Back in the old days – by which I mean the seventies and eighties, when I was a kid – we didn’t have the selection of television we have today. Today you can watch TV 24-7. You can turn on the tube at 4:00 in the morning and catch a movie or a cooking show or sports updates. You can watch primetime TV whenever you want, if you DVR it. In my day, back when there weren’t cell phones and iPods and we’d just invented butter, there was still a wacky annoying signal at around 1:00 in the morning, when the television would stop playing EVERYTHING and just show you bars of color and yell at you. Or sometimes it showed the head of an Indian, I think, or some other symbol. Or maybe that was my stint in Oklahoma; maybe that was a local symbol. Anyway, you couldn’t just watch whenever you darn well wanted to.
And the selection was severely limited. News at night. 3 channels worth of drama, soap operas and sitcoms. Saturday night movies. Cartoons in the morning and Saturdays. The end. Oh yeah, PBS. J Now there are whole channels devoted to cooking, or the weather, or *FOOTBALL* (we have NFL Network on all the time)
So my recent happiness is this: Lie To Me (which isn’t a recent happiness, really. I’ve been in love with it and slightly obsessed since the show came out. A. Tim Roth is DELICIOUS in this show. could the man have more intense sexuality and charm? hardly possible. B. It’s fabulous, fascinating, funny, charming and witty. ) and then recently The OCD Project. For obvious reasons, but if you’re new to me here’s a helpful hint: I have OCD.
I can’t recall having ever seen a show that specifically talked about people with OCD. Movies, like the Aviator and Dirty Filthy Love, have broached the topic. But I can’t remember ever seeing something on TV myself that dealt with this issue. This show was fascinating. And disturbing. I certainly don’t have the condition to the severity that the people on the show did, but I could appreciate what they were going through. One girl is afraid of killing people when she drives. Her father was killed in an accident when he was a pedestrian (I think; I missed that episode) and now she is terrified she is going to kill someone the same way. When she drives up to a busy intersection she gets nervous, panicky and has to circle around the block a couple of times to make sure she didn’t accidentally mow someone over without noticing. It sounds like she developed OCD just after her father’s death. Another girl developed it after her fiancée died of cancer. She flips light switches on and off about a jillion times, and does this with the water faucet as well.
On. Off. On. Off. onoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoff.
It gets tiring being this way. But I was glad I got to see this series. I had the chance to see these people calm themselves down. I missed the episode where they teach the OCD’ers how to gauge to what degree they are freaking out, but they all talked about “levels”. “What’s your level right now?” And someone would say 100, or 85. Level of crazy discomfort, I know, but I have to find out how they determine what the numbers are. The interesting thing about this whole condition seems to be that it is built around trying to stave off emotional disturbance. These ticks, or habits, or “rituals” – as the doctor on the show calls them – develop because the person is trying to avoid something. A situation, a memory, an emotion. And to avoid that fear, the person develops little things to occupy their attention. And then those things develop a life of their own and sort of take over, like The Blob. As these people learn to deal with the panic they are feeling about whatever issue they are working through, they start to ride through the emotion instead of run away from it. In one episode a girl who was attacked by a stranger struggles to keep her sanity while the doctor puts his hands on her face. She has a fear of men, and intimacy, and touching now that she’s been attacked, and he walks her through what is called an “exposure”. Exposures force you into the thing you are afraid of. So she sits and cries and cowers as he holds her face in his hands. And at first she is so tense you can feel it in YOUR stomach. But he stays there. And after a while her “levels” start coming down. And you can see she’s doing better. It’s a slow process, but you can tell her face is calmer, her body is less rigid, and she isn’t about to explode.
This was so helpful for me, as an OCDer. And also watching an episode of Lie To Me, where they had an ex-soldier who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They did a similar thing with him, walking him through an old upsetting memory, until he had recovered it more accurately and could then determine why he had the erroneous belief that everyone was trying to kill him. (it wasn’t everyone, just one guy in particular) I, too, struggle with thinking people want to kill me, because there have been several people in my life who have threatened to do so, or tried. But hey, not EVERYONE wants to. So these shows have been showing me how I can walk myself through these situations. I’m trying to learn that what I’m feeling will pass, and the panic will subside. I’m trying to get past the hammering of my heart, and the way my legs go out from under me when certain situations make me feel vulnerable or insecure. There is a particular situation that does this to me every time, and my knees buckle, till I think I’m going to land my ass on the floor, and my heart is about to jump the confines of my chest, and my head is dizzy and the blood is pounding in my ears. I wonder what level that is? But I guess the thing to do is ride through it, and hope my heart doesn’t explode as I do.