Insidious OCD

I have my fireplace going and it’s in the 60s outside. Fall is finally here. We’ve already been to the pumpkin patch and decorated the whole house for Halloween. The front porch is covered with pumpkins. Unfortunately I bought my mums too early in September and they died of the climate-change heat wave we had most of the month.

There is a gray squirrel that regularly visits my one suburban oak tree, gathers acorns, and plants them all over mine and the neighbor’s back yards. There was a chipmunk, but a few days ago I saw a wandering black cat carrying it off in its mouth. I’m not sure if it’s someone’s cat or a stray. I try to make friends with wandering cats since I can’t have furry animals. This one is shy, but my son also makes it hard to befriend cats since his three-year-old inclination is to run toward them shrieking with glee.

I went to visit my mom in September and stayed a couple days. It was great to be able to spend time with her and let the kids do the same; when we make our fast in-and-out trips for the rest of the family, sometimes we don’t get to go all the way to the river town where she lives since it’s another hour and a half past everyone else. We’re going back for Thanksgiving.

We are unfortunately still awaiting the results of my stepdad’s slow and frustrating journey through the criminal justice system. After he mysteriously got declared fit to stand trial, it turns out he is not fit to stand trial, and he is being reevaluated. The most likely outcome is that he will be placed in a behavioral facility like the one he was in for that whole wasted six months before it declared him fit to stand trial.

I made it back to the shrink, which was long overdue. It’s a new one thanks to my change in insurance, but so far she seems helpful. Especially when she told me my stepdad is not my responsibility. I felt like someone had splashed me with cold water. First of all, the surprise that it might be true. Then the shock that my obsessive-compulsive brain had let me slide so far into its usual unhelpful patterns.

Such as: Isn’t everything my responsibility?

One of the hallmarks of OCD is guilt. Guilt and idealization. I wake up feeling guilty for the things I didn’t do yesterday. In any given moment, even if I am enjoying myself, my brain is also whispering how the moment could be better if only…then I think Jesus, why can’t you just have a good time like anyone else? More guilt.

And I feel like everything is my responsibility. If I throw away a Ziplock bag instead of washing it, I just single-handedly murdered the planet. If people let me down I brought it on myself by not reminding them, trusting them in the first place, or not being independent enough. If I’d been able to see through T’s fake-ass personality in the first place I could have kicked up a fuss and prevented Mom from marrying him. If I’d been able to see through it later I could have convinced her to leave. Etc. A lady I knew a long time ago (from WV of course, because isn’t that where all the best sayings come from?) told me “If frogs could fly, they wouldn’t bump their asses hoppin’.” Wise words I should remember more often.

Why would the rest of my stepdad’s life be my responsibility, you ask? Because (according to my jacked up thinking) I’m the only one left. My mom nearly got killed and she shouldn’t have to deal with him (side note: she is doing a fantastic job of dealing with him, via the system). His son isn’t going to step up and even if he would, it might be a danger to him as well; they never got along when T. was in his “right” mind. He has no other family so that leaves me. If I don’t figure out a way to help Mom place him and make sure at least someone (hopefully his son, not me) visits him, I’m a terrible person.

Accepting this line of thinking without questioning it or dismissing it as total bullshit is a sure sign that it’s time for therapy again. My brain needs realigned every so often like the tires on a car. I don’t notice I’m starting to veer off the road until I’m smacking into mailboxes and trees. When my new doctor brought up therapy—”Would you want to go back if I was able to connect you with someone?”—I said “Oh I dunno, I think I’m doing fine…” Here I am one session in, and hearing someone else tell me I’m not my murderous stepdad’s keeper is a revelation.

The only drawback is that the new lady is doing exposure therapy with another patient, and she started telling me about it and how she will keep me updated if I want to try it at some point to get over the bug phobia thing. I politely declined for the time being. One day at a time, and that particular day is about as likely to come as snow showers in Hell.

I’ve been writing again too, so I’ll post some new poems later when I’m done obsessing over them and revising them a few hundred times. Happy Fall!






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