inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #26 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #27 of 82: 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... 
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #28 of 82: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #29 of 82: 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..."
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #30 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #31 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #32 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #33 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #34 of 82: 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 ? 
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #35 of 82: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 10 Mar 07 11:18
    
Judgment, sounds like.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #36 of 82: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #37 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #38 of 82: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #39 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #40 of 82: 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? 
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #41 of 82: 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!)
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #42 of 82: 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 doesn’t 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?!!!]
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #43 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #44 of 82: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 11 Mar 07 19:26
    
re 42: Sure, go ahead!
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #45 of 82: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #46 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #47 of 82: 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 ... ?
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #48 of 82: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #49 of 82: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.294 : Jeff Bell, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat"
permalink #50 of 82: 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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