Wednesday, March 27, 2013

misinformed high school senior

This is when I could be doing school work.

Or I could be telling you how easy it would be for me to slide back into work as usual and forget about trying to find a new job...

But instead, I want to tell you about my files. I've been cleaning them out. So today, I talked the Writing file.

I glimpsed OCD here and there, particularly the honesty stuff - I was afraid of writing true stories because I might not get all the details right, but obviously the story is more pleasant with some details. And I can see that I was very into my spiritual life, whether part OCD (probably) or not.

And then I got to my teenage years. During high school, in a letter never sent (possibly it is a copy and I sent the real one, but more likely I just never sent it, I wrote, "This is a week when I wish I was in heaven, not here on earth. I don't want to go on! But my Master wants me here." Yeah. Not a healthy sign. I feel cheated of a piece of my adolescence. I guess I'm a little angry that nobody realized that I needed professional help. But that was the way of life for the people I was with.

Then there is a story I sent in for a contest. I didn't win or even get published, to my dismay. Today, I thanked God for that fact, because it was one of those that showed I had mental health issues and then resolved on some spiritual passage. Not that spiritual passages aren't good or that God can't help somebody with mental illness, but it could have added to the wealth of information simplifying the solution for mental illness.

But in my drafts, my words make me feel sad now. I had an illness, so clearly, yet missed the chance for help at that point. So once again, in the words of a senior in high school who was me,

     Somehow, a land-slide of problems had deposited us in a family counselor's office. I bore the inward scars of a problem pastor, friends who had turned against my Dad .... Only perhaps scars isn't the right word. Maybe they were all open wounds. Either way, I was struggling, and I was there talking to the counselor who was looking over my answers to a written list of 105 questions. No one should ask me 105 questions, I had thought earlier. I already tend to be too introspective.
     The counselor was focusing on a few questions, like about my being afraid of things, and little habits that resulted. Then she told me she thought I might have Obsessive-Compulsive Dissorder. This disorder is linked with part of one's brain being too active. It involved a chemical imbalance. And the good news, she told me, is that it is treatable. With medicine and therapy. it was very treatable.
     At first, that was exciting. Persistant habbits sometimes made people angry with me. Insistant fears get to be insistently annoying. It could be a relief if there was some explaination besides my sinfulness. And if I could somehow be released from these things, that could be really neat.
     However, my Dad was not completely favorable to the counselor's opinion. He thought that sometimes I do worry too much, but that isn't necessarily because of a problem in the brain. Worrying is a sin. We should trust God more.
     This brought conflict into the room. I could feel it. But they didn't argue much. We were short on time. The counselor asked if I had questions.
     I struggled to put my question in words. If you take medication for it, I asked, then how do you know if you are still thinking right? Would medication distort my view of reality?
     The counselor said that she still needed to make a more precise diagnosis. But in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I wasn't thinking right without medication. My brain was telling me lies. The medicine would help in dealing with this. Therapy would also help. We would identify the lies and replace them with truth.
     We left the counselor's office, and my brain was on overtime, trying to understand all the new information. Maybe I had a brain disorder, I thought. That could explain why I did this, and that, and the other thing. But there was supposed to be one driving fear behind my actions. What was it?
     As time went on, I got sarcastic. I'd do something twice to make sure it was done right. I would think, the counselor would call that obsessive-compulsive. Why am I doing this? I asked myself. Then the sarcasm came to play. Obviously because otherwise the world would come to an end. But when I tested my words for their truth, I came up short. Iwould be happy if the world came to an end. Then I would go to heaven and all my troubles would be over. So that didn't work for a fear. Only, I would mind if it was my fault that the world came to an end. So maybe I was afraid after all, afraid of being to blame.
     Mom didn't think I had Obsessive-COmpulsive Disorder (OCD). She did some research and decided that though I had symptoms of OCD, my motivation was different.
     My greatest problem with the counselor's words focused on her telling me that part of my brain doesn't work. Well, if part of it doesn't work, how do I know what is true? How do I know anything? What if what I know is seriously distorted by a faulty brain?
     These thoughts distressed me, but I wasn't willing to completely give in to them. Someone else - a Bible teacher - had once lied to me. When I found out, I was left with the question, do I know anything about the Bible. I did not want to return there because some counselor said I had OCD. My very life is safe only in the truth found in the Bible. I was not willing to say that my brain didn't work. My brain was what God had given me to receive knowledge, to understand. If I had broken my leg, that wouldn't change who I was. But if I had a problem with my brain...? That was too close to who I am.
     The picture brightened a little when I talked to my sister. She had heard about OCD. He has had some training in working with special needs kids. She said that as she learns about mental probloms, she sees symptoms in herself. She said about OCD that there was a range of people, from those whith almost no symptoms to thos e with many. But it was a question about such mental problems where to make the cut. Where do you say these people need help and these people don't? This was freeing for me. Maybe I had some symptoms. That didn't mean my case was extreme.
     Though I was afraid to go back to the counselor, an appointment was scheduled, and I did not refuse. She asked me more questions. I gave her more answers. I hoped that she would change her mind and say that I did not have OCD.
     She said no such thing. Though she told me my OCD wasn't very much in the way of my life so far, she wanted to deal with it now. She wanted to help get rid of the stress OCD was causing me.
     ... The counselor said it wasn't a big problem right now. She even said I had begun to face my fear in the same way she would have me deal with it. So, assuming my  brain works well enough to make a sound evaluation of myself, I think that as I grow in my faith, my "OCD" problems will diminish. The God who is saving my life will keep OCD from becoming a huge problom.

So there you can see it. A teenager afflicted by OCD along with misinformation.

Misinformation regarding medications and what they would do to you. Misinformation about OCD - or just plain not enough. Misinformation in my parents. Misinformation about the role of OCD in my "spiritual" life. Oh, and also misinformation on spelling. I had a "problom" with that.

So where does that leave me? Sad about the past, glad I know more know, and late for a potluck. Write y'all later!


  1. Thank you for sharing.

    I understand why the past makes you feel sad. Sometimes it does me too. My parents were so focused on one of my brother's and his addiction to drugs that they never took me and my worries seriously as a child and teenager.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm sorry you had trouble, too.

  2. It really is hard to stand back now and see so clearly what you were going through - I wish we could go back and help your teenage self. I'm sorry you didn't get the support and understanding you needed then. So glad things are better now.

    I see a LOT of OCD in my high school scribblings. I, too, went for the quick resolution - even though I know now that isn't how life works, it sure is hard to let go that desire to be "done" with something.

    1. Thanks, Poet. Yeah, I wanted a magic cure for an unknown problem even when I was little. But life doesn't usually work that way. :)

  3. I'm sorry you didn't get the help you needed when you were a teen, Abigail. I didn't, either, and when I read my teen writings, it makes me sad, too. I'm so glad both of us are getting help now!

    1. Thanks, Tina. I'm glad we're both getting help now, too.

  4. Wow, I'm really impressed with your thinking as a high school student. Even if you were given and then formed some misinformation, there's some really interesting thinking in there too.

    1. Thanks, Ann, I really appreciate that.