the puzzle

Yesterday I was in a pretty weird mood. I wasn’t really feeling anything; I was trying to process the reality of loss. So, in this time of processing, I decided to sit down and try to complete a puzzle. I had gotten one in my Christmas stocking and set it aside thinking I would never complete the 500-piece cat puzzle. Except, yesterday, I just felt like doing it— because I really didn’t know what else to do.

Before I finish telling this short-story, I want to ask that if you haven’t already read my post, it’s real— please do so.

I sat on the floor next to my bed and dumped the puzzle onto the ground. Five-hundred pieces is a lot of freaking pieces. I spent twenty-minutes deciding how I was going to proceed with sorting the puzzle. After aimlessly moving the pieces around on my floor during that time, I made a decision on my plan.

I moved all the edges in front of me and pushed everything else to the side, then slowly began putting it together. I spent an hour just putting half of the outside together. I was bored out of my mind, and my back was sore from sitting on the ground the way I was. I wanted to stop, I didn’t want to continue the stupid puzzle. Except, I couldn’t stop. I mean, I could— but I just couldn’t leave the outside of puzzle halfway completed.

My entire experience with OCD has been based around feeling (I’ve said this many, many times). Whenever I’m in a situation I take the what-if scenarios and just let them snowball in my head.

What if I stop this and it brings me bad luck?
If I don’t make this next basket I’ll get in a car accident.
If I don’t reach 60mph before I have to turn in my driveway, my car will explode.
If I don’t run at least 2-miles today, I’ll break my leg in some freak-accident and never be able to run the same again.

It sounds really comical. These thoughts go through my head non-stop throughout the day. I feel constantly pushed to do stupid and harmless things, just so crazy, made-up things won’t happen. I turn missing a shot in basketball, into a tree falling on the house and killing me.

Not completing at least the outside of the puzzle wasn’t going to fly. I didn’t care how long I had to sit there, I had to do that puzzle— otherwise something bad was going to happen. After another hour, I finally put the last piece down. The second I finished it, I tore it apart and put it all back in the box. I wasted two-hours of my life doing the outside of this puzzle because I felt like I had to.

I push myself to a point of mental exhaustion just because I think I don’t have another choice. I am constantly justifying these stupid things inside my head. Oh, I’ll continue to do it— just in case I don’t and something actually does happen…

We have this small basketball hoop on the back of a closet door in the basement. When things were really bad for me, I would put myself in impossible spots and say that I had to make two shots in a row before I did anything else— otherwise, who knows what would happen. I’ve spent hours shooting at that hoop, trying to make those shots— protecting myself from… what???

Any kind of mental illness has a way of making itself justified. It stops at nothing to throw you off. It will make you feel like you have to do stupid things in order to survive. It will make you feel like you can’t survive. It will make you feel like nothing is worth anything— and something as small as finishing the outside of a puzzle is worth everything. And even if you know how untrue these things are, you’ll still do them. It doesn’t matter how idiotic you feel doing it; you’ll do it because you feel like you have to.

I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I still do these things. I’ve just accepted them now. I’ve come to laugh at myself and do my best to brush it off when others take notice and make comments. I’ve done the same when I take notice and lash out at myself. There is no escaping any form of mental illness. Nothing will cure it. It’s the scariest thing in the world not knowing what’s going on inside your own head. And even more scary when you have people telling you that you’re crazy, and that mental illness isn’t even a real thing; it’s just something we use as an excuse.

You are not crazy. You are not making excuses. You are not weak. You are not alone. And you ARE doing the best that you can.


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