Enjoying the Flavor - Emotional Pain and OCPD

I was checking out the OCD center of Los Angeles blog, and they discussed some great research on the genetic link between physical pain and the pain of social rejection.
"Researchers already knew from previous studies that the gene, called OPRM1, regulates the body’s internal painkillers, known as mu-opioids. In layman’s terms, the presence of this gene variation results in people actually feeling more pain in response to being physically hurt. What is so interesting about the new study is that researchers discovered this same gene variation also appears to regulate the level of distress felt if one is socially hurt."

So the researchers did some tests on people, using an MRI to scan the brain and various levels of physical and emotional pain were inflicted. The findings backed up the genetic information - the same brain centers that lit up during a poke or a prod lit up when the subject was emotionally hurt.

This is interesting to me, because a lot of my worry lies in fear of rejection. So am I experiencing a heightened response to all pain, emotional and otherwise, due to a genetic predisposition?

Well, maybe. My first thought was about how sensitive I am to spicy foods, and how all I feel is pain as a hot pepper hits my tongue. Other who relish some flaming cayenne can't seem to get it.
"It hurts?" they ask in wonder. And I simply don't understand the spicy "flavor" they talk about.

We have genetically different tongues. One tastes a pepper, one feels pain. And no matter how poetic I get, I can't really make they understand, because they can never taste what I taste.

Are emotions like this? Its hard to explain just why I feel so hurt when my work isn't perfect to most people. They don't "get" why is matters so deeply to me. Maybe they just weren't built to feel that kind of pain.

But I do know one thing- pain can be overcome. Tolerances can be built. I made a effort, at the behest of a Indian Buffet loving friend- to build up some chops for curry. So little by little, I ate some spicy. I dealt with the pain, trying to feel it in a different way. And you know, even if I'll never ask for extra Jalapenos, I can tolerate a good Massaman.

If I can train my taste buds, maybe I can train my mental pain genes in the same way. And while I'll never enjoy rejection or emotional pain, I can at least get less afriad of the flavor.


Tanning and Anxiety- UV rays and OCPD

From Medical News Today:

"A new study from the US suggests that some people who frequently use indoor tanning beds may become addicted to the habit and are also more likely to be prone to anxiety, use alcohol and other substances, suggesting that exposure to UV light may lead to behavior patterns typical of substance-related disorders."

Confession time - I used to be a tanner. I wouldn't say I was addicted, but certainly I loved the skin tingling glow that left my skin brown. When I moved to New York, I realized orange skin is not a good look.

So was I unwittingly feeding my obessive tendencies, causing myself anxiety by soaking in some UV rays? I remember feeling totally worried/anxious/insecure if I couldnt get my tanning fix, but that was the same with a lot of things. Maybe tanning was just another way to play out my implus for control. Control my hair, my make up and - my skin tone?

Vanity is a easy way to feel in control, and for OCPD women this can be a problem. Tanning is very vain, and also at some level self destructive. OCPD people tend to think they are "superhuman". Perfectionisim lets us think "Radiation? Won't hurt me! And I'll look like the most sun kissed one in the room!"

So is tanning a symptom of destructive and obsessive vanity, or the cause? Do people who think they are immune to cancer also more likely to drink and smoke, even to the point of excess?

Are self obessed, perfectionist and insecure people more likely to spend more money and time of looks through tanning?

I think yes. I don't think UV rays cause anxiety or substance problems. Both tanning and drinking are about a desire to focus on the external- to escape the self, to distance from others. And also to proclaim "See these toxic behaviors dont hurt me! I laugh at skin cancer and liver cirrosis!"

When I was thinking about the hue of my skin, about a party or about the buzz, about the external- I avoided looking within myself.

And yes, anxiety swirls around when you build up behaviors like walls around part of yourself. Because what happens when those behaviors are taken away? When you have to stop tanning, when you stop drinking. You stop getting your fix of control, your neat little habit with visible results.

So I wouldn't go around thinking UV rays are cooking your grey matter to create a OCPD mind. But if you are a anxious perfectionist like me, its worth taking a look at patterns of behavior, like tanning, that serve an emotional purpose.

Maybe its time for some suncreen instead!


Keeping it Clean- Perfection, Cleaning and OCPD

Part of me loves to clean. Well, thats ot quite right. All of me love the feeling of living in a clean and bright home. Only part of me finds the joy in actually doing it!

But there are time when the focus of OCPD takes over, that perfectionist impuses and I just have to fix that stop right now no matter what.

That happened this morning. How can a refrigerator get a stop on it over night? It doesnt matter. What did matter was that the little bit of windex I used didn't leave a streak free shine on the stainless steal.

One spot turned into a streaky patch. Which turned into re-cleaning tboth doors. Which just left them both streaky.

Which led me to try no less than 3 various cleaners in an attempt at the now impossible streak free shine.

All this before 9am.

Obsessive and Compulsive? Check and Check.

But what stopped me was a momment of persepctive, of pause. "Who is going to see this door today?"

The answer was no one - unless you count me dog. The streaks would sit undisturbed until 7 when I would pull some leftover dinner out of it.

And guess what? The frigdge would get another spot, no doubt about it. And the cycle of spot - streak obsession would start all over.

So this made me realize- clean is nice, but remember it can't ever be perfect: life will just get it dirty again!


Type it out, give pause - Work and OCPD

At my office, we use email and AIM to talk and communicate, and way more dialog goes on in black and white pixles than around the water cooler.

As I was responding to my boss, typing out a message, I re-read whart I wrote. There I was apologizing and justifying my work, being all worried about his feelings toward me, over anxious to please. I used way too many filler words, to try to soften what I meant to say.

I realized all I really needed to say was "Ok, will do".

Less anxiety, less worry, less drama. More clarity? The drama is in my mind, and inside it can be hard to relaize just how many words that story of worry really has.

But typed out it looked silly. It needed to be simplifed, for my boss's benifit and my own.

Now, if one I could edit my thoughts with one click and a tap of the "delete" button!


Relationships and Pain- Getting Hurt with OCPD

Sometimes people hurt us. The people we love, the people we let in. That's the trade off after all. There is a saying : When you invite someone into your home, you risk some muddy footprints.

You can ask your guests to wipe their feet. Maybe sometimes they do. Maybe it's most of the time. Every time, your carpet is unblemished, you heart is safe.

Soon, you stop asking. He knows - She likes me to take off my shoes. It becomes habit. Love and kindness are simply the way of things.

But sometimes it rains. Mud sloshes the streets, and his shoes get dirty. Caked with mud. The world doesn't always keep your home's clean floor in mind and it doesn't discriminate.

He comes in and forgets. He forget, and the shoes stay on, the mud caked and drying all over the floor. Precious kindness is no longer a habit. It was taken for granted.

You can scream and beg him to stop trampling all over. You can cry and ask why he didn't think, this one time, why didn't he stop? Why was this visit the one that ended without kindness, without thought, without the safety of a lovers habit?

You can even ask yourself if he did it on purpose. He knows I am nervous, that my heart is fragile, and yet still..."

But it doesn't matter. The footprints stay there. The mud is drying, and the damage is done.

Apologies don't take them away. Even as you clean you know - they will stain. For years, his footprints will be there, maybe just a dull outline, but they will be. Trampling in a gritty memory on the heart.

Maybe you forgive. Maybe you forget. Maybe you move on But every time it rains, you remember how it felt to have him forget to be kind. You might even put down some mats, some padding, some buffer just in case someone decides to be cruel. You have been hurt and now you understand you can't always count on habits of kindness.

And you never stop asking, everyone now, everyone who comes in, into you home, into your heart, to wipe their feet.

Some habits are not broken.


Finding the Spark- Positivity, Perfection and OCPD

As per usual, I was rushing to work. I wasnt late- yet. But I wanted to make the express train to guerenntee I was at my desk and online by 9:30. Well, I came down the steps just as the expressline pulled away, closed doors and all. The local came trundlying reliably and slowly up to the platform.

Inside I was cursing. But then I took a breath. It was a lot less crowded than the express. And - it was much, much cooler. No cramped sweaty bodies ( It was about 78 degrees here today)

And then a group of men got on. They looked familiar - one old with white hair contrasting his grizzled brown skin, another much younger with a massive rasta hat full of dreadlocks.

The subway singers! They harmonized "This Little Light of Mine" really well, and made me tap my foot all the way to Times Square. I was more thankful for the local than ever and I knew, work could wait that 5 min longer. I gave the a dollar, and kept thinking about the words.

Am I letting my light shine?

Well, sometimes you have to go through a few matches, and take the time to recognize the spark!


Antidepressants and Living Life

Recently, the FAA lifted a ban on commercial airline pilots taking antidepressants. .

I saw this pop up on CNN and my first thought was - I didn't know there was a ban! I never thought that taking a SSRI could influence the ability to fly an aircraft, but for 60 yers the FAA disagreed.

Now, like any illegal substance that people want and need, antidepressants were undoubltbly taken by some pilots. ITs terrible to think they risked their jobs because they felt they needed the medication. I've written about my ambivilance toword all kinds of medication, but for me, taking Zoloft has definently allowed me to worry a bit less, even at the lowest possible dosage. And its not like I tell everyone I know about my mental health, but I do not think it should be such a stigma or secret. It's hard enough facing inner demons without worrying if your boss will find out and fire you.

The CNN article states "The FAA also will begin a six-month amnesty period, during which pilots who use antidepressants can step forward without fear of penalties. The pilots will be grounded until they can demonstrate they have been stable for a year, although those who can prove a history of successful medical treatment should be able to fly "within a few months," the FAA said.

OK so... basically if you come forward you still risk being ostracized and analyzed if you are "Stable". I conceed, depression is rought. But what about other personality traits? Anger? Stress? there are so many that infringe flying ability just as much as "depression".

I think the real problem is that we want pilots to be inhuman and perfect. After all , we put our lives in their hands whenever we fly. But thats not realisitic. They, like everyone else, have struggles. And I hope that when pilots have to choose whether to face those hard places inside themselves or keep quiet to keep flying, they make the right choice.


Cellphone while Driving- Multitasking and Anxiety

From "Think You’re Good at Driving While on Your Cellphone? You May Be Right" in Wired Science:
About one in 40 drivers qualifies as a “supertasker,” able to combine driving and cell phone use without impairing performance of either activity, say psychologists Jason Watson and David Strayer, both of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. These unusual exceptions to the general rule that performance declines when a person does two things at once (SN: 3/13/10, p. 16) may offer insights into the workings of attention and mental control, Watson and Strayer propose in an upcoming Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Well I guess my article about the anxiety of multi-tasking is proven a bit flawed. I have so say, sometimes my obessive mind can totally focus on all the balls in the air, juggling tasks like crazy.

Yes, it can be efficient to train the mind to "supertask". We only have so many hours here, so better pack in everything you can! At least thats what I tell myself as I run from gym to dog run to work and finally to bed.

But does that lead to a better life? Are we happier if we all train ourselves to "supertask" and get manage to get in 4 more phonecalls before we pull into the driveway?

Or are we just going to miss the scenery out the window?

It's good to have a choice, to be able to supertask when its needed, and still be able to pull back and breathe once and awhile.