Patty Unleashed: 5.5.21
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for long-time readers, you know this is when I share my mental health issues. I don’t do this because I love inviting people into my personal health issues. If I did, my current gastrointestinal problems are much more interesting! Anyway, there is a stigma attached to those of us with a mental health illness. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No, I am not like Raymond in Rainman. I don’t count tiles or refuse to walk over cracks in sidewalks, nor am I overly neat. I have intrusive and repetitive thoughts that interfere with my day-to-day life. Most people worry. I consider myself the superhero of worriers. Think of any illness, family crisis or political unrest; chances are, my mind already has spent countless hours thinking about it. I can’t hit the off switch to my brain.
True story: I did not know my mind was different than anyone else’s until I was almost 40! In high school, my brain was filled with academics, after-school activities and part-time jobs. By the time I got to bed, I was nearly in a coma. Sure, I can remember a few nights of needless worry, but who didn’t have those? College was the same way. Washington University was academically challenging for me, but I had a part-time job too, so what little time was left, I either studied or drank beer. When I joined the work force, I started to recognize that I looked at things differently than most people and seemed almost obsessive about responsibilities. But that trait also appeared to make me successful. That said, it is exhausting and painful when you can’t ever really relax.
I finally saw a therapist, Shellie Fidell, MSW, LCSW, who, after a few sessions, told me I had OCD and explained what it is and what it means. She encouraged me to see a psychiatrist. To be honest, I had to go through a few before meeting Dr. Gordon Robinson. In our first meeting, Dr. Robinson assured me that while he might not find the right medicine for my OCD the first time, he would find it. ‘Persistence is better than brilliance,’ and he was right. Then I found a primary care physician, Dr. Jennifer DeLaney, who understood mental health issues. In my case, I obsess about my health. I can spend days researching a disease I think I have, but with Dr. DeLaney’s support, I no longer do. A quick discussion in which she explains why I don’t have yellow fever is all I need. It may have taken me years to get to this point, but my OCD is under control.
So why share this? Many people think that you can ‘just snap out of it’ if you have a mental health disorder. YOU CAN’T. I tried. I am tough. I had my thumb stitched up without numbing, I gave birth twice, and I can scare most people into behaving with just a look. But OCD kicks my butt. Just the same way heart disease or diabetes may kick yours. But people still judge. For those of you who have a mental disorder, talk about it. Help stop the stigma. For those of you who don’t, just remember the person who makes you laugh twice a month does, and you didn’t even know it. Peace, my peeps.