Thursday, April 24, 2014

Anxiety and Childhood

I guess there really isn’t a time in which you formally become a citizen of the great anxiety city. There isn’t a ceremony to welcome you and there isn’t a memorable date that you can mark in your calendar. It just happens. Little by little, anxiety starts creeping up on you, and when you least expect it you become afraid of your own shadow.

At least that’s what happened to me.

I don’t ever remember being a carefree child. I remember my classmates being afraid of nothing. Their world was a world free of consequences. They didn’t see what was wrong with jumping down from the bleachers, they didn’t see the problem with letting go of their parents’ hand while in the store. Imagine this, they didn’t even think about cavities! That was just nonsense to me.

I was only 4 years old when I started noticing that I was different from all the children I knew. I don’t mean than in presumptuous way. If anything, I wished I could be more like them. But I wasn’t and I had to learn to live with it.

My classmates seemed to like me, and my classmates’ parents seemed to LOVE me. I was their children’s conscience that helped to keep them out of trouble.

I was a bossy child telling all the kids what they
could and could not do...
“Hector, you can’t do that. You know the teacher will get mad at you if she finds out you copied Alex’s homework.”

“Alex! Don’t jump from there. You’re going to hurt yourself!!”

“Abraham, you really need to start brushing your teeth at night and eating less candy. That’s why you have to go to the dentist so often.” 

I was only 4 and I had already become an anxious mother to a bunch of first graders.

I got used to carrying, not only my own problems, but those of others as well.
I worried immensely when someone in my family did something that I considered wrong, such as eating without properly washing their hands. And little by little, my horrible, nasty, no good OCD crept in my life....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Behavior) according to an OCD sufferer

Washing hands can be one of the many rituals
of the person with OCD.

I was anxious since I was born. But that anxiety didn’t turn into full blown OCD until I was about 8 years old. Boy, was that a difficult time!

So you’ve probably heard about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Behavior), right? Those three letters seem to be everywhere! But I also think there is a lot of misinformation about that disorder. Let’s get a few things cleared up before I go on to bore you with my story and how it affected my childhood and life in general:

  • A perfectionist does not necessarily have OCD
  • Just because you like to be clean and are meticulous about it, doesn’t mean you have OCD
  • Being anal doesn’t mean you have OCD. That just means you’re a jerk. 
  • Being picky and particular about somethings doesn’t mean you have OCD. 

I feel the need to clarify these things because, nowadays, I hear tons of people saying: “Oh my gosh! He’s sooo OCD!”, when in reality that person is just being a jerk or is a very clean person, who knows? There’s a fine line between the two...

OCD involves something more dramatic, and excuse me for saying this, but OCD also involves a little bit - or a lot - of craziness. I don’t mean to call those with OCD crazy. Far from it! I myself went through it, and on stressful occasions I still revert to some of those behaviors.

When I say crazy, I mean that even the person with OCD knows these behaviors are wrong and off. He knows that OCD looks crazy, and that the thoughts going on in his head don’t really make sense. They don’t even make sense to him! But still, like an addiction, the OCD person goes back to perform the rituals.

Let me give you an example of an OCD thought:

Makes sense? NO!! What does washing hands have to do with car accidents? Nothing, but yet the OCD mind makes a connection to it and it leads the person to wrongly believe that he can have control over the uncontrollable. 

And you know what the worst part is? The OCD person knows how stupid this sounds. They do! But we still have to go back to wash our hands just in case there’s a little bit of truth to that idiotic thought. And every time we do that, the OCD grows stronger...

Some people don’t understand why you have to do things that you know make no sense. Those don’t have OCD. The disorder becomes of your life, and you know have to listen, or else something terrible might happen.

It’s probably not a good comparison, but it could be like the child who is molested. The molester tells the child: “Don’t tell mom and dad or something bad will happen.”
So the child continues with the abuse, even though he hates and abhors it, in the hopes that nothing bad will ever happen to mom and dad. 

That’s OCD. You do the things it tells you to do because you’re afraid of what might happen if you don’t. And even though it’s all in your head, it feels just as real.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Anxiety: Controlling real and imagined fears

One of the things about anxiety Is that it comes accompanied of two sets of fears: real and imagined. However, anxiety exaggerates even the real fears, so that those fears also become imagined. Let me give you an example:

While it is possible to get sick, the possibilities of contracting a unknown disease that doctors know nothing about are very, very slim.  In fact the chances are so slim that we may even say they're impossible. But if you're an anxious person, you will think:

          "But even if chances are slim, there's still a chance, right?"

To that I will say:

"Yes, there's a chance, but the chances of that happening are even slimmer than of you marrying George Clooney or Angelina Jolie.

Now if you truly believe you will one day marry a movie star, then by all means, go ahead and believe that you will one day contract a horrible disease that no hospital will ever know how to manage.

And now, because I just said that, I feel like my possibilities of contracting that type do disease just increased because I revealed my fear. Thanks for that anxiety!

So you can see what I mean, and if you've experienced chronic anxiety you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The real trick is learning how to talk yourself out of those fears and learning how to distinguish the possible from the highly improbable.

How to distinguish fears

I'm not gonna ask you to look at statistics to find out what might and might not happen. No, instead I'm gonna ask you to use something that most of us were blessed with: common sense

Anxiety and common sense.

The first thing that goes out the window when you're feeling anxious is common sense, and that's a shame. Why? Because common sense could really protect us from all the insanity that unfolds inside our heads.

Here's a set of questions you can ask yourself to help you distinguish real from imagined fears:

What are the chances of this happening?
  • How many times have you seen it happen?
  • How many times have you heard of it happening?
  • Why do you think this will happen?

Could this be a pattern?

  • How often do you experience this sort of fear?

These questions help me because it helps me realize that my fears come from within me and not because there is an actual, factual reason to believe they will happen. Detecting patterns helps me see that anxiety is playing tricks on me.

Of course, I haven't learned how to completely control it, but I'm always trying new techniques. I hope this one has helped you!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Anxious Silly Monkey?

I’ve always been an anxious person. I was born anxious, and I grew up being a anxious silly kid. My mother would call me anxious silly monkey and I guess I never really outgrew the name. 

There’s a couple of reasons for this blog. I started writing my fears and my experiences in anxiety land since a very young age. Back then when I was a kid there was no way to share my experiences with the world or with someone who could remotely understand what I was going through, so pen and paper became my best of friends. My mother is a very caring person, and she tried hard to understand what I was going through. She helped me a lot, I don’t think I could have outgrown my OCD if it hadn’t been for her. But she was still a foreigner to anxiety land. 

Now, with the internet at our fingertips, I hope to find those like me so that we know that we all go through very similar situations as long as our main citizenship remains here in the land of anxiety.

I also hope to help those who are foreigners to anxiety land to understand what it is like to live here so that they, in turn, can help or simply sympathize with anxious loved ones. 

I hope you don’t get bored of my stories!