Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is no joke. Saying “I’m a little bit OCD” is like saying that a homeless man is a little bit strapped for cash, like saying that a schizophrenic patient is a little bit upset. For those of you who do not suffer from it then this is probably worth both your time and your attention, if it is in fact something that has always made you wonder as to what it is actually like to suffer from such an incredibly debilitating illness and seemingly to the fullest extent. That counts for any kind of a mental health illness as well, of course. Perhaps you have felt moments of utter anguish in your life so far, moments when the wheels come off entirely and you are left with nothing but a spinning, whirring brain that just will not adhere to your deepest, most natural wishes in the world. Take that and try upping it to the point where there really feels like no such return whatsoever. Alarming? Beyond, beyond alarming. And that was, still is, my level of excruciating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; as though there really is a twenty-four-hour party happening inside of your twisted and utterly transfixed and jaded head – add in all of the spilt wine, all of the loudmouthed arrogant people and all of the everything on an acoustically felt level and maybe then try multiplying it by, hmm, a hundred? There yet? Didn’t think so.
You are being continually asked about the absolute elephant in the room amid harrowingly futile attempts by your loved-ones to even begin to comprehend something, anything, that is going on for you. And, in my case, over the invisible course of two-and-a-half decades and ever since the early age of eleven to now – I am thirty-five as I write this particular piece – all awhile you die inside. Or rather, your brain does its damnedest to die inside. This is your wonderful world, their world to share in, a world that of course grows smaller and smaller owing to the heartbreaking isolation that severe OCD can cause. You attempt to keep track of your thoughts on a daily, minute-to-minute basis only all of your thoughts have been unceremoniously hotwired, taken fantastically away from themselves and lent more so poisonously toward the part of your imbalanced brain that simply cannot decipher between the rational and irrational moments in your life. To liken a severe case of OCD to being sent to prison for a crime that you did not commit, taking into account all of the hardship both mental and physical that comes with it, neither would that be any kind of an over-exaggeration whatsoever. Of course, it is a very strange comparison indeed, but OCD at its fullest goes way beyond a strange existence for any given person. A million instances of crashing chaos, the kind of constant chaos that would cause most people to lose their mind only, when it comes to the matter of this particularly insipid mental disorder, for some strange and still unknown reason it does the nastiest thing with your addled mind wherein it leaves it both paralysed in one part and entirely balanced on the other.
An eerie, irregular fistfight happening inside of your brain. All. Of. The. Hellish. Time. A totally mixed-up fistfight that can never really be compared with anything too, shall we say, grandiose regards attempting to gain someone’s truest understanding of it. No-one can ever fully understand what happens inside of another person’s hotwired mind and neither should they ever really be expected too. Strange is one of the correct words to use. In fact, just one of a mountain of highly descriptive words that can be painstakingly applied. It is a loss of life, as though you are literally having to watch your own mental bereavement when it comes to the real parts of you falling away. A part of you who, by the way, is still very much in there just finding it exhaustively impossible to emerge. Reemerge, whichever. You have been left with a mind that is aware of the utter irrationality but neither is it ever aware enough to take itself away from the anguish that ceaselessly abounds. With this article, like with most things in my life to date, I have had to literally wrestle with myself to sit still and actually put a few hours into its orchestration. Because it is an orchestration – just as damn multi-coloured emotive et al. With OCD, and certainly OCD at my level of debilitation, my mindboggling level, you will always, always, always know when you are either balanced or not. And the come-up-for-air is one of the most glorious feelings in any person’s world who sufferers with OCD. How it should be in fact, and all you get are mere glimpses of this. There are even times when your brain will let out a noise – something akin to a scream from a small animal finding themselves in pure raw pain. And, with that, I have actually had to shake my head hard enough to cause it to cease occurring. And sometimes, when it does stop, thank Christ, I have actually felt a little more ‘normal’, shall we say? A little, mind you, and never, ever enough. Strange as ever, right?
I have often tried to write about my OCD, just as I have tried to create over three-thousand poems these past seven years since I moved home from Dublin having spent three months inside of St Patrick’s hospital. I know… three months! And the story of my time in Dublin would most certainly go down as one of the most painstaking times for anyone I can ever imagine. As I have often said, I would not dare to wish my level of debilitation on anyone, not even my worst enemy in the world. This, the writing is a tale all on its own. A tale within a tremendously trying tale, you could say. I write. I love to write, have always done, but it isn’t too much fun at all when there is no life for you happening around that particular endeavour whatsoever. And even if there is a life happening in terms of meeting with friends, etcetra counts, your brain isn’t even nearly present enough to wholeheartedly partake, so you may as well be at home in bed, where then at least, the pain gets pushed against a pillow to try and slow it down somewhat. Running into the corners of one imprisoning room while you are literally stuck in a brain-locking corner all of your own and personally created by yours truly.
This is your life, drowning amid the most unasked for thing in the world imaginable. The inspiration for the writing, where does it come from? For me, and without digressing too far from the main subject, although it is all incredibly relative, really, it is in my head, that same chalk and cheese head. One side smashing against the other and my ability to spring one sentence from another wholly intact and owing to the complete over-reliance upon how a word might look and sound. How it feels to me, basically. How others might wish to read it. I think that I have a ‘talent’ that leaves people both totally thinking “huh!?”, and the other half, we’ll say for comparing it to OCD sake and the flummoxing nature of the juxtaposition that is my life, in utter awe and intrigue. I didn’t do that purposely, but I do think that I will become a better, more sufficient, comprehensible writer the better I might start to feel one day. Please, God. Put it this way, this article is nothing like the scrunch-up of sprinting words that I end up more oft than not putting together in my poetry simply because, yes, I am slowly starting to balance myself out due to a complete reliance on a recently prescribed medication to suit my illness. Disorder, whichever you might wish to call it. I would far rather not have to call it anything regards its bare existence. Non-existent would suit me down to the ground in fact. Course it would.
But balance yourself out at thirty-five, when your life and many of the people in it have disappeared and through no real fault of their own, nor yours for that matter, and you might just begin to imagine how hard it would be to bring things back together and for the first time, really. You are intelligent, know that you might actually be very intelligent. Seemingly the harsher the illness the harder your intelligent brain was able to both try and succeed in imagining the situation of enough chaotic behavings to go about derailing absolutely everything in your wake. Trust me, this is no kind of a saving grace. Like I sometimes say, I would rather be penniless and balanced than a millionaire and utterly imbalanced by this thing. The prior of the two, at least this way I can actually live upright, albeit broke to the bone only in a financial manner this time. And I also know that no-one thinks me in any way over-intelligent or a high-achiever, and neither does it bother me what anyone does think. Like my father says to me sometimes, “It is none of your business what others think of you.” But, you see, I did not get to utilise my true potential all that well and still push against the outright imbalance in an often futile attempt at getting that potential to work its way to the surface. Of course, you do end up miserably underachieving, perhaps except for the writing on some level anyhow for me. In my own attempt at getting there on a medium that really should have been harder than anything else in my world only, turns out, it ended up feeling the absolute opposite. How the stereotypical cliches abound with writing, eh? Par for, I guess. Maybe. So a huge part of you actually is left standing and wondering, hmm, how far can I go with something, and, what’s more, doing it really well? Anyway, that doesn’t matter, you are either good to go, or you are not. I mean, my Leaving Cert. results were appaling, truly, albeit I did seemingly rather easily pick up that B in English twice in a row. You kind of have to go at it again when your Headmaster tells you that your results went from high to low in the most “profound” manner.
Yes, I do wonder how I might have faired minus the bombardment but there can, of course, be no going back, as much as I would love to get to beautifully do it all over again. Pretty normal for a severe sufferer of OCD to crave, of that I am one hundred percent certain. No two ways. However, I know what I still am beneath it all, I really do and that kills you, had to have done. Funnily enough, in a complete juxtaposition again, when taking into account my use of words, on the page, screen, whichever, it can read awfully slow and lethargic and grinding on the reader’s mind. Whereas when I take myself up to the noise of the city, no doubt amid absolute hell on earth, whirring pain in my brain, where a moment feels like a million and, as a result, the boredom abounds by a billion, and read these pieces of poems to a wider audience, more often than not they have come up to me in happy and excited groups after the event to ask me how on earth I am able to create the way that I am. “An explosion of words that can cause my imagination to go to a place it’s never been before.” “Brian, I like how your rhythms make sense in my soul. I like the way that you can bead words into something new.” The second is a note I keep in my room to remind me that this has been thought of my writing at one time or another. And I will look at it, read it, and think, “Really!!? Weirdo; if you get my style then you must be broken too.”
Go figure. I still am trying with that one. You would think that those might be big enough compliments to gain for any sort of wannabe writer to maybe start believing themselves good enough to proceed without general levels of frustration as to whether or not they are any good at all. There is no answer or guarantee with anything that anyone writes and that probably doesn’t sit too well either with a part of my mind that needs absolute answers. Also why I stare at incredible, unmatched art on Instagram. Willing and wishing my writing to somehow change itself from word to its painted comparison so it can finally hold the visual that I crave yet sure as hell cannot ever match. Odd? Absolutely it is, and I know that one hundred percent too.
I can’t ever say how much of an input the OCD had on my style of writing. Actually, scratch that, I kind of can. And it is, one more time, bloody mind-boggling, upside-down and all kinds of lost, yet somehow it attempts to find a sure-fire struggle-some way out, if, given the time and caring attention, that is. So, yeah, perhaps my style of writing these past seven years is the absolute literary definition of my OCD, only I wanted to add the colourful stories to it that I was unable to experience for myself. Awfully sentimental, I realise but, hey, such is the drop from a grace I never reached in the first place, I guess, that it is bound to go all spiritual or something like that in its explaining. If you carry no kind of visual with words – also probably owing to the bombardment of OCD over the decades – then there is a fat chance that if someone tells you that a particular sentence is “genius” then you are likely to start believing them. So, trying to rely on other people’s opinions and emotions is hard too of course.
I know now just how ghastly my OCD is, having been finally prescribed a medication that works somewhat – ruminations completely ceased a while back and I thank that particular doctor greatly for that “shot in the dark”, as she referred to her managing to somehow, God knows how, allocate the correct kind of tablet for my mind’s issues. No ruminations, no twenty-four-hour party yet still what I can only now describe as a retarded brain. As though it has been through too much loss and pain to ever bring itself back to any kind of a comfortable semblance with the real world. As though it has been tattooed inside of my brain. The length of the pain and frustration, that is, I mean. That is silly to say because I don’t like those kinds of descriptions for it, it’s just simply not how my literary mind works. It has to, for me, make simple sense yet, somehow, in my completely trying to make that simple sense it became utter noise on the page, screen, whichever. Hmm, that sounds familiar to me with the OCD itself. If you might be at all wondering, my ruminations were all of nothing, just an overlying need to know the answer to everything, and by that I can only say that the OCD needed to ABSOLUTELY ONE HUNDRED PERCENT KNOW that everything will be okay, to an extent where I might have been out at night talking to a girl and having the craic with my mates only my mind – OCD part – is in indescribably agonised turmoil and needing to know the answer as to whether the rent will be met in a week, the exams passed, buses caught on time, and ten thousand equally debilitating unanswerables raining down upon my mind with the same emotion upon the mind as though all of these things were happening and falling apart right now for me.
If I had a million quid in the bank it would not have mattered. Take Howard Hughes’ word on that. We’ll get to him in a bit. You see; I still wouldn’t have known if I had met the rent until, well, I had met the landlord and actually in fact handed the cash over to him. Make sense? Didn’t really think so. Not enough. Never enough. Probably because I knew what my mind and my personality were entirely capable of was the hardest part of all. So watching it lose its way for that amount of tireless time must have done something irreparable, surely. And I accept it, I do, but it is difficult to accept having an illness that really did define your whole life on an unimaginable scale. An illness noted by the top doctors the country over as so strangely “profound” and “debilitating”, not to mention “inexplicable” regards my outright failings at attempting to describe it with any kind of a necessary justice. And all while you are still there, as ambushed as ever yet equally as confused as to why it is happening as the doctors are. Can you imagine that kind of pain? Because I can – still do. I have before been told that I can explain my illness as though a doctor myself. Like I am the doctor and I could help someone else with their illness. My friends and other people even find it interesting to talk about, as do I, crazily enough, when relatively balanced and able to step away from it and intricately explain the pained nature. You can’t help anyone with OCD.
With OCD you cannot even help yourself unless of course the correct level of balance is unearthed. The balance is the absolute key with this disorder. I keep in mind a sentence I read inside of a book called Brain Lock and written by none other than Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, the very same doctor who actually worked with Leonardo Di Caprio on the Hollywood blockbuster film ‘The Aviator’, about the aviator and multi-billionaire Howard Hughes, whom himself suffered from undeniably life-destroying OCD. A billion pounds and dating the most beautiful and intelligent Hollywood starlets in the world couldn’t pull him from his wrecking ball brain’s constant turmoil. I have also been told that mine is more uncontrollable than that which the film depicts regards Hughes’ OCD. Mine mental, his physical, therefore people were able to witness his actual pain in his daily movements. Going tit-for-tat with a goddamn multi-billionaire lothario who could not take himself away from the toilet owing to the fact he had to wash his hands perfectly or his world would unceremoniously… combust. In his mind anyhow. Good man, Brian. Way to make it all about you. Unfortunately it has to be about you however much you wish it was not. Anyhow, that same sentence reads: Clinical Success Is Reached Once The Sufferer No Longer Feels The Need To Answer The Question. A sentence that I have found myself to recite over the years amid the kind of pain that can in fact only ever be described in proper detail when maybe poured upon the widescreen. OCD needs a visual to be properly showcased, I’m afraid, for all its angst and delirium. No word of a lie.
Am I afraid of dark alleys and horror movies? Am I what. That sort of fear will barely even go near touching what my mind has had to go through over the years. Although, to be perfectly clear, that pain is equally as false as a movies script is regards its deserving any place in reality. I know that but the OCD does not. I fear too that I still will never be able to fully explain the process regards what happens inside of a sufferer’s brain. However, if anyone can do it, then I do believe it might just get to be me. Good man again, Brian, get to help other suffering people all while you get to be the goddamn scapegoat, the lamb to the slaughter. Shocking, huh. But then, I do suppose that when people are placed in an incredibly barbarack situation then they have to use what utensils they can muster left in them to fight for something worthwhile. Something to redeem themselves somewhat. Do not get me wrong, I am still incredibly grateful for things – my family, my friends, who must feel so annoyed at how I tend to disappear for years at a time. Although, as I said, people do tend to disappear too with time and tumult. I cannot help it any more than I can only ever sit and hope that the medication can. And it is a thing I could write about forever now, and that must be a good thing, that I am seemingly able to keep this article in relative check without going a million ways with my debilitating brain. That said, I think I kind of did go a million ways regard talking about the writing because that whole kettle of fish is a million thoughts all on its own. Good news though, the calmness happening but, alas, on I must fight. Without actually fighting. Strange again but such is the strangling strength of my OCD mind on its last breath and taking it all from you.
I have never understood what it is to take a break and relax, not sincerely since the age of eleven-years-old, and even though I have been unemployed for quite some time, not including the part-time jobs that I have done, and quite a few at that and seemingly very well too, and just on earth how I managed that I will never, ever know. I might call myself one of the hardest working unemployed people going, in fact, if you will allow me that admittance. But ultimately for the mind to cease and get to play in a different direction again is the huge thing now. Forget all of the pain, stuff happens and worse to far more people. Actually, I am so opposite thinking to my OCD that I have had times when I find it quite beautiful just how much of a goddamn disaster my mind has been. Only if I take an outside view looking in and get all arty about it too. That will be the undeniable… poet in me. And, of course, then there are the poems that use the terms ‘mindfield’ as opposed to ‘minefield’, and all the other useless things leant toward what my mind was churning its way through at any time. Genuinely, if it can make me a better writer with time and I can simply use all of those jaded and tired, sprinting poems over the last seven years as a sort of ‘degree’ in getting to the good writing, then I’ll rather nicely take that. You really should get to rely on your own mind above all else, bottom line. Thanks for taking the time to read. And apologies for a different kind of brain-scattering piece of writing, but it has to be done, it seems. Just to leave you with this recent note I wrote for my doctor to read. Seems however much you might try and explain the disorder it will still come nowhere near lose enough to settle your mind.
Dear X (Doctor, obviously)
I have to write this note because, safe to say, the level of my OCD just will not stop. Not ever enough to move on with my life in a comfortable manner. Just how utterly opposed to the way I naturally feel – beneath it all – is so obvious that it hurts like hell, an entire living hell, of course. It isn’t the constant ruminations anymore but rather as though, genuinely, my mind feels retarded. Sorry to have to use that particular word but it just feels like something is stuck in crazy kinds of limbo. A hanging, ticking time bomb in my brain. It is impossible to explain it for me and that adds furthermore to the pain. It takes me from myself. Does it fucking what!!! And has done seemingly forever, and causes a serious state of argumentation. Frozen-out might be a right way to describe it yet, again, none of this can ever describe the absolute frustration that I carry with me in my mind. So, I have had to continuously live with watching this eat away at my mind since I was a teenager while all the time my balanced personality – OCD settled – begs to come to the fore. That is so awful for anyone, of course, but the fact that it doesn’t seem to have entirely ceased is so confusing for me. It is of course. Bottom line, you should have your own intelligence intact. Always. Or. at least maybe even some of the time. The balance has been feeling closer but neither is it anywhere near close enough. I am accepting of the fact that I have chronic OCD but I also fear greatly that it does not get the understanding nor the outright care that it wholly deserves to get and, being totally honest, minus my particular family I do not know that I would still be here, however horrendous it is to admit to such a sobering thing. I am lumped with an illness that noone I know, or have ever known, thinks anymore worryingly of it other than that it might be a little bit anxiety-inducing. It is like a million hanging panic attacks till your brain is so pained and paralysed that you may as well be being held at the edge of a plane and at a million feet up and staring death immediately in the face, such is the actual acute level of feeling regards the anxiety when OCD bites-bites. Others get severely frustrated too, they do of course. How could they not? What I have learnt is that a family has to suffer through it too when it comes to a son or daughter, brother or sister, having to cope with something so very bombarding. I have to get some kind of a foothold over it or else I don’t know for how much longer I can actually simply attempt to compete with its strength and penetrating ability to paralyse my mind. All awhile missing out on my actual natural state of mind. The plane comparison is no over-exaggeration either, it is fully paralysing atop a thousand other descriptions that still will not ever, as I have stated, describe the horrible, twisted nature of it as a disorder. ‘Brain Lock’, the self-help book that I read about the illness, has never, ever felt more like the absolute correct word to apply to my mental health issues. However, the words, once again, fail to express the actual level of pain. Thank you, I do appreciate what you are doing for me all along, it is instrumental and looks to be going in the right direction, and I am forever grateful for that alone. Please God it can continue improving all the more.