I recently came across the poet and author Neil Hilborn. In particular, I watched a YouTube video of him performing his poem titled “OCD”. As of this writing the video has gone viral and accumulated over 12 million views. I can’t recall how I stumbled upon the video, but as someone who lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) the title caught my eye. Since watching the video I’ve shared it across social media and encouraged people to take a few minutes and watch the performance; listen to the poem. It’s powerful and hauntingly familiar. I wanted to cheer and cringe at the same time while he told his story. It’s hard to describe OCD to those who aren’t inflicted with the disorder or have not experienced its wrath firsthand from a friend or family member. OCD creates an emotional certainty for what is known to be completely illogical. That’s tough to get across to someone who has never seen it up close. I recently wrote a small piece for this blog titled “The Checker” where I tried to describe my primary affliction: checking. However, what makes Mr. Hilborn’s poem/performance so remarkable is that it provides a familiarity, a clarity of the disorder, that makes it consumable for the masses. I have embedded the video at the end of this post. I hope you enjoy it. You can also find a collection of Mr. Hilborn’s poems, including “OCD”, in his book titled Our Numbered Days.
I wasn’t sure how to start this update. I’ve been wanting to write a post for the last week or so. This blog, whether posting in text or in viog format, has been a therapeutic tool for me and an outlet to let others know how I’m doing. I wish I had a better outcome to report, but my depression and anxiety levels have only increased since my last update. A sense of helplessness has taken up residence again. I’m finding it harder and harder to see what “normal” or “better” even looks like anymore. They seem like such foreign concepts. I feel like I’m just going through the motions and those motions are minimal at that. I miss the sense of optimism. What little bit that used to be there seems to be drained dry. The snowball that is depression grows at such a sneakily fast pace.
Over the last 15 months I’ve been to four different facilities, looking for answers, comfort, and a path forward. I look at that stat and it only makes me more depressed. What does it take, why have they failed? Why have I failed? Intellectually I know it’s not that simple—recovery is not a zero sum game. Of course, the rational mind isn’t driving this car, it’s been relegated to the trunk. Depression is evil that way. Letting your rational mind come along for the ride so that it can see the irrationality taking control. Making it watch as my depression and anxiety rise for no apparent reason. Depression is the bully that rubs your nose in it. Saying, “See, you know the world is out there, but I’ve buried you so far under this stack of fear, sadness, and hopelessness you’ll never get to it.”
I guess it’s a good thing that I can see what it’s doing to me. I can see that it’s irrational. However, it’s also completely demoralizing to know that I can acknowledge this parasite and not have a clue how to destroy it. It’s said that ignorance is bliss, and while that may be true for Trump voters, for those of us living in the real world it’s dangerous. If I couldn’t tell the difference between the rational and irrational I may be at peace with one extreme or the other, but it wouldn’t be living. Not in any true sense of the word. So, I keep moving on. I keep riding in the trunk, knowing I don’t have to be there, but having no idea how to get out and take control of the wheel. A paradox of depressing proportions.
As the year draws to a close I created a quick vlog entry to talk about how things are going. It’s been a tough year, but I’m looking forward to the new year and I’m trying to reflect on some of the positive outcomes that took place in 2016.
I hope you all have a happy and wonderful new year!
by Mark Majors
I don’t sleep much anymore. I’ve grown tired of the pills that would occasionally overpower my senses and force my eyelids shut. It was never quality sleep and I hated that wretched feeling that would always come the next morning. Now I simply rely on pure exhaustion as my drug of choice. It visits me every couple of days, filling my tank just enough to keep the low fuel light off. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at navigating life on fumes, coasting along until exhaustion strikes again.
My insomnia is a byproduct of anxiety and depression, both hardwired into my brain. My anxiety fuels my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I’m not a cleaner, a hoarder, or some of the more stereotypical types you hear when OCD is mentioned. I’m a checker. I make sure that the stove is off when it hasn’t been used in days. I don’t leave a room until the light switch is turned off and it feels just right. The door to my house? I’ve checked the lock on it so often that I’m on my fifth door handle. You might ask yourself why, and you would not be alone. I ask myself that same question, every single check. That’s the torture, and also saving grace, of OCD. It’s torturous to check, check, check and nothing ever feels right. The saving grace? I know my checking is irrational. This is what separates me from, say, a Schizophrenic. I don’t truly believe that the oven magically turned itself on, or that the light switch is stuck in between on and off causing a spark to start a fire, which of course would burn the building down. No, no, no, I don’t believe any of that. I just feel it. A feeling so real of the Obsession, the door unlocked leading to terrible things happening, that causes a Compulsion, an act of checking the door to ensure the horrible occurrence doesn’t happen.
You feel it too actually. However, you probably feel it once, each night when you swing by the door to lock it before bed. Then the thought of uncertainty vanishes. At that moment if you were to stop and ask yourself about the status of the door it would feel locked and chances are very high that you’d be correct. With so little doubt you head off to the bedroom for a good night’s sleep.
Here is where we differ. I’d still be at the door, and why not? There is that one in a million chance that the door didn’t actually lock correctly? Imagine how bad I would feel if it were unlocked and this was the night the bad guys were planning their stroll through the neighborhood, inspecting front doors which were carelessly left unlocked. To save my family from such carnage, shouldn’t I check it just one more time? This time will be the last check, I’m sure of it, because it will feel right. So I check it, and guess what, I’m not feeling to great about this check, how ‘bout another? On and on I go, down the OCD rabbit hole.
My depression is easier to understand. We all get depressed. I happen to get depressed for who the hell knows why. Again, brain chemistry at work. Being depressed is part of life, an evolutionary gift to help us deal with grief and sadness. When you lose a loved one, you have a shitty job, or even something trivial, you get depressed. You are in a funk, and eventually you start to get out of it. This doesn’t mean you forget, but you start to move on. With depression, you stay in that funk regardless of what is going on around you. In fact, all you want to do is checkout from life. Many of us do this metaphorically, with a bed, eight-hundred channels, and hours of staring off into space. Unfortunately, there are those who take life’s exit literally, deciding that the there’s too much shit to handle or there’s no way it will ever end. I’ve thought about the literal way, more times than I care to admit. I wouldn’t suggest that route to anyone, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t understand. The boundaries of that understanding have been tested and I’ve decided to live, but living is more than just a heartbeat. Living is having a purpose, and I need to find mine.
The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. I’ve definitely fallen into the two steps forward, two steps back routine. As frustrating as that has been I try to look at the silver lining and realize that being at a net zero is better than being in the negative. Also, even if I do regress I’ve had the experience to feel what those two steps forward felt like, even if for a short while. My OCD has been improving since I’ve returned from the mountains, but my overall anxiety has increased to fill the void.
I had been taking guitar lessons to help as a form of music therapy, as well as the fact that I love music and have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. Unfortunately, the guitar is the most anti-ergonomic thing I’ve ever had in my hands. This wonderful instrument that has given so much to the world is a torture device to the beginner. However, I knew going in that practice, practice, practice would be the key to removing the awkwardness and developing the natural feel of the instrument. Well…at the end of last week, while I was practicing, I had a panic attack. Practice wasn’t going well as I kept making errors and then BAM! I just folded, shaking and heart racing, chest tightening, and my breath disappeared. And this my friends is how anxiety leads to depression…while performing “therapy” I have a panic attack. That is depressing! I know, I know, “Woe is me”, but hey, it doesn’t make it any less sucky. The good news is that I haven’t given up on guitar, not at all, but I’ve stopped with instructor led lessons and am now using video tutorials, apps, etc. I believe that the accountability of having a real-life human as an instructor led me down the rabbit hole of fear that I would disappoint them. Now, was all of this emotion driven, irrational, and not based on reality? Absolutely! Did this logically make sense in my mind? Nope! Welcome to anxiety…the land where logic is asked to wait outside while emotion runs free.
While the guitar experience hasn’t turned out as planned, I have been able to enjoy a few books and finish up my latest TV watching binge. I had never read a David Baldacci book before but came across one that had this very intriguing story line about a detective who had suffered a brain injury and was unable to forget anything. This book appropriately titled “Memory Man” was an easy read but had enough twists and turns to make it hard to put down. I found out about the book from seeing its sequel that had just came out, titled “The Last Mile” which is where I first learned of the character referenced above, Amos Decker. So, I picked up the paperback of “Memory Man” and downloaded “The Last Mile” the day after finishing the first book. The stories are well done and I truly enjoyed the Amos Decker character.
I also read a nonfiction book, “Jesus Before The Gospels“, from one of my favorite authors Bart D. Ehrman. Since Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, his books are fascinating because he looks at Christianity through a historical-critical perspective which provides context and intellectualism which is absent in many of the books written about this topic. This book in particular investigates the question of how the story of Jesus was shaped and, most importantly, remembered in a mostly non-literate society and how those forces impacted what we are presented with today. This is one of those books that doesn’t require you to be a believer or not, there is no doubt of Christianity’s role in the world, especially here in western society. Understanding the what, why, and how we have ended up with our current stories makes for an interesting read. Also, as stated above, Ehrman is one of my favorite authors and I highly recommend his other books as well.
I also finished the seventh, and final, season of “Sons Of Anarchy“. I’ll have to admit, this was the third time I tried to watch this series with the first two times not making it past the first couple of episodes. At first it seemed very cheesy to me, but after a friend guaranteed me that if I watched a few more episodes I’d be hooked, I kept on. They were exactly right, after I made it through a couple more episodes I was sucked into the world of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club and all the action, drama, and suspense that went along with it. I’m very glad I listened to my friend because it was well worth the ride (no pun intended). The show does a great job at developing the core characters and continues to find ways to make you want to punch your TV and/or have your heartstrings pulled as the story progresses. Quite often I was amazed at how angry, sad, and happy I could be…all in one episode. While I think the show probably would have been better served by not dragging certain pieces out for a 7th season, it is still a tremendous show that I highly recommend. Just remember, don’t give up if you’re not hooked after the first couple of episodes…give it a couple more and I think you’ll be glad you did.
One last note, you may have noticed that there is a new page on the blog, “Music“. Though I’m still learning to play the guitar, I have been creating music electronically for a while now. I’ve added this page to provide an avenue for me to post those songs. You can listen to them directly from the page and I will continue adding songs as I create them.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments/feedback. Also, I’m always looking for ideas regarding TV shows to check out as well as books that you have found to be interesting. Your suggestions are always welcomed!
I’m officially back home. It’s been a while since I’ve last posted an update so here’s a vlog post to provide some context around my decision to come home and what I’ve been up to since I’ve been back. I’m hoping to start posting more frequently now that I’m back home and have more access. If you’re just tuning in, here is the link to my “Mark’s Journey” playlist on YouTube which chronicles my journey with Mental Health issues and the logistical struggles that come with trying to find proper care.
Today marks my 14th day at a new facility, located on a 90+ acre farm in the mountains. It’s a facility that is open for those struggling with mental health issues and refers to itself as a “healing community”. As a resident I have access to my phone and occasional WiFi, but without a standard keyboard my messages are all being typed on my phone’s small onscreen keyboard. With that said, I will be be doing more short video posts during my time here than text heavy posts. Below are the two vlogs I’ve made so far while I’ve been here. Thanks again to everyone for their support and warm wishes as I continue my journey!