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Posts Tagged ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’

  1. Some Might Think You’re A Hypochondriac When…

    June 21, 2015 by Diane

    Shelf with books

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac when you’re abnormally anxious about your health. But when does normal anxiety about one’s health become abnormal?

    A case in point…

    I became concerned about my cortisol levels. All of those adrenaline surges I’d suffered night after night after night had battered my adrenal glands to the point where they were shooting out cortisol like water from a busted fire hydrant. So obviously I needed to reset my adrenals, right?

    There’s a book on how to do that very thing.

    This book was written by a doctor who was on the Dr. Oz show. Not that I watch the Dr. Oz show (although if I was a hypochondriac, tuning in daily would be a tell-tale symptom). No, my mother watches the show, or she watched it this once—when the adrenal reset expert was on—and she recorded it and called me that evening and replayed the whole thing, repeating everything the doctor said about resetting your cortisol levels, which was this:

    “For breakfast, eat raw oats with berries, nuts and coconut milk.”

    I already did!

    So why was I still having those adrenaline surges?

    I looked up this expert online, and got his book, and in the book he clearly states the opposite: that it’s pure protein you should eat for breakfast, meaning MEAT, not carbs. Which is downright confusing! And I told him so in an email.

    Hey, on the Dr. Oz show you said to eat oats for breakfast, but in your book you said…

    Someone in his office emailed back, and gave me this explanation: there wasn’t much to choose from on the Dr. Oz set, so we went with what was available.


    Just who is this doctor?

    Dr. Christianson.

    Yeah, Dr. Christianson! That’s who.

    But I digress.

    In between adrenaline surges, I like to sleep with my left arm flung overhead. The result? When I wake up in the morning it’s numb, which in my book is a clear symptom of a heart attack. Is this the thought process of a hypochondriac? I think not. After all, my arm has gone numb many a time. For instance: one afternoon I set my laptop on the ironing board and stood and typed for an hour, my shoulders pressed into my earlobes, and sure enough, my left arm went numb. Now if that isn’t the start of a cardiovascular incident, I don’t know what is, right? Furthermore, if I was a hypochondriac–which I’m not–I might have called Dr. Oz himself, or even Dr. Christianson, for advice. If I had their numbers. But I didn’t. So I called the next best expert: my mother.

    “Um, my left arm is kinda numb, and it’s bugging me.”

    I was taking a walk when I called her, so it’s unlikely that I was having a cardiovascular incident, which her rational mind pointed out to me. Still, you can never be too sure.

    Now, some people might think that makes me a hypochondriac. And if they’ve read my blog, they might also think that I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and insomnia (NO-ZZZ), all of which add up to an obvious case of Squirrels in the Doohickey (SITD).

    But is my concern abnormal?

    Oh, sure, I’m not above asking people if I can poke around their stomach to see if it feels like mine, since mine feels like a mine-field.

    “That’s your vertebrae you’re feeling,” my doctor claims.

    “That hard knot?”

    “It’s your spine.”

    “Through my stomach?”

    “You’re thin.”

    “Here…that thing?”


    “Can I feel yours?”

    I’m not above asking my boyfriend to offer his abdomen to my probing fingers.

    “Can I…”

    “Oh for God’s sake…”

    And with an audible sigh he’ll roll onto his back and offer his belly, like a dog does, but not as happily, and I’ll knead away, like a cat does, but not as peacefully, and his belly, every time, feels soft and warm and pliant and not at all like mine.

    Now I ask you…does that make me a hypochondriac? Or you, for that matter–if you found yourself nodding with recognition?

    Some might think so.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you have the urge to feel a stranger’s carotid artery in the elevator after surreptitiously feeling the odd shape of your own. “Excuse me…”

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you count the number of coughs you have in one day (throat clearings don’t count), and by two o’clock in the afternoon you’re up to fifty and wonder if you’re being a tab obsessive.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because one whole bookshelf in your bedroom is filled with medical tomes. Especially if it’s a paramedic looking at that shelf (the night you end up going to the hospital wearing your own pajamas and come home wearing someone else’s), and as he scans that row of medical titles, his eyes flash a warning to his buddy that says, “uh-oh, hypochondriac,” ….well, I’m here to tell you one thing: don’t believe it.

    Not for a second.

    Because in my mind…

    (that is, if we’re really talking about you in this scenario, and not me),

    …in my mind you’re perfectly normal.

  2. The Message in the Madness

    March 10, 2014 by Diane

    Business woman looking, isolated on white

    He tries to slip into the library unnoticed, a thin, elderly Japanese man wearing a beige work shirt and beige trousers rolled at the cuffs, brown moccasins and socks. But as the official Observer of Humanity, I notice him from my post at a table near the window where I’ve set up my laptop.

    He carries a plastic grocery bag overflowing with papers: junk mail, newspapers—I’ve seen him grab a stack of free literature by the front door and stuff that into the sack. He lays a paper towel on a table, and another on the wooden chair, but he doesn’t sit. He stands there, systematically reading each piece of paper with a pair of long-handled shears in one hand. Then he proceeds to cut the papers up—clipping coupons?—but the scissors veer off in strange directions and he clips each piece into strips, and the strips into pieces, until the pieces are shreds.

    He’s a human shredder!

    One day The Human Shredder arrives with his usual plastic grocery bag, but instead of pulling out the scissors and junk mail he slides out a couple of paper plates fit together like clam shells. He sits down, lifts the top plate off and sets it aside, revealing a hamburger. When he pulls out a pair of chopsticks, I stop writing. He has my full attention.

    With the chopsticks he transports the top bun to the empty plate. Then he snatches up the tomato slice and sets it on the bun, followed by the onion slice and the pickles. He peels off the yellow cheese, adding that to the growing stack, picks up the meat patty, examines it, and sets it aside. Lastly, the bottom bun gets his perusal and it too is added to the stack.

    I wait, wondering how he’s going to eat the hamburger with the chopsticks.

    He lifts the bottom bun—which is now the top bun—off the burger and places it face up on the empty plate. Then he transfers the meat patty, switching everything back: the cheese, the pickles, the onion, the tomato. The woman sitting next to him is noticing too: she has an expression on her face that says, Are you going to play with your food or are you going to eat that, because there are children starving in this world.

    The man is rearranging his food. When he cuts up the newspaper, he’s rearranging the words. I have a friend whose mother-in-law rearranges the kitchen cabinets when visiting. Some people have this need to take the world apart and put it back together again in a way that makes sense to them, or soothes them, or fits their reality.

    When I was five, I started a book club with a couple of neighborhood kids. We sat around a card table in my bedroom and ripped pages out of picture books…until my parents walked in. End of club. Looking back now, my mother tells me I was destroying the books to create new ones. I suspect it was my anxiety disorder manifesting at an early age.

    At the pool where I swim, a plump German woman takes endless showers in the locker room. She uses a long loofah and scrubs her skin, starting at her neck and working her way down, scrubbing every crevice, then starting all over again. On the tiled wall a sign reads Please Limit Your Shower Time to Five Minutes. But she ignores the sign. Or she can’t read English. When I catch her eye, she doesn’t falter. Her face is full of pain, but she can’t stop.

    I want to walk over and place my palms along her cheeks (the ones located between her ears) and tell her it’s all right, she’s clean enough. But it won’t matter. Her brain is stuck in a groove. Her synapses are firing a warning that if she doesn’t wash every inch of her body five times, or seven times, or whatever the magic number is, then something bad will happen. The Japanese man can’t just eat the hamburger. He needs to complete the ritual of rearranging it three times.

    There’s no shame in anxiety. We telegraph it all the time…some better than others. The trick is to recognize it. Say, Hello, anxiety. I know who you are. I won’t fight you. Welcome. Now what are you trying to tell me?

    Anxiety has a language all its own. If we pause with the scissors, the chopsticks, the loofah, and just listen, we’ll hear its message.

  3. Should We Outlaw In-Laws?

    February 24, 2014 by Diane

    Women's hands are open the cupboard doors, dark wood

    A friend told me, “Whenever my mother-in-law comes to visit, she rearranges the canned goods in the bloody kitchen cabinets. Every time.” Which, according to my friend, is bloody often.

    Strange behavior, but uncommon, don’t you think?

    Think again.

    My mother told me that a neighbor–we’ll call him Sam–had a visit from his cousin-in-law and the man’s wife. Sam picked up the guests at the train station, shocked by how robust they’d become, and invited them to make themselves at home. Not only did the cousin and wife rearrange the cabinets in the kitchen, they changed the shelves in the refrigerator—they raised one and lowered another and shuffled things around and ate copious amounts of food, and when they complained that there weren’t any mixed nuts or Hostess Ding Dongs, Sam drove to the store to buy some. The in-laws didn’t fork over ONE CENT the whole time they mooched and whined and did their rearranging. And finally, finally, when the household had reached its collective limit, the visitors filched the best of what was left in the pantry: the expensive jar of stuffed olives, the homemade blackberry jam, the Perrier, the Belgian chocolates, and from the back of the freezer the top of the wedding cake…“snacks” for their ride home on the train.

    Should we outlaw in-laws?

    Should we write a law stating that if any member of the family stays for an extended period of time, they must live according to the rules of the household, and not according to what their anxiety demands?

    Or should we accept that these people, who we would normally have nothing to do with if it weren’t for some silly marriage vow, should we accept that these in-laws have a clear case of Squirrels in the Doohickey and use it to our advantage?

    For instance…

    I could use a mother-in-law to clean out my bloody desk. I’ve tried scheduling ten minute increments to rearrange the mess, but the mess seems to multiply and morph, and spill over and under, until I can’t find my feet when I’m typing on my laptop. I need a larger desk. Or a mother-in-law.

    I have a friend who could use a mother-in-law to put his paperwork in order. He could greet her at the door, set her purse on top of his filing cabinets, open one of the overstuffed drawers and let her have at it.

    Do you have a mother-in-law who enjoys being highly opinionated at the dinner table? The next time she opens her mouth, say, “Mother dear, I think I stored the tray for the desserts in the garage. Could you poke your head in and see?” If your garage is anything like the garage where I live, you won’t see her for a week!

    As for the cousins, well…you know how sometimes you forget to clean out the fridge, and there’s questionable stuff growing in Tupperware containers that you’re afraid to open because you have visions of The Exorcist swirling around in your head? Invite the cousins. They’ll clean it out.

    Here’s my advice: When the “stuff” you accumulate starts to take over, invite an in-law for a visit.

    Then kick back and let nature take its course.