way that sheltered 13-year-old me could even begin to comprehend what Anne Frank went through. Sometimes I even go through the same delusions with my written journals, especially since I’m now on my third ever since I started keeping them regularly last year. Sometimes I go months between entries, sometimes I write every single day for a given period of time. And really, that’s okay! I just need to keep telling myself that, since I have this irrational guilty feeling about it or this blog “gathering dust” and therefore going to waste—although when I do need to write, I need to conserve energy that I would’ve otherwise spent doing less useful things (Vie De Merde, I’m looking at you) and get the stuff out of my head so that I feel less of a weight on my shoulders. Still, I never should apologize for something in which I did nothing wrong.

What I’ve mainly been wanting to write about for such a long time is the concept of setting deadlines for one’s self and why that doesn’t help anyone and in fact hurts quite a lot. In my cycle of anxiety, I have an unsettling tendency to switch between Complacency Periods, in which I take a lot of things for granted since I’d somehow gotten to a point where my triggers affect me less and I exploit that fleeting ability, but it inevitably crashes at some point or another into an Anxiety Period, which are absurdly systematic with me—they’re just as predictable as when I catch a cold—and always go through the following four stages: irrational thoughts of harming others close to me, irrational thoughts of harming myself, feelings of vengeance toward my anxiety in which I mutter essentially meaningless nonsense such as “Murderous anxieties! I’m going to kill you all!” to myself as a sort of tic or compulsion, and what I call “grotesquerie-bizarrerie” thoughts, which are surreal mental images—which are not visual hallucinations but are just as vivid with my imagination—such as bleeding ink (hence the name of my blog) or hanging from the ceiling by a fishhook, not dead but just peacefully sleeping and confounding everyone around me. I got a sketchbook for Christmas to get these images out of my head, but I really need to use it more, and I hope that doing writings like this will break me out of my recent creative stagnation and motivate me to do more things like drawing. I usually have this theory that my Anxiety Periods are like radioactive particles in that they have half-lives, becoming half as traumatic each time I have one, but I started with an extremely high level last year, so I’m still coming down…and this does mean that it never truly goes away, after all, just becomes so small that it’s imperceptible. I’ve come to realize that quite a good bit of the complacency/anxiety cycle has to do with me setting more or less arbitrary finish lines for myself when it comes to “recovering” from the meltdown that sent me first to the hospital and then home for most of the year in March of last year. I thought that once I finally made it through the first semester back at Cornell, I would have proven myself to the point where my anxiety would, if not completely vanish, than become some moribund version of itself that annoyed no more than a paper cut. Inevitably, when those expectations are not met, the Anxiety Period comes out from the shadows and pounces upon me—and if I haven’t had one in a while, it flies in the face of the half-life theory by being stronger than usual. (I did make the dean’s list at Cornell this past semester—and dammit, I worked for that—so I think I’ve made it pretty well in spite of OCD.) What I need to do and am now starting to do is reframe the situation. I need to stop thinking about my anxiety issues as something that started in March 2009 and never existed before that. That’s a load of bull—the earliest-ever panic attack I can remember having is when I was seven and my mom was two hours late from a parent-teacher gathering; I’d worked myself into uncontrollable crying thinking that she’d died in a car crash and that the cops were going to call any minute to tell my dad and me the news. (Keep in mind that cell phones were not widespread at all in the late 90s, so I couldn’t get a hold of her!) Likewise, even though my AS diagnosis came in the hospital and was confirmed by my Springfield therapist, I’ve had that since birth, more or less, since so many of my childhood quirks can be easily explained by it. Once I acknowledge that this is something I’ve had my whole life and will most likely have for the rest of my life, I can see it as a continuum that I’m moving along rather than a race (since life’s only real start/finish lines are birth and death), and even though I would have given anything to have avoided the trauma of going to the hospital and being put on academic leave, I am forever grateful of the self-awareness I’ve gained from the whole experience of last year, and I find it very humbling to recognize how little of myself I knew before that point. Sure, it means having to acknowledge things like allowing extra time for travel since it leaves me feeling both physically and mentally drained, and always to have my medicine on hand, but I’d much rather have to prepare for that than be caught off-guard and start to panic. It’s funny, since my parents have always been telling me to live in the moment when I’m feeling out of sorts about a given situation, but that’s the opposite of expecting instant gratification, really. What I need to do is both live in the moment and not expect things to come to me immediately, which requires that most elusive quality to me—patience. I really wish that we as a nation could learn that, since it saddens me to see, say critics and pundits descending upon Obama when he doesn’t appear to fulfill everything they expected of him, even though a lot of those expectations were things the public had grafted onto him and not things he necessarily promised himself—despite the messianic aura seeming to project from him two years ago, he’s only human, and it just makes me shake my head in shame to see people deserting him, or any other political leader for that matter, because they don’t do things quickly enough (politics is SLOW business!) or because they don’t agree with a particular person on every single issue in existence. Similarly, I think the reason the Tea Party has taken off is because people are so concentrated on the here and now—yet at the same time, not living in the moment and taking time to enjoy things—that they just assume that all taxes are the big bad government taking away hard-earned money without even taking the time to consider how the spending of that money would enrich their lives and the lives of their families and communities. We all need to learn patience, says this admitted impatient (but working on it!) hypocrite.

Back to my discussion about worries that I’m not a “real” blogger since I write so infrequently—I’ve been struggling with the pernicious thoughts that I’m not a “real” one of many things lately. This is especially hard for me to swallow since I absolutely cannot abide liars and fakes, and even though I’ve broken through the emotional shell, never to retreat within it again, that I built around myself after I had been cruelly betrayed at the end of middle school by a group of girls whom I thought to be my friends, it still makes my blood boil to hear about deliberate deceivers. That makes it all the worse when the doubting center of my mind hooks onto the idea that I’m not a “real” member of a group I feel a kinship with and I should just stop kidding myself. The newest and freshest one in my mind is the idea of gender identity—I came out to myself as gender-fluid not too long ago and I’ve been trying to explain to others what that means in terms they can understand. But considering that I’m not totally agendered and still use “she” and “her” (although I really wouldn’t mind “ze”/”hir”—I think if those are going to be the most commonly used gender-neutral pronouns, I think everyone ought to get used to them, not just non-binary folk) for pronouns, I feel awkward and inauthentic around genderqueers who really do feel as if they are neither male nor female. And on top of that, incisive articles have been written about how, much like “party bi” syndrome, “hipster genderqueers” are not uncommon at times. At one point I feared that I was one. But once I analyzed it, I thought…no, that’s not the case. I’ve always felt there was a part of me that wasn’t quite human female (I say “human” since when I was five that other part of me was a rabbit!) and is just human, a plain old androgynous homo sapiens. It’s not something that I do as a political statement, as I’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable trying to fit into a role for something like that, it’s just who I am—and it’s not something, although my brain sometimes says otherwise, that I need to gauge, seeing how often I feel female and how often I feel androgynous, or feel that I always have to have my current button-down shirt/shorts/pixie cut ensemble to have—it’ll still be with me if I grow my hair out and go ultra-femme or don a suit and a false mustache and be a drag king for a bit. (I do quite like the idea of all sorts of drag and wish to experiment with it in the not-so-distant future…) That being said, I’m always cautious when I’m on the margins of a certain movement, and I would never try to claim to know how a genuinely agendered person feels, or anyone whose experience is not similar enough to mine for valid comparisons to be drawn. It’s the same thing with autism, although since I became aware of that earlier I’m now more comfortable with it, but I did definitely struggle with feeling like I wasn’t “really” autistic since I’m a high-functioning Aspie, and that I was “stealing” the label from lower-functioning autistics. On the contrary, I use it as a sign of solidarity—I’ve heard of other Aspies who refuse to call themselves autistic since they don’t want to be associated with the negative stereotypes of autism, as shown by this brilliant comic. Autism is something that controls so many aspects of my life, and I feel as if I’d be erasing part of myself to deny it of myself. So I’d much rather stand together with my fellow mentally disabled people in our fight for equality than self-segregate and bring more negativity onto our movement.

What does distress me, though, is that the fact that I have to struggle with such doubts is because a lot of activist movements seem to have this bizarre paradigm in which anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of such an activist is viewed as suspect. This has been extensively chronicled by feminists of color, as well as feminist transwomen and disabled feminists, on how they’ve felt betrayed, tokenized and ignored by upper-middle-class white cis feminists. The unfortunate reality of activism is that our polarizing nature to the public at large makes us a frequent troll target, and that’s something we have to learn to deal with forcefully and decisively without resorting to the tactics of the attackers. But far, far, FAR too often when trying to shut out trolls, mainstream activism also refuses to acknowledge those who aren’t “traditionally” a part of their movement but have so much to offer for it, especially when it comes to making mainstream activists aware of their own privilege. When you shut out those people, you’re becoming just as bad as those who you claim oppress you. Give me intersectionality or give me death.