Patty Unleashed: 6.5.19
May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and even though I missed the designated month, I consider it my responsibility to talk about mental illness for two reasons: I have a mental illness, and society attaches a stigma to those who do. As you would expect, I talk about my mental health issues to anyone who will listen and even those who won’t.
I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I’ve had it forever. I thought everybody’s brain worked like mine, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized something wasn’t quite right in the old noggin. No, I don’t need to double check if I turned off the iron, count tiles or walk around cracks in the sidewalk. I have intrusive, repetitive thoughts. Now, let me say from an employer/employee perspective, this is wonderful. There is not a problem I can’t solve because I will think about it until I come up with a solution. I never miss a deadline. If someone tells me it can’t be done, I simply move them out of the way until I find someone who tells me it can. But OCD can be exhausting, so I take medication prescribed by my doctor. It works, and from all outward appearances, you would never know I’ve ever struggled with mental health.
There are many people who need help in this area but are afraid to seek it. They are afraid of being labeled. They are afraid of it being in their health records. They are afraid of taking the medication because of the side effects, like weight gain. They are just plain afraid. I know I was. But every six months when I see my doctor, I sit in the waiting room with all of the other people who are brave enough to understand they need help, and I wonder what’s wrong with their brains. What wires got crossed that caused them to be in that room with me? There is no chatting like there is in other waiting rooms. I would love to go around the room and ask everyone what they are there for—and then congratulate them for showing up. But I am pretty sure my doctor would throw me out.
Every so often, even though I faithfully take my medication, my OCD will flare up. Most recently it happened as we were looking for an apartment in Chicago for my daughter. Now, mind you, she has lived in New Orleans successfully for the past three years, but I grew fixated on her safety and was determined she move into a building with a 24-hour doorman and great security. As we looked at each place, I stopped and chatted with the doorman and asked, “If I ran full force at you, could you knock me out?” Most were taken aback by the question, as was the nice, young broker showing us the apartments. My next question was how long they archive the security footage. (I watch too much Dateline.) I am happy to say that my daughter is moving into a building where the doorman can protect her against any crazed 59-year-old woman she may encounter. My OCD sometimes embarrasses my family, but they still love me.
So, if you are struggling, get some help like I did. Not sure where to go? You can start with namistl.org. I promise you will feel better. Maybe we’ll see each other in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, where I silently will be congratulating you for being so brave. Funny returns next issue.
Contact Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org.