Tag Archives: Obsessive-Compulsive

Emma Interviews

Emma has been interviewing various family members.  So I wasn’t surprised when she wrote that she wanted to conduct another interview.  Except this time she wrote that she wanted to interview me.  This is part one of that interview…

Emma:  What sparks your imagination more? Words? Pictures? Music?

It depends on the situation.  I have been inspired and moved by all three at various times and can think of examples of each sparking my imagination.  If I had to put them in order of most moving and inspiring, I would have to say visual, whether experiential as in scenic or static pictures, painted, photographs, sculpture, visual art.  But even as I say this I’m thinking of music that has brought me to tears, and literature and poetry that completely captivated, even non fiction writing, particularly memoirs have completely enthralled me.  Each has inspired and sparked my imagination.  I don’t know that I can choose!

Emma:  Who do you wish you could have known and why?

My grandfather, your Great-Grandfather.  He is the one your granma, my mother speaks so highly of.   It would have been nice to have had the experience of knowing him.  He was also an extremely ambitious, smart and I’ve been told, fascinating man who lived a complicated and unusual life.  I would have liked the opportunity to have interviewed him the way you are interviewing me.

Emma:  What taught you more about life – notable happiness or terrible suffering?

In a strange way, both as they are both great teachers and I’ve experienced large doses of each.  I only wish I was a faster learner so the suffering didn’t have to go on for as long as it did.

Emma:  When were you decidedly happiest and when were you easily the most unhappy?

The most difficult time in my life was the years when I was bulimic.  I felt as though I was watching life pass me by as I remained stuck in my obsessive-compulsive addictive behaviors.  It was a terrible time of feeling I was betraying myself on a daily basis and couldn’t stop, though I wanted to more than anything. Sadly that period lasted for about 22 years.  That’s an awfully long time to be so unhappy.

This period of my life is by far the happiest.  I have learned and experience daily the power of gratitude, friendship, humility, family and the gift of giving back.  I am so grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given – Daddy, N. and you, extended family and friendship.  I have so much love in my life.  I am extremely fortunate.  Gratitude encourages misery to withdraw.  People say it’s harder to talk about unhappiness, but I have found the opposite to be true.  Misery came easily to me. Happiness I’ve had to fight for and once I caught slivers of it, I wasn’t willing to let it go.

Emma chose this photo of me to accompany her interview

Emma chose this photo of me to accompany her interview (I figure since I chose photos of Emma throughout her childhood, it is only fair that she now choose the photographs posted on this blog.)

The Blurring of Diagnoses

There was a time in my life when I could not get through an entire day without throwing up.  I would get hungry, eat to the point of discomfort and vomit.  I went to therapists who tried to help me.  I tried various techniques, stalling methods, eliminating certain foods, but in the end nothing I did helped.  I couldn’t stop.  I remember sitting in my apartment, afraid to eat anything because to eat meant I would purge.  It was no longer a choice.  It was something I had to do.  All of this was complicated by body image issues, tremendous shame and the belief that who I was depended on how thin I was.  That I was dying inside seemed less important than how I looked.

“One major distinction between an addiction and a compulsion (as it is experienced in obsessive-compulsive disorder) is the experience of pleasure. While people who have addictions suffer all manner of discomforts, the desire to use the substance or engage in the behavior is based on the expectation that it will be pleasurable.

“In contrast, someone who experiences a compulsion as part of obsessive-compulsive disorder may not get any pleasure from the behavior he carries out. Often, it is a way of dealing with the obsessive part of the disorder, resulting in a feeling of relief.”  ~ About.com

When I read a description such as this one, I begin to question my eating disorder as addiction and wonder whether it was much closer to the definition for OCD  because though it all began with a desire to quell pain and seeking pleasure, by the time I found recovery, pleasure was illusive and no longer part of the equation.  “This can get a little confusing because there often comes a point for people with addictions where they don’t really enjoy the addictive behavior, and they are just seeking relief from the urge to use or engage in the behavior.

Although this can look like obsessive-compulsive behavior because the pleasure is gone, the original motivation to engage in the behavior was to feel good.”  ~ Helpguide.org.   So we have come full circle and are back to addiction.

I bring all of this up because as with anything whether we are talking about addiction, OCD,  anxiety or any of the other numerous issues many people struggle with, the labels can overlap.  So I was an active addict and when I was active, my addictive behavior mimicked pretty classic OCD behavior.  There was a point when the idea of sitting with my feelings, sitting and not tamping them down with food was inconceivable to me.  I really believed I would die.  This statement describes OCD almost exactly.  “OCD… characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform.” ~ Helpguide.org

And yet, even though OCD looks a lot like addiction, there are differences.  Differences that make helping someone with one or the other tricky, but understanding the differences is important.  For example the two most common forms of treatment for OCD is cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, though neither have proven to be entirely successful and often it is said that OCD, like addiction is something one must learn to manage for the rest of ones life, these treatments flourish.  Treatment options for addiction have proven to be equally challenging.  Some people have found help in working a 12-step program, but others have not.

While the onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder usually occurs during adolescence or young adulthood, younger children sometimes have symptoms that look like OCD. However, the symptoms of other disorders, such as ADD, autism, and Tourette’s syndrome, can also look like obsessive-compulsive disorder, so a thorough medical and psychological exam is essential before any diagnosis is made.” ~ Helpguide.org

Someone whose neurology is autistic may have OCD AND a whole host of other things too, similar to the non autistic population.  Because there is so often an overlap, people mistakenly think that autism is the same as OCD or assume that ALL Autistic children and people have OCD.  The lines between the two become blurred and the distinctions get lost.  So much of what people believe IS autism, are actually co-morbids.  Without making the distinction between what is and isn’t “autism” we may be treating something that we should not be or are missing what we could treat, but aren’t.

Autistic neurology, like non autistic neurology needs to be separated from the co-morbids that affect some, but not all people.  Just as I am non autistic AND an (not active) addict, no one would leap to the conclusion that because I am both, ALL non autistic people are also addicts or that addiction is the same as being non autistic.  Yet, we see this kind of thinking over and over with autism and Autistic people.

Em on her pogo stick copy