Friday, October 15, 2010


Tomorrow is the culmination of two months of non-stop work.

Tomorrow, 70 people will show up to a conference room in Austin. Some of them will be treatment professionals - Social Workers, Psychologist, Nurses. Some of them will be friends and family. Some of them will be from the media.

Most of them will be like me. People with OCD.

Tomorrow, we'll all get together for a mini-conference - the first ever quarterly meeting of OCD TEXAS, the IOCDF affiliate for our state.

At the beginning of August, this organization didn't exist. And since we went to the meeting in Dallas, we've been working tirelessly to make it happen.

And I'm terrified.

I can't help but worry.

What if no one actually shows up (despite the 70 RSVPs)

What if too many people show up?

What if we don't have enough chairs?

I only put out 61.

What if... what if...

And then I realize that I'm obsessing a bit. Which is ironic. But typical.

I still need to iron. I still need to finish writing my portion of the speech.

More than anything, I need to take a shower and go to bed. And try to think of the positive things like:

After tomorrow, I'll have time to blog again. (I have about 6 blogs half finished. I plan to take Sunday to do them.)

I have AWESOME friends who are coming to support me. Kelly, Mistress of Chaos, will be there. Erica and Eric - two great friends from school. Erica played a suspicious cook in the play last semester in which I was a murderer. Eric directed said play. Rebecca, the lovely gal helping me organize the campus group, will be there too.

And countless others, from the local group and from all over the state.

Positive things like: By tomorrow night, I'll suddenly have more free time and I'll be able to spend it working on Russian homework.

I might even get caught up.

Positive things like: The next meeting is in Dallas and I'm not organizing it. I'll get to attend like everyone else.

Positive things like...

I can't believe this is happening. It all went so fast. But it really is happening. And even though I'm terrified, I can't wait to be a part of it. THIS is what Social Work is about for me.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Traveling Mormons and Canine Cricket

This is what happens when you dangle a brownie over three canine hooligans.




It's great. With an unlimited supply of brownies, I could have these monsters trained in no time flat.


My dear neighbor Jenny works an ungodly amount of hours at the weekends. Because she is kind enough to babysit the Super Duper Cooper Pooper Puppy for me on Wednesdays, when I'm being tortured in Improv classes, I've started taking Jeff and Casper and Copper for her on Saturdays.

It's been a great relationship. The dogs wear each other out. And us too, I think.

The Saturday before last, when I was still fighting off the Bronchial Infection from Hell, I dragged myself over to Jenny's apartment, and brought the dogs back here. Then I promptly crawled back into bed. To my astonishment, all three dogs joined me, and it wasn't long before we found ourselves deep in the throes of Nap.

It's good to be in the throes of Nap.

Particularly when you're surrounded by three extremely cuddly puppies. Casper lay by my head, Copper by my feet, and Cooper stretched up my side. I really do love napping with dogs. It comes in only sightly behind having a sleeping baby on my chest in the race of "Favorite Ways to Sleep."

It's also, I found out the hard way, kind of like sleeping with a personal security system.

There we were, in the throes of Nap, when THEY came. Who is they, you ask?

The Traveling Mormons, of course.

Three knocks on my front door and the monsters sprang into action. They barked. They snarled. They grumbled about being woken up. They trampled me as they leapt from the bed. It's a hell of a way to wake up from a nap. I thought that perhaps the Apocalypse had come, with all of the excitement.

As it turned out, it was only people coming to warm me that the Apocalypse would be coming at some unforeseeable, unpredictable time in the near future and that I should read their book if I want to know how to deal with this.

Kind of makes me want to answer the door with a bucket of water next time.

"Hi, nice to meet you! I'm a Baptist!" *Pours bucket of water over unsuspecting Traveling Mormon* "Oh, I'm sorry - you didn't want my religion dumped on your head? Keep that in mind, wouldya?"

Alternately, I could get something other than a wreath for my front door. Perhaps a sign that says, "Brains Served Here" with a picture of a decapitated Zebra?

With the three hellhounds barking at the door, that might just do it.

What can I say? I'm sure the Traveling Mormons were lovely people. I just don't like being woken up.


This Saturday, the boys decided to try a new sport. I'm happy to report that they've taken up Cricket.

Not the weird Australian "Kind of like Baseball, but without any bases and a weird shaped bat" Cricket, but the "There's a bug in the house and I must chase it" Cricket.

Honestly, I prefer the canine version.

Even after two months in Australia, I never did manage to figure out what they were supposed to be doing in human Cricket. Sometimes they'd swing at the ball. Sometimes they wouldn't. And if they hit it, sometimes they'd run, and sometimes they wouldn't. And when they ran, they went back and forth in a manner that didn't make any sense at all.

This part is also typical of the canine version of Cricket. At least on the part of the cricket himself. 

Admittedly, it was amusing watching Cooper, Copper, and Casper chase the bug. He hopped - they hopped. He played dead, they sniffed him. He got up and hopped some more - they said, "but I thought you were dead?"

I shouldn't complain.

They're really refining their tastes.

It started out with Opossum chasing. That was Copper. He picked it up and shook it until it gave up. He's lucky it didn't bite him on the nose.

Then there was the frog killing. Poor Dylian consumed an entire frog. Poorer Una had the pleasure of cleaning up its mangled body when Dylian threw it up on her carpet later that evening. Casper has determined that frog decapitation is great fun.

I TOLD you they were a gang. And they're getting dangerous. Doesn't sociopathic behavior always start with mutilation of small animals?

This cricket survived, I think. Cooper only wanted to sniff it.

Crickets smell good you know.

I guess.


Saturday, October 2, 2010


On Tuesday morning, a 19-year-old sophomore put on a ski mask and carried an AK47 onto our campus at UT. He started by the fountain in front of the tower, and took several shots toward the church across the street. Then he shot several more times into the air. As people started running from him, he walked by them all and into the PCL - our library. He walked past everyone in the library, went to the sixth floor, and took his own life.

Emergency text messages went out. For awhile, they thought there was a second shooter. They locked us down for four and a half hours, and sent SWAT teams into our buildings.

It's been four days.

And I've been debating how to write about this. What do you do, after all, when things crash around you? Do you talk about it? Do you keep it to yourself, in the hopes of not depressing others? Do you share your story and hope that other people can relate to it? Do you risk being honest about how afraid you were? Still are?

I didn't know.

So instead of writing, I've spent the past four days doing the only thing I know how to do when things go wrong. I've been cooking, cleaning, and crafting.

Apple pie. Banana Cream. Spaghetti and Meatballs. I now have enough spaghetti leftovers in my fridge to feed the entire apartment complex.

I decorated for Halloween. I bought gift bags so that I could make party mix.

Essentially, in the aftermath of tragedy, I turned into Martha Stewart.

But the truth is, what happened on Tuesday is hitting all of us a little close to home. And in the words of my favorite literature professor, Dr. Richmond-Garza, it would be obscene not to acknowledge that it happened.

I am terribly sad for the young man and his family. I can't imagine what one would have to experience to feel that there was no hope - no reason in living.

I am also terribly angry.

I'm angry at him for doing it. I'm angry that, because he did this, I don't feel completely safe on my campus anymore. I'm angry that nobody saw it coming.

I'm angry that the school officials decided to pick up on Wednesday morning and carry on, business as usual, when so many students are going to feel the effects of this incident for weeks and months. Just give us a day - For God's sake, just give us a day to deal with the shock.

I'm angry that the newscasters spent time talking about what a lovely young man the shooter was. I'm angry that the story has all but disappeared, because he didn't kill anyone but himself. I'm angry that news is only news when more than one person dies... never mind the feelings of unease that remain on our campus. I'm angry at the people who comment on the news stories online.

Mostly, I think I'm afraid.

On Tuesday morning, I walked by the library around 7:30. I was on my way to class. By 7:45, the incident had started.

I didn't know this at the time, because I was in my classroom, doing Russian homework and waiting on the rest of the students to arrive.

Our professor got in, and we started our performances. It was a theatre class.

Then the sirens went off, and the text messages started pouring in. Emergency Text alerts from our campus police saying that there was an armed suspect on campus, to stay where we were, and lock the doors.

The sirens kept going off. I'm still having trouble hearing sirens.

Everyone froze. We did what we were told, and locked ourselves in the classroom. Our professor tried to have us carry on, and maybe we did... I'm not sure. Because whatever everyone else was doing, I was sitting there looking around thinking, Oh God... Virginia Tech?

When one of our students got to class late, because campus was barricaded, and knocked on the door, I swear I jumped half a mile out of my seat. We eventually gave up carrying on as normal, as the text messages kept coming in, this time from parents and friends. The story had hit the news.

I fielded calls from my parents. I called Kelly. I sent text messages to everyone I knew on campus. I went into hyperoverdrive mode, pulling out the computer and getting the news up online.

We found out that the young man had committed suicide. But then the sirens went off again, and they sent out more messages, telling us there was a second shooter.

Quietly, discreetly, I placed myself in the corner of the room, with my computer.

The other students seemed to be less bothered by this. They were already sure that someone had made a mistake. They started playing games. They turned on music and danced.

I sat in the corner. Because I couldn't be sure. And because I was afraid. And because I needed to keep up to date on the news, because it was something useful to do.

Later, I was talking to one of the other students in my class. "Where were YOU?" He asked me. "I didn't even see you in the room."

Pretty impressive, seeing as we spent four and a half hours stuck there. Of course, I don't handle being locked anywhere very well.

There was no second shooter, as it turned out. In panic, people had made reports of what they thought they saw. But I'm not sure that it matters that there wasn't a second shooter. They told us there was one. Some of us thought they might be right. And it was the fear that there MIGHT be that was troubling.

And the realization that it could have so easily been so much worse. The young man who killed himself was apparently intent upon harming no one else. But still, he fired shots on our campus that could have easily hit other people. Had he wanted to do harm, he could have unloaded his weapon in the library.

It was so EASY. It would have taken thirty seconds.

And that's where the fear comes from. Not from what did happen, but from what could have. From the fear that we felt when we were first told that there was a shooter on campus. From the images that flashed through our minds of Virginia Tech, of Columbine, even of the Tower shootings so many years ago.

People are making jokes now. People are acting like it wasn't a big deal. But if you ask me, every person who was locked down on that campus thought, at least once, of what it would be like if the shooter came into THEIR classroom. 

When I got home, I read messages on facebook and twitter. People who were trying to find each other that morning, when the panic was still widespread. People who just wanted to tell their families that they loved them. And it really hit me then. As I looked at the news photos and footage of SWAT teams in Calhoun - in my favorite building, the one where my favorite professors spend their time - I couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like if it had been what it COULD have been.

And truth be told, I'm still doing that.

Going back to campus on Wednesday was hard. And I only stayed for one class.

Because every time I heard a siren, or saw a police car, or heard the sounds of jackhammers and nailguns being used in campus construction, my stomach churned, and I fought the urge to hide behind the nearest tree.

And even though most people aren't talking about it, I can't help but feel like there are others experiencing this too. And even more who will experience it, but don't know it yet. Trauma works that way sometimes.

I wonder how long it will take for campus to feel the same as it did before. Or if it will ever feel that way again.

I wonder what the young man's parents are going through, and I pray for them. And while I do feel sorrow for the life that was lost, I am so incredibly grateful that it stopped there.

Now, it's just a matter of surviving the aftermath. But that is something we'll all do together. And in time, things will feel more normal again.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Charlie Bear

Because I'm sick.

Because the bronchial infection may kill me at any moment.

Because I may go throw myself under a bus if it doesn't kill me, just so I can stop hacking, coughing, and generally wondering how much liquid can drain from a person's nose, eyes, throat, and chest before said person shrivels up like a prune.

I am going to reveal a deep, dark secret.

Are you ready?

Yes, that's right. I still sleep with a stuffed bear.

His name is Charlie.

He traveled to Australia as part of my carry-on luggage because I was afraid to check him. He's been covered in tears and snot and probably a little blood in his time. He used to let me dress him up like a girl (Sorry, Charlie.) He's survived the washing machine.

My mother once washed him and then hung him outside by his neck to dry. When I saw, I had a minor meltdown.

And he's never ever ever never ever never never never allowed to fall apart.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some Truths About Anxiety

I'm tired.

It seems to be my automatic response these days.

"How are you?"
"Fine. Tired."

It's simply the best answer I can give. I'm not getting a ton of sleep. I mean, I am here blogging when I have to be awake in five hours and fifty-four minutes.

But it's not just that.


Whenever I blog about my anxiety, I feel guilty. I shouldn't, because it's not as if I'm forcing anyone to sit down and read. I'm not even convinced that anyone really does. But there's something about putting my weaknesses down for the world to see that makes me feel like I shouldn't do it.

Unless I can make it funny. Like the fully-clothed shower I took during the Great Flea Wars of 2010. That was funny, and so I wrote about it.

I'm not feeling particularly funny right now, though. Mostly... just tired.


It's just been one of those weeks. My world got rocked a little when I found myself sitting in the middle of my Russian class - my FAVORITE class with my favorite professor - suddenly overcome with this feeling of dread. I knew what it was, of course. The dizziness, the nausea, the sudden onset rapid heartbeat. The overwhelming urge to get up and run screaming from the room combined with the fear that if I stood up, my knees wouldn't hold me. I know panic attacks. And I know how they work. They tend to come without warning. They're really very politically correct things... completely non-discriminate. Any time, any place, with or without some kind of trigger. They don't care. Despite knowing this, I think I felt that Russian was some kind of safe zone.

After all, I usually spend the class period walking on clouds.

And I ALWAYS pay attention to Dr Garza. Just ask any of my friends, who tease me relentlessly over my knowledge-crush.

But honestly, I couldn't tell you the first thing about what he said on Tuesday afternoon. Frustrating not only because we are now doing prepositional plural possessive pronouns (say that five times fast) and the work is getting increasingly difficult, but also because I've lost that feeling of "nothing can go wrong here."

And for the life of me, I can't figure out why.

And I know that there is no why.

And that drives me a little crazy.


I want to go to Moscow next summer. The program is amazing. Five and a half weeks of being taught Russian in Moscow. Exploring the city. Experiencing the culture.

Staying in a dorm. With a roommate. Eating strange food. Experiencing a communication barrier on a massive scale.

It's a little terrifying too, on a personal level and on an anxiety disorder level.

I started thinking about things that could happen. What if it's dirty? What about the fact that I hate to shake hands? Isn't that a big deal in Moscow? What if there are no academic accommodations and I fail all of my courses because I have to use Scantron sheets to take the exams and I can't do them fast enough? Do they even know what OCD is? Do I know how to explain it do them? What if I have a bad panic attack and end up in a Russian hospital because someone assumes that I'm in need of medical attention and I don't know how to explain to them that I'll be fine?

Something tells me that would not me an all together pleasant experience.

Don't know why I think that.

Really. Can't IMAGINE why.

Of course, I could just be obsessing. I am prone to worry.


So I e-mailed my professor to ask about mental health in Russia. It was a legitimate thing to do. Crazy as some of my what-if scenarios are, I do need to have some general idea of what to expect. It's just good sense to plan for the contingencies.

Not that they'd keep me from going either way, mind you. That's not what I'm about. But I do like to be prepared.

It helps me know how much Xanax to pack.

So I sent this e-mail.

And I haven't gotten a response.

I know there is a legitimate reason for this. Paper grading, hundreds of other e-mails, being generally busy with life. The season premier of Glee, which my professor apparently watches.

I don't. But that's another blog topic.

Point is, I know that it's irrational to want a response immediately.

But I kind of do.

Because while I'm waiting, I find myself feeling guilty - because I talked about my mental health issues. And then feeling terribly afraid that perhaps I shouldn't have said anything. And then wondering if maybe I'm being judged. And wondering if what I wrote will make my professor like me less. (God, needy much? It's not just him though - it's any time I write about anxiety. In fact, I'm sure I'll feel all of these things as soon as I post this thread.)

And then I think, if he doesn't respond, I'll lose a little respect for him. And that would be sad.

And then I think that I'm an idiot for even worrying about this, because, for God's sake, it's not as if I've written to reveal I'm secretly a serial killer and would like to know if he could recommend some new victims.

It's a vicious, irrational cycle.

But I'm still checking my e-mail inbox every twenty minutes.


Whenever I admit that I feel guilty about talking about anxiety, I also immediately feel hypocritical. I am, after all, the poster child for being "out" about anxiety disorders.

Admittedly, that's a lot easier when you're not in the middle of it.

I'm having some issues with washing right now. My hands aren't bad yet, but they're starting to show a little wear and tear. I caught myself hiding them earlier today, right after washing, because they were red.

Then I felt guilty and hypocritical.

I'm coming to realize that for me, being out doesn't mean that I'm not still just as insecure as the next person.

I still worry about what people will think. Sometimes, I'm still embarrassed. Sometimes, I just don't don't want to talk about it.

I'm simply not ashamed of it anymore. And sometimes, I look at all the things I've accomplished in spite of it, and I actually feel pretty darn good about myself.


Tonight in the improv class that I was signed up to take, I had to pull aside our instructor and tell him that I couldn't deal with everybody trying to touch me. All the high-five-y, huggy, touchy-feely, playing games that required me to be boxed in on all sides by people in a very small room.

I hate being boxed in.

He dealt with it. The class became immediately less terrifying.

But it was still kind of awkward and uncomfortable. It was still improv. Just not improv in which I felt the urge to run out screaming and wash my hands.


I do a ton of work for OCD. I facilitate the local group. I'm working on a campus group. I sit as the Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Texas IOCDF affiliate.

Sometimes I feel like my whole life is OCD. And that's BEFORE I remember that I actually have the disorder.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not spend all of my spare time immersing myself in the disorder that I'm told I'll have for the rest of my life. Sometimes I think that all of the work I do is just a way to make myself feel better about being stuck with OCD.

Most of the time though, I'm pretty excited about everything we're doing. I'm proud. I can't wait to see where we're going and really, I love the work. It's something that I'm good at. It's something that I'm supposed to be doing.

But when my own OCD flares, and I start having weeks like this one, I feel a bit tired.


It's really just one of those weeks. Don't get me wrong. Soon I'll be posting about all the progress we're making at OCD TEXAS. I'll write to talk about our big meeting. I'll write to say that I never feel more competent than after I've facilitated a group meeting.

Tonight, though, that's not where I am.

Tonight, I'm tired. And anxious. And tired of being anxious. And tired of being tired. 


I desperately need to go to bed. But the guilt of writing about this is already setting in.

Of course, I only have seven readers. *grin* And most of you already know me.

Ultimately though, as I was reminded of in a post over at Twinsanity, I have to write what speaks to me. So love it or leave it, this is what I've got.

Tomorrow, we'll tackle foreign aid policy and my views on the environment.

Or, you know. I'll go back to being more or less entertaining. After all, with prepositional possessive plural pronouns, who knows what embarrassing language blunders I'll make this week!


** Photos done by Kelly at Dances With Chaos. Ain't she swell?