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Emails to my Therapist


 Coping with my mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder has long been one of the announced topics of this blog.  It is after all an anxiety disorder, and anxiety can truly get in the way of boldness, whether it’s actually experienced as normal fear or instead takes the less healthy form of repeating thoughts and/or actions.


Though OCD is supposedly one of the topics, I’ve very rarely mentioned it here.


Today I’m mentioning it.  Today my medication seems to be losing its effectiveness. They all seem to do that every few years.  Need to start a new one.  And so I’m not having a great day. 


My difficulty is generally more obsessive than compulsive, and often of the sort referred to as scrupulosity, thinking I’ve done something wrong or said the wrong thing that has caused someone damage.  On some bad days I’ve written or called someone to apologize for something I did or didn’t say decades earlier.  In every case, the other person had no idea what I was talking about.  Along those lines, I also often have a mini-struggle about where to put something I’m holding so that it won’t trip someone or possibly fall off a shelf onto their heads.  This does not grow out of any exceptional compassion; it’s just that if someone gets brain damage from a vase of mine, then the guilt from that will ruin my life.  


On the other hand, at my worst, I obsessively cook up imaginary scenarios with some fictional person saying/doing some minor wrong to me.  And in this hard-to-put-down story, I sue the person and represent myself in court and spend immense mental energy thinking up my jury argument.   (This time and imagination could better be spent on my novel in progress.)


Also, I do a bit of lock-checking and worry unreasonably about accidentally burning down buildings.   And if I’m doing one part of my work I too often feel that I should have been all along doing another part:  the “right” part. 


Today?  I’ve been fighting off sliding into a pit of guilt that I spent yesterday doing a multi-hour administrative chore instead of hiring someone to do it and spending my time on work I can only do myself, like my own writing.    The phrase “best and highest use.”  from zoning regulation often comes to my mind:  Land is supposed to be put to its best and highest use.   But frequently asking myself if my activity of the moment is the best and highest use of my time –and if I'm the best possible person to be doing the particular task — is a waste of time in itself, and sure doesn’t add to my fun.  


Also, I’m feeling down today because I haven’t responded personally to everyone who wished me happy birthday on Facebook Saturday.  This is fucking loony.  I know this and yet….


My strategy while waiting for the next drug is griping, writing this, praying, eating chocolate, jumping rope, watching TV, working a bit, being angry, staving off most thought, and appearing testy but normal.


This post is the sort of thing many consider Too Much Information — and Not the Sort of Thing You’d Want to Have Out About Yourself On-Line.  Well, too bad, and I don’t care.  In fact writing and posting it have helped more than anything else.  


Which means I should get back to my novel, which is no doubt what I should have been doing all along.  



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Categories: boldness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, self-management


  • January 13, 2011 at 5:20 am Reply

    Hang in there, Peggy. I don't think it's too much information – I think most people don't give enough!

    The thing about "best and highest use" struck me – that is truly a huge pressure to live up to, and if I applied it to myself I am sure my head would spin!  That said, I have a much milder tendency that is similar in some ways. I do this thing where I plot out my movement – i.e. if I'm in the bedroom and I'm going to the laundry room with something, I'll also think what I can do on my way through the kitchen that will make the whole thing more "efficient." I have no idea where this came from or when it actually started – it's almost unconscious at this point. A funny piece to it is that I often find myself writing these very specific body movements into my novels – a character getting up to go into another room can take many sentences! Of course all that gets edited out but it's funny that my brain just thinks that way, even with my characters.

    It's part of my mind always being busy, which is why I love riding and being out at the barn so much. That is the only time that my inner dialogue just disappears.

    I wonder if your boat does that for you?

  • January 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm Reply

    Oh Peggy, sometimes allowing our demons to be exposed to the light of day is a good way of sending them into retreat.  I find it interesting that the gift you have for imagining and writing creative prose is also one that can cause you a heap of trouble!  Maybe it's time to write a novel that contains a jury scene?
    As for thanking everyone on facebook for the birthday wishes, from what my daughters have told me, it isn't necessary.  My girls think it is funny that I respond to people on FB the way that I do.  They say that people don't expect it.  I'm more like you, but I often check with my girls about the FB "rules" and that is what they tell me.
    I think it was both bold and productive of you to write this.  I hope that the novel writing is going well!

  • Mamie
    January 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm Reply

    Brutal honesty=boldness at its best and highest use.  I completely identify with much of this post, though have never been diagnosed with OCD.  I once took a roommate's Joy of Cooking in retaliation for a corningware dish she wouldn't keep clean.  Years of guilt later, I wrapped it up with a brand new one and gave it to her for her birthday.  She had no recollection of losing the book.  I felt like a fool.
    I understand from friends that getting medication right can be an experiment with chaos.  Hope things work out quickly for you.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 19, 2011 at 11:35 am Reply

      Sometimes it does take a lot of tries to get the pills right, Mamie. This time the first try has worked very well. So I’m doing great.

      I love your cookbook story. Once Bob and I were chatting with another couple after having dinner, one of the other pair, like Bob, a therapist. We were talking about our own difficulties. I said, “I have a touch of OCD.” Ken, the other psychologist, said, “You and everybody else with good sense.” (including quite a few of the people I’m drawn to, as it happens) He had a point, though: the conditions of human life are enough to make any reasonably aware person a bit anxious. But then, trying to fix every small thing that has ever felt out of place does not solve that problem.

  • jason
    January 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm Reply

    " In fact writing and posting it have helped more than anything else.  "

    ^ the whole time I was reading your entry, in the back of my mind i was thinking…'this is almost like a song or a piece of art, so open/honest/etc it' must be healing in some way.. and then i read the third from last line and i sighed some sort of relief…ha

    😉 i hope you're feeling better


    • Peggy Payne
      January 19, 2011 at 11:25 am Reply

      Jay, thanks so much for this thought and your encouragement. It means a lot to me. BTW, you’ve turned out really well.

  • Kay
    January 17, 2011 at 11:40 am Reply

    Hi Peggy,
    I, too have OCD, stemming from Tourette's. I've struggled with all the embarrassing tics that Tourette's can bring on, especially in my youth. My classmates were kind, considering all that craziness. I have managed to hide it somewhat in my adult life. The OCD is a feeling of a need to 'balance' things, excessive checking things (locked doors, etc) and even making sure that the dog toys are put away before guests arrive. I don't want anyone to trip over a stuffed squeeky fluffy thing and get hurt, so I know where you're coming from there.
    The compulsiveness seems to come in saying the one thing I wish I hadn't said or not having said it the way I meant to say it. It's almost like an inevitable trainwreck happening and I can't do a thing about it. Then as you wrote, I worry about it and my mind whirls around ways to amend my comments that often people have long forgotten – if only I could forget it as well!
    It seems to be worse when I'm stressed out about something. Hard physical exercise seems to help the stress level, maybe those endorphins are helping my neurological system calm down a little. I do believe acknowledging and accepting it helps. Allowing myself to put the matter behind me and move on also helps. Years ago reading Ram Dass' book 'Be Here Now' helped me as a troubled teen fighting Tourette's, because it reminded me to be in the moment.
    A belated Happy Birthday. Hope this is a great year for you.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 19, 2011 at 11:17 am Reply

      Exercise helps me too, Kay. Also, I once sat and listened to Ram Dass talk off the cuff for four hours; had no idea so much time had passed and didn’t know a lot of what he’d said, but it was mysteriously good. I’m sorry you have to deal with this trouble. I’m glad to hear from you. Thought about you this morning because I heard an audio this week by Jean Houston about identifying and launching The Big Project: It’s a promo for an online course she’s teaching — and I got a lot of good stuff out of the intro seminar. I mean to blog about it, probably later today. Belated birthday wishes to you too.

  • Peggy Payne
    January 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm Reply

    Deb and Billie,  Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging responses.   I got a new drug and am pretty much fine again.

    Debbie, your comment about about my obsessive and novelist impulses was really dead on.  It's so much the same thing, but one is put to good purpose.

    I've heard a definition of weakness as: a strength that's overused.   

    Billie, I think maybe you're unconscious efficiency strategy is one of the reasons you get so much done.  I'm glad the horses give you a break.   I'm not sure if my boat works that reliably:  most of the time my difficulties are drugged away and I feel really good.  I do remember one time that the bad thinking followed me out onto the water, but I think it stayed out there when I came back in.

  • aiki
    February 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm Reply

    a very different format'n i'm used to for comments to yr blog–yr still my favorite writer, by far !  aiki

    • Peggy Payne
      February 16, 2011 at 7:29 am Reply

      I’m also still getting used to this format, aiki. And thanks.

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