I don’t have any friends…
I mean my life is littered with people who would perhaps call me their friend if asked, but I don’t know one person that measures up to my definition of what a friend is. Are my standards too high?
You be the judge: For me a friend is someone who accepts you for yourself despite your flaws. A friend defends you in the face of scrutiny and contrary to public opinion. A friend doesn’t require you to lie or keep hidden what you believe or who you are as a prerequisite for his or her friendship. That being said… I don’t have any friends. Not even one.
You see… I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD which is complicated by severe depression. The depression is a natural result of not being able to control my behavior. One explanation for the high depression rate among OCD populations was posited by Mineka, Watson, and Clark (1998), who explained that people with OCD (or any other anxiety disorder) may feel depressed because of an “out of control” type of feeling.*
As a result of my condition a psychiatrist prescribed medication for me to take which helps control my sickness. Not very many people know about my condition and those that do know act as if they didn’t. It’s like there is an unspoken understanding that they are to guard my shameful secret until I can get rid of it and be normal like they are. “If I had asthma,” I often think, “and had to carry an inhaler would they react like this? Probably not.” Asthma is socially acceptable. It’s beyond ones control, but mental illness? With the exercise of willpower I should be able to put my mind straight. Right?
Personal problems associated with the disorder and leading to my above conclusion.
Whenever a disagreement or conflict occurs with someone I’m close to, they are suddenly able to remember my disorder and begin looking at me as if I had two heads. They begin talking in a patronizing manner suddenly asking me about my sickness and how it’s affecting me. They insinuate that I’m unable to see the correct side of an issue because of my disorder. I know that there is tentative evidence that OCD may be associated with above-average intelligence or at least a small increase in intelligence.* I also know however that this is not common knowledge. “Your brain is not wired properly,” they reason. “So your conclusions are obviously wrong and not to be given serious consideration.
Another problem I’ve experienced is that some of my close ‘friends’ occasionally make such statements as: “Oh you’re still taking that medication?” or ask such questions as: “How long are you going to be taking that stuff?” as if this is just a phase I’m going through or an alternative lifestyle choice. Such comments hurt. I wish it were a phase but unfortunately I just can’t seem to shake it off.
For the past 3 years my condition has been under control but I’ve recently run out of my supply of medication. If in a developed country like the United States there is a stigma surrounding mental illness imagine how it must be viewed in Central Africa where psychiatry is a relatively new concept and the majority of people still use traditional medicine from witch doctors. Much of what would be diagnosed as mental illness here is seen as demon possession. That being said… I was able to find a psychiatrist and refill my prescription but have run into another hurdle. Something prevalent in many parts of Africa is falsification of medicine. Counterfeit medicinal drugs include those with less or none of the stated active ingredients, with added, sometimes hazardous, adulterants, substituted ingredients, completely misrepresented, or sold with a false brand name. Otherwise, legitimate drugs that have passed their date of expiry are sometimes remarked with false dates. Low-quality counterfeit medication may cause any of several dangerous health consequences, including side effects or allergic reactions, in addition to their obvious lack of efficacy due to having less or none of their active ingredients.*
I’ve taken my meds for the past month and although I can’t explain the specific difference, I feel there is something wrong with my refilled medication. I suspect it is expired but there’s no way for me to confirm anything. All I know is that something’s different.
What is OCD?
It is a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, have certain thoughts repeatedly, or feel they need to perform certain routines repeatedly. People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. Often they take up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with tics, anxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide. The cause is unknown.
The ‘O’ stands for obsessive. Obsessions are thoughts that recur and persist despite efforts to ignore or confront them. Within and among individuals, the initial obsessions, or intrusive thoughts, vary in their clarity and vividness. A relatively vague obsession could involve a general sense of disarray or tension accompanied by a belief that life cannot proceed as normal while the imbalance remains. A more intense obsession could be a preoccupation with the thought or image of someone close to them dying or intrusions related to “relationship rightness.” Other obsessions concern the possibility that someone or something other than oneself—such as God, the Devil, or disease—will harm either the person with OCD or the people or things that the person cares about. Other individuals with OCD may experience the sensation of invisible protrusions emanating from their bodies, or have the feeling that inanimate objects are ensouled.
The ‘C’ stands for compulsive. People with OCD frequently perform tasks, or compulsions, to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. They rely on such compulsions as an escape from their obsessive thoughts; however, they are aware that the relief is only temporary, that the intrusive thoughts will soon return. Some people use compulsions to avoid situations that may trigger their obsessions. Although some people do certain things over and over again, they do not necessarily perform these actions compulsively. For example, bedtime routines, learning a new skill, and religious practices are not compulsions. Whether or not behaviors are compulsions or mere habit depends on the context in which the behaviors are performed. For example, arranging and ordering DVDs for eight hours a day would be expected of one who works in a video store, but would seem abnormal in other situations. In other words, habits tend to bring efficiency to one’s life, while compulsions tend to disrupt it.
The ‘D’ stands for disorder. This should be self explanatory. A person suffering with OCD lives their life in disarray. People with OCD understand that their notions do not correspond with reality; however, they feel that they must act as though their notions are correct. For example, an individual who engages in compulsive hoarding might be inclined to treat inorganic matter as if it had the sentience or rights of living organisms, while accepting that such behavior is irrational on a more intellectual level.
Facts associated with OCD
Obsessive–compulsive disorder affects about 2.3% of people at some point in their life. Rates during a given year are about 1.2% and it occurs worldwide. It is unusual for symptoms to begin after the age of thirty-five and half of people develop problems before twenty. Males and females are affected about equally. In English the phrase obsessive–compulsive is often used in an informal manner unrelated to OCD to describe someone who is excessively meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed, or otherwise fixated.*
People with OCD may be diagnosed with other conditions, as well or instead of OCD, such as obsessive–compulsive personality disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa, social anxiety disorder, bulimia nervosa, Tourette syndrome, Asperger syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking), body dysmorphic disorder, and trichotillomania (hair pulling). In 2009 it was reported that depression among those with OCD is particularly alarming because their risk of suicide is high; more than 50 percent of people experience suicidal tendencies, and 15 percent have attempted suicide. Individuals with OCD have also been found to be affected by delayed sleep phase syndrome at a substantially higher rate than the general public. Moreover, severe OCD symptoms are consistently associated with greater sleep disturbance. Reduced total sleep time and sleep efficiency have been observed in people with OCD, with delayed sleep onset and offset and an increased prevalence of delayed sleep phase disorder.*