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Old 06-25-2019, 11:32 PM
1 posts, read 55 times
Reputation: 10


Hey, everyone. I'm Mike. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a mental illness, or even a dysfunction. Compared with what many of you are dealing with, it seems like peanuts. However, it definitely represents some kind of mental illness that needs to be addressed. It gets time-consuming and often reaches crazy extremes, and in spite of having read many posts in this forum and a few others like it, it seems as if I'm the only one with the general problem -- although there are slight similarities to more harsh things that others experience.

I'll make this itemized, so it's quicker to read. Whoever's reading it, thanks for your time. Some things simply can't be explained quickly.

- I'm 47. I have parents who were good to me growing up, and remain kind and patient people. I've lived well on my own since I was 20. When I was a kid, it seemed to me that my dad was often critical of me (and my younger brother, but to a lesser degree), causing me to think that I shouldn't make mistakes -- but looking back, he wasn't that bad. He never hit or yelled. He was never much of a drinker, and his personality never abruptly changed. I think I just took him too seriously, being a sensitive kid. With big stuff, he was always in my corner. In fact, until I realized differently in my teens, I thought everyone's family was like that -- "We love you no matter what" and "You lost today, but I'm proud of you for trying." As I got older, I was aware that my dad hadn't been that bad, and that like any other human, I should allow myself to make mistakes. I know this consciously, but I still have that "correct or punish every mistake" compulsion when it comes to myself. More details about this will follow. (Looking at my background might be a red herring.)

- I don't use any drugs, including alcohol. You might count my lovely nicotine and caffeine as exceptions. I don't, because they don't impair me or change my personality. They help me concentrate (I write a lot of music and enjoy writing books and articles).

- I've had a lot of girlfriends throughout my life, but for the past seven years, I've been single, because I don't need the hassle of arguing with someone who nags me to buy a bigger house / nicer car / etc. It's all about money with women when you get to my age. I love women, so I get lonely sometimes, but I strongly tend toward solitude anyway, so it doesn't inhibit anything in my life.

- The following stuff began when I was a kid, but it will go away for years at a time, only to return for no apparent reason. It's gotten especially bad lately: Whenever I flip a light switch, close a refrigerator door, press the button to turn on my alarm clock before crashing, and effect other such "percussive" activities, I "have to" picture a girl to whom I'm sexually attracted (not in a sexual scenario -- just her face will do), because if I don't, an image pops unbidden into my head of someone to whom I'm _not_ sexually attracted, and in fact someone around whom any sexual thoughts would be disgusting and repulsive, like family members (male or female), guys I work with, etc. The point is that they're the "wrong" images, so it's almost as if I half-consciously dare myself not to think of the wrong people in a sexual context. This makes no sense to me, as those "percussive" actions, such as closing doors and flipping switches, have nothing to do with sex.

- Almost every time, one of the "wrong" images will pop into my head, so I wind up, say, turning the light on and off several times until I can just picture a pretty girl I know / once knew / etc., without someone else barging into my imagination. Again, it's almost like I do this on purpose, like a dare. Damn, this is harder to articulate than I thought.

- For the record, I'm straight, I've never had incestuous feelings (perhaps protective ones toward my mother, particularly around the time my birth parents approached divorce, but nothing out of the ordinary for a male child, I think), and I have high sexual confidence. I've been called arrogant a few times, such as when a former girlfriend reckoned that I thought I was the "bee's knees because you're a well-endowed dude." I'm not truly conceited about that, however, as I had nothing to do with how my anatomy turned out. She was just mad that I wouldn't spend $200 on a pair of shoes that she liked.

- I thought that maybe the intrusive, "wrong" images would stop, and perhaps that just turning the light off once / closing the front door once / etc. would be possible, as with "normal" people, if I imagined the intrusive folks being punched out of my visual mental frame. They're always smiling, as if we're both just acting for laughs (slapstick?), because I don't hate any of them or want any of them hurt. It works sometimes, but then the sequence of people who have to be punched out of my mental frame becomes part of the habit. See, I've accidentally developed a list of people I have to go through -- those who must be punched away before I can imagine an ex-girlfriend, a current female colleague who's cute, etc., without that image being interrupted by someone who doesn't "fit."

- Most recently, the sequence usually goes like this: The faces of my brother / mom / dad / former landlady (very unattractive) / former male coworker / a comedian whose podcast I listen to a lot. The point isn't really who they are -- it's that I have no attraction to them, so they're "wrong" to imagine while I'm slamming or pressing something. Weird, right? Again, those activities have nothing to do with sex, so I'm not sure why there's any connection somewhere in my brain.

- That all may or may not relate to the fact that I haven't had sex in seven years. I don't seek it, so this isn't a feeling of rejection -- I've had plenty in my time, but now I'm busy with musical things, writing, and other productive stuff that I love to do. I can't imagine having someone critical and time-consuming in my life, no matter how attracted to women I am. Like most people (whether they'll admit it or not), I thrive creatively when I'm alone, and when I don't have to look out for someone else's entertainment / safety / comfort / etc. I'm a relationship guy, rather than a one-night-stand type, so celibacy it's been since 2012.

- I sometimes play old, simple video games using emulators. I like Tetris, Klax and even earlier stuff from the '70s and '80s. Whenever I press the key combination to start a game, I "have to" picture a girl to whom I'm attracted, in the same manner as when I do the stuff mentioned above. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, I'll start a game, turn on a lamp, etc. twice, four times or eight times. Odd numbers don't cut it. This makes no sense to me, but regardless, it's the compulsion I have. I never have to tap things like those with OCD often do, and I don't think anything bad is going to happen if I don't picture someone pretty.

- I don't experience any common OCD symptoms. In other words, I'm not consciously worried about my health to an extreme degree, nor germs, nor the safety of others. Sure; I'm concerned about the people I love, to what I think is a "normal" extent, but nothing compulsive I do is based on fears, that I'm aware of. The intrusive, "gross" images are irrational, rather than linked to any conscious worries. I keep thinking that perhaps all I have to do is force myself to close the door, flip the switch, etc. without caring what pops into my head. But I usually give in anyway, sometimes without realizing it until it's happened automatically and must then be completed successfully. I wind up making myself go through the sequence until I finally arrive at an attractive image, in order to justify having wasted so much time doing the same thing so often in the past. I know -- it doesn't make much sense. Why would failure "erase" former efforts, and why do I need to avoid picturing unattractive people while doing humdrum things in the first place? I have no conscious answer. I've given it a lot of thought (to put it mildly), read reams of stuff about disorders and dysfunctions, and still arrived at no answer, or even self-diagnosis.

- Once in a while -- but thankfully, not every time -- when a character / puzzle piece / etc. in a video game does something to "kill" my character or inhibit my success, I'll hit the computer, as if it's alive and knows what it's doing. It thinks it's getting one over on me. Ever since I got into the Muppets when I was toddler, I've occasionally imagined that inanimate objects are alive. I know that this is impossible, so it's not as if I actually believe they're alive, or hallucinate on any level. I just give in. I don't know why. I guess I feel that I need the release, so I might as well, because keeping anger inside your nerves can be bad for you. Sometimes, if my land-line signal screws up (no cell phone, none wanted), I hit the phone. That sort of thing. I've broken a few things since I was in my early teens, when this anger release toward inanimate objects seemed to begin.

- It often helps to tell myself beforehand, "The computer's not alive. Also, this isn't a show. Nobody's watching. I don't always have to be a bad-ass. They're only video games. They're supposed to be FUN. The computer's not laughing at you or robbing your control of what happens in your life. Get your game fix, Mike, and then do what you really want to do, like [whatever I have planned for that day -- writing a song, etc.]." I'm mildly addicted to certain video games, and I say "mildly" because I can tell myself, "I don't want to take the time right now," and not experience any anxiety. But I occasionally just give in to the compulsion to play if I have time, because it seems appealing and satisfying to drop those puzzle pieces in the right order, clear that level of monsters, or whatever. The problem is that what should be a ten-minute diversion often turns into an hour of wasted time, because once I've "died" or lost one game, I'll hit the computer (sometimes), and then I'll start over and over (almost every time), usually an even amount of times, until I can picture an attractive girl without someone else's image intruding. Then I can comfortably play the game. What the hell?

- Because I've been single since I was 40, I indulge in......self-pleasuring, once every day or two. I'm not sure how G-rated we're supposed to keep things here, but I assume I'm among fellow adults. When I "finish," I really have to force myself to picture a pretty girl in that moment, even if I'm already looking at one (porn helps, in other words) -- or at least, I have to really focus on the one I'm looking at. Otherwise, a sexually disgusting, "opposite" image pops into my head during the moment of climax, such as, say, the face of an aunt, or some elderly man who worked at the store where I shopped earlier in the day.

- If an unwanted image does transpire at the moment of completion, I hit myself in the head to "train" myself to stop letting intrusive images appear in my mind's eye. This is connected to the (thankfully occasional) habit of training myself against making any kind of mistake by hitting myself in the head in other instances, too. This self-reprimanding started when I was 12 or 13. This will go away for several years, and then return and remain for several more years. I know it's wrong, it's severely unhealthful, it won't help, we all make mistakes, they're part of life, it's how you learn, etc. But those are cerebral, conscious thoughts that don't seem to stop the habit. If I knock over a glass of water or forget my keys, and thus get angry with myself, my fist will fly up to the right side of my head and give it a good wham, unless I'm aware enough to catch myself and resist. Sometimes, I realize at the last second what I'm doing, and the hit becomes very mild, like a harmless tap. In other words, I'm fully cognizant that it's wrong on every level, and I've been trying to stop for about eight years, this time. (Occasionally, it will go away for a week or two, and then return.)

- I have no anger problems toward others. I haven't been in a fight in years, and that was self-defense -- after a gig, when a drunk audience member didn't like his girl watching me on stage. I've been told that I come off as confident. I exercise a lot, I have the same 30" waist I had in high school, I walk all over the place (preferring it to driving, when there's time and it's not too hot outside), and I think I'm reasonably handsome, for a guy with a big nose. I don't yell, nor do I hold others to the same standards that I apply to myself -- in fact, I often give advice such as, "You're allowed to be human. Everyone makes mistakes." Y'know, stuff you might say to a younger person at work. I encourage others to forgive themselves, in other words, although _I_ need to do certain things perfectly. I know consciously that this is ridiculous, and I don't really think that I need to be perfect, or that anyone even CAN. I can't explain where the hitting-myself, or need to picture attractive chicks while doing inane stuff, comes from.

- I've tried to trace everything to the past, of course, but all I can come up with is that I started clocking myself in the head around the time my birth parents really started arguing. They never involved me or my brother, and they never yelled at us, but we could hear them yelling at each other at night, perhaps twice a week. They really tried to keep it in check, but tempers can flare sometimes, and they were only in their early 30s. After two or three years of this, they were finally divorced when I was 11. I was happy about it, as the house was finally quiet, the folks got along better when picking us up / dropping us off, and we stayed in both of their lives. My eventual step-father and step-mother are good people, and they were phenomenal step-parents, considering that they "stepped" into the lives of two kids who weren't theirs. So tracing my occasional, compulsive self-harm back to that era might also be a red herring.

- I've recently remembered this. It might be unrelated: When I was a kid, if my folks would argue -- say, in the car -- I would hasten to smooth things over by telling a joke or diminishing the problem. A random example: "I thought we'd get seafood." "The kids don't like seafood that much." "Well, why do I have to come up with all the ideas, then?" "Don't start with me." I would interrupt, "We'll be fine. Kids aren't that picky." I did this a LOT from when I was maybe 8 or 9 until they were divorced. I only remembered this because I caught myself doing it as a middle-aged man when I was visiting a parent + step-parent. They found themselves in an extremely mild quarrel about nothing important, as couples sometimes do, but I immediately said something funny or diminishing (I can't remember which). After that, I began to notice -- maybe six months ago -- that I do this among my band members as well. Consciously, I don't think that I should smooth anything over, and that it's not my job to keep people from arguing. Let 'em fight if they want. It happens. It's okay. But the habit has apparently persisted all my life.

- I can't stand hurting someone's feelings. This is unrealistic, because sometimes, you have to make a fellow adult feel rejected in some way. I like making people feel good about themselves. I empower. If I accidentally make someone feel unattractive, unintelligent, etc., I feel terrible. Cerebrally, however, I know that (contrary to current self-victimizing trends) adults can't actually get "offended." They have to deliberately look for reasons to feel that way, as nobody can "make" you feel happy or sad. You are the sole proprieter of those feelings. So I know this stuff. Still, it makes me feel bad if someone else feels bad about himself / herself.

If you've made it this far, thanks again for your time! I didn't know that I was going to write a novella. Even being pointed in a good general direction, regarding what I "have," by someone with experience in these matters would be helpful. I've read a whoooooooole lot of stuff, but I'm still at a loss.

I don't have the time or money to see a shrink, I certainly don't want to take any drugs, and I'm convinced that I can get over this stuff on my own. Perhaps it would be helpful also / instead if someone who's dealt with similar stuff (has anyone?? ever??) can relate experiences of reducing the intrusive images / hitting of inanimate objects along with one's own head. Don't get me wrong -- I know there are no quick mental "tricks" or magical formulas for this sort of thing. But even general contemplation by those who have more education than I in these matters could be helpful.

Thanks again!

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