Archive for the ‘OCD’ Category

How to Stop Thinking What You Can’t Stop Thinking About?   Leave a comment

No matter what I did, how careful I was, regardless of all the scenarios in my mind that I could possibly conjure and then safeguard against, it kept happening.   I’d pick a self park garage so no attendants could do a Ferris Beuler on me and take my car out the back door for a joy ride.  I’d straddle two spots so nobody could park next to me.  And, I’d always find an area void of other cars so there were ample places to park instead of right next to my vehicle.

But it made no difference.  Out of all the open spaces some idiot in a minivan would chose to wedge in right next to my car, dinging my driver door for good measure.  Or, someone would back out of a spot squarely into the rear of my car, leaving a series of sloppy looking scrapes exposing bare plastic bumper.  But my favorite is the non-sensical scrape on the hood I once found, as if for a moment someone attempted to park on top of my car and then realized it wouldn’t work.

And with  every scrape, nick and dent I would obsess about it for days.  I’d literally spend hours looking at it in all different lights hoping it might disappear on its own.  Rubbing on scrapes until some paint came off and it looked even worse.  Trying to find a similar paint colored marker and filling in scratches, which gave my car that Beverly Hillbillies look.  And when I couldn’t stand ruminating about the imperfection, I’d go in my house and obsess on how poorly my vehicle looks and how quickly I could get it repaired before anyone saw the damage.  God forbid my Toyota Solara was not in perfect condition!

Interestingly, the actual damage in many cases didn’t even warrant the cost of the repair.  But my mind was racing and all thoughts were of my now ruined automobile. This behavior had to come to an end.  I’m a fairly intelligent person and here I was out of my head about a tiny imperfection on my car.  It’s not like I was driving a brand new Ferrari.  And this had happened before and would happen again. However these intrusive thoughts could ruin my day in an instant making it impossible to concentrate on anything else.

So, I talked to my psychologist about it.  And, she taught me a new way of thinking. Let me be clear, its hard to change your thought process.  It just doesn’t happen because you want it to.  You have to practice.   And be forewarned, it can be painful.  You are training your mind to do something it is hard wired against.  Usually such obsessions show up in individuals with OCD, which makes it even harder to control your thought process.   Since OCD is an actual illness usually coupled with some type of bipolar disorder, it is even more difficult for these people to master. I can speak first hand on this.

To me at first it seemed utterly impossible. I was told to wait for the next imperfection to arise on my car.  Living in San Francisco, it didn’t take long.  My psychologist then asked me, “what would be the worst thing that can happen if you leave that scratch on your car and never do anything about it?”  To my amazement the answer was so simple…  Nothing.  My rational self said it wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me and didn’t effect the way the car drove or its functionality.  It probably wasn’t even worth the cost of repair.

It was suggested I just live with it for a while, so I did.  Eventually my irrational self stopped drawing my eye to the scratch like a magnet every time I saw my car.  After a few weeks I completely stopped noticing it.  It became unimportant.  I still wanted to take care of it, but I decided to wait until something noticeable happens and have it all repaired at the same time.

I started to use this type of thinking in other aspects of my life unrelated to automobiles.  I call it the “Worst Case Scenario” technique.  Just think of the worst case scenario of what is eating you alive.  If you realize it’s nothing tragic, make arrangements to rectify the situation or leave it alone.  Then move on to other things because you’ve done everything you can.  Ruminating on it accomplishes nothing.

Do not expect this to work overnight.  But practice eventually pays off.  So the next time you are going off the deep end obsessing about something minor which your mind is making very major, try the “Worst Case Scenario” technique. Then take the Mafia’s advice and “forget about it.”

Computer Dating with OCD: Desperately Seeking Seroquel   2 comments

The minute I officially ruined my marriage and drove my wife to ask for a divorce, I stood on the precipice of an imaginary barrier in my mind that kept me from seeing other women through 15 years of commitment, held my arms up over my head and exclaimed, “Divorce Court of California, tare that wall down!”   I was now free to roam the greener grass on the other side.  It was time to start dating and making up for lost time with the opposite sex.

As a bipolar II, I have always had issues with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  And this was going to follow me into my new life as a single man.  Suddenly I felt it imperative to make up for lost time while married.  In a matter of hours after moving into my new apartment, I joined two different dating sites and was frantically filling out profiles, uploading photos of myself I took with my i-Phone in the bathroom mirror and sending out “winks” and messages to as many women as possible in an attempt to fill up my calendar.

I was relentless.  Communicating with possible matches at work, in stalls at public restrooms, at home into the wee hours of the morning and any other time I could sneak a look at my laptop.  If I did not have plans for every night of the week, I was frantic.  I looked for women whose profiles I didn’t even like that much to see if I could fill empty slots.  And if I couldn’t, I go out to bars that evening hoping to pick someone up.  Redoing my profile, updating my pictures and trying to get to new site members before anyone else became my full time obsession.  At 43 I was sure I only had a few good years left of virility and a flat stomach, so I had to make up for lost time.

Throughout this period I lowered my standards, risked disease and basically put my life in danger in a couple of situations.  My online dating was completely out of control.  But I couldn’t stop.  I felt if I didn’t keep dating that “someone special” would slip by without me ever knowing it.  I could not let that happen.  Even if it killed me.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder does not just show up in the form of counting footsteps, always having to sit facing west,  checking that the stove is off 50 times before you leave the house or ritualistic hand-washing.  OCD is actually the minds way of trying to take control of a life that may feel is out of control.  For instance, a bipolar with compulsive hand-washing might feel that they can not control their bipolar issues, but by washing the skin off their hands they can at least control not getting a disease.

OCD dating is like compulsively wearing the skin off your fingertips by constantly working the keyboard on dating sites.  Like I did, people get a number in their head for how many responses they should be getting a week, how many turn into dates and how many progress beyond that.  When they don’t hit their number they feel unattractive and unwanted.  This can make them work the dating sites at an even more feverish rate.  Eventually it becomes full blown OCD.

As any bipolar suffered knows with the OCD cherry on top, you can’t just “stop it.”  That’s like telling someone who is clinically depressed to “just snap out of it.”  But here are a few tips for slowing down the online dating frenzy;

First, limit the amount of time you will spend a day working the sites.  Then fill the time with something constructive, like working out or starting a project you haven’t had time for until now.  This way you are not just slowing down, but you are doing something to build yourself up.

Second, get involved with some extracurricular activities or volunteer work.  Not only does it add another positive dimension to your life making you a more interesting person, but you will meet people instead of staring at embellished profiles on a computer screen.  You can interact with them one on one and actually form friendships.

Third, raise your standards online.  Only  message women or men that really interest you, not just for something to do.  This means the time you do spend on line is quality.  And the people you date are more likely to turn into healthy relationships.

Finally, try and get out of the mindset that everyone you meet is going to be “the one.”  Enter all communications with the attitude that you are making a new friend and if it goes any further, wonderful.  But if not, you were not expecting a torrid love affair.  You’ll be a lot more relaxed when going out and probably exude more confidence.

Of course some cases of OCD have to be quelled by drugs.  I take a drug called Clomipramine which takes the edge off of my OCD making it a little more bearable.   But I still have to constantly fight the urge to turn every day things into ODC rituals.  I still can’t walk away from my car without beeping the remote alarm to hear it chirp at least five times while the parking lights flash.

I’ve also often thought of going on a dating site and posting my profile with the caption: “Bipolar Man with OCD: Desperately Seeking Seroquel.”  My guess is I’d meet the girl of my dreams.