Mood Disorder NOS and OCD
I talk a lot about various mental illnesses and how we mental health professionals try to help those people regain control of their lives. Today, I want to get more personal then that. I have been writing this blog for a long while now and I have never directly discussed my own mental illness and the ways that it has effected my life.
Today, I am coming out of the Psychotic Closet. Yeah, it’s hard to have mental illness. It’s hard to talk about it in a meaningful way without sounding like a whiner or a drama queen. And it is difficult to discuss without bringing out the darkness. But today, I am going to try. I’m not going to try to be eloquent or monitor my grammar or spelling. I’m just going to try to put it out there so that you can get a bit of an insider’s perspective. So, please ignore the bad writing.
First, I am not my diagnosis. Which is good, because it is terribly vague and I’d hate to be that fuzzy. I am 34. I am a nurse and I work in an acute care psych hospital. I am the mother of a 15 year old girl. I am the wife of an amazing man. I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers. I have very supportive and loving parents. I am a writer and an avid reader. I love to crochet and to draw and to make things that bring people joy. I love to laugh and to play video games. I love to grow herbs and to use them to make tasty food or healing oils. I am a loyal friend.
Now, let’s break down and kick down some of the frequent assumptions that people make about me when they find out that I have mental illness. I was not abused. I’ve never had a drug problem. I’ve never been raped or sexually molested. There has been no psychologically devastating trauma in my life that made my brain shatter into dysfunctional bits.
I was born this way. I have had this all my life. I was a nightmare of a child because my parents didn’t know what was going on with me. They did the best they could to support me through the weird shit, but it was like talking 2 different languages. Still is for me. My family and friends have always tried to bridge that gap, but it will always be there. My world can never be like their’s.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That’s my first diagnosis. Most people think of washers or cleaners when they think of OCD. Those people that scrub their hands and floors and keep their closets color organized. That’s not what my world is like. If you walk into my home, you will see piles and heaps and general disarray. We’re not dirty. There are no dead cats rotting in the corners or mold growing on dirty dishes, but our home is disorganized.
I am a checker, a counter and a rule regulator. I have irrational fears of violence. I dwell on thoughts of my relationships. So, what does this mean and how does it play into my daily life? Currently, my symptoms are well managed. But before I was treated, things were really ugly in my life.
I have to check things. I have a great deal of anxiety about being late and/or getting lost. I have to check the time every few minutes and it causes distress if I cannot check the time. Being late can cause overwhelming distress to the point of panic or hostility. My schedule can be a source of dread. Looking at my calendar can be enough to provoke a sense of impending disaster. Did I schedule enough time between appointments? Do I have adequate directions to get where I am going? I have to check my calendar numerous times a day to be sure that I know where and when I am suppose to be. I have been known to spend so much time checking the time and my directions that I cause myself to be late or to get lost.
I am a counter. I have to count objects. I can’t just look at the change in my wallet, I have to count it. Every time I look at it. Not the amount of money, but the number of coins. The solution? I don’t carry change. I count the number of stairs or the number of steps I take. It has to be even numbers, because odd numbers are bad numbers. Why? Because my brain says so. I cannot turn the volume level up to 9. 8 or 10. Not 9. 9 is a bad number. I like things to be in pairs. Pairs are even and symmetrical. Having 2 pigs is better then having 1 because 1 is an odd and lonely number.
I think the trait that annoys people the most is that I am a rule regulator. The rules are black and white. They must be obeyed. If the rule is broken, it must be explained in a satisfactory manner. The rules must be clear. Performance outside this standard is unacceptable.
I have irrational fears of violence. When I close my eyes, I see terrible things happening behind my eyes. I dream of vivisection and murder. I am just as often the victim as I am the aggressor. The more I try to push these thoughts away, the more pervasive they become. I have thoughts of throwing myself in front of a car or of cutting myself. I think about punching someone in the face or pulling out their eyes.
I have social paranoia. I feel certain that others will betray me, are lying to me or simply hate me. I have a difficult time allowing people into my personal space. Being touched is difficult. Allowing you to touch me is allowing you close enough to cause me harm. I read into every little gesture or comment that others make. I feel certain that these are subtle cues that others are plotting against me. Even writing this post in causing me to feel anxious. And I am not entirely sure that I will ever post it. I am certain that posting it will mean that you will dislike my blog and will stop following me. And those of you who know me in RL will most likely never talk to me again… Yeah, I know, this isn’t likely.
Imagine dreaming that you have performed a vivisection on your husband. Then you wake to the blare of the alarm with the panic that you have over slept. You check your clock and then your watch and ask what time it is. You check the clock on the stove and on the microwave when you walk by to go to the bathroom. You feel anxiety when the clocks are even a minute off. You begin to wonder which clock is accurate and whether you have only 5 minutes rather then 6 with which to complete a given task in your daily routine. And there is no breaking the routine, so every minute has to be spent judiciously. You get in the shower and have to wash your body twice. Once would be bad. It’s alright to wash your hair once because conditioning it makes twice. Make no sense? Doesn’t matter, your brain tells you so and that makes it the truth… And that’s all before you’ve really even started your day.
Then there is my second diagnosis. Mood disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified), as defined by the DSM, is a more general category of mood disorders that do not fit the criteria of any other diagnosis. That makes me a special kind of fucked up. It means that there isn’t a label to stick on my forehead. Why is that hard?
Imagine going to the doctor and having them tell you that you have a disease. Then they tell you that they have no idea what kind of disease it is and that they aren’t sure what kind of treatments would be effective in addressing your symptoms. Then you are reassured that they will continue to try you on different treatment plans until they find the one that works for you. It’s a scary conversation to have with a doctor. When the doctor tells you that they have no idea what is wrong with you… It’s like you can feel the nails of your coffin being hammered in. So, you go see another doctor. And another one. And another one. And they all tell you the same thing: “we have no idea.” It is difficult not to fall prey to despair.
Then there is the challenge of trying to talk about it with others. Well, with my other diagnosis, OCD, I can tell people what that label is and they can go onto the internet and do a little research to try to figure out what that means. They can get a basic idea of the thing. Then they come back and we can talk about how that diagnosis applies to my life. But “Not Otherwise Specified” is being sentenced to never knowing what to tell people. Yes, I have a mental illness, but it has no name. No, really, there is no name for it… Yeah, try having that conversation more then once.
That is the biggest reason that I generally don’t talk about my mental illness. What do I say? Then there comes that social paranoia that assures me that I will be hated or viewed as a freak. And it has happened just often enough to make me certain it will always happen. I reach a point in a friendship where I feel I have to disclose this to them and I generally turn away from them, since they will only hate me afterwards anyway. It’s easier not to have that conversation and just walk away without the heart ache. My logical brain says that this is nonsense, but the Dark Stranger that lives in my head has a pretty loud voice.
OK, so I have auditory hallucinations. Most every day, I hear a voice talking to me that other people cannot hear. I call him my Dark Stranger. I have no idea who he is. He has no name. He’s just the dude that tells me how fucked up everything around me is going to get. He tells me how I cannot trust other people and how they plan to betray me. He talks about hurting other people or how I can hurt myself. It can be difficult to listen to other people talking when he never shuts up. And there was a brief period of time that I would hear a little girl screaming as though she was being seriously harmed. This was beyond distressing.
I have mania, but not depression. I get hostile, aggressive and disorganized. Imagine feeling like you can do anything and that no one can stop you from conquering the world if you chose to do so. Imagine feeling like you are the best that any human could ever hope to be. It feels amazing. But it’s a trick. When I’m manic, I’m dysfunctional. I chase my tail with delusions that I am accomplishing great things. Then I come down from that high and look around me. I am left feeling tired, empty and disappointed in myself.
I have had episodes of dysphoria. Which is
I’m feeling like I really haven’t explained what my life is like. It seems like all I have done is explain what my symptoms are. I’m not sure if that is any different then writing about this from an impersonal perspective. But it was helpful for me to sort out how things were for me before I received treatment as compared to today. My symptoms are well controlled. I live a functional life. They are not gone from my life, but I have a skill set that allows me to manage them.
I work as a psych nurse. A large part of why I got into the field was with the hope that I could come to a better understanding of my mental illness and the mental illness of some of my family members. But what I learned instead has been amazing. I have learned that all humans are fucked up in their own unique and special way. We all carry around demons and shadows that plague us. Each of us has the capacity for greatness despite these flaws. I have learned that there a great number of people that are willing to except others for exactly what they are. And there are those people who deeply desire to aid others in healing. The kind of healing that makes a person feel whole. Having physical health means nothing if your mind knows no peace.
Some places you can visit to learn about OCD.
I hope that this blog was helpful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I will do my best to answer. Or you can drop me a line in the form on the “contact the pig” tab at the top of the page. I’d also love to hear your stories. Tell be about your own battles with mental health or about living with or loving someone with those struggles. I hope that the more open we can be with each other, the more we can support one another through the process of finding internal peace.
I pray that the Goddess grants each of you a sense of internal peace and self worth.
Posted on April 1, 2015, in Medical, mental health, Ramblings and Rants, The Darkness... and tagged checking, coutning, irrational fear, mood disorder, NOS, OCD, paranoid, psych, psychosis, psychotic closet, rule regulation. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.