My OCD Story, Part 1: Hand Washing and Worry

This is the first in a series of posts about my obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’ll be part biography, part documentary about the disease, and part self-help manual. If you struggle with OCD, I’ve learned some tricks and habits that may help.

Starting this is really difficult for me, but I feel like this is the block that’s preventing my life from moving forward. My OCD story is stuck in the machinery of my brain, and I feel like I’ll never be able to write again unless I tell it.

That’s the thing about obsessive-compulsive disorder. It loves the dark. It hates when you reveal its secrets, or talk about it like it’s no big deal. It taught me, at a very young age, to hide, to fear, and to lie.

My Beautiful, Anxious, Shitty Childhood

I grew up in an idyllic middle-class household in Northern Alabama. Two parents, a brother 2.5 years older than me, and all the toys and video games I could handle. We had a huge backyard festooned with fire flies and honeysuckle, and we pretty much always had a pug and a cat. My mom made us Kool-Aid and Jello, and sometimes she’d fry baloney with a slit down its radius to make little Pac-Men.

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How Do I Prepare for My First Massage?

Massage is scary. There, I said it. I should know: When I went into massage school, I was terrified of the touching, the vulnerability, the possible nudity, the drum circles, the… man, how did I make it? Anyway, I stuck with it for one reason: Massage is awesome.

Let me tell you about my first massage. I was 19, and I was sick and tired of my back betraying me for seemingly no reason (I now know the reasons, and they were legion). I had been to physical therapy (helped some), and now I was giving chiropractic a shot. It was… okay. Lots of back cracking, but I mostly liked the machine that loosened my back up beforehand. That’s what they call foreshadowing, people.

One day, the chiro asked me if I’d like to add on a massage. I said yes, and I was directed to a little room where a nice man greeted me. He asked me a few questions, and then… it hit me. I was about to let a stranger touch me, nay, massage me, while I lay there in my jean shorts. Wait, was I allowed to keep my shorts on? How was I supposed to lay? Was I supposed to let him know when I was ready, or would he knock? I suppose he could have explained things a little better, but it’s easy to assume that people know the drill when you work at a high-volume place like a chiropractor’s. I’m pretty sure I did something wrong (ignored the face cradle, maybe, or perhaps I was curled up under the table), but he quickly got me situated and then…

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Got Chronic Pain? Treat Yourself Like an Athlete

I tell people that I’m pain-free, but that is, of course, a lie. “Yep, I’ve got feet flatter than a geometric plane, but no pain here!” I say this to encourage people to think differently about their personal body weirdness, but I’m covering up a terrible secret: Everybody hurts sometimes.

Hell, being a massage therapist is a game of “what weird new injury can I acquire this week?” It might be a funky shoulder, a thumb that doesn’t like it when you open jars, an ankle that doesn’t… you know, work.

This game might sound familiar to the athletes among us. Pushing yourself physically often results in weird little things going wrong, or sometimes weird big things. This happens to athletes all the time, but they tend to be little bumps in the road as they continue on toward their goal.

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How to Deal with Depression as a Christian

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in much. I am currently an atheist, or agnostic, or whatever. This may come as a blow to a few members of my family, and I’m sorry if this is how you’re learning about my leaving the fold. Please don’t tell Grandmother. That said, we’ve got strong love for one another, so I think we’ll be cool.

If I don’t believe in anything, why do I think I get to tell you about the Christian path through depression? Because I lived it. I was a believer until around the age of 22, and I was depressed and anxious… always. The whole time.

If you’re a Christian struggling with depression, you’ve gathered that your religion has positives and negatives when it comes to coping. You know that your church community can be helpful sometimes, and other times not so much. You may also agree that being depressed as a Christian feels… wrong somehow. Like a failure. If faith as a mustard seed can move mountains, is your faith broken?

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On Despair

I wrote the following about a week ago. I was feeling really depressed, and I wanted to get some thoughts out while I was in that state. It didn’t go far:

There’s something that a lot of people don’t understand about depression. It’s not about feeling sad. Sadness is okay. Sadness and happiness are like your left and right hand, each equal in dignity, each wonderful in its own clumsy, apeish way.

It’s not grief. Grief is an expression of joy turned on its head, a recognition of the ripple left in the world by a beloved person or thing. Anger is passion denied, hatred is love forsworn. The line between these concepts is so thin as to be imaginary, a product of our lack of self-knowledge.

So what is depression? Sadness, you see, would be too kind. Sadness would mean wistfulness, a longing for things lost and for things never to be. Sadness is a comfort that we create in the lulls between ecstasy, a burial shroud meant to be folded and kept with our other treasures. When we are sad, when we grieve, it’s the moment our feet touch the ground between leaps.

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