My Broken Brain
Once Upon A Time….
I was diagnosed with Pure “O,” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Pure “O” OCD is a mental torture of obsessive intrusive thoughts, running through the mind on repeat, like a broken record. It is often triggered by anxiety and causes extreme distress (at least for me it did). Rarely, does it involve compulsive behaviors (like washing hands, counting, or straightening things). It is claimed to be a “less severe” form of OCD, but personally, I would have given anything to have had compulsive behaviors, for that it is the compulsive behaviors that satisfy the obsessive thoughts, ending the suffering. This alternate thought processing illness was ruining my life. It affected my relationships, social life, everyday living, and ultimately, and more importantly, my happiness.
I was not born with OCD; it was triggered by trauma. I do not know what “traumatic” experience triggered it, but whatever it was, it certainly threw my brain into a loop; literally a repetitive loop. Because I was a Biology student at the time, studying the field of medical science, I was fortunate enough to have access to a college library, where I was able to dig into the science of brain function and mental health. This doesn’t make me an expert of any kind, but it was extremely beneficial to my recovery.
Yes, I have successfully overcome the suffering caused by my OCD brain. The therapist who officially diagnosed me, encouraged me to seek my own answers, by telling me that “therapists can only provide the tools needed to overcome mental health problems; they cannot provide cures.” She directed me onto the path for self recovery. It took 3-4 years to overcome my OCD without the support of a therapist and medication. With research and study, I learned to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, Mindfulness, and Acceptance; all in which, rewired my brain in such a way that my OCD no longer controls my thoughts, emotions, and more importantly, my happiness. My OCD episodes are extremely rare, so rare in fact, that I often forget I have OCD.
Asperger’s: A New Way Of Thinking
I am happily married to a man with Asperger’s. A unique relationship between two different minds, an Asperger’s mind and a non-Asperger’s (OCD) mind. We are an average, happy, normal, everyday married couple, until my emotional heart clashes with his over-logical brain.
Not everyone with Asperger’s is the same. Not everyone with Asperger’s are going to express all the common documented traits. Also, the severity of Asperger traits vary among individuals. In fact, nobody’s brain is wired exactly the same, even in so-called normal individuals; thus mental health is so complex and complicated.
My husband, has a “mild” case of Asperger’s and in his case, he expresses all the documented traits of a text-book definition of Asperger’s. For a person like me, who is trying to better understand my husband’s Asperger’s, I am grateful for the text-book version. However though, text-books don’t hold all the answers. As I have learned, from my own personal experience with mental health, text-books only provide a foundation of basics in which are to be used to help guide you though overcoming the challenges of mental health problems.
What I find so fascinating about my husband’s Asperger’s, is that it does not seem to cause him any “suffering.” He might find social situations to be uncomfortable and he is often mistaken as being extremely rude and selfish, but it does not seem to impact his happiness. This leads me to believe that not all mental health diseases are actually “problems.”
In my husband’s case, I don’t look at his Asperger’s, as a mental defect, but a normal brain that simply just processes information differently than the so-called “normal” way we know a brain to cognitively process information. Personally, I would think it to be naive of one to say, “Hey, there is only one right way for the brain to process information.” That would be like one saying, “Hey, there is only one right way to prepare a tuna sandwich.” I don’t know, but for now, that is just my own personal theory and opinion (not fact).
The personal challenges I face with having to cope with my husband’s way of reasoning, often provides me with new perspectives in understanding his way of reasoning. I must admit, sometimes his off-the-wall reasoning for the most ridiculous of ridiculous things does make sense, deep logical sense. There is often times a hint of genius behind his logical reasoning that just seems to tumble out in unexpected ways. Thus, another reason why I am so fascinated by his Asperger’s mind.
And Here We Are…
So, that is my very personal, very embarrassing journey, that fueled my fascination with the brain and mental health. I am not an expert, scientist, doctor, or psychologist, but I think being someone who has personally experienced a mental health problem, educated in Biology, and familiar with medical science, I can offer, at the very least, an interesting perspective on mental health.
This blog isn’t just about my husband’s quirks; it is about me, as a loving spouse without Asperger’s, trying to better understand and cope with his Asperger’s mind. I hope my experiences and insights can encourage others, in similar situations, to remain positive and open-minded through their own personal journey with mental health.