Friday, March 2, 2012

My Demons Again...

"I'll give you some advice that cannot be fought
Now I'm gonna warn you: Don't you get caught...
Don't get caught in my brainstorm..."
                                                - The Fleshtones

Brainstorm by The Fleshtones on Grooveshark

I'm picking fights with everyone lately.

Not sure how I got into this frame of mind, and I seem powerless to stop it.  I've been here before, though.  Many years back, before I was diagnosed with my demons, I went through a phase that led me directly into what I refer to as my "Hermit Phase."  Before I even knew what Social Anxiety or OCD were, I realized one day I had changed from a very sociable, friendly person into someone who grew easily irritated when others seemed oblivious, whether consciously or unconsciously so, to things that seemed so simple and obvious to me.  Further, whatever filter most people have that allows them to shield others from that irritation didn't seem to be functional in me.  Coupled with my natural tendency towards sarcasm, I quickly found myself driving people away, pissing off friends, and destroying relationships.  Yet, I felt incapable of stopping myself from doing it.

Once I began working with my therapist and began to learn about the processes that were likely happening in my brain, I also began to learn coping skills.  The process went like this: My OCD Demon would see something not "right" in what someone else was saying or doing, and immediately fire off the alarm that it had to be fixed; my Social Anxiety Demon would begin whispering in my ear that whatever that other person was saying or doing was being said or done in order to make me look bad, or to attack me in some way, and would insist that I go into full defense mode - fight or flight, so to speak, except I couldn't flee because OCD compelled me to stay and fix it, so that left "fight" as my only option.  I upset a lot of people over a lot of little things.

A combination of learning some coping skills (especially recognizing the warning signs that such a process was beginning and getting myself out of the situation before it reached the point I couldn't "flee") and finding the right medication (better living through Zoloft!) helped immensely.  I also believe that, in many ways, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, helped me to improve to a point where I could begin being social in the real world again, because the built-in buffer created by being able to simply turn off the computer let me begin to push and stretch my boundaries.

As I've shared here before, my fight against my demons is never, and will never be, finished.  I must always remain vigilant against their schemes.  I haven't written much about them in recent months because they've been relatively quiet - or so I thought. The holidays came and went with no flare-ups, and I was feeling pretty good about where my head was.

Those demons are insidious, and infuriatingly patient.  They sit and wait until the slightest crack in my armor appears, and then they make their moves.  They will slowly but inexorably chip away until the crack becomes larger and larger and finally, before I even realize it, they've gotten into my brain again. This time, rather than sending me on my usual depression spirals or battles of self-doubt, they pulled an old trick out of their armory: They brought back that process.

At first, I didn't even notice it.  Most of my friends know I love to debate.  I love a well-structured argument; I actually enjoy having my beliefs challenged in ways that forces me to assess (and, if necessary re-assess) them.  And if I can find someone to debate with who is both skilled in the art of the debate and also realizes the pure joy found in a well-placed pun or sudden non sequitur in the midst of an otherwise straight, logical argument, I am beyond happy!  Because it is the structure of the debate itself and not necessarily the content that I enjoy, I will occasionally take a devil's advocate stance even if it's not really my belief just for the fun of the contest.  It's not a malicious thing at all; I don't debate to make personal attacks, nor will I remain in a debate with an opponent who is so unskilled as to devolve from arguing his point to attacking me.  That's not fun.

But slowly, over the past month or so, I've noticed the tone of my debates growing darker.  I've found myself almost incapable of passing up opportunities to jump into the fray with anyone, and I've heard the sarcasm in my own words grow.  I'm no longer asking others to defend their beliefs because I am interested in how they think; I am now insisting that they defend stances that I see as, for lack of a better word, stupid.  My demons have taken one of the mental and logical exercises I enjoy most and once again turned it into a weapon against me.

I know it's happening because, over time, the old familiar symptoms are resurfacing:  I find myself getting actually angry at what I perceive as personal attacks that probably aren't; I find myself thinking of the other person as at best ill-informed and at worst stupid for not seeing things that seem so obvious to me; I find my inner frustration level rise to the point where adrenalin starts coursing through me and I feel as if I am physically fighting to get out of my own head.  More to the point, I find myself pissing people off or getting pissed off at people and pushing them away over the slightest perceived infraction.

What becomes even more frustrating is, now that the rational observer in my head is aware that this is happening but not yet able to do anything about it, I have begun internally dissecting each and every conversation, whether argument or not, to try to determine which are the battles that are worth fighting - the situations where I really do need to stand up and fight for something valid - and which are the inconsequential skirmishes that my demons are trying dust up into life-and-death battles.  It's not easy to define which is which; right now they look identical from inside my head.

But I'm not giving in.  I can't and won't.  I've noted before that the hell of this all is that sometimes the demons win.  But I know they won't win all the time, and I know I can get back to a place where I win more often than they do.  Writing these posts helps - a lot.  I just hope that this time around I don't have to count as many causalities among my friends and relationships as I have before.

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  1. I love your ability to provide realistic optimism.

  2. funny that my friend, who has OCD very badly, always says, "Oh, this is just the German in me." Nope. I'm German. It ain't that, dude :)