I’ve struggled with OCD for most of my life. Pretty much ever since I realized that I had it, realized that I wasn’t just a weird, twitchy little brat. I’ve done some behavioural therapy in the past, and I’ve mostly learned how to cope with it. I still have obsessive thoughts, but I can (usually) prevent my behaviours from interfering with my life.

Recently I had a traumatic triggering event that made my anxiety flare up nastily. After this thing happened to me, I immediately began reliving this childhood memory, in my head, over and over again. All my self-doubt and insecurities, normally just nagging thoughts at the back of my head, were screaming, and for a little while there I was totally non-functional as a human being. I would have done literally anything to stop reliving this one awful memory.

So I did something I had always resolved never to do: medication.

I’d been on anti-anxiety medication once in the past, when it was bad enough that I picked all the skin off my hand. It was pretty gross and got infected. The sight of my raw, red, nasty hand, in turn made me obsess over all the disgusting bacteria thriving in the landscape of my own self-mutilation. It was then that I realized I needed to go on medication, for my dermatological health, if nothing else. So I spent some time on alprazolam, and I HATED it, but my skin grew back, and eventually I got things back under control.

But OCD has always been lurking there, beneath the surface. Waiting for its opportunity to take back over my life again.

My psychiatrist told me a couple things that made a huge difference in how I feel about my… illness: He says OCD is almost always genetically inherited, and there’s a lot of science suggesting that it is physiological, rather than psychological.

…Bloody hell. I’ve avoided medication for this long because I thought needing medication meant I was crazy. I know that putting plastic covers over all the electrical outlets in my house is stupid, and I know it makes no sense. I don’t do these things because I think they make me any safer, I do them because they make me FEEL better. I mean, not “better.” But if you’ve ever experienced anxiety to the point of feeling its physical symptoms, you’ll understand that when there is a simple ritual or habit you can perform to quell that anxiety, you’d fucking DO it. So the idea that, I inherited this? That it’s genetic? That it’s not my fault, or the fault of a traumatic childhood? That it’s not a sign of some inherent weakness, my inability to cope with my own shit? The idea that it’s Not My Fault…?

LIBERATING. I can’t even express what a relief it is.

And the SSRIs are helping. The last few days, whenever my mind goes down dark paths, I decide that I want to think about something else, and then… I do. I’m starting to be able to change mental gears, without as much effort as it’s taken in the past. A lot of my previous coping strategy has been “fake it ’til you make it.” I had been faking it for so long, it never occurred to me that I never really make’d it. Now I’m starting to realize just how much effort and energy I had to put into controlling my moods. I didn’t realize how bad it was until now that it’s getting better.

I make a lot of self-deprecating jokes about how I don’t have any friends. But the people around me have been amazingly supportive, and knowing that you guys love me and support me has been such a boon. Thank you.

Dia de Saudades

Saudade has been called one of the most difficult words to translate in the world. 30 de Janeiro is Dia de Saudades in Brasil: roughly translated, “the day of remembrance” or “the day of longing,” but these brief translations trivialize the word and its meaning.

A childhood memory of a summer’s day. The hottest day of the year, when you climbed a tree to escape the unrelenting sun. There, in the shade, you ignored your mother’s calls to come home, instead savouring the brief respite from the oppressive heat. You were thirsty, though, and rather than climb down and go home to do chores, you reached out into the branches before you. You didn’t recognize the little yellow fruits, you’d never seen them at the market before. But driven by thirst or curiosity or simply by your naive lack of wiles, you bit into it. It burst into flavour on your tongue, quenching your thirst, juicy and tart and sweet, the taste of summer, the taste of home, the taste of childhood.

No matter how many loquats you eat in adulthood, nothing will ever taste like that again. Even if you could somehow go back in time and taste that exact fruit again, it would never taste the same, because the memory of your first loquat has been tempered by decades of experiences, placed into perspective by a lifetime of sadness and love and loss and victory and accomplishment and friendship and grief and wonder.

The place in your soul where this memory lives, that is saudade.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy last weekend, and despite my high IQ and expansive vocabulary, nearly all I can say about it is “YES YES YES!”

This movie has EVERYTHING. Characters with personalities and development, a plot with a sense of urgency, knee-slapping humour, independent strong female characters with agency, and a truly AWESOME MIX soundtrack that made me feel like I was a kid again.

The film was two hours, but felt too short, perhaps because we didn’t get the 90 minutes of disaster porn I’ve come to expect from comic book movies. It was epic but lighthearted, and I walked out of the theatre in a fantastic mood that’s stayed with me all week long– and when that does wear off, I’ll just go and see it again.

I can’t describe how happy it made me that the leader of planet Xandar was a woman, and that her title was not “princess” nor “empress” nor any other kind of aristocracy ostensibly inherited from a male, but “Prime” That’s right, the female leader’s title was gender neutral, “first among us.” Just one of the many factors that contributed to how easily this film soared to the top of my list of cinematic appreciation. Guardians of the Galaxy is, far and away, my #1 film EVER.

Racism and Intent

Recently, German football fans donned blackface for Deutschland’s match against Ghana. There’s a big hullabaloo, as many found this to be offensive.

A friend of mine asked, “How can this be racism when we didn’t even know that blackface was a thing?” He wondered how, when Germans largely are unaware of the historical context of blackface, the actions of these particular fans could be construed as racist. My initial response had been that racism is a question of intent, but offensiveness is about the impact of our actions, not the intent. I said that because blackface has a historical context, wearing it is offensive, even if the people doing so do not inherently feel that brown skin is inferior. His response: “…[M]ust we not also separate that when it comes to white people who have no history of enslaving Africans? …how can a German painting his face black be racism when we lack that context absolutely?”

That’s when I had to think harder about the question. And what I realized is that while overt racism is about intent, pervasive racism is subtle and often lacks intent. Much like a straight man who uses the term “gay” as a pejorative does not consciously consider himself to be superior to homosexual males, a white person who mocks Ghanaian citizens by wearing black paint on their face IS participating in racism, regardless of whether they’re familiar with how blackface was used to belittle and stereotype African-Americans.

When you paint your face black, you’re marginalizing Ghanaians, and all dark-skinned peoples, by reducing their cultural identity to the colour of their skin.

In short… yes, it’s racist, even if it wasn’t intended that way, and even if they lacked the historical context with which to understand just how offensive they were.

Just another wordpress site, yeah?

I’ve been sitting on this domain for almost a decade and a half. Since my dreams of selling it to HBO for bajillions of dollars are now dashed, I might as well use it!

So… I have a blog now. Now I can verbally regurgitate whatever is on my mind, only, I don’t have to spam all my facebook friends with it. Hey, this is actually a great idea! Now if only everyone else on social media would follow suit, the interwebz would be a much quieter place.