It’s not a secret. If you’ve been around me at 7am or 9:30pm, and noticed my phone alarm, or basically just talked to me since January 2011, you already know what I’m talking about. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with a side of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s under control, I take medication, and on a normal day, I don’t even think about it. But earlier this week, Buzzfeed—a favorite of mine simply because it loves “Parks and Recreation” as much as I do, and explained the government shutdown to me via gifs from “Mean Girls”—posted this article, and it struck me as incredibly true.
Yes, anxiety disorders affect everyone differently. My anxiety disorder stems from my OCD—a thought sticks and I worry about it. Obsessively. Compulsively. Unquestioningly. For days on end. It’s a game I call Brain Spider—something flies into the web that is my brain, and all the messed up neurons attack it like spiders, feeding off of it, letting it grow a little bit, multiplying it into other even less likely but still frightening little worry-spider babies. Somewhere in there, Charlotte is reassuring me that I am terrific, but her voice and my own practical reality gets lost in Aragog’s freaky eyes and Shelob’s crazy-ass stinger, and that’s when I realized I’ve been sitting in one place for two hours just staring at the wall, trying to calm myself and return to normal.
The things that most often get caught in my web generally have to do with fear of change or losing my identity, but sometimes they’re completely unexpected. Once, my college campus lost power for four hours, and 45 minutes in, I was quaking in my boots, trying to talk myself out of the idea that somehow, there was no power anywhere in the city, state, country or world, and that I’d soon be in a Zombieland-The Road kind of situation, but without twinkies or Viggo Mortenson. (Yes, I know The Road was a book first.) I once rolled over a very large branch and had to circle the block four times to convince myself I had not run over an animal or a child. I don’t watch “Law and Order: SVU” because those cases sometimes get stuck in my head, and I can’t think of anything else. I’ve skipped episodes of my beloved “Grey’s Anatomy” for this same reason. For now, I can’t watch psychological thrillers because they too often mirror the way I’ve felt when stuck in an anxiety-ridden, OCD-laced moment. You can absolutely “Gaslight” yourself, you guys. J.K. Rowling is a wonderful writer for many reasons, but in The Casual Vacancy she perfectly captures the complicated nature of OCD, and how, if you’re not careful, you can easily begin to believe things about yourself and your world that simply aren’t true. My OCDs are incredibly mild compared to those of Colin Wall, but they still feel real. They still knock me off my feet and leave me breathless and tired and frightened.
And that’s when the anxiety hits. The anxiety vultures join the brain spiders and pick out every emotion and insecurity and tiny worry I’ve ever had, laying it all out in front of me. My skin literally crawls in these moments, and I have to hug myself to stop shaking, either visibly or just in my own mind. In these moments, my brain points out exactly where I’m broken and show sme how all the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men can never put me together again. I’m just living my life and then WHOOMP. There it is.
I am incredibly lucky. I have a wonderful life and most of the time, I’m just as unaware of my Anxiety Vultures and Brain Spiders as the guy who sold me sushi today. My medications work for my brain 97% of the time, and according to commercials, one of them can apparently cure me of everything from depression to back pain. I have a strong support system, who have talked me out of the whirling vortex of worry, reminded me to eat and reassured me that I am no less of a person even though I have to whisper the same exact phrase under my breath every time I lock my front door. My faith has strengthened my resolve, my friends and family have given me hugs and I have a rabbit who will tolerate a needed snuggle from my end for 7.9 seconds. I am happy. And I’ve decided to keep a mental baseball bat in my brain to knock out the spiders and vultures.
P.S. 100% of the time this makes me laugh hysterically every time.