My Fascination With The Brain: Pure “O” OCD

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today I Start A Blog: Married To Asperger’s

I am happily married to Asperger’s; I mean, I am happily married to a partner with Asperger’s. ❤

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Acceptance is key to a healthy and happy relationship with a person with Asperger’s.  If not, well, I can tell you it helps; in addition to, drinking lots of strong coffee, with a dash of great understanding, sprinkled with a bit of patience, topped with a good sense of humor, enjoying your cup of coffee while looking out a new window everyday to gain a better perspective.  No doubt that living with a partner with Asperger’s can be challenging, but it can be just as rewarding as a delicious cup of coffee.  Obviously, I like coffee.  

What Is Asperger’s

Well, technically, it is called Asperger Syndrome.  It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects socialization and communication skills.  It is categorized as a high-functioning form of Autism.

  • Trouble making eye contact
  • One-way communictaion (either talks about themselves or listens without input or acknowledgement)
  • Lack social courtesy, making themselves seem rude, disrespectful, selfish, and lazy
  • Cannot pick up on body language, hints, and gestures
  • Difficulty with sarcasm and interprets information literally
  • Difficulty with emotions (cannot express own emotions, difficulty regulating emotions, trouble expressing empathy and gratitude towards others)

For more general information pertaining to Asperger’s Syndrome, I recommend visiting this website: Asperger’s Syndrome: What Are the Signs and Symptoms of the Disorder? 

The degree of Asperger symptoms can vary, allowing some individuals to live normal lives without ever realizing they have Asperger’s.  However, sometimes, Asperger’s can be a real bummer, affecting work (especially, if a job position requires effective communication skills), social life, parenting, and, of course, affect a perfectly good relationship / marriage.  Asperger’s in those situations are challenging to overcome for everyone involved, including those who do not have Asperger’s.

The Asperger’s Mind Is Not Flawed, Just Different

Obviously, there is a difference between the Asperger mind and the non-Asperger mind, but only in the way it processes and responds to information.  That is it, under the quirky processing cogs, you have an average individual; perhaps one who enjoys long walks on a beach, sipping on Pina Colada’s, and getting caught in the rain…

My point is, the Asperger’s mind doesn’t define anyone.  They say, “actions speak louder than words,” well, to have a successful relationship with a person who has Asperger’s, you must learn to realize that it is their words that speak louder than actions.  This is because they often do not understand what certain actions mean emotionally to others (socially) and because words are interpreted and expressed literally, you find more worth in their words than with their actions.  Yup, it’s just one of the fun backwards quirks of the Asperger’s mind.

The Asperger’s Mind Will Not Change

Bad news for those hoping to expect their partners with Asperger’s to do all the changing.  It will not happen.  I have been trying to force my husband to change his ways for years!  Turns out, the Asperger’s mind cannot be reprogrammed; at least not without some effort from its owner.  I am a true believer that one can successfully change their thinking habits no matter how it is wired, but it requires a lot of work.  So, taking the lead of Asperger’s logic, following the path of least resistance, I have realized that I am going to have to think outside the box on this one and learn to speak to the brain and not the heart.  I am not talking about learning to be telepathic, although, I often wonder if my husband expects me to read his mind.  Be much easier to communicate, I’ll tell ya that!

I believe I think too much emotionally with my heart than I do logically with my brain.  I blame hormones, but hey, what do I know.  Anyways, I discovered that if I calm down (nix the emotions) and speak literally and to the point, I can better communicate with my husband.  The same goes for interpreting  his actions or lack of actions; by nixing the emotions and thinking logically.  Basically, not reading too much into his actions.

Still Takes Two To Communicate

Although, I have learned the best way to communicate with my husband is by nixing the emotions, I am still an emotional person and my husband had to learn that about me.

However, he still cannot gauge my emotions.  I learned that if I am reasonably upset about something, he thinks I am “over reacting.”  When I am forced to explain my emotions rather than the problem that caused my emotions, is when I know we are not on the same page.  I think this is where most communication goes south in most relationships with Asperger’s; that pivotal point when a non-Asperger’s partner try’s to persuade their Asperger’s partner to feel just as strongly as they do about something as an attempt to get them on the same page.  We often forget that people do not have to be on the same “emotional” page to have equal understanding of something.

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To effectively communicate with one another, my husband had to learn to recognize when I am being emotional.  Although he cannot recognize and process emotions, he can certainly recognize when I am not making any sense to him (because I am speaking with emotion rather than logic).  He had to go out of his comfort zone to verbally acknowledge when I am not making any sense to him, so that I can nix the emotions and speak more logically.  He doesn’t have to tell me that I am being emotional, because 9 out of 10, he doesn’t know why I am not making any sense to him.

Before, he would just let me go on and on and on, BUT, it does take two to effectively communicate.  Thus, requires some effort from the other side, even if it is something as simple as saying, “I do not understand.”  This is a key phrase that indicates to my non-Asperger mind, that I better try again, but with less emotion, so that my husband’s Asperger mind can better understand what I am blabbering about emotionally.  This new tactic in communication has been extremely helpful in effectively communicating with each other.

Can You Relate?

I can talk about Asperger’s all day.  The good, the bad, and the crazy.

Learning more about Asperger’s has changed the way I communicate with my husband.  He use to be the most difficult person to live with and now, that I better understand him, he is nothing more than a loving husband who just so happens to look at the world from a completely different perspective, a logical perspective.

I know I am not alone when it comes to trying to understand the Asperger mind; therefore, I decided to start this blog.  I was hesitant at first, but with so much negative outlooks regarding Asperger relationships, I felt the need to share my experiences to provide hope to those who are not ready to give up on their partner’s.  Relationships with Asperger partners is not impossible, just takes a new perspective to make things work!   

Comments Always Welcome!