Saturday, January 05, 2008

How OCD Wasted A Year of My Life

I suppose an update is in order. I've a lot to explain, so I'll likely separate this into multiple posts.
Though I doubt anyone is reading this, I do think someone may in the future. I've been away from writing for two reasons and two reasons only. (or one if you want to be over simplistic)
Over the first year and first quarter of my second year at UC Davis, I've been suffering from OCD and depression. It's been "interesting"

I've had troubles in my academics, in my life in the outside world, and in simply existing. I'm not one to blame everything bad that happens on some external source, however I can't help but feel that my failures have not been my fault.

The story starts with my turn from simple tics and habits to full on rituals.
I'm not able to tell when the change truly was, as I've had obsessive compulsive tendencies my entire life, but somewhere in the fall quarter 2007 I went crazy.
Six is my number, I do many things in sixes. I do fewer things now that I'm medicated, but the medication only lessens the urges, it doesn't manage to quell them.
I had a number of rituals, but for expediency I will refrain from listing them all. The most common, and most marked rituals were these: I would touch my left shoulder to my left ear in some multiple of six (very hard to hide), I would turn in a clockwise circle for some multiple of six times, and I would lick car tires while walking past them.

These were only the most notable visible acts which I indulged in during my first year here at Davis. more troubling were the thoughts that filled my head.
every day, for what seemed like many hours (time goes much more slowly when you are afraid) I would see vivid mental images of my girlfriend's death.
I can call up many a scenario, and nearly everything in this world has some potential as an instrument of death.
The most prominent visions were those of Julie being hanged, of Julie being burnt at the stake, and of me slamming Julie's head against the corner of a table.

Of course these images were distressing. It felt like I spent more time in the foetal position during that year than I had as a foetus.

It took me until winter quarter to finally get some help (this after a first quarter of a D in chemistry and an F in maths)
I went to the campus counselling centre and made an appointment. I spoke to a rather nice psychologist, sitting in what was normally her chair so as to avoid having my back to the door.
She referred me to a psychiatrist and a specialist in OCD.
The whole process went interestingly enough.

I was unwilling to drive for my first five or so meetings with the OCD psychologist. I took the bus to Sacramento and rode my bike the other two miles to her office. I would come about an hour early, but I did that with everything. I would miss a class instead of showing up late. Tardiness was something I avoided at all costs.
I did this until the meds I got from my psychiatrist kicked in a little and the overwhelming feeling that I was going to kill someone with my car left me long enough for the drive to Sacramento.

I kept on with the drugs, gradually upping them to my current dose (which it turns out is still too, low. However that is for another time) And eventually I began to succede in some classes. Throughout my First year I got at least one A every quarter. This didn't significantly raise my grades enough to keep me out of academic probation, but somehow I managed to avoid complete dismissal.

Summer came and I went back to working at camp in Tahoe. It was good as my girlfriend was working with me (she had been in Boston the entire year). I stopped going to my psychologist because it was too much work. While one is working and studying and living it is too much to try to work out ones issues.
Psychotherapy for OCD is different than for other disorders. It is technically called CBT cognitive behavioural therapy. The essential basis to this treatment is that the person must do that which they are afraid of until they are desensitised. This means spending those hours you used to spend trying to avoid thinking about horrible things, intentionally thinking about those horrible things.

I had some minor problems over the summer, usually spurred by a lack of medication (it took much more effort to renew prescriptions away from my psychiatrist) but overall the summer was much much better than the school year, and I began to believe I was getting better, maybe at a standard that I could live with.

I went back to school and started working on two classes which I had done poorly on while unmedicated. In this whole plan I didn't intend to spend every day of the week lying in my bed with the curtains drawn.
I would come home from class, and the first things I would do would be to strip, and hop in bed.
I didn't shower, I didn't do the laundry, and I most certainly didn't do homework.

I slept, or sometimes cried.

No longer were my bouts of crying fully explained by horrible images, now they just came.
I just felt unbeleivable sadness about things that shouldn't have bothered me nearly that much. I swear that I slept more hours of the day than I was awake.
I don't fully know where my quarter went, but for some odd reason I didn't think to question my depression untill the end of the quarter.
I've still yet to make my new appointment with my psychiatrist.
I left that first partially medicated quarter with an F, a D and a C. the first time I have not gotten at least one A.
Today I got an email saying that without some serious hoop jumping I would be dismissed from the university.
I had expected this, but I am not looking forward to talking to all of these functionaries, telling them about my insanity, with papers and medical records to prove.

I'm guessing that this is one of three (four if I'm being pessimistic) things they would accept as reasons to not dismiss someone.
1. serious mental illness
2. Serious physical illness
3 Serious family problem
4. (pessimistic) large contribution to the university by a rich parent, some sort of legacy deal.

I'm sure they'll let me stay, if they don't I'll be fighting it to the end.
I still would rather have been sane this whole time.

In fact, if it were between finishing college and staying sane I would chose sanity.

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