Arshad is my name! Shad, if you can’t pronounce it fully, but I do like my name. Its Arabic meaning “Most Honest, Best Guided, or/and Most Wise. (Thanks Mak, Ayah.) I am 25 years old, a Chartered Accountant (in the making), Formula One enthusiast, Sports Photographer, and most recently, a Mental Health Activist with ‘Minda Initiative’ group.
My sister calls me overbearing and needy, I call it being protective. Say What you will, I take the phrase “I’ll be there for you” with fierce emphasis. So what you see is what you get. Hiyall!
The picture of ‘Chariot of Dionysus’ can in so many levels, describe what I am with OCD, and how OCD feels…
This picture is a montage of several photos of a Greek vase now kept at the Museum De Louvre, Paris.
Here, Dionysus drives a chariot drawn by three beasts–a Panther, a Bull and a Griffin,( a mythical being with the body, tails, hind legs of a lion, and the head and wings of an eagle).
Dionysus meanwhile, is a Greek god of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, wine, ritual madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. His background itself alludes to him being a foreigner amongst other Greek god and goddesses; however, he was heavily worshiped and loved by many.
Yes, at this point, it’s too much to take in as an introduction to an ‘OCD and I’ story. Welcome to my life. My name is Shad, and as I’m writing and preparing this composition, it took more than 5 to 6 continuous hours, of pondering many images of griffins, research of Greek mythologies, only to serve the purpose of relating it to my mental condition we all now know as OCD.
In the first glance of the picture, it’s immediate in the analysis, that I find myself as those three beasts, (each of it individually and all of them at the same time). The beasts are what I consider my mind that is filled with thoughts, (with many desires, needs, wants, lust, ambitions, hunger) essentially tempestuous, untamed, feral beings not designed to be leashed and domesticated to serve other beings. And yet, this is what you see, these three beings are somehow powerless, helpless and being obedient to their god master towing behind them. At different points of time, they must have been rebellious, unwilling to accept their fate as someone’s pet and transport, as they too have their own urges and appetencies to fulfill.
But if you study carefully, these three beings are somewhat consigned and relented, somehow suffering from a Stockholm’s Syndrome where they eventually accept Dionysus as part of their own. Now, Dionysus is what I consider a parallel to my physical self. Dionysus is a popular god, as he invented wine and all the festivals that mortal and immortal beings celebrate with it. But he was born to a strange birth (having a god as a father, and a mortal mother) and understandably brings him a difficulty of fitting in the Olympian pantheon (the council of Greek Gods and Goddesses).
My mind and body (physical self) have in my living memory, struggled to keep up with the same pace. The former always wanted another way, or in a rush or in a hurry, and the latter had difficulties taming and catching up to the former. Somehow, my mind and body couldn’t or haven’t yet accepted the fact that it is one, unibody being.
I considered myself having a good, smooth early life, from childhood to early teen years. I couldn’t complain. I am generally a positive person and look for the best side in everyone. And herein lies, a perfectionism so enveloped and waiting to burst that I couldn’t have foreseen it even if I tried. I had been an overachiever, at least in relative to my peers and families. A straight-A student, mummy’s boy, favourite of granny and grandpa, it somehow, provided comfort and pride for a short while.
Little did I know, the ‘chariot’ hasn’t even begun to be ridden yet. It was dormant, and idle all … this … while. I had many instances where my friends would regard me as an ‘overthinker,’ and I would break down if my plan wouldn’t bring immediate fruition especially in school where I had to lead many projects. But I was surrounded by many people that were very open minded and reeled me back to reality when things get too tough. I accepted who I am and I was in bliss.
It all changes after SPM, during my college years where I was supposed to be a part of the ‘Excellent Student Scheme’ under a government scholarship. Never in those years, have I regarded myself as excellent. Quite the contrary.
You see, in different parts of my life, I had developed a close attachment to someone or something, and I never learned to separate from it. From my younger years, I was cared for by my late grandmother, whom I regarded, after my mom, as the closest to me, one with a beautiful soul. She was the matriarch of the family and being a paternal grandmother, everyone looked up to her for guidance, life compass, and teachings. And I am comfortable enough to accept as one the elder grandchild; I was held very dear to her. When she passed away when I was 14, I felt a part of me was lost. I didn’t shed a tear during her funeral. I was even able to smile when meeting people consoling me. But I knew, I had changed since that day.
Later, each and everyone close to me left, due to deaths or other forms of departure. My father, an army major in the Intelligence Corp, developed a PTSD in addition to other mental disorders which was left undiagnosed and untreated at the time, suddenly left my family. He was our hero and was adored, and he simply left.
My two best friends in my residential high school passed away at different times after our secondary education. One was a very pious man, I never felt more calm and tranquil when I was around him. The other was charismatic, popular, and protective. Both of them were actually my distant cousins, the fact that I discovered posthumously.
These occurrences are not definite in terms of being a factor of my OCD, (I’m still studying it with my therapists) but it was more than coincidental as it was embroiled in the years that took a hit regarding my mental well being.
Ever since my grandmother’s death, I kept having visions or thoughts, (both during conscious and unconscious times, dreams, etc.) that my family and loved ones are in danger. I vividly remember thinking that some assassin would come and murder my mother and sister during the night, and as such, I had to keep awake all the time. I even had myself a jack knife and an airgun (my father gave it as a toy gift, probably not knowing it can cause harm and death), and patrolled my house in the middle of the night. It was weird when even then, I had to have a number for everything. For example, if I were to pace back and forth, it always has to be 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15.. repetitions. Not outside of those numbers. And I’ll be upset to the point of aggression if I didn’t meet that number. It was weird then, but I kept it in my stride.
No… if you were wondering, I didn’t flip the switches repeatedly nor do I clean my hands over and over. It will always be some different ritual for various kind of obsessions I was having at that time. And I didn’t choose it, but it came to me, and I had to do it somehow to make myself less panic and upset.
My friends and family were not bothered too by the way. Maybe I was smiling all the time; they thought I am generally a hyperactive boy and tend to be excited all the time. Back to the college years, I had overwhelming thoughts of piecing every sense of my life in order. I would plan my life ahead; 1) if I lived to my 30s, a premature death, what would I have to prepare, 2) If I lived to my 40s, 3) If I lived to my 50s 4) if I lived to my 60s,.. it went on to a scenario where I can be cryogenically kept frozen to live for centuries. YEA! TELL ME ABOUT IT. IT’S INSANE! And I’m all aware of it. But it took the whole day and night. And I’m still having my classes, assignments to be done, club meetings, teacher meetings, quizzes, tests, exams the whole college enchiladas. How on earth am I going to focus and put my energy when all I’m thinking is my mortality?
When I did manage to further my studies overseas, it didn’t help either. I remember getting my room organized it’s such a burdening task. One that I have to do. Especially if you’re sharing the room with someone else, even if it’s your best mate, it doesn’t help. They would be in their boiling point when what you do is making the bed, flip the mattress, only to remove the covers again, and redo it again. And it has to conform to the numbers said above.
And let’s not talk about fitting in a foreign country. I tried to be perfect the whole time; I attempted to learn as many languages possible, Arab, Urdu , Pashto, YOU NAME IT. I even ‘tried’ to learn the local dialect; Scottish Accent, London Cockney Accent, Scouse Accent, Midwestern, Welsh, I TRIED EVERYTHING, Does it help? No! In the end, the only remarkable addition I can add to my second language is adding the word “Innit”” at the end of the sentence, much like a drunk geezer would say.
Eventually, I got so embarrassed and ashamed of what I had in my thoughts and the compulsions that followed, that I began to isolate myself. I would simply cut off any communication and contact with friends, teachers, and family. Fast forward to today, I finally managed to seek psychiatric help, with the aid of my mother, and since early last year, I was finally diagnosed as having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder among other disorders and had to take prescribed medications ever since. It was sobering. I was in denial initially. It was as if ‘Gosh, this is mighty convenient isn’t it?’. And I felt further ashamed every time I expressed anger and aggression, only if my closest ones were the witnesses. Suicidal thoughts came by intermittently, but having a solid foundation in my Islamic Faith, I didn’t let it go too far.
I would say, the best thing I derive from this, is the persistence and the ‘never giving up’ attitude of fighting this disorder.
Will it be cured, or should I embrace it as part of my new self? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain; I’m going to keep smiling, even if my days are numbered. Life is beautiful, and people should see it that way, and I’m going to see to it that they will.
We want to hear your story. Become a Relate contributor here