There’s a Metallica song called “The Unnamed Feeling” that nails an important truth about OCD and anxiety. We have our triggers, but many times we can’t see or describe what’s pulling us apart.
I mentioned this a little bit in a post I wrote earlier about A&E’s “Obsession” series:
Things eat at you in a more gradual, quieter fashion. By the time the hand washing and contorted expressions begin, the sufferer has been boiling in obsessive thinking for hours. To me, that’s the worst part — when you’re alone, trapped in a spinning mind. It’s a lonely, alien feeling. You feel like the last man left standing after a nuclear explosion. Nothing is left. Now what the fuck do you do?
By the time the stereotypical behavior comes out, there’s almost a relief because you’ve reached the beginning of the end of an attack.
To say it’s a faceless, shapeless monster that comes alive is fairly accurate. I was chatting a fellow OCD sufferer on Facebook recently and this came up. She found this blog through the Facebook page I set up for it, and she pinged me to share some of her own unique quirks.
She mentioned the usual things like repetitive actions. But then she nailed what for her is the most hurtful part:
“I would rather have the physical manifestations of ocd, (hand washing, checking, germ phobia) rather than the exhausting-beating myself up mentally about something. Even though the physical stuff can be very frustrating, painful, and exhausting; it is not nearly as painful and damaging as dwelling on things.”
Dwelling on things.
That’s where it starts.
Life can be flowing along peacefully and then it comes out of nowhere and stabs you right between the eyes: A stray thought about someone or something. You think of an appointment in the calendar or a loved one taking a plane ride. That’s where it starts: Just a random picture.
You begin to focus a little more on the image, and the imagination starts to run wild.
Location plays a big part in this. The random images start to spin into a damaging funnel cloud when I’m in closed up spaces: An elevator, a traffic jam, a meeting.
Those places make my mind wander until it finds its target.
From there a small concern becomes a sickening worry until you can no longer contain yourself.
That’s when the stuff everyone can see starts up: The windmill hands. The fidget, relentlessly tugging at my clothes because maybe — just maybe — something is embarrassingly out of place.
It sucks a person’s vitality from every pore.
Thankfully, I’m over the worst of it. I still have my OCD moments, but smaller things drive it.
The internal brain spin and the demon that triggers it is in its box most days now. The box is made out of the coping tools I’ve built during six-plus years in therapy. The nails that keep the box shut are made from Prozac.
Writing in this blog is a powerful tool because I spill all the dark thoughts out onto a page. One I write about it, it’s no longer in my head.
The unnamed feeling is the toughest beast you’ll ever wrestle. But if you think it’s unbreakable, you’re wrong.