Category Archives: Parenting

Am I Evil: Living with Harm OCD

 

When I was very young, I remember my dad picking up each of our two cats, Amber and Dawn, and swinging them by the tail. He would laugh hysterically as they flew through the air and landed on the front lawn.

At another point in my childhood, my mother used to babysit a little 12-month-old boy. I vaguely remember my dad slapping the boy for no reason except to watch him cry. He would even pick the boy up by his hair; I’ll never forget the contorted, screaming face of the innocent little boy dangling above his playpen as my dad laughed like a madman.

 

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had thoughts of kicking, hitting, and torturing cats,  small dogs, and other defenseless creatures.

I think about capturing a rabbit or stray cat and holding it captive, beating it and watching as it suffers and dies.

Until I told my sister a few days ago, no one had ever known this about me. (As I’ve mentioned before, my sister is the only person close to me who can fully relate to everything I go through.)

My sister then shared a link with me about Harm OCD. I had never heard of it. It totally described me:

 

Harm OCD is a manifestation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which an individual experiences intrusive, unwanted, distressing thoughts of causing harm. These harming thoughts are perceived as being ego-dystonic, which simply means that the thoughts are inconsistent with the individual’s values, beliefs and sense of self. Harming obsessions typically center around the belief that one must be absolutely certain that they are in control at all times in order to ensure that they are not responsible for a violent or otherwise fatal act. (Source: ocdla.com)

 

Here are some common intrusive thoughts experienced by those with Harm OCD:

 

  • I will suddenly snap and violently attack:
    • My significant other or ex
    • My child (especially common in Perinatal and Postpartum OCD)
    • My parent or other family member
    • My nephew/niece/godchild
    • A disabled or ill person
    • A baby
    • A friend
    • A stranger
  • I will fail to respond to disgusting violent or sexual thoughts appropriately and will reveal myself to be a monster.
  • I will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to push someone into traffic, jump out a window, or experience some other impulse that will result in me being responsible for my death or someone else’s death.
  • I will be overwhelmed by harming obsessions and have to act on them to relieve the pressure
  • I will lose my sanity and commit suicide. (Source: ocdla.com)

 

Here is another definition and example:

 

This is a particularly disturbing OCD subtype as the person has thoughts, feelings and even urges of violence to themselves or others. They can be quite intense, and they often feel like they are on the verge of doing the violent act. They feel absolutely terrified much of the time. Many of them feel like killers and develop a personality that says they are a killer of some sort.

I’ve done therapy with a guy who was convinced he was a serial killer. Of course he’d never hurt a soul and he never would, but I could not convince him of that. The obsessions were powerful, continuous, and 24-7. They were so persistent and tenacious that he had given up all hope of resisting them. They had also become quite strong in that the illness was actually telling him or ordering him to commit the violence. (Source: robertlindsay.wordpress.com)

 

This morning, I told all of this to my psychiatrist. I’ve never seen him at a loss for words. He finally said, “You have to see a therapist before I see you again. Normal people don’t do things like that.”

Last week, one of my colleagues gave our family a hermit crab with the full aquarium/habitat and all sorts of accessories. My two sons were ecstatic at the idea of finally getting a pet. However, little did we know that hermit crabs were nocturnal, so we never saw the little guy; he was holed up in a wooden tunnel all the time.

As soon as I got the creature home, the raspy voice of my illness began whispering in my ear: Now’s your chance. The kids are already bored with it. Torture and kill it. Take it back to work and get rid of it. No one will ever know.

I did just that. I waited until late at night, and then I put the crab and shell into the water dish. It kept trying to climb out, so I held the crab under the surface for a solid minute. I pulled it out. No movement. Nothing.

It felt like I had just snorted a line of cocaine: Adrenaline raced through my body and made me feel invincible; all my worries were gone. I was in control!

After half an hour, I began to feel extremely guilty. Looking over at the aquarium where I had placed the crab under a tuft of moss inside the wooden tunnel, my heart began to ache.

Right before bed, I went over to the habitat in a corner of the living room, removed the tunnel and picked up the shell. The crab moved! Its legs flung out, and I supposed it was getting hungry.

I went to bed relieved, happy, and sad.

My doctor told me to get rid of the crab because I couldn’t be trusted with a pet in the house. I told him that the crab earned my respect for being so tough and surviving the attempted drowning.

He doubled my Lexapro and asked if I wanted to get some in-patient treatment.

For the first time since I’ve been seeing him, the doctor didn’t shake my hand; rather, he rushed out of the room, telling me goodbye over his shoulder. The door between the offices and the lobby were closed and locked immediately.

And I staggered out of the lobby with a handful of prescriptions, not knowing what to expect from myself.

I’m still terrified.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Dear Rachel: A Letter to My Baby in Heaven

Credit: lameken5050

Dear Little Rachel,

I will never forget the day that your mommy and I put the manjū rabbit on the tatami mat of our neighborhood Shinto shrine. It was Japan, so there weren’t any churches. Somehow that little shrine transcended religion and its boundaries.

I have never been moved quite so much than at that moment. To ring the bell, clap our hands twice, and pray with mommy for the repose of your soul affected me more than had you been born alive.

Just like placing flowers before a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe or lighting a votive candle before St. Joseph the Worker, I knew that the offering was well taken care of. The manjū rabbit was more than an offering, though, Rachel. It represented you — that little thing, parted from mommy and daddy, surrounded by eternal happiness in that beloved shrine.

You were about five weeks old, but mommy and I were so excited. You would have been our first child! Mommy liked the name Rachel because she has always been a fan of the TV show Friends, and I liked it because it’s a lovely Biblical name.

I will never forget the little sonogram photo that showed you in mommy’s tummy. Of course there’s no solid proof that you were a girl, but somehow we knew. Your grandma is a psychic, and even she was sure of your gender.

I remember exploring the grounds of a nearby Buddhist temple the week before you stopped kicking. We were excited to have discovered such a beautiful landscape and temple. Monks were chanting from inside. I thought it was God’s way of blessing you, and I was happy. However, mommy later told me that it was a funeral ceremony, and that she felt that the monks were saying it for you, Rachel. Mommy and I never went back to that place.

I’ve always wanted a little girl to spoil. I see pictures everywhere of proud dads with their little princesses, and it gnaws at me in the depths of my spirit. It goes without saying that I love your two brothers more than life itself. But there’s a reason for everything, right, Rachel? You know; you are with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom. You are part of the beatific vision and, thus, you probably know the reason. Mommy and I won’t know until we meet you after falling asleep in the Lord.

I’ve never brought this up with anyone, Rachel, but I have an idea why you didn’t stay with us. Of course, I don’t know the mind of God, but I have a conviction in my heart that is as strong as iron. I struggle continuously with lust and sexual impurity. I honestly believe that God allowed mommy to have a miscarriage to somehow help me to be more holy. I am sorry if that sounds selfish. I really am. Also, our next two children were boys; we were to have no girls.

I would have loved you and protected you with my entire being, though.

Mommy and I are filled with joy that we have two happy, healthy, normal little boys.

But I will always think of you from time to time — and walking away from the manjū rabbit at the shrine nine years ago.

Well, little one, I’ll wrap up this letter for now. Mommy and I will see you later. (Pray for mommy because you know how stubborn she is when it comes to spirituality!) Give Mama Mary a big hug for me.

Love always and forever,

Daddy

~t

An explanation of manjū is here.


How I Ruined My Family’s Sunday Afternoon

I couldn’t see a thing. All I knew was that the room was about 8′ x 5′ (2.4 m x 1.5 m). I sat there with my legs folded under me with my eyes closed. My mind wasn’t working; only the heaviness of guilt and regret was with me in the darkness. This was my punishment. I had it coming. How I wish I could take back everything I did. I didn’t want to leave this pitch-black cell, though.

After being frozen in place for what seemed like hours, I curled up on the floor, using an old musty cloth as a pillow. I didn’t want to stretch out; it would have been too much of a luxury, plus my feet would have been near the door. I never expected to drift off to sleep, but it had been an emotionally draining experience.

It all happened in a flash. One moment, I was checking my email on my phone, and the next minute, the fight broke out with no warning. They were going at it with everything they had. It’s a prison fight, I thought with horror. How could it be happening? What caused it? And right under my nose? How dare they!

After the bigger one got the smaller one down and began hammering his back with right-left combinations, I snapped.

It was one thing I lived in fear of, even as a dedicated, faithful Christian. The beast inside me reared its ugly head once again and took over. I got in each boy’s face and screamed at each one. “What are you doing?! You will not fight while I’m here! You,” I said, looking at my seven-year-old. “Don’t you realize that he is only five? Why were you beating on him like that? Huh?!”

“Scott, stop. You’re getting carried away.” Ayako, my wife, tried to calmly intervene.

“Don’t interrupt! I’m in the middle of disciplining them!”

“But, you’re yelling–”

“Didn’t you see it?! It was like a prison fight!” Now I was yelling at my wife.

I don’t remember what happened next. I was in such a crazy state of mind.

I used to punish myself by striking myself in the temple, cheek, and forehead. I was doing it again. Wasn’t all that crap behind me?

I had one of those profound moments during Mass earlier in the morning when my soul cried out to God. I was in up to my neck in a certain type of sin, and I couldn’t worship the Lord like I usually did.

That’s what sin does. It makes you think that once is enough. Instead, the cycle begins. Like a drug addict trying to go straight. One little snort or injection and everything will be okay. Just one fix.

But that’s not how sin works. The devil knows that one little slip and he’s got you. The feeding of the addiction happens all over again. The cycle is torture. Even St. Paul struggled with sin: Even though his mind said no, his flesh said yes. I always seem to forget about the rest of that verse.

His answer is to turn to Christ.

God told me in the middle of Mass that I kept falling because I was legalistically trying to avoid sin. What I didn’t realize was that I was using my own power. God reminded me that I must avoid sin out of love for Him and not because of myself.

When God speaks to me, I don’t mean that He speaks audibly inside my head like I’m a schitzo. It’s more of telepathy for lack of a better term. His Spirit connects with my spirit on a deep, primal level. I don’t even have to think of a reply; my soul responds automatically.

So there I was, my heart and soul transformed and touched by the hand of God. After Mass, as everyone cleared out, I knelt down in the pew and continued praising God and thanking him profusely for His gift of faith and forgiveness through Christ. Normally I get distracted and not pray after Mass, but I was deep in communion with the Holy Spirit yesterday, and nothing could divert my attention. How wonderful it was!

So how did I go from that mountain-top experience with God to being curled up in the fetal position in this dark, cramped room? It felt like my brain was swishing around in my skull; the dull pain was making me sick to my stomach. You deserve it, Scott. Serves you right for treating your two little buddies so horribly.

My oldest son is very sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily. He is excelling in second-grade reading and math. I am so proud of him. My youngest son is in kindergarten, and all last week he and one other student had the privilege of sitting at a special table in his classroom reserved for exceptional students. The little rascal didn’t even tell my wife or me, but that’s how he is. Very humble.

The three of us love playing soccer in the backyard after dinner. Both boys are playing in a fall soccer league now, and my youngest is the star player on his team. He gets the majority of his team’s goals each game. My two little buddies are the pride and joy of my life.

Seeing them both break down into tears as I screamed at them hit me like a sack of bricks afterward. When my rage was in full force, though, I wanted them to cry; I wanted to see their remorse and for them to fully understand how fighting would not be allowed.

I try very hard to be the best father that I can be. I love my sons more than I love myself. If they’re still hungry when we eat at home or at a restaurant, I am quick to share my food or dessert with them. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have shared with my wife. My food was mine!

I sometimes get angry with my sons for little things. Yesterday morning we had a fun day at the park. My kids love riding their bikes through a nature trail, stopping periodically to explore a creek or a wooded area that looks interesting. Yesterday, I took the photo at the top of this post It was in a wide-open field at the park. As I was trying to figure which angle of the log to photograph, my oldest son sneaked up behind me and yelled boo. He was laughing, having fun because he scared Dada. I responded by yelling at him not to scare me like that. He went away dejected.

My right shoulder and back were killing me from spending so much time on the floor in the small, dark closet. I turned over, tossed away the old cloth that was my pillow and roughed it some more. The more I was uncomfortable and in pain, the more I could atone for my behavior. In shorts and a t-shirt, the floor was feeling cold, but I was determined to keep lying there; hopefully I would catch a cold and suffer for several more days.

God, I whispered, help me. Help me in this situation. I created such a mess. Then I thought about how every action of mine, either positive or negative, affects my whole family. Just like when I was young. My father’s mood affected all of us and ruined so many happy moments. It tore me apart to see myself acting like my father who I still cannot forgive for leaving me nothing but rancid memories of my childhood.

I drifted in and out of consciousness in the darkness. Brief dreams floated through my mind. Suddenly I heard a female voice. It was soft and gentle. Perhaps it was an angel.

Scott. Scott. SCOTT.

Huh? I mumbled. Was I dreaming?

Get up. The voice sounded authoritative now.

No. I want to stay here.

Get up! The angel was yelling now. Don’t make me angry!

I was awake now, but I didn’t move. Stop yelling first.

Your sons are waiting for you to read to them!

It wasn’t an angel after all. It was Ayako, my wife. She is a tough little thing, so I knew it would be in my best interest to get up and go into the living room.

Before opening my bedroom door, I collected myself and prayed. God, you gotta help me. I let out a deep breath and opened the door.

My boys were on the sofa with their little books, waiting for me to read to them. “Dada! Come sit with us!”

They had forgiven me and were actually happy to see me. We read several books together, and then we played their favorite card game, Uno. My wife even came in from the kitchen and joined us for two games.

Later, after dinner, my sons and I went out back as usual and played soccer. A little while later, my wife came out for the very first time, and we played an aggressive but fun two-on-two match.

God had worked another miracle. Everything was back to normal, but I was still depressed and suffering from guilt.

I’m sure my family won’t forget what happened yesterday afternoon, but it was evident that they had forgiven me.

I don’t expect them to forget, though. How I wish they would.

Someday when my sons think back to their childhood, I don’t want my screw-ups to outweigh the fun times that we had.

I am still burdened by extreme guilt right now as I finish typing this. I had to take two Xanax tablets a little while ago to relieve the pain and agony inside of me. The pills didn’t quite do the trick.

I want to lock myself in a room somewhere because I am agitated despite the 2 mg of Xanax. I can’t do that, though. All I can do is rely on God, but I’m having a hard time surrendering right now.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Paranoia, Rage, and T-ball

Since Independence Day is a few days from now, I thought I would post this little non-fiction piece about our national pastime that I originally wrote in spring 2012.

baseball

I attended my son’s first T-ball game this past weekend.  I wanted to look over the email attachment of rules that the coach had sent me so I would know what was going on.  How much different could it be than regular baseball?

The rulebook turned out to be 41 pages.

Forget This.  I’ll learn as I go.

Since I teach some night classes, I’m not able to attend practices, so this was my first time to see the coaches and my 5-year-old son’s teammates.  Too anxious to sit, I paced back and forth, waiting for the game to start.

Being from the Midwest, I decided to wear my St. Louis Cardinals cap.  I unknowingly drew attention to myself since it was Rangers country and most parents and several coaches sported the red and blue apparel with the cool-looking “T’ on it.

It wouldn’t be the only time I would draw attention to myself.

Looking around at the other parents, it seemed I was the only male at the game who wasn’t:

1) a Harley rider;

2) a (wanna-be) gangbanger; or

3) a macho bodybuilder.

“I don’t think I fit in here.  Maybe I should have stayed at home and graded essays,” I whispered to my wife.

“You stay here.  Support your son!” my petite wife replied, not bothering to look at me.

Lord, I can’t do this.  Everyone is staring at me.  They all hate me.  I couldn’t get the paranoid thoughts out of my head.  Satan was attacking me with everything he had.

When the game started, our team took the field.   My son started at third base (each inning the kids switch to a different position)and I had to tell him not to stand on the actual base.  No big deal; it was their first game after all.

The first batter hit a bouncer (off the tee) to the pitcher.  The pitcher stopped the ball with his foot and picked it up, but then he just stood there.

“Throw.  The ball.  To first,” I growled to myself through clenched teeth.

“Good job, good job!” said the Harley biker dude, one of the assistant coaches.

Good job?!  He didn’t even attempt to make the play at first!  I thought.

Since all the balls usually don’t make it past the pitcher (it is T-ball after all)I was surprised when a batter on the other team hit one to the second baseman.  The fielder scooped it up and proceeded to throw the runner out.

Awesome!  This is more like it.

The second baseman did indeed throw the ball, but he threw it to third base for some unknown reason.  There wasn’t even a runner on that side of the diamond. 

“Come on!” I growled again.  A few people turned around.

My wife elbowed me.  “They’re only 5 years old!  Settle down.”

This time the dude with the drooping shorts and the Jesus is my Homeboy T-shirt clapped and shouted, “It’s OK!  Nice try!”

Why the is everyone being so darn nice?  These kids need training!

A few innings later (T-ball only has 4 innings), my son hit a grounder that made it all the way into center field.  I relaxed, a smile plastered across my face.

I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

The next batter got a base hit, meaning my son had to advance to second base.  He just stood there, though, picking his ear.

I jumped out of my folding chair like it was in flames.  “RUN!!  MICHAEL, RUN!!”

I’m not sure who else was urging my son to run to second; my voice drowned out all the others, so I didn’t know.  All I remember was that I unknowingly deputized myself as a coach.

“MICHAEL, RUN!!  *@#%*&$!!”

The game came to a standstill as everyone turned to me.  It was as if a pedophile had just walked onto the field buck naked.  Biker couples clad in U.S. flag bandanas and trailer people with mullets and faded Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts covered their kids’ ears.  Athletic muscleheads who could have thrown me like a javelin glared with contempt.

If T-ball had an umpire, I would have probably been banished from the sports complex for the rest of my life. 

I learned a lot about being judgmental that day.  I, the college instructor/ Christian in the polo shirt, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks, turned out to be the true menace to society.

Luckily next weekend is picture day for the team, so I’ll just lie low and send my wife.  By the time the next game rolls around, hopefully everyone will have forgotten what happened.

Yeah, right.  And I’ll be pitching for the Yankees next season, too.

~topaz