GOOD MORNIN’ YA SLEEPY LITTLE SAUSAGES (I’m the sleepy sausage really heh blessup my fellow insomniacs). It’s been a ruddy while hasn’t it?! This is, in part, down to a shiny new health diagnosis (snore) and ALSO some pretty intense/fun/terrifying/enlightening CBT exposure therapy. I’ll talk about that another time however, because TODAY I’m gunna talk to you about New Year, and how my ol’ pal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder reacts to the whole ordeal.
I hate New Year. Always have done. Ever since I was a tiny dot. I remember crying during a (very soulful) rendition of Auld Land Syne when I was a child and my big sister laughing at me and making a thing of it (IT WASN’T A THING OKAY GUYS) and that pretty much sums up every New Years Eve for me. I turn up (in all senses). I eat. I sing Auld Lang Syne. I drop a tear or two. I leave. Gangster moves.
I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on exactly why I despise it so much. I get asked every year why I don’t celebrate it like most people my age, and the only viable answer I can ever really come up with is “It’s bloody overwhelming isn’t it?”
I was scared of loud noises as a sprog, and throughout my life I’ve never been able to cope with too many sensory stimuli in one go. The annual New Year sensory overload is real – lots of yelling and music and people and sequins and disco balls etc bloody etc. It’s not for me. If there’s one thing that’s sure to trigger OCD for me personally, it’s sensory overload.
(A wee sidenote: anyone who knows me well knows that fireworks make me feel an emotion that I can’t even explain, and oftentimes when I watch them, I can feel my bottom lip quiver slightly before STIFFENING THAT LITTLE BADBOY UP and making a cluster of frantic yet surprisingly effective jokes to distract my compadres from the snot collecting slowly on my septum ring. This isn’t OCD related but it bloody well is part of the reason I cry onto my cheese and biscuits at the beginning of each year.)
New Year can be a confusing time for those even with the most sound mental health, but for those who have the added layer of mental illness, it can become a complex time during which symptoms old and new can rear their ugly heads.
A notable chunk of the OCD related obsessions I’ve experienced in the past have been about my appearance – specifically about changing my appearance. I’ve wanted to delete my freckles, I’ve wanted to hide my teeth behind veneers, and I’ve wanted to shave fat off of various body parts. I’m pretty sure 99.9% of the people on the planet have parts of themselves they’d like to change, but the thing about having OCD is that it tries its damnedest to superglue itself (with the really strong stuff- you know the stuff- I think it’s called gorilla glue) onto any unhealthy or unsettling thoughts before forcing them to spiral completely out of control – like when Voldemort and Harry fell off of the Hogwarts tower and hurtled towards the ground in a disorientating flurry. I’ve spent a plentitude of hours googling how to ‘fix’ these parts of myself (DAMN YOU 1000 TIMES OVER, GOOGLE. BUT ALSO I LOVE YOU A LOT WHEN MY OCD IS CALM OKAY?) I’ve spent too many of the wee-hours just sitting in one spot, hurling internal insults at myself until I slowly sob my way into a restless, unsettled sleep.
As well as becoming obsessed with changing my physical appearance, I’ve wanted to change elements of my personality that didn’t need changing. I’ve wanted to try and go for as long as I could without crying (this just seems really bloody illogical in hindsight). I’ve wanted to become more resilient… more soft… more hard… more kind. I’ve wanted to change integral parts of my personality that simply did not need changing. If OCD is good at anything, it’s convincing us that we’re rubbish people.
New Year plays right into OCD’s lap in this sense. For a chunk of the year, EVERY year, we have it drilled into us that this year we could be better people… we could be richer people… we could be more attractive people… we could be happier people.
OCD can latch on to this ‘New Year, new me’ parley that society suggests we engage in, and it’s easy to become unhealthily obsessed with self-improvement and self-punishment. I’ve been known to write a few too many lists around this time of year, and by ‘a few’, I mean constant lists all day everyday. Lists in my head. Lists on paper. Lists of numbers. Lists of words. You name it – I’ve listed it. I’ve listed ways I can improve myself… ways I can exercise harder… ways I can look better. I’ve written strict daily to-do lists that I cannot allow myself to waver from, even at the risk of damaging my physical health.
It’s important to bear in mind that – alongside these steadfast rules and checklists I would burden myself with – there would be a running commentary in my head of ways in which I am shit, and ways in which I could improve. Conveniently enough for the OCD, I don’t remember ever acknowledging my achievements – only my downfalls.
WHY WOULD I WANT TO PARTAKE IN THIS???? WHO ON EARTH WOULD WANT TO PARTAKE IN THIS?? I either obsessively work myself to the bone in order to feel accomplished, or I feel shit about myself for NOT working myself to the bone. It’s lose-lose. Back when I bought into the ‘New year, new me’ schnickschnack, I would end up dreading it all so much that I’d see in the New Year by pouring copious amounts of any alcohol I could get my hands on down my throat, whilst pretending my brain wasn’t trying to self-sabotage every 30 seconds.
ENTER OPTION NO.3: I refuse to partake in the New Year tradition of self-improvement. For the last four years, I simply haven’t allowed this commentary in my head that A) I’m not good enough and B) I need to improve. It’s not out of arrogance or stubbornness, it’s simply out of not wanting to start the year off with a mental health relapse. Conveniently though, I also happen to be a bad bitch who appreciates herself, loves herself, and has learned to like what she sees in the mirror.
For the last four New Years Eve celebrations in a row (I’ve just realised that it’s been since I was diagnosed with OCD), I’ve dressed up and had a few calm drinks with family, whilst sitting with – but not dwelling on – the complex web of emotions I feel at this time of year.
This refusal to panic, to list, to speak down to myself, and to neck all of the whisky in Western Europe has worked wonders for me and my mental state. So far 2020 has involved being kind to myself and remaining calmly in control even when the OCD is trying to snatch the metaphorical xbox controller.
To my fellow OCDers; I hope you’re being soft with yourselves. I hope you’re remembering not to talk down to yourselves. January is just another month, and 2020 is just another year. There is literally no pressure.