Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: My Miracle Cure

October 28, 2014

OCD2

I am going to tell you about my sudden and unexpected self-cure of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after 51 years on this Earth. But first, a brief personal background.

I don’t remember a time before my obsessive-compulsive disorder. In my earliest memories, from maybe nine or ten years of age, I am touching things for no clear reason; touching the ground while walking with friends, touching walls and counter tops as I walk by, touching my nose with the palm of my hand. Even as a young child, I was embarrassed by my odd behavior and tried to hide it or explain it away. I became an expert at incorporating my self-designed rituals into ordinary movements.

I felt like I was getting away with my strangeness undetected for the most part, but occassionally someone would ask what I was doing and I would have to come up with a plausable explanation: I was touching the ground to get a running start, like a racer.

As time went on, my rituals grew more and more complex and frequent. Going to bed was quite a chore, with several time-consuming rituals that could keep me up for minutes, hours, or even all night. I felt compelled to turn off and on the lights repeatedly until it felt “just right”;  my shoes had to be aligned the right way; I had to get into bed a specific way, thinking the right thoughts; from the light switch to the bed, there could be a myriad of objects that had to be touched in the correct order. Once in bed, an obsessive compulsive thought, maybe remembering a certain number of lines from a movie, or from a conversation held that day, could potentially keep my brain whirling away, to my anguish, all night.

Complicating matters, when I was a kid, there was no such thing as “OCD” – as far as I knew, I was the only person on Earth tormented with self-inflicted, irrational behavior like this. When I was about 13, my parents took me to a psychiatrist who recognized my condition as some sort of anxiety disorder and prescribed Valium.

It wasn’t until I went off to college and researched my symptoms at the library, that I came across a description of “obsessive compulsive disorder.” Knowing that it was a recognized condition and that others suffered from it relieved a burden, but my OCD just grew worse in my 20s. I sought out some behavioral remedies from clinics, and I felt like I had some control over my symptoms for a little while. Even with OCD, I was functioning at high enough a level in life to accept the OCD as just a permanent quirk of who I was.

I would like to point out that my particular style of OCD, especially as an adult, wasn’t on any list of common symptoms that I could find. For example, I didn’t have the typical checking of locks, germophobia or repeated hand washing that you read about. Some of the fears behind my rituals were concrete – I believed that my childhood dog was hit by a car because I didn’t do a ritual thoroughly enough. But, most of the fears were existential – unless I thought certain things just the right way, I would lose the essence of who I was and another entity would take over my identity.

A good portion of my obsessive compulsive behavior was physical – it determined which door I entered, whether I walked to the right or left of a telephone pole, walking over sidewalk cracks with just my right foot, dragging my toes while I walked (which resulted in long-term knee issues), swallowing in numerical patterns, biting my tongue, clicking my teeth, etc. For a while, I had to spin once in a circle before I could enter a car, something that my girlfriend at the time found amusing.

Outside of the touching and walking rituals was a really annoying part of my brand of OCD: Reading was torturous. I had to reread the last sentence on a page before I could turn to the next page. And when I say I had to reread it, I mean, anywhere from two to 1,000 times, until I felt like I could keep going. This significantly cut back my reading, of course. Somehow, I managed to read textbooks for school, but it took me a long, long time. Another effect of my reading compulsion was that it would be very difficult to throw out any object – a box or an envelope – that had writing on it. Just when I had reread it a zillion times and thrown it out, I’d have to go back through the trash and dig it out to try all over again. Shopping was a challenge, as I’d be continually trying to look casual as I went back to the same product in an aisle, rereading a word while pretending to be mulling over an ingredient list.

But, the biggest component of my OCD were my thoughts. I made and went through lists – lists of actors, movie titles, singers…. and repeated this lists in my head throughout my waking hours, even when talking to people. Worse though than the lists were my complex mental rituals involving things I heard people say. If somebody said anything I disagreed with, something racist or sexist, or even used incorrect grammar, I had a rigid and complex way to unthink it. I had similar reactions anytime I heard anyone yelling, laughing, sneezing, whistling, yawning, etc., which kept my brain busy in every social situation. The same types of rituals would be triggered from noticing even the slightest driving mistakes. OCD also governed which words I could use in sentences and which subjects I could bring up in conversation.

I could go on and on describing my obsessive compulsive rituals, but since you aren’t my paid therapist, I think I’ll conclude by saying that it was all-encompassing, occupying a large amount of my brain activity. It also led me to avoid certain things – listening to the radio where I knew I’d hear mistakes in grammar, reading newspapers, or opening mail. I also developed strategies to help me keep track of my rituals, which as you would imagine would overlap quite a bit. Sometimes I would write notes to remind myself to get back to a thought process that might take some additional hours of my time. No matter what the activity, from hanging out with friends, interviewing for a job, making love, or even participating in my own wedding, my brain was busy in the background with irrational yet irresistible mental perturbations.

With that picture of the life-long disorder that gripped and largely controlled me, you can imagine my surprise when at about 7:00 on the evening of July 7, 2014, it instantly all turned off. For the first time in my life, I was free of OCD.

I don’t know exactly what combination of behaviors was responsible for my sudden cure, so I will just tell you what activities led up to that moment.

A few months prior to my cure, a personal trauma, which I won’t share here, shook me to my core. I fell apart, with panic attacks, overwhelming guilt, fear and thoughts of suicide. I stopped eating. My wife told me that I had to take care of myself, and suggested yoga.

I noticed that daily yoga helped to stabilize my moods, and it rekindled an interest in qigong as well. Qigong encompasses a variety of movements focusing on energy flow, and is the basis of tai chi. I also worked out at a gym about three times a week. I quit my job, and spent time every day taking care of myself physically.  Let’s call that Phase One.

Wanting to change the circumstances that had led to the trauma, I was also reading a lot of books on spirituality and on the increasingly popular idea of manifesting one’s own reality. I read Rhonda Byrne’s the Secret (which I had spent the last five years ridiculing), and started delving further into ideas related to theories of yoga, qigong, Chinese medicine and spirituality. I was particularly caught up in Wayne Dyer’s There’s A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem and Rodger Janke’s The Healer Within: Using Traditional Chinese Techniques to Release Your Body’s Own MedicineWe’ll call this reading Phase Two.

Concurrent with Phase Two, I was listening to healing songs and tones that I found on line. I would spend hours every day with ear buds in, listening to “binaural beats” and “isochronic tones” that I hoped would help with my spiritual development. I found this music to be extremely calming. It was during this time that I began actually seeing energy fields around people, animals and plants. It looked like glowing white filaments emanating from everything alive. OK, that sounds a bit strange when I write it now, but remember that my waking hours were saturated with feelings of love for all beings and reading about the nature of God and the spiritual connections of all living things. We will call the healing music Phase Three.

I looked for connections in all of these readings, and was especially interested in the idea, so infused into qigong, of transcending my ego to become more in touch with my spiritual Self. This whole time, I was using various meditation techniques, from Transcendental Meditation to meditations I found on line. I was also utilizing relaxation techniques from The Healer Within, including the Remembering Breath. The Remembering breath is simply taking in a slow deep breath every time you remember to do so throughout the day. So, in addition to my readings, yoga, qigong and meditations, every minute or so I would slowly breath in and out a huge, relaxing breath. At this time, I was also reading The Master Key System, an early 20th Century instruction manual on how to perfect yourself and control your life and environment. Each chapter of The Master Key includes instructions for a meditation which I added to my extensive routine.

As part of my instructions from The Master Key System, I was repeating the mantra, “I can be what I will to be.” I was using this affirmation to deal with problems in my life, including any physical discomfort or improvement I wished to make. I combined this affirmation with the Remembering breath, thinking, “I can be what I will to be,” as I took in a slow, full breath every minute of the day.

In short, I became a New Age nut, which is actually reflected in some of my blog posts over the last few months. After about three months of this (oh, the convenience of unemployment), my wife and I went on a weekend yoga and qigong retreat at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. I participated in a two-day qigong workshop with Rodger Janke, the author of The Healer Within, the book I was reading on activating my inner healing resources. While on the retreat, and especially on the long drive home, I was doing the Remembering Breath every 10 seconds or so, along with various silent self-affirmations I read about or created. Yes, there are benefits to having an obsessive compulsive personality; when I go for something, I really go for it.

When we got home, I began reading another book by Wayne Dyer, Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting, which I had found at the Omega Institute bookstore. Of course, all this time I was also doing all of my own obsessive-compulsive rituals, and yes, this made reading all of these books a painstaking process. In the introduction to this particular Wayne Dyer book, a story was told of a girl with facial paralysis who cured herself through her own positive thoughts. “I can be what I will to be,” I thought. At that moment, it occurred to me that I could focus this energy of manifesting my desired reality on my OCD. Up until that moment, I had considered my OCD to be off limits. First of all, part of what makes treating OCD so difficult is that it is driven by fear – the fear that if you were to stop it, bad things would happen. Also, OCD had been such a central part of my life that I was afraid that I wouldn’t fully be me if it weren’t there.

All of this fear would have stopped me from directly confronting my OCD in the past. But as part of my work with The Master Key System, I had willed myself into being fearless. That’s right, I was not afraid, as far as I knew, of anything. In fact, I challenged myself in fear-inducing social situations that in the past had been impossible for me, and I astounded myself with my successes. There are obvious reasons for you to be skeptical of this. Isn’t fear an inevitable part of  being an animal, let alone a human being? And how can one “will” oneself out of an emotional state regulated by a central region of the brain?

Nonetheless, at this point in time, reading about miraculous self-cures, and believing that I no longer feared anything, I simply looked up from the book and thought, “I can be what I will to be, and I will to be cured of OCD.” And I was, and I knew it right away.

It’s been over three months since that moment, and I am still symptom-free. I get a lot more done, by the way. I have time to read books (Outside of textbooks, I was reading at the rate of about one book a decade up to then). I can do the dishes quickly, without having to wash everything a certain number of times; I can breeze through a load of laundry without having to read and reread the tags on clothing; I can actually go through junk mail & throw it out, and it’s not a project that can take hours to complete. I can take the trash out to the curb, without having to touch the trash can a certain number of times and come back in the house only to feel compelled to go back out and touch the trash can again, as casually as I can manage.

As an aside, I’ll say that I was never a fan of the idea of “will power.” It seemed like a macho fantasy. But now I believe that if you truly will it, it will happen.

In retrospect, I wish I had been hooked up to a brain probes for the last several months so scientists could have a better idea of what was going on my brain to allow such a remarkable change. I have some thoughts on the matter:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is thought to be related to a low levels of serotonin, and qigong, yoga and meditation may increase serotonin (they sure feel like they do).
  • OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, and frequent deep breathing lowers anxiety.
  • My work on manifestation gave me an alternate way to try to control my world, something that OCD dysfunctionally tried to do.
  • Efforts to control my thoughts through The Master Key System gave me experience overcoming fear, and OCD sticks around due to fear – it feeds on fear.

An obvious question now is, am I just replacing my OCD with all of these rituals, mantras and beliefs created by other people? This is a concern of mine, but there are some major differences between the two. While my OCD demanded that I perform specific rituals in response to specific stimuli, this doesn’t occur with qigong, meditations or my other relaxation and spiritual activities; if I have to stop any of these techniques midway, I don’t fear a bad outcome or feel compelled to repeat them. Furthermore, a hallmark of OCD is that the rituals are unwanted, and even result in more stress as they attempt to relieve stress. My healing and relaxation techniques just feel good.

To be sure that my qigong and other structured health and spiritual behavior don’t become OCD rituals, I frequently challenge myself to do them in a different manner, say with a different number of repetitions, or left only partially completed. Unlike OCD, I don’t feel any anxiousness to get back to them and do them the “right” way.

I do still feel urges to initiate OCD rituals, and occasionally, I find that I’ve automatically started one without thinking about it. I just stop and realize, “I don’t have to do this.” An amazing sensation of liberation washes over me.

Along with this sense of liberation comes the realization that for the first time in my life, I am free of the fear of my own thoughts.

Here’s a short story I wrote about OCD before my cure:

dasy1


Woman is not an Adjective

October 23, 2014

Greetings, people who aren’t me,

Today , I would like to talk to you about your deplorable habit of using the word “woman” as an adjective. You talk about seeing a “woman doctor,” about needing more “woman lawyers,” about being pulled over by a “woman police officer.” Your habitual misuse of the noun “woman” has gotten so bad that dictionaries have bent to your will and classified the word as both a noun and an adjective. But it is not, as simple gender linguistics demonstrates….

Imagine that I were to tell you that a “man pilot” flew my plane, or that a “man scientist” made a discovery. Have you ever heard someone described as a “man tennis player?” We don’t even use “man” as an adjective for traditionally female professions; there are no “men nurses.” There are, of course, men who are nurses. We call them “male nurses,” or just “nurses”.

But how on Earth, you ask, can you possibly describe a proctologist who is not a man, other than saying, “a woman proctologist”? The answer is so simple that even you, English speakers who aren’t me, can grasp and use it! This is where the word “female” comes in handy. It’s ok to call someone a “female barber” or a “female construction worker,” so long as they are female. If you stop to reflect, you may even find that identifying someone’s gender isn’t important to your conversation at all!

Together, we can return “woman” to its rightful place as a noun. And then we can get to work on girls. A “girl soccer player”? Really?

To further belabor this point, I wrote the post located under this flower:

dasy1


Debbie Ramone

October 16, 2014

Ramoneslegs

This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone my Ramones story. I used to think I would get in trouble if I told it. Now, nearly 40 years later, it feels surreal, like a half-forgotten, very weird dream.

I had exactly three friends in high school, all of whom were boys. We were into the Ramones way before anyone else at school. Not surprising, since we lived in Southern Indiana, where Foreigner was thought to be rock and roll. The four of us would get my older brother’s music instruments out and pretend to be the Ramones. I was always Tommy, the drummer, because I was the smallest, and Tommy was the smallest Ramone. The fact that I was a girl didn’t matter, since my hair looked exactly like Ramones hair: long, shaggy and jet black, falling in front of my eyes. If you ask me, I was the most convincing Ramone. Debbie Ramone.

When we heard that the Ramones were coming to play at a local nightclub, we knew we had to figure a way in. None of us had fake IDs and I was especially young looking for a sixteen year old. We met at the parking lot and started casing the joint about three hours before the opening band was scheduled to play. There wasn’t any obvious way to sneak in. There were big, beefy bouncers stationed at the doors.

As the evening drew on, fans started showing up. It was hilarious to us to see all those Hoosiers dressed “punk” for the event. As far as we were concerned, they were all poseurs. But still we couldn’t figure out a way in, and I started to grow anxious. This could be my only chance to see the Ramones! To put my fandom in context, up to that point, the Ramones were literally the only band I had ever heard, other than a couple of songs by the Monkees. I had assiduously avoided all radio music my entire life. I hadn’t even listened to the Beatles. Because the Ramones defined rock and roll exactly, there was no room for anybody who didn’t sound exactly like them. And nobody sounded exactly like the Ramones.

At about 11:00, we were the only ones left outside the building. We could hear the beats of the opening band pounding through the walls. That’s when the bus drove up. “It’s the tour bus!” I whisper-shouted. “It’s the Ramones!”

“Shouldn’t they already be inside?” asked my friend Mike, the one who always played Dee Dee Ramone.

“The Ramones are always late,” I said. I don’t know where I acquired this fact, but it made me feel smart to say it.

We watched from around the corner of the building as the roadies unloaded equipment. And then, sure enough, the actual Ramones came out of the bus. All four Ramones were standing around the back door of the club, like they were regular human beings. At first, we were too scared to approach them. We all started pushing each other to get someone to go first, like we were in some sort of slapstick comedy. All at once, we stumbled out from our hiding place and together, we walked up to the greatest Rock and Roll band in history. Mike did most of the talking for us. He told them that we couldn’t get in, they told us that’s too bad, and he asked some questions about their songs. He asked them what was in tonight’s “set,” and I felt proud that we knew band lingo.

By this point in Ramones history, Tommy, the drummer, had been replaced by Marky Ramone. Marky was super friendly. He was joking about me being small enough to fit in his bass drum case and that he could sneak me in that way. The case was sitting right by him. Drummers never let roadies carry their equipment. That was another rock and roll fact that I knew. “I could fit in there,” I said, squatting down next to the case. Marky took his bass drum out of the case. I heard the Ramones laughing as I crawled inside. It wasn’t even that tight a squeeze for me. Marky zipped up the case and all was dark. All I was thinking was, “I made the Ramones laugh.”

I heard a Ramone say, “Stay quiet!” and felt myself being lifted off the ground. I knew I couldn’t be hurt, since I was in the enchanted presence of the Ramones. They deposited me in a backstage room and let me out. There were about 20 people in this tiny room. They were all super loud and drinking from glass beer mugs. The walls were covered with graffiti. There were crumpled cans and cigarettes all over the floor. Thick smoke burned my eyes. Nobody seemed to notice me as I crawled through the crowd toward the stage.

I was crouching next to some steps leading up to the side of the rickety wooden stage. I knew I couldn’t risk going into the audience; I’d be caught for sure. I was afraid to go back into the room I came from because there were so many people there. The stage was about three off the ground, walled off all the way around, except for a two foot wide area next to the steps, where a bunch of cables were running out. That part just had black fabric over it. I lifted up the fabric and crawled underneath the stage. The opening band had just finished playing, and I could see them walking off, through the cracks in the stage above me. Then, the lights changed and some recorded music came on. I knew the Ramones would be coming on next.

From my vantage point, I could see the legs of people milling about behind the stage, and I could easily identify the Ramones’ skinny legs in their torn jeans. After a while, the recorded music changed, the audience started chanting, “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!” and I watched the Ramones’ legs clomp up the stairs onto the stage.

I spent most of the show lying on my back, looking up through cracks in the stage floor. It was like watching a performance in the heavens above. The entire stage throbbed with Dee Dee’s driving bass notes. The air under the stage vibrated my whole body. I felt like I was inside a speaker cabinet.

When the band started playing my favorite song, Teenage Lobotomy, I rolled on my stomach and banged my head against the floor to the beat. It didn’t really hurt, since the floor was covered with a thick layer of dust matted together with what I imagined was a combination of spilled drinks and the sweat of countless rock and roll musicians. I knew I was cool, because I was banging my head even though no one could see me.

Lobotomy!

Lobotomy!

Lobotomy!

Lobotomy!

I was completely absorbed into the music, like I had become the music. I was Johnny and Dee Dee’s vibrating guitar strings, I was the electrons surging through the cables to the amps, I was the relentless dance beat of the drum and I was Joey’s voice, traveling through the mic, the cables and out the giant stage speakers.

For their encore, the Ramones played Pinhead, and I watched as one of their entourage, dressed in a pinhead costume, scrambled up the stage steps carrying the famous “Gabba Gabba Hey!” sign. He was jumping up and down right over my head. Suddenly, the band stopped playing. I heard Joey yell, “Thank you and goodnight!” I began to panic. How would I get out of there without being caught? When I saw the Ramones’ legs trotting down the stage steps, I rolled out from under the stage, the same way I had crawled in. I dashed into the backstage room. “Hey! You’re still here!” said Joey. I nodded yes.

“We gotta sneak her out, “ said Marky. It was nice that the Ramones weren’t abandoning me.

“”Hey, I know,” said Dee Dee, with a big grin on his face. He grabbed the pinhead outfit off a table. I slipped on the mask and the dress that went with it. When the Ramones walked outside, I walked along with them. There were about a dozen fans waiting by the tour bus. They all wanted autographs. Someone handed me a marker and I wrote “Pinhead” on her forehead. But I didn’t see any of my friends. I started feeling out of place, and I took off the costume and handed it back to Johnny. I said “bye” to the Ramones, and Dee Dee said, “See ya,” as I walked away.

When I got home, I looked in the bathroom mirror at the dirt and grime caked on my face. I melodramatically declared, “I’ll never wash my face again!” Then I laughed at myself and took a shower.

So that’s it, my intersection with rock and roll history. The club’s been out of business for decades, so I don’t think they’ll come after me for sneaking in that night. I think about the feeling of specialness I had, lying on my back in my own private space, watching the Ramones, their music shaking my body. Now, whenever there’s an especially loud and powerful thunderstorm at night, I go outside and look up in the sky for the Ramones.

Look under the flower for another Daisybrain story:

dasy1


Product Suggestions for 2015 and Beyond!

October 9, 2014

New Things WeNeed

 

  1. Why do laptops only plug in on one side? I don’t know about those things that aren’t Macs, but with Macs, it’s just the left side, which always seems wrong – the outlet is always on the wall to the right. My #1 suggestion for 2015 is Bilateral Power Inputs: Let us plug in on either side. Are ya with me, world?
  2. Parking Meter Pay apps: When I’m wasting my life away writing blog posts in a cafe, I don’t want to be bothered asking the barista for change and then running out in the rain to put another quarter in the meter. I should be able to click on the meter number and deposit money remotely. And if I felt generous, I could put money in other people’s meters that way.
  3. Subscription Parking: If Parking Meter Pay Apps (above) are somehow impractical, I suggest that cities sell parking subscriptions. Let me leave a doodad of some sort on my dashboard that officers could scan to show that I’m paid up for the month. Even a paper thingy with my license plate number printed on it, that I could hang from the rear view mirror would be a fine low-tech solution.
  4. Face Blurring App: At some point, Apple will come out with its own version of Google glasses & then everyone will be walking around looking through screens that identify everyone who comes into their field of view, or even people in the general vicinity. At that point, we should also have an obscuration app that hide our identities – the viewer would actually see a blurred face when they looked our way.
  5. Spray-On Tortilla Chips: Spray instant tortilla chips from a can! Get artistic – any household object will work as a tortilla chip mold; spray it onto a balloon filled with tortilla chips for a tortilla chip piñata; or spray onto your body for a crunchy, delicious exoskeleton. This will be the start of a huge trend in spray-on foods.

And now, click this:

dasy1


The End of a Story

October 2, 2014

Here is a short story challenge*. I will supply you with the end of a story and your job is to write the beginning and middle. Please submit your oeuvre in the Comments section. So, with out any further ado, here is the adieu:

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Thoughtful Comments from Readers

September 24, 2014

Photo on 9-24-14 at 1.58 PM

Finally, Daisybrain is getting the recognition it deserves! The following are real comments that I have received recently here at Daisybrain:

“It’s awesome designed for me to have a website, which is beneficial in support of my knowledge.
thanks admin”

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My Brilliant Laziness Astonishes Me

September 16, 2014

My brain told me to cull through my tweets to create a blog post, thus avoiding any new thinking. Who am I to argue with my brain? Here you go:

 

  • Tuesday, Sept 16:

The world’s first joke: “Grok say I deny everything. That not true.”

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