June 6, 2011

The story of an unbalanced girl-child Part 1

So this is not a story...more like a novel.  I apologize.  To make for easier reading or in case you need a bathroom break, I have broken it up into 3 parts.  I hope you enjoy reading at my expense.  It's a bit "nutty" but very true.  Sad, yet funny.

This post is adapted from the original "the story of a 'crazy'..."  August 6, 2008 on my other blog Testosterone Overload.

Disclaimer : The story that follows is my personal experience, and not intended to make light the seriousness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or anyone who suffers from it. Having suffered from it myself I can assure you that it is a very REAL disorder that, for me, took over my rational mind and was very difficult to overcome. These things, these fears, for me were VERY real and in essence, ruled my every action.  It took all the will power I possessed (and an older sister who was ordered to keep a very close eye on me at night) to break free.  Having said that I can now say that I quite enjoy these memories and get a good laugh out of them...and I hope you will too.

Prologue (he he...novel...get it?)
I'm sure at one point I was a normal, healthy, carefree child.  

I went through a period of time, very early in life (like mid elementary school), where I made some pretty bad choices ("kids will be kids"...blah blah blah...I knew better).  I was so ashamed of myself that I kept these acts a secret for many years.  Coincidentally, these were the same years I suffered from my worst obsessive compulsive symptoms.  Looking back, I can now see that the guilt from this burden of secrecy was too great a weight for me to carry.  I felt alone...I felt afraid.  
Prologue Notes
OCD is a type of anxiety and anxieties are caused by what?......FEAR!

So, essentially, anything I was afraid of I had to try and take "control" of (by setting up rules, routines, regulations), so that I wouldn't have to be afraid anymore.  Unfortunately, in the process of trying to control these fears, I lost control.

Here’s my story.
Chapter 1
I was afraid of throwing up.

I had not thrown up since I was quite young (3-4) and had forgotten what it was like (nothing is scarier than the unknown, right?).  I mean, no one likes to throw up, but I was actually afraid of it…deathly afraid of it.

One day in sixth grade a boy in my class threw up on the stairs to our class trailer.  We all had to step over it to get back to class and I had to sit next to him (he didn’t even go home). I must have been really embarrassed for him because I went home and told my mom how bad I felt.

No so many months later, a little first grader vomited in front of a roomful of people while we were practicing Spanish Christmas carols (I was in Spanish immersion and every year we sang Christmas carols at the mall).  His teacher grabbed the nearest garbage can and ran out with him.  He continued barfing while he walked around all of us.  Not only did it make me sick to my stomach (and I worried that I would throw up) but I was mortified for him.  Poor little dude.

These events made my fears really take root.  I, unconsciously, began making lists of rules for myself that would take me YEARS to let go.

Rule #1
NEVER throw up in public.  I mean, if I was going to throw up I did NOT want it to be in front of other people (it’s embarrassing).  I became uneasy in confined spaces, large crowds, places that were hard to just get up and leave from and anywhere else I felt “trapped”.

Rule #2
When in public, always keep track of the nearest garbage can. That way, I would always have a place to barf instead of the floor.  Less mess...less embarrassment.

Our classroom, at school, was really small. I started suffering from anxiety attacks around age 11.  I would get all of this pent up fear inside and it would cause my stomach to do flips which would make me think I had to throw up (remember, I couldn't remember what it ACTUALLY felt like to be nauseated so I had no idea that I wasn't actually sick).  I would start to panic and I would fidget like crazy (which won me some pretty weird looks.)

It didn't take me too long to learn that if I could just walk around a bit and breath I could calm myself down (I still use this technique sometimes).  I started keeping an extra pencil on my desk so that if I did start to panic I could get up and pretend it needed sharpening (my counselors have thought this was pretty ingenious for an 11 year old).

As time went on my fears began to grow and I started incorporating more compulsions in order to secure more “control.”  If I bent a finger on my right hand, I had to bend the same finger on the left hand, if I tapped one foot 5 times, I had to tap the other foot 5 times.  I didn't even dare step on cracks on the sidewalk.  I would tell myself that if I didn’t do these things correctly then something bad would happen or it would mean that I was a horrible person.  It was really bizarre.

One time my brother got food poisoning at a restaurant and threw up on my mom's new sage green carpet. She spent hours scrubbing spaghetti sauce from said carpet and was exhausted by morning.  I heard her saying something about wishing he had made it to the bowl.  You know…the kind of thing ANY mother would say after hours and hours of sopping up red-stained green carpet (and walls and cupboards) in the middle of the night.

Well…that was it for me.  I was determined that my mother would never have to go through something like that again.  At least not because of me.

My answer:  I stopped eating red sauce on my spaghetti.
And that was only the beginning.  
find Part 2 here.

What do you think so far?


Candle Ends said...

I'm sorry about the carpet!!! OKAY!!!!! I didn't mean to. I promise. I stopped eating spaghetti for quite a while afterwards too.

meghannamarie said...

Very Interesting...I read a story a few months back maybe you would find it interesting too, maybe you have already read it but you can see anyway. IT is called Kissing doorknobs. It is an easy read and has to do with OCD. Can't wait to hear the rest.

Natalie J said...

Even though I am pretty sure I know MOST of your story, I still find it fascinating to read. Like you said, OCD is very serious, but I love the quirky spin you add to it. ;) Love you!

Naomi Jenkins said...

Interesting... I have also suffered with pretty serious OCD for all of my memorable lifetime. It's good to know that someone else who I love and admire might actually understand my personal brand of crazy. Love you!

Kristen and Alex said...

Huh....I feel the same way about barfing. Even now when my kids throw up....I immediately start thinking I am going to get sick too and it terrifies me and I stop eating because I don't want to throw anything up. That is how I lost 16 lbs since March because our household got the stomach flu twice and I didn't want to barf so I stopped eating for nearly a week both times. Why does vomiting terrify me so? I am so mental about it and I really don't need to be. Some of my worst memories are of people that vomited in front of me. Do I need help?

Melanie said...

Kristen, I think having a healthy fear of vomiting is okay.

Now that I am "seasoned pro" of 4 I am becoming better with it. Better...not good.

No one really like barf though. Really.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one. :)

Sheri said...

That is so interesting to read and so good to learn more about the fear/control relationship (a few nephews with OCD).
Reading this totally brought back memories of my grade 7 year. I had high anxiety that year about throwing up at school (when I was anxious my stomach would flip too). Anyway, I saw a counsellor and finally realized that worst case scenario was that I would throw up at school but it would be okay and life would carry on! I finally let go of the control my fear of throwing up had over me and it wasn't an issue after that year. Funny how we had the same fear! Thanks for sharing. I am going to read part 2.

crth said...

Actually, I was impressed that the carpet cleaned up so well! So did the spaghetti and sauce that somehow ended up INSIDE the cupboard in the hall where the aforementioned incident happened. And the doors were shut tight too -- that was some powerful food poisoning! Anyway -- since you have survived some throwing up yourself now you can stop worrying about it -- we do survive!

Camille said...

I remember that sage green carpet. I remeber being over at your house for a sleep-over and you telling me that you felt like you were going to throw up and that I needed to go home. I remember being so dissapointed because (at the time) I thought that you were making it up and that you just didn't want me over. I had NO idea. Wow, flashbacks.

Anonymous said...

Melanie, thanks so much for sharing this. I think it is very brave when people are able to be so open, to connect to thier readers. Looking forward to the whole story- KayLyn

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