I Have A Bad Attitude

by Bill Brenner on February 15, 2011

Last night, as I was walking around to different events in San Francisco, a dark mood came over me. My perception of everything went negative and my tolerance of people evaporated.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW8UlY8eXCk&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

I chalked it up to a serious lack of sleep. I’m still pretty sure that’s what it is. I didn’t pay attention to the three-hour time change when I got here Sunday and, as the clock approached midnight west coast time, I realized I had been up for nearly 24 hours.

When you are managing a mental disorder like OCD, staying up for that long is one of the dumbest things you can do.

No big deal, I figured. I’d go to sleep and be fine the next morning.

But my mood has been increasingly foul with each passing hour. As I write this, someone is sitting a couple rows in front of me in the press room playing a loud game of some sort.

My instinct is to walk over, take the device from his hand and smash it over his head. But that’s not my style. I vent it out here instead.

Not helping matters is that I have a compulsive need to produce material at these events. I keep pushing myself when there’s no reason to do so.

I’m fortunate in that my recovery program is holding and I’ve avoided the binge eating. But I’m leaning on the other crutches too hard lately, and that bothers me, too.

I hear it from addicts all the time. They put down the thing that’s caused the most chaos and heartache in their lives, but then they find themselves latching onto smaller addictions to fill the hole. Chain smoking, for example.

That hole inside is what compels us to harm ourselves in the first place. Fail to address the source of the pain you’re medicating and the demons will be back. You end up pushing down on all the different addictions like the keys on a piano.

I’m lucky in many respects, because I started dealing with my pain sourceyears before I even tried to address the addictive byproducts. I also have a powerful ally in God, and got a lot out of praying the Rosary on the hour-long commute to work this morning. I can also indulge in some perfectly harmless and always therapeutic metal music.

But truth be told, I still struggle with other addictions when the big one is under control, just like everyone else. They are the less destructive kind, but troublesome all the same. Especially when you can’t afford them the way you once could. 

Anyway, I’m going to work on adjusting my attitude.

Meantime, if you run into me and I’m less than friendly, I apologize in advance. It’s not you.

And if I become downright rude, call me on it.

And, if you really need to, break something over my head.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank February 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thanks for the blog. I am a cradle Catholic and have OCD and am recovering from scrupulosity. I got past all the suicidal years (13-29) chiefly by abstaining from religion and sex (gay, too) I was able to calm down enough to put my OCD to work for me as a mathematician.

I guess I can see how saying a rosary can reduce your anxiety the way doing pure math reduces mine. No offense but I can’t afford to be interested in religion.

Your November post about bullying gave me some insight. I was bullied in Catholic high school because I befriended someone everyone assumed was gay. I was number two class f*g after that. I carried a razor blade to school every day for four years. I suffered from OCD and clinical depression. I couldn’t seek help because in those days, I’d have been committed to cure the gay.

My scrupulosity led me to devalue my life and to be ashamed. Every time I noticed someone, I had three days of depression afterward. I lost my best friend to my OCD when he got married. I feared if his wife found out one of his best friends was gay she’d worry about him. I decided their marriage was more important than that friendship. Twenty five years later, I still mourn that loss, and I’m still ashamed of that decision more than any other I’ve made in my life.

I fell of the religion wagon when I got cancer the first time. I was disappointed when my cancer was cured because I realized I’d been looking for a dignified way out while I was still young. What I got was a testicle removed. I prayed for death at Christmas mass. Death didn’t come.

In the years since, I wanted to let go of my anger at the Church for allowing me to be bullied hundreds of times a week, for convincing me I deserved it, and for creating a situation in which I couldn’t go to a counselor or a confessor without being expelled and probably committed.

That was made all but impossible by the policies of the current pope, who has opposed every form of legal protection for gays and lesbians, including anti-bullying legislation.

Now I understand that there was a biological process occurring that made the pain disproportionate to the cause. While it the pain worsened every time my sinfulness was rubbed in my face (I probably heard the word “faggot” a dozen times more frequently than “Jesus” or “God.”), I know the extent of the harm done by the priests in ignoring this wasn’t intended or even understood.

All in all, most gays I know who were raised Catholic would rather be burned alive than to attend a twelve step program for an extended period of time. So, I don’t suppose there is an affinity between alcoholics and gay Catholics. We can’t trust our abuser.

Oh well, I guess there’ll be no queers with OCD in Heaven.

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