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Others find brainstorming a more palatable alternative. "I'm what's known in the parlance of support groups as a facilitator," says Cecil King, head of a Charlotte-based OCD support group. "We formed back in 1991. We've had several names for the group; right now we're calling it "It's Over!' Some nights we don't have very many people, and sometimes we get a good turnout. We're on the internet, and we're on SupportWorks, which is a clearance house of self-help groups in Charlotte.
"(In talking to a doctor), he told me that he didn't think that I had OCD, but that I had anxiety issues," King says. "When I told him that I was most worried about going crazy, he told me that a person usually doesn't go crazy after 35 unless they already were before. And so when I would share that with people, they seemed reassured. When you have OCD, you feel like you might lose your mind. I wanted to get the word out that OCD does not cause you to go crazy. It can cause you lots of anxiety, and you can be unsure of yourself, but it does not cause you to go crazy. And that's the reason we formed this group.
"Basically, people talk about their life in the meetings, or maybe what life has been like for them, and what it's like now," King continues. "So many people talk about what life was like before they had a diagnosis. So many people are pleased that they did get a diagnosis, and other people have it, and here they are! That's when the group works best -- when we have people who can identify with what the other person's problems are."
King, interestingly, is a proponent of drug treatment, albeit "blended" with a combination of faith and fellowship.
"The purpose of the medicine is to help people understand better what they're supposed to do," says King. "The thoughts stay in their head better. They're able to believe that what they're doing in terms of therapy is really going to help them. If your brain is unable to absorb what's being taught, it just goes right past you. What you're learning in the way of therapy just sticks with you better with the drugs. I know that's an oversimplification, but it's true. You stand a better chance of beating this if you have a month or six weeks of medicine behind you."
"I've been fortunate enough to meet more people with OCD since I wrote Devil in the Details," says Jennifer Traig. "I can't understand them at all! They seem so weird to me! Mine I understand. Like, why would you be afraid of your keys? They're just keys! Doorknobs? I totally get you."No doubt, OCD is an interesting disease, apparently even to other OCD sufferers. Few conditions have such an array of unique personality-centric symptoms -- which, again, makes it great grist for the media mill. However, that same quality too often leads many to feel they're alone in the world, even among other OCD sufferers.
"I couldn't believe that anyone else in the world had this," says Traig. "Had I known that "You're not so special,' and that there's these miracle drugs, it would have been much easier to take. If I could say something to anyone reading this who finds that the descriptions sound a little too familiar, it would be that you just have to bootstrap it along to your doctor and you can really make some inroads.
"After I got better, I was angry about it for a little bit," she continues. "This was a disease, and I couldn't help it. It wasn't just acting up. I think (my family) did me a favor by insisting that I could help it. Which, in the long run, probably did help it. I gained a certain mastery over my compulsions."
Which, ultimately, is perhaps the only real way to fight OCD, whether with the use of drugs or without.
I was able to overcome my OCD-like symptoms with a little thought and (non-repetitive) prayer after realizing that the Catholic Church wasn't for me and that the Creator probably didn't give two shakes one way or another if I repeated something two times or 200. For others, a combination of drugs and mindful thinking seems to work well, with the drugs taking the sharper edges off the disease and making compulsions seem somewhat more manageable. Others still disdain treatment altogether, and get Martin Scorsese movies made about their suffering.