Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tic Tock, Tic Tac, Tic, Tic, Tic

One of the more visible parts of my OCD are various body tics I have. Mostly on my face. Can I be real for a minute and just tell you how fucking much it sucks to have your face be the loudest megaphone of your OCD? Facial tics are the fucking pits. I have a lot of other self-soothing behaviors that help me cope with my anxiety and OCD, but none have wreacked as much havoc over my life as my facial tics. They're my scarlet letter. A big scarlet T. Times a zillion.

At this point in my life I'm much better with my body and facial tics. Part of it is because I'm medicated for my OCD and I've learned other coping mechanisms for my anxiety. And part of it is because I've gotten used to hiding them or making up lies about them. For instance, this past summer my best friend ever noticed one of my facial tics. She said something about my eye twitching and wondered what was going on. I happened to be facing the window so I quickly said something about the light bothering my eye. Total fucking lie. I was really anxious that day and obsessing about something and that happened to work its way out through my face. I also realized that even though we had been friends for 3 years and really BFFs for 2 years I'd never told her about my facial tics. Huh.

That's not uncommon. I don't tell a lot of people of all the weird, strange ways I display and cope with OCD. But in most periods of my life people have noticed my facial tics and commented on them. I usually brush them off or make up bigger excuses about why I'm doing whatever it is they noticed.

But my BFF is very observant. So that she hadn't really noticed it until now was surprising to me. And of course I obsessed over it. Part of it was that my life has been relatively stress free and stable lately. Win. But the other part of it, is that my hiding of my tics has gotten very good. Maybe win? It feels less of a victory. A victory would be not having tics in the first place. Or not feeling like I needed to hide them because they were shameful. Or if I lived in a society where tics weren't so noticeable and no one commented on them. Although that last one might not be a win. If I have hardcore tics it's because I'm really anxious. If I'm really anxious I want my friends to check in with me. Mostly I wouldn't want to have to feel ashamed of my tics. I'm trying to work on that. Clearly. Or I wouldn't be writing this.

When I was younger, I was a twitchy tic-y mess. I got LOTS of commentary about it.

"Why do you make those weird faces?"

"Don't make that face. It makes you look ugly."

"What the fuck is wrong with your face?"

That's some motivation for figuring out ways to disguise your tics as natural body movements. I've become the master of acting like my contacts are bothering me, like I have an itch on my nose, or daydreaming with half my face covered. All of those? Hiiiiiiiding.

I've also built up my strength for tolerating anxiety. I can teach an hour and 15 minute class without having hardly any tics. But as soon as class is over my face explodes for a few minutes. When I get home from a long day I'm like a giant twitchy octopus that's being electrocuted for about 30 minutes. Andrea has become my safe space. The closer we got the more I could let my guard down. We talked about it. But now we don't really need to. She knows I'm letting all the anxiety of my day and dealing with people tumble out of my body. She lets me twitch and twist while we talk about our days. She makes it seem like it's normal. One of the many reasons I love her. Every once in a while I bring it up and see how she's feeling about it (always gotta check to make sure I'm not one tic away from being dumped for being a whacko). Bless her soul, she usually says she doesn't even notice anymore. It's just part of me. Ooof. I love her loving all of me. Even the twitchy parts.

But my tics do give her information sometimes. She can tell if I'm struggling with some thought that's crossed my mind or if she's inadvertently triggered something. Usually within seconds of me feeling the crushing feeling of anxiety and the need to soothe through tics she asks what just happened. Sometimes she asks what happened before my mind has even caught up with my body and I have to think before I respond. But she notices when it's important, and doesn't when it's not. She's the fucking best.

I don't know if I'll ever really feel totally comfortable with my tics. Or talking about them. And I doubt I can unlearn 30+ years of hiding skills. But the more I talk about it, the more people know, the less awkward conversations I have to have, and the less lies I have to tell. Just know that if you ask me what the hell is going on with my face (even if you say it really nice) and I straight up lie to you, it's so not about you. It's about me. I just don't want to talk about it. Or maybe I want to crawl under the table at the moment, but let's just pretend all is fine and I'll bring it up later if I feel like it.

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