To boat? Or not to boat?

Over the weekend, there was a tragic boating accident on a river near my city.  A speedboat and pontoon collided, head on, killing four people.  Even worse, the pontoon was carrying a wedding party, with one of the victims being a groomsman. 

Now, I’m not trying to start this post on such a down note, but I did want to describe my reaction to this story.  Of course, most people were probably saddened to hear such terrible news, and some may have even thought to themselves, “can you imagine the happiest day of your life – your wedding day – ending so tragically??”  These are the exact thoughts and emotions that passed through my head, too.  On any normal day, I may have been able to move on shortly after hearing the story.

However, the timing of this accident is what makes this situation unique.  Because this coming weekend, I will be hosting a bachelorette party at my family’s cabin, and yes, we will be boating. 

My brain went into overdrive after hearing the story, and suddenly I started to worry about all sorts of bad things happening…what if I hit another boat?  Will I be able to keep everyone safe?  Will someone get injured while tubing?  What if someone drinks too much and drowns?  Falls into the campfire?  Wanders onto the busy highway?  And so on, and so on…

I know that I am an extremely conservative person when it comes to safety. (Anyone who knows me knows my self-preservation skills are off the charts!  Risk-taker I am not.)  But safety will still be the only thing I will be able to think about this weekend.  And knowing my friends, they will all be able to control themselves – we’re not (typically) sloshes.  Regardless of the amount of times I have reminded myself of these facts, I have still had restless sleep and a giant pit in my stomach ever since hearing about the accident.  My mind fixates on news like that and tries to implant it into my personal life, as if I might also experience the same event.  I try to be rational, and the irrational takes over. 

My mind is telling me, “monitor everyone’s drinks,” “make up an excuse to not take the boat out,” “always know where everyone is,” “heck, cancel the weekend altogether.”  But I can’t, and won’t, because that would ruin all the fun!  I’m going to go, drive the boat SAFELY, have some DRINKS around the CAMPFIRE, and celebrate like I’m supposed to. 

I’ll probably be crazy anxious doing it, but I’m gonna do it. 

courtesy of fishermarina.com

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We’re not all germaphobes

Not every perfectionist or germaphobe out there has OCD.  Sure, there are those of us who like our closets organized in ROY G BIV color order from sleeveless to long sleeves, and each towel in the cabinet to be folded just so.  And there are plenty of people who will make a to-do list, or even five, to compliment their hyper-organized life.  But the “D” in OCD stands for disorder.  And these actions and rituals (obsessions and compulsions) get to the disorder stage when they start to interfere with normal life.  Are you constantly late to work because you must organize your closet every morning, thus resulting in losing your job?  Are buried in so many lists that you spend hours of your day writing, editing, and organizing them that you forego a dinner date with friends, and then lay in bed awake every night anxious that you didn’t create the list alphabetically naming the top 100 highest grossing movie actors from 1950 to present?  These are the kinds of obsessions and compulsions that transform the standard perfectionist into a person who literally suffers from a debilitating and life-altering disorder.  (By the way, I do NOT have these compulsions…these are examples pulled from fellow OCD bloggers).

I would consider myself to have a mild to moderate case of OCD, though I have never been officially tested against the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.  My symptoms go much more unnoticed than what traditionally comes to mind when people think of OCD.  It’s so boring to me to see the same old example used over and over again to describe OCD symptoms – you guessed it, the germ phobia.  Sure, there are plenty of people out there with germ phobias, some of them are even OCD.  But there are far more complex, interesting, debilitating, and alienating symptoms than that.  Even just a quick Google search of “OCD Symptoms” can bring up some pretty incredible results.  I read about someone who feared they had a specific form of cancer, and spent thousands of dollars and underwent several unpleasant tests and exams only to get a repeated negative diagnosis.  They just could not be convinced. 

Another story shared on the Internet described a person who went through a phase of not liking anything that was sticky.  They rummaged their entire house and thew out everything sticky – gum, lotion, tape, food – and dragged it way out into the street.  In bed that night, they laid awake anxious because they still felt the stickiness was too close.

The thing is, OCD is so specific to each individual sufferer.  It feeds off your most irrational and unreasonable fears and obsessions to create, for many, a living hell that seems to never end.  It can literally take over your life if you let it. 

Getting back to my own symptoms, a lot of people will probably think, “Hey, I do that, too!”  I would venture to guess that most people who meet me would have no idea that I have OCD, I’m just not that “out there” or as over-the-top as many people assume OCD sufferers are.  Now you’re probably wanting to know my symptoms…you’ll have to keep reading to hear stories!

Wedding blitz

This past Saturday, my husband Ryan and I attended weddings #5 and #6 out of 9 for the year.  You could say we are “at that age” where all of our friends are now getting married, but really, it feels like it’s mostly my friends, meaning we’re going to be doing this all over again next year for his.  Even so, we both enjoy going to weddings – even when they are outdoors in 98 degree  weather (#5) and starting shortly after #5’s ceremony ends, leading to completely rushed good-byes (a la #6). 

Living four hours away, we were only able to stay in town for less than 24 hours.  We were up into the wee hours of the morning dancing (duh) and drinking (duh!), but knew in the back of our heads we had to hit the road early enough to get home to pick up our dog, Roxie (more on her at a future date).  We climbed reluctantly into the car and hit the road, Ryan driving first.  I was completely exhausted and decided to attempt sleeping, which never works for me when I am the sole passenger.  And this leads us to the first OCD moment of the weekend – fear of the driver falling asleep at the wheel

Maybe this has never crossed your mind before, or maybe you worry about this, too.  I don’t know.  But for me, it is a fear that prevents me from even so much as closing my eyes when I am riding shotgun.  On our drive, my body was begging for sleep, but my mind refused.  Shades on, I leaned my seat back and tried hard to relax.  However, more than once I caught myself staring at my husband’s eyes out the side of my sunglasses, making sure his eyelids weren’t getting too heavy or that he wasn’t fighting to keep his eyes open.  Over the next two hours, I probably asked him at least 8 or 9 times how he was feeling – Are you doing ok?  Do you feel tired?  Are you sure you’re ok to drive?  For whatever reason, I am completely scared of my driver falling asleep if I’m not awake to keep them company.  As if they are completely incapable of determining for themselves how tired they really are.  It’s a ridiculous fear, and only serves to make me feel more in control of the situation. 

When it came time for me to drive, Ryan – true to form – passed out almost immediately upon slumping into the passenger seat (making me think maybe my fear is not all that irrational…)  I, on the other hand, was now tasked with driving the remaining two hours home without having napped and without a passenger to keep me company.  This is usually ok, when I’m not already over-tired and highly anxious.  But you do what you have to do, and so I started driving down the interstate.  Which brings us to OCD moment Number Two – fear of getting into, or causing, an accident. 

I am a safe driver – I have never gotten a ticket and have never been at fault in an accident.  Sure, I have been rear-ended (I did live in Arkansas for two years after all) and I have slid my way into my fair share of ditches (hello – Wisconsin winters are rough!)  And there was that one time I scraped my mom’s mini van on the side of a house.  Ask any of my roommates how many times they have hit that same corner of the house and you will understand how easy it was to do.  But that is it.  I swear. 

So I really have no reason to doubt my driving ability.  However, I get behind the wheel and fear that my body will take over and involuntarily swerve off the road, slam into a semi, or drive off a bridge.  I get nervous that I will suddenly decide to take my hands off the wheel and let the car go where it may.  Or that I’ll select a target and drive full-speed into it.  Completely irrational, right?!  Do I want to get into a car accident?  Hell no!  But it scares the you-know-what out of me that I may actually do it.  On purpose.  While my husband is konked out beside me. 

Without going into the long-winded explanation of what OCD is (I’ll save that for another post), essentially I was succumbing to my obsessive thoughts, which are typically relieved with compulsive behaviors (such as spying on my husband and drilling him for constant status updates on his level of tiredness).  As I continued to drive, white-knuckling the steering wheel, I scanned the radio until I found my friendly NPR broadcasters, essentially my way of creating a ‘passenger’ to keep me company and my mind occupied.  Robert Siegel and Michele Norris always deliver in my compulsive times of need.  The four of us made it home without incident. 

Clean driving record: maintained.

And the journey begins…

Welcome to my blog – a space I have created to share with you the innermost workings of my OCD brain.  I was officially diagnosed with OCD at age 23 (the specific story of that moment to come in future posts!), but have been living with the disorder all my life.  I will be giving you all a glimpse of what my life is like with OCD, and hope to dispell some myths and misconceptions of mental illness along the way. And maybe provide some mildly entertaining reading.  Crossing my fingers.

So if you ALWAYS put that right shoe on before the left, eat your M&Ms in 3’s, or lock your doors about 50 times every night, then welcome, friend, welcome! 

And for those of you who don’t, get ready for a taste of the OCD life…