Wasted?

I was watching a new reality show on the Arts & Entertainment Channel (A&E) called Obsessed, about people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The particular episode I saw recently was one where, believe it or not, the man being profiled, Chad, was obsessed with El Caminos (a car, for the uninitiated, that looks like it's half pick-up, half-sedan, and which has not been produced by Chevrolet since 1987).

For those who do not suffer from OCD, this probably seems more than just a little odd; but even odder is the the way he became obsessed with the car in the first place.  According to Chad, a friend of his (who was obviously NOT a fan of El Caminos) once jokingly told Chad as an El Camino drove by them to "wipe the El Camino off" to avoid bad luck.  Apparently, someone who may be prone to this potentially debilitating affliction actually takes things like this to heart, which is what Chad did, and--per his friend's instructions--he started actually rubbing his hands together as if he's trying to wipe dirt off.  Chad's illness advanced to the point that even at the mention of the words, "El Camino", he seemingly uncontrollably started wiping his hands & arms to clean off the potential bad luck.

As if that weren't bad enough, around the the time of Chad's father's death, Chad also actually developed an obsession with his 4 older brothers: coming to believe that, even if he just thinks about his brothers, something bad was going to happen. He explained that he did not hate his brothers or blame them for their father's death...he just got this idea quite stuck in his head, and--as OCD is apt to do apparently--it took control of his life, and caused an unintentional and unwarranted rift in his family, with his brothers & his only sister thinking that Chad was angry with his family.

In the program, Chad spoke of all the years of his life that he's "wasted" (Chad's word) to what he knows are unrealistic fears & anxieties.  He finally sought help because he hated how out-of-control the OCD made him feel, and because he missed being "normal", and being part of his own family.  His ex-girlfriend even said that she left him, not because she was angry with him (because she knew he was sick), but because she couldn't keep living with someone whose whole life was being ruled by unrealistic fears (at least, unrealistic to her).  Though they broke up , she still saw Chad & missed him, but his life just made her so sad.  She knew she couldn't live her own life, if she had to worry about Chad's life all the time.

I would imagine that, on Chad's part, knowing that his girlfriend couldn't take watching him lose himself more & more everyday to the monster inside his head just added to his pain & his feeling of hopelessness.

I know that that is a long introduction to get to my post, but I felt the need to share with you how this man's life--though very different than my own in most ways--truly mirrored my life in one important way:  in the belief that he had "wasted" so much of his life.

Chad "wasted" his life, he believed, by being consumed by his OCD & the unrealistic fears it forced him to helplessly endure. 

For many years, I felt I had sacrificed my own life to a closet and the subsequent self-hatred & fear that is part & parcel of a "life" of hiding.  I see now  that carrying around those ideas and the burden of allowing my life to slip right through my fingers because I was too scared and too ignorant of my own strength to fight to get it back.  When you're "living" this way day after painful day after painful day, it's much easier to be fooled into believing that nothing is ever going to change or get better.  The inevitable self-hatred that grows like a cancer on your soul can even fool you into actually believing that you deserve the hurt.

Of course, Chad & I are two different people who have lived two different lives, but the one tragic similarity we share is that we both were mislead into believing that those years we gave over to self-destruction and smothering the real "us" were wasted.

It's easy to see how you could come to that conclusion.  The truth, though, in my opinion, is that almost nothing in our lives ever really goes to waste.  There is purpose to even the darkest days & the deepest hurts, just as long as find a way somehow to hold on, to never allow the flicker of hope to completely fade away, and never stop searching.

I am not so naive, nor such a Pollyanna that I believe that writing the words and actually LIVING THOSE WORDS are one and the same.  My own life has painfully taught me that there is a huge difference between saying that you haven't wasted your life, and honestly believing it.  I also know that the way I personally have been able to come to see the most agonizing years of my own life as anything BUT a waste, is by dredging up those old, hurtful memories and searching for the life lessons hidden deep inside them, and using them to benefit me now.

Like finally coming to understand in my very core that it is impossible to truly love or be loved until you've learned to love yourself.  Simple thought, right?  Simple for some of us to do?  Not so much.  Some lessons take a lifetime to learn...if we learn them at all.

Beauty, I suppose, isn't the only thing in the eye of the beholder; so is "wasted" time, and even a "wasted" life.

But, if you ask me, a life only remains "wasted", if it isn't used for something.
MisterC MisterC
46-50, M
1 Response Jul 10, 2010

i suffered from ocd since i was about 7 it started with exessive hand washing, thinking something bad would happen if i didn,t,then i would check the doors at night so no one could break in and hurt my family, i would check the stove to make sure the burners were off, i would repeatly ask my dad if everyone would be ok,he would laugh till i kept asking the same question, then he would get mad at me. but in highschool it got worse,my obsessions would revolve around hurting ppl i was afraid if i picked up a knife i would stab someone with it,i started hiding the knives in the house,i had ideas of killing my mom, sister, i thought i was going crazy, sexual ideas about christ was the worst one how could i think like this, i asked my shrink about the sexual obsessions he said it was an obsession but i did not know what a obsession was, and he said no more, i was at my wits end, then one day at a book store i saw a book obsessive compulsive disorders, by FRED penzel phd, on reading this i new i found it , the reason for these crazy thoughts,i got to a doctor , got on meds paxil and clonopin, and my life changed,i now have my life back, the clonopin helps with my ocd more than the paxil but i am happy to have my life back, but for anyone with serious ocd get help you are not crazy, and you are not aloneget the help you need you deserve it, vinny

Vinny,

Thank you for sharing your own battle with OCD! I know that it's not always easy! I'm not sure how much you've read of what I've written here, and I'm not even sure I have written much about it on EP, but I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and some pretty debilitating anxiety as well.

Recently, I have also been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). In addition to taking Cymbalta and Klonopin for the depression & anxiety, my psychologist has also prescribed Adderall for my ADD. When I think of all the things my psychologist & psychiatrist have told me about myself (that I didn't even realize until they opened my eyes and my mind), sometimes I wonder how I made it as long as I have! None of it really surprises me (now).

I "lived" most of my life in that infamous gay closet, and I hid every true thing about myself. I could never allow myself to get too close to anyone because I didn't want them to know my "dirty little secret". All that hiding, and all that fear for all those years couldn't help but break my spirit AND my mind.

It's taken me so long to even begin to understand all the damage I had done to myself, and how hiding & (unnecessary) shame so easily & quickly turned into a deep self-hatred that does not go away without a fight!

I know how the mental illnesses I endure now have affected my life, and I am fighting them (with meds, counseling, and--as the old song goes, "a little help from my friends"; I have friends from all over-mostly-the U.S., and they are simply angels who I know love and care about me).

Of course, it took years of pain, and fear, and loneliness to finally find these beautiful people who help me understand really how fortunate I am...not necessarily fortunate as regards the hurt, but fortunate in terms of having made it through so much that could have PERMANENTLY broken me.

Just like me, Vinny, you're still here and you're "still standing" as another old song goes. We both fight different battles, but as long as we refuse to give up or give in, and as long as we understand that THE REAL PEOPLE WE ARE, ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR, then we are more than "survivors", WE ARE WINNERS...even if sometimes we forget that fact! :-)

I will admit to you that I still have difficulty telling people sometimes that I have a mental illness--not because I am ashamed (any more)--but because the public in general, who haven't had to deal with mental illness in their lives or the lives of someone they love and/or care about, still don't get what "mental illness" is or what it really means. I know that, before my own life taught me the hard way, I thought "mental illness" was just a politically-correct way of saying, "crazy". Unfortunately, I'm afraid most people still believe that.

All I know, though, is that--just like my being gay--I can't live my life worrying about what "they" think, or how the world sees someone like me (with a mental illness). All I CAN do is to live my life the best way I know, and to understand that I am more than my sexual orientation, and I am more than a person afflicted with depression and ADD.

I am a man trying to be the best ME I can, and trying to learn to accept myself in all my imperfection, and to understand that EVERYONE has a battle (or 2, or 3 :-) ) that they must fight, and that as long as you engage the fight, and as long as you know that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, but of strength, no matter how painful, or how "unbeautiful" our lives may have been, one thing our lives will NEVER BE IS WASTED!

Keep the faith, Vinny, and keep fighting! :-)

Clarence (a.k.a. Mister C)