I finally said it.
For 40-some years, I’ve dealt with overbearing OCD-rumination and sky-rocketing anxiety when confronted with situations that involve emotions. Debates, arguments, personal discussions typically rendered me unable to carry on a normal level of conversation as my anxiety would spiral up. I overthought everything and stressed about minor issues.
In the last year a lot has changed. A combination of Lexapro, therapy and being painted into such an emotional corner that I felt I was squeezed through a tiny hole, like a Play-Do Fun Factory. I’ve come out the other side. Same substance but a different shape and scraped off some residue and leaving it behind. I’m not perfect, and never will be, and there is a need for a lot more work. But I feel more emotionally “mature” now.
In my family, telling each other that we love one another is very difficult. And the thought of saying it, for quite some time, filled me with rocketing anxiety. I overthought it and worried about it (what if I say it and they leave me hanging without a reply, I’ll be crushed, it’s happened before). Thinking it over and over and over again (if you have OCD you probably know what I mean). My dad and I don’t have the closest relationship but I suppose it’s not unusual for people of his generation to be that way. He learned from his family.
My dad is in the hospital right now undergoing brain surgery, to remove the debris left behind after getting his tumor zapped by a laser months ago. The pieces and parts need to be removed so he quits having seizures as the result of fluid buildup around the area pressing on surrounding areas of the brain. He should be fine but complications can arise and if they nick the wrong area, it could fuck him up a bit.
My dad waited until his father was on his deathbed before he said the words. I didn’t want to wait. Last night, as I was leaving the room, I shook his hand, looked him straight in the eyes and with no anxiousness said – “I love you dad”. He looked straight back at me and said – “I love you too”.
I left the room with my sister with my eyes tearing up and I think his were too. I felt elated, despite his condition. This was one of the biggest moments of my life. Not really “Bucket List” because that’s different. But it was something big and something I needed to confront and I did it without anxiety or fear. It was a big and defining moment in my life. If my dad dies today or in the next year, I can feel safe in the knowledge that I didn’t lose him and having to carry on with the weight of regret.
It’s never too late
Seams in the Sidewalk
I avoid seams in the sidewalk or parking lots. I will stutter my step to avoid them and if I step on one, I will alter my step to have the other foot touch a seam, in the same spot, to “balance it out”. Getting much better at it and I can keep going on if I don’t step on the seam but that compulsion is still there, just under the surface. Always lurking.
Social Anxiety? Yup
You’d never know, if you met me, that I have Social Anxiety. I use it as a fuel to create this outwards appearance of joviality. As I’ve gotten older I’ve toned it down but it’s still there. If I go out with a group of coworkers I might “hold court” but that’s because I don’t want these work acquaintances judging me and if, in my mind, I distract them enough they wont see me for “who I really am”. If I’m in a room full of people and it’s quiet? I think “It’s because of me. I’m pulling everyone down and I’m killing the mood and I have to say something because it’s my fault that everyone is miserable and uncomfortable.” A lot of my banter, humor and certainly my personal vanity is merely smoke and mirrors lest people judge me.
I’ve gotten better now that I can identify it but it’s still there. I need to practice exposure. Look at people in the hallway and say – “hi” (and not worry about how it sounds coming out). Look over at the car next to me and force myself to see the other person (I never look around me because I’m afraid people will judge me in the other car). It’s odd though because, like I said, if you met me you probably wouldn’t pick up on it. Because if I distract you with talk and gestures, you won’t have time to pick me apart.
Recalling a time where I was just about to land at the end of a vacation flight. Before I landed I noticed in front of me, in the seat back, a brochure sticking out. At the top, were 3 titles. I read one, instantly had to read at least one more title, bringing it to a symmetrical 2, and avoided reading that third to make sure it “felt right” before touching down. I realized what I was doing and immediately read the third one to throw that symmetry and balance off. My OCD is pretty subtle and hard for me to see. It’s so odd and dumb.