Monday, January 21, 2013

I Pet a Dog

I pet a dog the other day.

I pet a dog!

I was at a relative's house, and a little dog jumped up on my chair.  I stared at it for a couple of minutes.  It was one of those tiny, super ugly dogs whose teeth stick out and overlap each other (I did try to find a picture of the breed to post here, but googling 'ugly dog' is incredibly disturbing and I had to stop).  I'm pretty sure it was taunting me.  And then I pet it.

The thing is, I like dogs.  I like cats, too, in case you crazy dog vs. cat people are checking off another person to join your pet cult.  I grew up with both and I've always loved animals.  But somewhere along the line, as the OCD developed, things went awry.  I loved to take our dog for walks, but I didn't want to touch him.  I mean, I did want to.  But I couldn't without feeling dirty and panicky.  So slowly, instead of feeling anxious, I stopped touching animals all together.  It was worrisome.  Not only because animals are cute and I like them, but because my in-laws have lovely indoor dogs that I never touch and I imagine they are offended, that they look at me and think that I hate their beloved pets.

The type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I have is difficult to diagnose and more difficult to treat.  It's closely related to Tourette Syndrome and it's on the rarer side.  It's called, "Not Just Right".  Which describes a lot of my life.*

It means that when things don't happen just right, within my routine, I feel 'not right'.  My skin crawls.  I can't focus on anything else and I feel really anxious.  I hyperventilate.  When I can't brush my hair at the exact right moment, when I start stairs on my left foot, when I touch velvet, or pet an animal.  When things aren't where or how I expect them to be, and people don't react in the way I think they will.  When I wear static-y clothes.  

This has led to a lot of meltdowns at home, and a lot of stopping myself from doing things that I want to do.  The small things include wearing sweaters and touching pets.  The bigger things include spending time with friends and family, big social situations, driving any distance on my own, going on vacations.  Being spontaneous.  Eating.  It has slowly and stealthily damaged virtually every area of my life.

I love camping.  When I was young, my dad would take me camping every summer, just the two of us.  I loved to sit by the water, in the woods, sleeping in a tent.  As an adult, it's been near impossible.  Camping means that my morning routine is disrupted.  On Steven's and my road trip to California, I had a panic attack one day because my hairbrush was lost in the car somewhere.  On a recent camping trip with friends, I had to take a walk and cry because my socks didn't feel right.  The most frustrating part of this is that I LIKE animals.  I LIKE camping.  And I feel like my body is betraying my personality.  My brain is telling my body things that I know are wrong, but I can't stop them.  It makes me feel high maintenance and picky and rigid, when I feel like who I am is relaxed and spontaneous and adventurous.  Every uncomfortable situation is a small battle between my brain and my heart and my mental illness.

The first day I started taking medication, a friend about an hour away called in the afternoon while I was out running errands for work, and I thought about driving out to meet her.  No planning, no one coming with me, just drive by myself out to see a friend that I love.  I didn't go (I was working, I'm not THAT spontaneous) but the fact that I had even considered it was a bizarre, exciting, wonderful turn of events.

And the other day, I pet a dog.

*The two main kinds of OCD are Cleaning and Checking.  Cleaning is pretty self-explanatory.  Most of those folks are germaphobic.  A good example of checking is someone who locks the door, but has to unlock and re-lock it exactly twelve times before they leave the house.  These types of OCD usually respond well to immersion therapy - doing things that make the patients uncomfortable until they can do it without freaking out.  Not Just Right doesn't generally work that way.

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