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’s its 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!
Love Vs. Obsession (One in the Same) by Valerie Parente
What is the difference between love and obsession?
Because the two are synonymous in a mind like mine.
And I’m really not trying to cross a line
but I can’t control the way feelings reorganize my mind.
Why is obsession only beautiful
when obsession is mutual?
You say I have to apologize when I care in that beautiful way
Everybody else gets to experience love without the shame
Now the girl with OCD starts to love and it’s called insane
But I really can’t help it that love and obsession have always been one in the same.
I know that I’m going to have obsessions
all I ask is that my obsessions not be in vain
that I’m able to convey these motifs in my brain
in ways that resonate with the people who don’t know what to say.
“You know that mysterious feeling when you smell a certain scent and that scent elicits specific memories?”
“I’m feeling overwhelmed by a sort of time warp… a time warp beseeched by what I can best describe as an ethereal scent. I’m not talking an autumn aroma that invokes nostalgic memories or a specific stench that reminds you of traumatic experiences. I’m not talking a succession of frames streaming like fluid through your memory banks or distinguishable snippets flickering like consecutive flashbacks rolling through a film reel. I’m not talking mechanical reminiscing as a product of some psychological disposition or resurfacing scars brought forth from intensive therapy. I’m not even talking about a scent that hones your mind! I’m talking about the most inexplicable, indescribable, kind of scent that hones your heart… this otherworldly kind of scent that leaves your present perceptions disconnectedly attending to the world but shifts your reactions into intensely reliving the past! I’m talking nine years ago! I’m talking feelings of innocent attraction and distinct anger and vivid hopes and crazy dreams that were all alive and kicking nine Goddamn years ago! Feelings right before the mental breakdowns that broke my mentality and froze my heart! Nine fucking years of letting the cruel and cold mental disorders numb out the feelings in my heart that hurt so bad! And I forgot how much it stung nine years ago before my reality became a shadow tagging behind a haze of obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders. But today that haze is clearing! Today the sun is warm and I can feel it shining down and thawing my heart! And my recovering heart is warping back to a time when crushing made me high and love was totally blind! When somebody made a choice that hurt and something better could have worked! And all this heart ache violently tugging at my core is making me realize that maybe, just maybe, I blessedly became mentally ill! I numbed out my feelings as a means of survival, because to become mentally ill was to stunt my emotional development! To stunt the instrument of my emotions was to freeze time on my heart! To put my heart on hold! And maybe icing out the world behind a distorted icy lens was my way of preserving my heart right before it had the chance to break in half! But I am feeling, and I am alive, and I am okay, and I am better than ever. I am feeling it all now.”
There is an order in this disorder.
A recyclable cycle that can best be described as a pattern of the mind.
A pattern of thinking perfectly warped thoughts and a pattern of reacting to those thoughts by invoking protection against the twisted perfection.
The disillusions playing in rotations are the thoughts with the connotations systematically assigned to strike different panic chimes.
In this sick masterpiece, these thoughts became obsessions egregious as transgressions only to be diffused by a reactive set of rules. These reactions became compulsions strategically malfunctioned.
And yes, these rituals provide relief, but it is that very sense of success which legitimizes illegitimate stress.
I always felt like an ongoing stream of my former self, like a passing current from the past through the current.
But lately I feel disconnected from the old moments and more connected with the sole moment.
I always felt like a blurry memory, like an irrelevant event trying to relive my intent.
But lately my memories are fleeting like separate entities separated from my identity.
I always felt like I had the right words racing in my mind, like I had to be the first person to write words in the first person.
But lately I cannot remember the word I was looking for, and I am quite content with the quiet content.
And though these new feelings leave me unsure of myself, I somehow feel more like me.
Because I might not know what I am all about, but I finally stand a fair chance at finding that out.