A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Fletcher Wortmann
I recently read Triggered by Fletcher Wortmann, and after finishing the book I would like to publicly come out as OCD. I have been telling people for years that I have anxiety- but anxiety is such a big umbrella term- and doesn’t really define what I have. What I have is something specific- and it deserves to be recognized as such. At least by myself alone. When I talk about mental health- I think of “anxiety” as a sexy and passing mental disorder- and OCD as something that really sets people apart as “crazy.” Well, guess what ya’ll. I’m crazy. I’m super fucking OCD, and have been my whole life. And I’ve done a lot of cool shit while I fought my demons- maybe more than people who don’t have to fight demons daily. But I also feel like OCD has made me miss out on a lot of carefree life that it seems other people might enjoy sometimes.
Regardless- I have the mind I have. I’m never going to “get over” or “beat” OCD. I just need to say to the universe, “Bring It On.” And I need to stop self flagellating my mind- and just say “I hear you, and I love you, and let’s learn to live together.”
In Wortmann’s memoir- he recounts his struggles with OCD.
“OCD I was told, is a maladaptive response to fear: highly specific, usually irrationally, but nonetheless genuine fear. Obsessive compulsives are afflicted by a kind of hyper awareness of the risks and uncertainties of everyday life. We are told, like everyone else, that we must practice proper hygiene or face viral infection, that we must say our prayers before bed to banish the possibility of hell. Ordinary people are generally content to submit to these protective actions only once or twice and then to accept that they have done all that they can. But a moderate response is never enough for the obsessive compulsive. Everything is terrifying. Everything is death and corruption. To protect ourselves in a killing world we construct elaborate ritual behaviors: ceaseless hand washing to neutralize disease and prayer to stave off damnation, unending silent vigilance to ward off evil thoughts.”
When he is younger Wortman’s OCD is misdiagnosed, but as it grows out of his control it lands him in an OCD psych ward.
“The other patients ranged from the apparently normal to those overwhelmed by the disorder. Yet they were, in defiance of the popular stereotype, generally amiable and well- adjusted. No twitching neurotics here. A lifetime of unrelenting psychosis taught most of them to disguise their symptoms skillfully. My peers included poets, stockbrokers, police officers, activists, students and scholars. Mothers and fathers and grandparents. Their compulsions manifested only in unobserved moments, in furtive gestures disguised by warm smiles.”
Wortmann explains how self torture is basically the only way to manage OCD. One must face their fears repeatedly til they do not have a hold on you. And then when the next obsessional fear takes hold of you and stops your life, you repeat the process. If you’re lucky enough to beat one demon, there will always be another one.
“It became clear, that to get better I would need to reconcile myself not only with the content of my obsession, but also with the persistence of obsession itself. It would take me a long time to understand this.”
I have been realizing this lately as well. A little example of why OCD is not merely “fear” or “weakness,” but something else entirely is something that just happened to me five minutes ago. I was putting my drivers license back into my wallet- but realized that I was putting it in a different way than I usually do. A little voice in my head said “death” if I put it in that new way. Death was the answer to putting it in the wrong way. I quickly tried to make up for my clumsy mistake by turning it around- but then remembered my challenge to myself. To fight all the little obsessions- all the little rituals. I’ve been doing that lately- and it has made fighting my bigger obsessions manageable for the first time in over a year or two at least. So I took the license- and said “fuck it” to myself, and put it in the “wrong” way. I said, bring it on, world. And that is how I have learned to slowly deny OCD power over me. Focusing on the little things- the little rules I begin to catch myself abiding by throughout the day. And I challenge myself and say no. And I say fuck it. And I see how it goes. And that makes saying “fuck it” to my real worst fears that much more possible.
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