I’m finally happy and my OCD still found me. I see you in my dreams with a tangible body but when I go to defeat you you’re the nemesis that continues like a chain that keeps repeating in a relationship so uneven. I see you in so many forms using my sweet slumber to return and I punch, I kick, I scream I wrestle to separate from the enemy and I get oh so frantic to justify my antics begging the peers before my eyes to understand that I’m the good guy that I am separate from this disease but then I wake up and it’s not a dream. I still have this sickness on my skin when I’m awake I’m still hallucinating and it’s hard to believe I used to be afraid convinced I’d be so lost without this charade but now that I’m full grown I finally see that this disease is nothing without me. You’re just a sickness that attaches used my puberty to take advantage and I was far too young to understand that your golden offer was a cruel scam. How dare you stick yourself to me even when my brain is asleep? How dare you attack those I love as if my entire psyche wasn’t enough? And even though I’m so damn exhausted by the nemesis in my subconscious I’ve finally found my grace and solace knowing I can manipulate you as an artist.
A major project I have been working on in 2020 and 2021 is a fantasy series (to be completed). The poem Spellbound is not part of this series, but it is inspired by the same artistic process I’ve been using to write my dark little fairy tale. This process consists of me translating my mental struggles into fantastical terms and motifs. I was thinking to myself about the obsessive nature of falling in love or falling into fascination with a person, place, or thing as someone with OCD. It is an experience more negative and toxic than it is positive and enjoyable. And it’s something I get called “crazy” for a lot, so I wanted to write a poem in my own little self-aware way as a hypothetical rebuttal to anybody that weaponizes my OCD against me. With that in mind I started to refer to the that mind-altering moment when I fall into fixation with something as a “spark”. This spark, something that many people feel with “love at first sight”, is always exciting at its inception. In the mirrored fantasy version of my psyche the spark is, quite literally, “magic”. That spark has proven since I was a teenager to always end badly though, and that’s why Spellbound describes the origin of this spell as a blessing from a witch that has gone awry. “[She] struck my heart, but must have missed […] because I feel it in my brain.” This whole concept of feeling love in the brain instead of the heart is, well, at the heart of my experience with obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s a trick. It’s a gift gone wrong. It’s not the magical feeling that one feels in heart, it’s obsession, and that is the difference between OCD and real authentic love. One is felt in the brain, and one is felt in the heart. The one felt in the brain is a toxic version of the latter. And I’m no fool to how that spell has manipulated the way I handle social situations in the past.
Spellbound carries on to describe three stage of obsession in rhymes. First the excitement, second the longing, and last the devastation. This is pretty self-explanatory of how OCD feels in any brain that feels the initial “spark”. Then the poem finishes off in a closing stanza about the repetitive nature of the OCD cycle. OCD fixations happen in the following order: Obsession, Compulsion, a feeling of Relief, and then starts over with a new Obsession. This model for the mental disorder was directly referenced when writing the last stanza. The reason I even thought to write this poem was mainly due to the sentiment expressed in the last line, “It never works out and I get worse. A brand new spell with the same hurt.” This is where my frustration comes in, because I do truly feel like falling in love for most people is like a spell, but its a magical experience that is innately positive. I don’t feel that way as someone with OCD. This positive experience that seems so great for everyone else always goes wrong for me because of the way my brain malfunctions in an obsessive compulsive manner. I thought about this recently because I started to feel a new spark, and it was fantastic, but I shut it down as quick as possible. I just don’t have the energy or will to be spellbound again. Not now, at least. Someday I’ll figure out how to be spellbound in my heart instead of my brain, but that day is not today. I’ll stick to exploring psychological phenomena with a rhythmic fantasy backdrop for now.
A Little Sympathy Would Be Nice by Valerie Parente
I think a lot about my past but that doesn’t mean I want it back. My brain was wrongly designed to dwell on former times, getting caught on the same loops and I know that gets you confused. I don’t want the same things, but that’s what my conscience brings. If you find that weird then imagine how I feel. OCD is like a chronic bad habit, a royal jester playing old tricks and when its trying to fool you just know it tried to fool me too.
Not Too Little, But Definitely Too Late by Valerie Parente
Like a memory bank I always had you in the back of my mind convinced that one day I’d find the courage to finalize what always made an imprint on my brain in ways I didn’t fully realize until it was way too late and I no longer had the right to say what I always wanted to say once my hunch was clarified. I made a critical mistake strictly following my own timeline I carved out a space in the shape I had been traumatized and I forgot in my craze that I could pause my own life but that does not initiate the freezing of someone else’s time.
Like a broken gift I always knew there was something wrong with me so hyper-focused on my emotional needs memorizing feelings like scripts ripped out of a teenage diary daydreaming on autopilot as I wrote detailed stories to compensate for what I missed heart-flutters in my memory and I always kind of wished that I could satisfy an old belief my daydreaming brain’s secret that once again we could meet but I’m not supposed to talk about this even though I remember you so clearly; I guess that’s why from age 13 to 26 they called me a psychotic freak.
The cogs in this machine get stuck on repeat frequently I understand the mechanics of my mind and how it operates on rapid fire but sometimes I need to be checked because I have a tendency to forget that it’s not normal to dwell and replay and every now and then I need an update. It’s gonna take a little grease to loosen up my psyche, so if you tell me its time for a cleanse I’ll take your word and reflect. It’s not easy for me but I’ll lend my trust I’ll get down in the dirt and scrape the rust, then when I get these OCD gears turning again I’ll try to remember the importance of maintenance.
The concept of “real” and “realistic” are two ideas that I struggle with as someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t think many people would expect that having obsessionive thought patterns and performing compulsions would have anything to do with the credibility of what I perceive to be reality, but it does. This is something I’ve recently realized at age 25, after an 11 year diagnosis of OCD. When I feel a “germ” on my skin, I truly believe that the invisible stain is there until I wash it away. Once thoughts like this get in my head, which is pretty much immediate, I can either carry out the compulsion of washing my hands or question if that “germ” feeling is real or not (for a more in in depth explanation of this OCD phenomenon you can check out my novel, “In Touch”, as well). In more recent years I’ve had an easier time pushing away the thought and carrying on with my day without washing my hands immediately upon feeling the germ, though the Coronavirus pandemic certainly set me back a few steps in these past few months. But alas, for the most part, I could tell myself that this feeling was not real, you can not feel a germ on your skin, and my ability to not only question if the feeling was legitimate or a fabrication of my OCD brain but also ignore it is a perfect example of how OCD brings into question what is real or not.
What is “real” is a very simple yes or no question that can be answered, so it’s been easier to deal with than the question “is what I’m feeling realistic?” “Real” pertains to physical reality. It’s objective. It’s fact or fiction. “Realistic” pertains to my inner emotional reality, and that’s where things go from black and white to very gray. In my adult life the question of what feelings are realistic or not has been very complicated and a source of a lot of pain. When unrealistic feelings carry along for too long, that’s when things get catastrophic and my entire world-view comes into question. For example, when I am afraid of doing something like going on an airplane, it isn’t necessarily based in reality. What are the odds of a plane crash? Pretty low. But what are my emotions about going on a plane? Pretty damn scared despite the unrealistic-ness of the possible event. Here’s an exmaple that’s more abstract- catching feelings for a person. Is it realistic for me to have high-stake emotions tied to somebody, even if they don’t blatantly reciprocate that same level of caring? No, it’s not. And for a normal person I think that realization takes .2 seconds to accept and then nip in the bud right away. For me? No, I elongate those feelings for years at a time because I got caught up entertaining an emotion that was not realistic in the first place. Sure, my hunch about where I stand with someone could have been “real” and maybe I did read the situation correctly, but that doesn’t ultimately matter. At the end of the day it’s my time I’m either wasting or utilizing with what’s “realistic” or not. If I want to take my best interest into account and not the hypothetical interest of someone else, then you have to go by the question of what’s “realistic”, not “real”. I really can’t tell what is worth wearing my heart on my sleeve for and what I’m better off ignoring and eventually falling out of feelings with, because my judgement gets so clouded with an emotion that plays on repeat. My obsessive brain becomes a broken record, constantly replaying the same line over and over. The line that “I like this person” is stuck on repeat and I have an extremely hard, near impossible, time seeing any inconsistences between how I’m treated and how I perceive that treatment. This goes for basic positive feelings towards people that you consider a friend or trustworthy confidant. Somebody that I have made my mind up as “good” could hurt me horribly and my obsession conditioned brain is inclined to brush it off. Life becomes harder to manage and make sense of. This is what it’s like to have feelings that aren’t realistic. My brain keeps on telling me someone is “good” over and over and over and I just don’t believe the reality that maybe the positive connotation I associate with them or certain memories doesn’t match up with the reality of the situation. And I know my close friends and family can see me doing this, see me getting emotionally attached to things that are not good for me, but I have a very hard time seeing that on my own. It takes a lot for me to question the realistic nature of my emotions. After all, who grows up assuming how they feel is based on a false reality? Nobody, unless they’ve got a therapist coaching them through their thoughts.
I always tell myself, “You’re allowed to feel what ever you feel, whether its realistic or not”, which is definitely true; you are entitled to feel whatever and don’t have to explain it… but there comes a time when accepting your feelings and actively trying to understand your feelings become two seperate endeavors. The latter is when my OCD nature becomes evident. When I try to understand my feelings about people or events that’s when I start to see the obsessive patterns clouding my judgement. It takes a lot of mental strength to fight the natural OCD inclination to just continue on with the emotion I inadvertantly attached to this person, place, or event in my mind. It takes a serious call to action that needs to be practiced countless times a day, every day, before I can see reality for what it is. I struggle with this every single day. And it’s certainly not the end of the world to have unrealistic thoughts, we all do now and then, but it’s something that can easily stunt my personal spiritual growth and social growth as I continue on learning how to be a high functioning adult with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I can’t speak for every person with OCD, but from my experience as a writer and an overly sensitive young woman, questioning not only what is “real” but also “realistic” is definitely an unexpected quirk and challenge to having this disorder that I don’t think a lot of people would initially recognize. I love uncovering weird little OCD thought patterns and consequences to compulsions that are not often talked about in media or even high school health class when you learn about mental disorders. As a writer and a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I dissect a lot of misconceptions about the mental illness here on my blog through poetry and prose. For a more detailed dissection of OCD that also plays alongside a plot with rich character development you can check out my book “In Touch” available on Amazon.com. The book is based on my life with OCD against the backdrop of a fictional story. The story makes learning about the disorder a little more interesting than reading a simple autobiography!