Naneenaneebooboo! (Sp?!)

Retirement home competition

People love to play the my-situation-is-harder-than-yours trump card, don’t they? Yesterday I was at a bed & breakfast while on my way to a professional conference. Forced to share a table with two other couples, we naturally entered into the obligatory small talk. When the conversation turned to children, I made a joke about how tiring it is to have small children and how I was looking forward to the “relaxation” of being away at a conference. One couple immediately chimed in: “Just wait till you have teenagers!”

If these weren’t nice, well-meaning people, I would’ve punched them in the face.

First of all, literally everyone who has had teenagers to whom I’ve ever expressed my sentiments about small children has said this exact same thing, so they deserved to be punched for being so damn predictable. But beyond that, wtf?! Why must you tell me that you’ve dealt with harder things than me, even if it’s true?

People do this with countless topics…tell them you can’t eat like you used to without regretting it, and they’ll say, “just wait till you turn 40, 50, 60…I’d bet money that even in retirement homes, the 90-year-olds are telling the 87-year-olds that they have no idea what they’re in for when they reach 90!

Conversations about mental health are no different…

Person 1: “I battle depression.”

Person 2: “Just be glad you don’t have OCD on top of it! What I would give to only deal with depression!”

Person 3: “Hmph! I’ve got 5 diagnoses and take 7 medications.”

Blah, Blah, Blah…it’s not a competition, people!

Last night as I was watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, there was a funny scene where one character was feeling sorry for himself, but checked himself because his girlfriend, the main character, is in prison. But then the guy’s friend jumped in and said something like, “So what?! We all still have the right to feel sorry for ourselves even if we’re not in prison!”

This was intended to be funny, but it’s similar to the point I’m making here: Everyone’s situation is their own, and when we insist on trumping others, we are diminishing their experiences and struggles. I’ve heard it said that pain is entirely subjective; there’s no way to measure someone else’s pain. If you say your pain is at level 10, there’s no way for me to examine how accurate you’re being. I have to trust your self-assessment.

For me, having small children has pushed my broken brain to the brink of suicidal depression. It seems like being overwhelmed and not having enough time to myself feeds my depression. Thus, 7 years of bad sleep, crying babies, temper tantrums, oops-I-spilled-my-tomato-soup-all-over-the-white-couch, and all the other non-stop crap that comes with little people has nearly done me in. Maybe for you, having small kids is invigorating and life-giving. Good for you! Have 20 kids and get your own reality show. That ain’t for me!

So, if you’d like to respond with your story, I promise to make this a forum where your story won’t be judged. You are who you are, and it’s both beautiful and painful in unique ways. Own it, and don’t let others tell you you’re being a sissy.

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Abandonment Issues

In response to the upstart of this blog, a friend wrote to me about how all of her OCD issues ultimately stem from her abandonment issues. I can relate! As a child, my obsessive fears began with a fear of being left by my parents. My parents had their flaws, but they weren’t the sort one sees on the five o’clock news, having left their car full of kids in some isolated parking lot while they fled the scene. Nevertheless, my abandonment issues ran so deep that I structured my young life in such a way as to be surrounded by responsible adults as often as possible. Being left with a random friend’s parents or a baseball coach sent me over the edge. The fear went like this: My parents won’t come to pick me up from baseball practice; the coach will wait awhile and then tell me he has to leave but he’s sure I’ll be fine; I’ll wait until dark when I will begin wandering the streets, alone and in danger; the rest of my life will be a homeless, friendless existence. The end.  To a rational mind, this is absurd. Any number of people would help a stranded kid, and my parents weren’t likely to jump ship on me.

Today during a counseling session, I was sharing this fear with my counselor but I worded it differently. I told her that I had a “feeling of abandonment” moreso than a “fear” of it. This was an aha moment for me; there’s a big difference between a fear and a feeling of abandonment. My parents never abandoned me in the physical sense of the word, but there were countless emotional abandonments. I was one of five kids, and during my obsession-filled child, my parents were going through a very rough time in their personal lives and marriage. Even then admit that I got the brunt of their turmoil. To cope, I became a reader of people and a people pleaser. I would (and still do) read people as best I could in order to figure out how to get them to accept me and like me. Anxiously, I would (and still do) look for little clues as to how well I was doing in my efforts to be accepted…in my attempts to ensure that I wouldn’t be abandoned by this new friend.

I suppose this post is related as much to anxiety and childhood psychology as it is to OCD, but for me, as one with OCD, my feelings of abandonment have led to many, many obsessions that center around a quest to be accepted – truly accepted with no hope for rejection. I’ve found it in my marriage, yet ironically, I obsess about my marriage more than anything else these days. I still don’t sense it from my family of origin…while I may be wrong, it feels more like a “be like us or you’re out!” family.

So, friends, I’d like to hear from you…how has the idea of abandonment played a role in your mental health?

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