Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Fri 9 Mar 07 15:58
Just joining the discussion -- this is a funny little side-note, but I didn't want to come into the discussion till I had finished the book, which I did this morning. Jeff, what a book! Humor is a huge component -- early on you step outside of your retelling of "the Boat" story to acknowledge that when friends read the manuscript, they were a bit put off by it, and then tell us, the readers, that as tiring and weird it may be to read, it's hella more tiring and weird to LIVE. That really brought the experience home for me: from what you say, people with OCD have a double-whammy of *having* to do these things, but *knowing* they're crazy. That must have been so awful to experience. I had a bout with OCD-like behavior in my twenties. I was and am an extremely anxious person and rituals seemed to give me a bit of control. I remember going in and out of my apartment five, seven times before I got it "right." It was tiring. I guess I grew out of it and found other ways to deal with my anxiety -- but part of it was seeing a documentary (not a real one -- on 20/20 or some such -- possibly an interview with that guy who hosted Family Feud?) in which a woman with hand-washing was forced to stick her hands in dirt and see what would happen to her. The answer: nothing. But GAWD, was it hard.
Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Fri 9 Mar 07 16:03
Anywho, questions: I was totally with you through most of the book, but didn't understand some of the spiritual stuff toward the end. It seemed like a 12-step-like system of giving over to a "higher power" helped you, but I just didn't get how, for some reason. And I'm a pretty religious person, so I'm a bit nonplussed as to why this didn't ring a bell (ha). Anyway, can you talk more about how that was a missing piece for you? Oh and in the acknowledgements at the end you thank your two daughters and a third person with an X in her name -- who's that? (I'm so nosy, but you DID write a book about yourself.) I'll wait with the rest of my questions...
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Fri 9 Mar 07 22:24
RE: Book Tour...The other side of the mic...Catch Up First of all, a quick hello to those of you who have joined us since my last post. Thanks for your interest! FYI... I'm in San Diego right now, on the first leg of a four-city book tour, so I must confess I'm playing catch-up a bit tonight. Thanks for your patience; I should have a lot more free time over the next several days. Rest assured I'm thrilled to be here with you. In fact, I can't begin to tell you how refreshing it is to read your thoughtful questions and have more than a few seconds to respond. Those of you with some experience either behind or in front of a mic are likely to appreciate this: This radio/TV interview tour is giving me my first real taste of the many frustrations we in broadcast news create for our interviewees. First, there's the ticking clock thing: "Your story sounds fascinating. Tell us everything. Oh, I'm sorry, we're out of time." (Yeah, I wind up doing this to my own (KCBS) guests daily.) Second, there's the whole scheduling thing: "Hey, we're gonna have to move our scheduled segment from 8:45 to 5:15.. (AM!). Is that going to be a problem?" (Yeah, I wind up doing this to my own guests too.) Third, there's the whole accuracy thing: "Jeff will be appearing Sunday at Borders Books..." (No, actually Jeff will be appearing SATURDAY, thank you very much, at Borders Books...) (Okay, Okay, I confess I actually forget to mention my guests' book signings, altogether, far too often.) So... a few of you authors out there are smiling now. Admit it. "How does it feel, Mr. Anchorman?" you're taunting!
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Fri 9 Mar 07 22:41
RE: Obsessive-Compulsive Participant Test Question: How do I know there are no card-carrying obsessive-compulsives in this crowd? Answer: None of you...not a single one...has pointed out that the title of this topic reads: Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Repeat, Replay" when it should, of course, read: Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat" Trust me: we O-Cs notice these things. In fact, get this: You can imagine how many times I re-read the final manuscript in search of typos, right? My publisher also had three independent proofreaders go through the ms. Well, two days after the book was released, I got a very nice note from a fellow O-C informing me that there are precisely two typos in the book, and here they are... For the record: On page 107, the word "exist" is missing its "s" On page 163, the word "then" is misspelled as "than" IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not, repeat NOT, an open invitation to go hunting for more issues. I'm covering my ears, like a little kid. Seriously. "Nah.Nah.Nah.Nah.Nah... I can't hear you..."
Angie (coiro) Fri 9 Mar 07 22:44
Urk. Email sent to confteam for a title change. How embarrassing. Since it's Friday night, we'll probably have to live with the error till Monday. Meanwhile, Mr. Bell, you've got so many questions piled up ... I'm not going to add on until you've had time to catch up over this touring weekend.
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Fri 9 Mar 07 23:00
RE: OCD self-awareness >>"Did you realize as this incident evolved, over days and weeks, that something about your thought processes themselves had gone amiss?" >>"from what you say, people with OCD have a double-whammy of *having* to do these things, but *knowing* they're crazy. That must have been so awful to experience." Call it one of OCD's cruelest twists: We who battle the disorder are ACUTELY and PAINFULLY aware of just how ridiculous our thoughts and actions are. Did it dawn on me that there was something amiss when I spent umpteen hours checking and re-checking a boat I knew (intellectually) had suffered no damage? You bet. Did that knowledge stop me from going back for more checks, again and again? Unfortunately not. I'm guessing that one of the main reasons severe depression so often accompanies OCD is that it's an ugly thing, watching oneself acting "crazy" and feeling helpless all the while. There is a plus side to this self-awareness. In fact it's central to a mindfulness technique known as "relabeling" and "reattributing" that I'll describe in detail later.
Credo, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Sat 10 Mar 07 04:03
Are there marginal cases that involve reasoning and language? I'm thinking of people that insist upon precision regardless of the casual nature of much of everyday discourse and the inherent vagueness of many of our concepts. Monks debating how many angels can stand on the head of a pin might be an example.
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sat 10 Mar 07 08:35
RE: OCD and spirituality >>>"I was totally with you through most of the book, but didn't understand some of the spiritual stuff toward the end ... can you talk more about how that was a missing piece for you?" Thanks for your candor with this question, Amy. Conveying the spiritual component of my recovery (and specifically how and why I've come to dub my recovery years as a "crash course in believing") has been one of my toughest challenges, both in the writing process and now in interviews. Allow me to take another stab at it here... First, a few key points: 1. OCD, stripped to its bones, is all about doubt. Serious, probably-unfathomable-to-"normal"-people doubt. At the core of every obsession I've ever experienced or heard about is a "what-if?" question (usually with an accompanying set of catastrophic possibilities). [What if I didn't really set my parking brake? The car could roll away, and crush someone. What if my hands aren't really clean? I could pass along some horrific disease I might be carrying, and kill off lots of people...] At the risk of speaking for all OCs, I'm going to say that "uncertainty" is the most unbearable mind-state of all for obsessive-compulsives. And at the risk of oversimplifying things, I'm going to say that compulsions, really, are simply an OC's desperate ploys to ward off, or get rid of, this doubt. 2. Increasingly, OCD experts are coming to agree that there's a physiological "brain wiring" issue for those of us battling severe ocd. Not understanding this science at all, myself, I can only describe it this way: Something is awry with the part of my brain that serves to process my sensory input. At my worst, my senses become all but useless, because my brain refuses to accept their findings. [I can be holding a parking brake in my hand, feeling and seeing it secure, and yet, the second I let go or look away, I'm back to wondering whether the brake is set] 3. If there's one message CBT therapists (rightfully) repeat like a mantra, it's this: "The goal is not to get rid of the uncertainty, but to learn to live with it." 4. OCs are often taught to "externalize" their OCD as a means of reattributing their OC thoughts. (e.g. "This isn't a rational thought; this is my OCD, an entity, messing with me.") For me, that externalized OCD has taken the form of my "Director Doubt," or simply "Doubt" (with a capitol D), as I've dubbed my imaginary nemesis (a cartoon-like figure perched in a director's chair with a megaphone). I suppose that, were I schizophrenic, this could prove problematic, but fortunately I don't hear voices. Yes I do. No I don't. Yes I do... (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Now then... If I, as an OC, (1) find uncertainty to be unbearable, (2) am physically wired to have uncertainty plague me, (3) am told I need to accept this uncertainty, and (4) attribute this uncertainty to the incessant taunting of my Director Doubt, then here's where I'm left: accepting that I have a life partner named Doubt, who will continue to bark what-if questions to me that I'm supposed to recognize for what they are and leave them be. THIS is the point to which traditional CBT often leads an OC. But here's the twist: As an OC, my world is black and white, made up of paired opposites--right and wrong, good and bad, etc. If I'm not supposed to take my "cues" from "Doubt," then who/what am I supposed to allow to "direct" my life? Enter "Grace" -- that still, small voice of inner knowing that gently reminds me there's a bigger picture, a greater good, in every moment, and that I am free to CHOOSE to let it be my guide. (I imagine this must all sound rather trite, but please keep in mind the black-and-white OC framework.) Somewhere along the road to recovery, I came up with the following (VERY OC-like) formula to keep me on track. Believing is choosing to follow the cues of "Grace" rather than the cues of "Doubt" Or, as I have reminded myself regularly for years: Believing = Choosing Grace Over Doubt. Believing = Choosing G.O.D. Believing = Choosing GOD I am rambling on now, but will attempt to wrap all this up with a very practical example: It's five minutes before I'm supposed to do a book signing, I'm in the restroom at Borders, and "Doubt" is starting to mess with me. "You had food all over your hands at dinner," it taunts. "Are you sure you've scrubbed those fingers clean? What if you haven't and you get all those people out there sick? Better scrub some more..." Doubt's whisper is powerful, and I'm compelled to stay in the bathroom, scrubbing away. But there's another whisper, too, reminding me that there's a "greater good" in this moment--that by leaving the restroom and giving my talk, I can help some people understand OCD and perhaps get the help they need--even if I have to "accept" that I might get some of them sick. I can choose to follow Doubt's cue or that of this "greater good" whisper I've dubbed Grace. I choose the latter and go out to give my talk.
Michael Zentner (mz) Sat 10 Mar 07 09:24
>>> OCD, stripped to its bones, is all about doubt. Wow, that's an interesting point. Doubt about *what* though? Control ?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 10 Mar 07 11:18
Judgment, sounds like.
Howard Berkey (howard) Sat 10 Mar 07 11:50
Thanks so much for being here Jeff! Slipping WAY back: >>OCs are acutely and painfully aware of just how nonsensical their >thoughts and actions are. > >>This awareness, unfortunately, counts for little in the throes of an >OCD episode. This sounds *very* similar to Panic/Anxiety disorder. It's a feeling that is hard to describe; in one way, it's terrible, in another, it's something to cling to in an attack, and in another, one can even have a (dark, wry) sense of humor about it even during an attack. Anxiety disorder is also treated with CBT. Jeff, are you aware of any link between panic/anxiety disorder and OCD?
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 10 Mar 07 15:31
I'm not going to do it justice, but your description of the relationship between doubt, religion, and getting through the day on a practical level seems to have some interesting implications. As a life-long skeptic with a scientific take on life, I tend to assume that doubt is good, or at least better than the alternative; better to remain in doubt than to believe the wrong thing! But being comfortable with doubt seems to assume an underlying faith, even if it's just the vague notion that things will eventually work out somehow, in order to operate. The religious emphasis on faith takes on a rather different cast when seen from a psychological perspective. I wonder what role OCD, or in more general terms, defenses against doubt, have had to play in the development of religion? And maybe this is just because I'm working in computer security, but the whole emphasis on security since 911 and the theatrical measures the country is taking to convince ourselves that we're "safe" take on a rather different perspective. That's entirely too much to hang on a personal story, but it all seems tied together somehow.
Credo, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Sat 10 Mar 07 17:51
>As a life-long skeptic with a scientific take on life, I tend to assume that doubt is good, or at least better than the alternative; better to remain in doubt than to believe the wrong thing! But being comfortable with doubt seems to assume an underlying faith, even if it's just the vague notion that things will eventually work out somehow, in order to operate.< Welcome to the club. IMO, the underlying faith is based on the true observation that a world you didn't control and one that appears to have significant arbitrary and capricious aspects produced you. Add the fact that your conscious self is seldom in control (thank heaven) and a realistic perspective starts to develop. If we can finesse the ego's demands that we are the center of everything, we can not only accept doubt but revel in it. I think it that it was Paul Valery (a little doubt here!) that said the big problems of life are order and disorder.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 10 Mar 07 18:51
But perhaps a lesson from OCD is that, however we rationalize it, this "underlying faith" (or its opposite) has a biological basis.
Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Sat 10 Mar 07 23:29
Wow -- what a thoughtful reply, thanks. I guess my thing is, it's so *obvious* that "let go and let God" would be the way to battle compulsions, but I guess it isn't obvious when you're in it, or if you have never thought that way before. I wanted to ask also: did you have a period where you felt you had to "make things up" to your wife and daughters? You were so unblinking and merciless when you described how your compulsions hurt them -- your wife at the christmas tree farm, your daughters during the headlice incident -- and it's so ironic, because all you wanted to do was prevent harm, and in doing so, caused a certain amount of it. Your wife is and was SO PATIENT. And when you "returned" to her at the end of the book, it must have been amazing -- but was there never seething resentment? backlash? or just guilt on your part? How did you approach this with her when you reached a good point of recovery?
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sun 11 Mar 07 01:33
RE: Zaxi My youngest daughter is going to be SO glad you asked this, Amy! Brianna insisted I include Zaxi (our Golden Retriever) in my acknowledgements. In retrospect, I'm awfully glad I did. (I sometimes think ol' Zaxi--with her "What, me worry?" disposition--is one of my greatest teachers!)
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sun 11 Mar 07 01:38
RE: Doubt and Faith >>>"I tend to assume that doubt is good, or at least better than the alternative; better to remain in doubt than to believe the wrong thing! But being comfortable with doubt seems to assume an underlying faith, even if it's just the vague notion that things will eventually work out somehow, in order to operate." Brian, this is brilliant! I'm serious. You have succinctly and eloquently summed up the difference between the healthy doubt that "normal" people know, and the all-encompassing, debilitating doubt that we OCs battle. Moreover, you've pointed out the underlying, generally-taken-for-granted "operational" faith that is just NOT part of an OC's makeup. With your permission, I'd like to share this observation, just as you've written it, in some of my talks on the road. >>>I guess my thing is, it's so *obvious* that "let go and let God" would be the way to battle compulsions, but I guess it isn't obvious when you're in it, or if you have never thought that way before. Yeah, again, here's that absence of the "underlying faith" to which Brian refers. >>> "OCD, stripped to its bones, is all about doubt." (Me) ... "Wow, that's an interesting point. Doubt about *what* though? Control ?" (Michael)... "Judgment, sounds like." (Sharon) "Judgment" is pretty close, Sharon. At my worst, my sensory input grows all but irrelevant; as I've described in an earlier post, my mind just doesnt seem to process it. When you can't trust your own eyes, ears, and hands, you're dealing with some serious doubts about your judgment calls. [The door is locked. I can see that. I can feel that. Then why the hell can't my mind accept that?!!!]
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sun 11 Mar 07 01:46
RE: Panic/Anxiety Disorder >>>This sounds *very* similar to Panic/Anxiety disorder. It's a feeling that is hard to describe; in one way, it's terrible, in another, it's something to cling to in an attack, and in another, one can even have a (dark, wry) sense of humor about it even during an attack. Anxiety disorder is also treated with CBT. Jeff, are you aware of any link between panic/anxiety disorder and OCD? I'm a bit out of my league on this one, Howard. I've never suffered a "panic attack" in the clinical sense of the term (though I have felt the physical aspects of OCD panic many, many times!) I do know that OCD is classified as an "anxiety disorder," and I'd imagine much of the CBT treatment is very similar, in terms of learning to reframe one's debilitating thoughts and reactions.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 11 Mar 07 19:26
re 42: Sure, go ahead!
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sun 11 Mar 07 23:24
RE: "Saint Sam" >>>Speaking of Sam, that woman deserves some kind of award for her compassion and tenacity. Nomination for sainthood, maybe.<<< (Angie) >>>Your wife is and was SO PATIENT. And when you "returned" to her at the end of the book, it must have been amazing -- but was there never seething resentment? backlash? or just guilt on your part? How did you approach this with her when you reached a good point of recovery? <<< (Amy) Angie, I had to smile when I read your "sainthood" reference. That word, in its many forms--saint, saintly, etc.--has come up so many times since the book came out that we've (our family and closest friends) have started calling Samantha "Saint Sam." Needless to say, Sam always laughs off the notion, usually with some comment like, "If readers only knew the *real* me." But they do! The Sam of the book is very much the Sam I've always known. She has her flaws--plenty of them, like any of us--but her handling of my challenges has been, well, saintly! An editor friend of mine who read an early draft of the ms suggested I add a scene or two in which Sam and I are really "going at it" over some OCD episode. I wracked my brain, trying to come up with something dramatic, but couldn't. Sam struggled through all this. No question. We've talked about it in recent years, and I caught glimpses of her pain along the way--tears, when she didn't think I was watching; and calls to her mom for comfort, when she didn't think I was listening--but Sam never let loose at me. It wasn't/isn't her way. One of the most poignant things I've ever heard Sam say about her own struggles with me is that she drew strength from her role model: her mom, who had plenty of experience in this area, having lived through so many years with Sam's father, a longtime alcoholic (who passed away some years ago). The two of them, Sam and her mom, are two of strongest, most steady and patient people I know. I am blessed, indeed!
Jeff Bell (jbellnews) Sun 11 Mar 07 23:38
RE: Reaction to the book >>>how has your book changed how people interact with you? I can imaging reactions from acceptance to askance glances to "ah, now I understand what before was puzzling"<<< Yup. All three. Overall, though, the reaction (from friends, relatives, and coworkers) has been so much more "comfortable" than I'd anticipated. I spent years bracing for awkwardness, but instead have found mostly compassion. The other fascinating thing to me is this: Publishing an intimate narrative seems to serve as an open invitation to those around you to share (with great intimacy) their own most personal struggles. I am floored by the ease with which so many people I know have opened up to me. And I can't think of a more rewarding form of feedback.
Angie (coiro) Mon 12 Mar 07 09:14
How about within your intimate circle? You let close ones know with a letter about your diagnosis, but asked them to give you space to deal before talking with you further about it. Is there any one person whose evolving reaction to you and OCD over time sticks in your mind? From silence to complete comfort, or ... ?
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 12 Mar 07 10:24
>I am floored by the ease with which so many people I know have >opened up to me. We all have issues. By opening up first, like you did, and so widely, you have actually probably helped more people around you than you realize.
Chris (cooljazz) Mon 12 Mar 07 12:55
Hi Jeff, I've been catching up on this topic. Welcome to the WELL. I will have to read the book soon. Entirely by coincidence, the movie, As Good as it Gets, with Jack Nicholson, was playing on our cable this weekend. Perhaps you've seen the movie, do you think it was accurate in how it portrayed Melvins' OCD?
Angie (coiro) Mon 12 Mar 07 12:58
Let me piggyback onto that - what's your overall impression of OCD as portrayed in the media (over and above the aforementioned Monk)? I've seen depictions on Law and Order, and they've probably cropped up in comedies too.
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