Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Not Poison, It's Not Poison (On Repeat)

One of my earliest memories of living with OCD is from around the time when I was six or seven. I have a few other memories, but this is one of the most vivid. It is also one of my obsessions that my OCD brain still whispers to me about to this day. 

When I was younger, I remember watching the news and hearing stories about farmers using pesticides on their crops that were harmful to our health as consumers. I remember this being the story plastered on the news. The "scare tactic" at the time, if you will. And of course, my little OCD brain latched onto that story like a blood-thirsty leech. 

At dinner time, I used to dig through my food as if searching for gold. But the problem was, that's not what I was looking for. I was looking for poison. Poison from the pesticides. I didn't understand at the time what pesticides were, but I knew they were bad. I did, however, understand the word poison

One of my big obsessions when I was little was worrying about being poisoned. About getting sick. And then dying. About my family being poisoned. About my family dying. I didn't know how to articulate this, but in my head, it was very clear to me. 

I remember finding black flecks of something in my food and thinking, Oh no! They're trying to poison my family! I don't know who they were, but OCD is not rational and does not make sense. To calm my obsessions back then, I was constantly asking my mom, "What that?" or "What's is this?" I didn't really want to explain what I was thinking; somehow I think I knew my thoughts sounded a little crazy. 

My way of "checking" that everything was okay and acting on my obsession was to act compulsively or to continuously ask if those black flecks or other "abnormalities" that I found in my food were okay to eat. When my mom told me they were fine, it was nothing, just a fleck of pepper, I still continuously asked like a broken record to satisfy my OCD mind.

But the problem with OCD is that your mind is never satisfied. I still feared being poisoned. I still feared dying from the poison. I still feared my family dying from the poison.

This aspect of my OCD also pushed ahead with full force during Halloween. When I was younger, there was a story on the news about people trying to poison kids' Halloween treats or someone finding a needle in their kids' Halloween candy (or something to that affect). My mom, of course, being a concerned parent always checked my candy when I brought it home. I overheard my mom and dad talking about the possibility of  candy being tampered with (I was a very observant child). 

I was so terrified of ingesting some craziness that I was all consumed with inspecting my candy, even my parents had before me. I don't know what I was looking for. Signs of a needle sticking out of the wrapper? An unknown substance leaking out of my Snickers bar? Who knows. But that's OCD to a T. Sometimes I left my candy sitting in the corner of my closet, only to find it a year later, never eaten. 

I was so interested in finding out if that was a true news story, that I did some Google searching. I did find that there was a lot of hype about "Halloween Sadism," or tampering with children's Halloween candy in dangerous ways. But I found an interesting article written by Joel Best at the University of Delaware debunking the myth of this practice. There were instances that seemed to posture that there had been contaminated Halloween candy found across the country; however, after reviewing the specific instances, the evidence showed that the deaths and illnesses that seemed to be related to contaminated candy were not. And these instances were few and far between. 

To this day, I still get a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach when I get pieces of candy that are broken into crazy bits, have strange holes in them, or are oddly misshapen. It doesn't occur to my OCD brain that they may have been jiggled around a little too much en route to the store in the delivery truck. Or there was some inconsistency with the way the candy was made. It's not like everything is perfect. No, what pops into my head, of course, is that I am being poisoned by some sick person (who doesn't know me), but wants to get a kick out of seeing my suffer. 

To this day, my OCD brain still throws those thoughts my way. In the past I used to throw away those oddball pieces of candy and be done with it. But as I've worked on my OCD throughout the years, I've realized that has become a habit of mine to appease my OCD. So the other day when this handful of Reese's Pieces that I was eating looked like this,

I quickly popped those puppies into my mouth, chewed them, and swallowed them. And I enjoyed every last delicious bite. 

So much for poison, OCD. You can shove that one where the sun don't shine. 

To my OCD brain, it may be poison, but my rational brain has come to the conclusion that I like chocolate all too much to care. I don't think I'll have to play that loop on repeat anymore; it's not poison anymore.

Love and happiness <3 Holly

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