Off The Top of My Head

Living With OCD: My Experience

Off The Top of My Head

Over the last decade or so the portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders in entertainment and media has ranged from being charming quirks to near superpowers.  While the exposure OCDs have received has been beneficial, I’ve never seen a depiction that comes anywhere close to how my personal OCDs affect my everyday life.

Now, everyone is different and manifestations of OCDs are extremely varied, so I can only share my experiences living from day-to-day with a brain that often times won’t turn off, or won’t let go.

What Aren’t My OCDs

The first thing people think of when discussing OCDs is germaphobia, cleanliness, and uniformity.  Mostly because that’s what they see on TV.  For my own purposes none of those are a part of my OCDs.

I don’t obsess over getting sick or washing my hands (though this is one of my dad’s manifestations).  I do like to maintain a certain level of neatness, and I do prefer to have things like movies, books, etc in a certain order.  The difference is, in my case, I’m not compelled to do these things and I don’t obsess when they aren’t done that way.  I prefer to have my place be neat and orderly, but admittedly, by the end of a week I may have clothes in the floor or dishes in the sink.  I always keep my movies in alphabetical order, but if I find one out of place I never go through and make sure they are all correct, or am even compelled to fix it.  Sometimes I’ll just “fix it when I feel like it.”  I like having items symmetrical and at right angles.  If that doesn’t work or look good though I go for what’s aesthetically best.  Hell even my desire to separate my gummi bears into color isn’t done for obsessive reasons.  I just like to eat them in preference of flavor.  And I don’t have to do it or even need to do it all the time.  Just if I want to save the best for last.  These read as neither obsessions nor compulsions to me.  Merely preferences.  Tastes in how I like my environment but nothing is driving me to do these things or troubling me if I don’t.  My obsessions and compulsions are very different.

My First OCDs

When I was a kid there was a local mall that had 12 inch tan tiles in blocks of about ten or so in a square and after every block of around ten there would be dark brown tiles at the corners.  I used to make a game out of walking only in the tan tiles.  Never stepping on seams between them and never stepping on the dark brown tiles or a row where there were dark brown tiles.  At the time I thought it was just a game I was making up but it’s hard to describe then tenseness or tingling sensation that I would feel when I nearly stepped on a seam, or even worse the anxiety I’d feel when I almost stepped in a row with a dark brown tile.  A 7 year old me altering how I stepped and walked just to make sure I didn’t step on anything but tan tiles and never in seams.  Though of course I didn’t realize it at the time but that was the first manifestation I can recall.

The floor looked a lot like this one. Only the gray tiles here were tan and the off white tiles here were dark brown.

Thankfully: A.) I never go to the mall anymore and B.) They’ve carpeted so if I do go there it’s no big deal and C.) They’ve changed modern architecture design so that kind of pattern isn’t common anymore.  Even though this doesn’t seem like a major deal, having to keep track of something so minor at a very specific place, it is a perfect representation of how my own OCDs impact my everyday life.  Just in this example image how much mental energy, time, and focus was spent making sure I didn’t step a certain way.  This is a theme that runs through all the ways my OCDs manifest themselves.  And it’s the hardest aspect to explain.  Imagine going through your day, and even excelling at tasks, but a portion of your mind is always keeping up with nonessential tasks that it just can’t stop doing…  What kind of tasks?  Well…

The Count

I count a lot.  I count everything.  I count to nothing from nothing and for no reason.  I’ll often count going up stairs (1, 2, 3, 4…) then when I get to a landing start counting down starting from a different number even though I’m still walking up (10, 9, 8, 7…).  I’ll count up to 8 then pick up at 80 and count up from there then count down from 100 when I reach it.  I’ll count the number of times I’ll wash a plate, not because I need to wash it a certain number of times, just to be counting.  And often I don’t start at 1.  I’ll be washing and just start counting “9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.”  Just a constant count of numbers that is going on all the time.  So often I can’t even imagine how many times I’m doing it and don’t notice.  I only notice when I catch myself and then I’ll realize I’ve been doing it for a long, long time.

The Mind Loop

This is an excessively difficult one to describe but it is one that has the worst impact on me.  I’ll get a name, concept, song, movie, line of dialogue, whatever in my head.  And it will repeat.  It’ll repeat over, and over, and over.  I’ll say it out loud.  If it’s just one word I’ll say the one word.  I might say it over and over.  While I’m driving, or working, or even talking to someone.  For example someone will say “pizza” at work.  I’ll think, “Pizza.  Pizza sounds good.”  Then I’ll think, “I really don’t need it, it makes me a bit queasy, I don’t feel like stopping, and I don’t really have the money.”  But in my mind, “Pizza, pizza, pizza.”  I’ll be driving home and say , “Pizza.”  And it won’t stop until I get pizza.  The same goes for a line of dialogue in a movie, I’ll remember a certain phrase or scene and it will repeat over and over until I watch the movie.  Sometimes I’ll have to watch it over and over until I’m well tired of it and won’t watch it again for a long time.  Sometimes it’ll go on like that for days.  The worst part is when something loops that makes me want to buy things.  Things I really don’t need and shouldn’t be spending money on.  I’ve been able to curtail this one for the most part but for a few years anything I got into (Anime, Star Wars, etc.) I just thought about the things until I bought loads of stuff.  I’ve gotten into the “selling” of that stuff right now.  Which is healthier in a number of ways.  But it doesn’t stop the loop…

Another version is replaying events over and over.  Overanalyzing things that were said or done amd playing them over and over and over.  An example would be saying something to a co-worker and wondering if they took it the wrong way.  Worrying about it all weekend, and then apologizing the next week only to find they didn’t even know what you’re talking about.  It’s fun…

The Wormhole

Many might call this tunnel vision, but for me at least it’s far more serious.  The Wormhole is what I call my inability to progress on something outside of a predestined concept or series of concepts my brain lays out.  It’s something my dad does too and his most common version is the simplest way to explain it.  He’ll ask me a question, “Hey did you go ahead and-“ and I’ll know what he’s asking from context and answer, “Take the car in?  Yeah I had to.  The oil was getting low and it might be dangerous.”  But he can’t not finish the question and will continue after I’ve answered, “-take the car in?  The oil was low.  If it gets too low it can get dangerous.”  That’s the simplest version but imagine that in bigger concept.  An attractive girl asks if you want to go shopping with them.  You say “sure!” That’d be a nice way to spend an evening getting to know someone.  You meet them and they go out on a limb and say, “You know it might be fun to stay in, I can cook you some dinner!”  And what’s the first thing I think and say, “I thought we were going shopping.”  Because that’s what was all laid out in your head.  You can imagine the reaction that kind of thing can get.  And that’s just one example.  During conversations, working, anything going on, you are paying 100% attention.  You’re able to be in that moment, it’s not like you’re head’s in the cloud.  But your mind creates its next course of action or attempts to complete a predestined pattern and breaking that is nearly impossible.  Because you don’t realize you’re doing it.  Not until you’re thinking about it later and it turns into the mind loop mentioned above…

Living With It

How do I live with what I call my “broken brain” (a term renounced by the person who understood my mental strangeness the best)?  As I’ve said it can be exhausting.  You don’t know why you’re so tired.  Why you can’t think to write or be creative or be social.  It takes so much extra mental energy to do anything that often you find you’re completely burned out just from daily activities.

So how do I cope?  Not medications.  I know too many people who have had terrible reactions from medications.  The best I can do is do activities that bring me what I call my “Zen.”  Boxing, writing, playing guitar, painting, drawing, all of these things I’ve found take up all of my mind.  And silence the noise a bit.  I’ve never found myself counting lines drawn or obsessing over how a picture appeared in my head rather than how it looked on the page (I did once get punch counters for boxing and stopped using them. I found myself obsessively never throwing fewer punches than I did the previous day.  I got to well over 2000 each hand before I realized it was taking the fun out of it…) But these activities can quiet the demons, even if only for a while but often they are the activities that suffer the most from my daily mental exhaustion.  It’s hard to find the will to write or draw when your mind has spent ten hours socializing at work, doing your job, counting randomly throughout the day, repeating ten things over and over, and anchoring important conversations with the singular concepts stuck in your head.

I didn’t write this to complain or receive pity.  I’ve never actually listed out the most persistent of my personal OCDs and felt expressing them might be a way to try to manage them.  I noticed when I catch myself counting I stop counting.  So maybe if I can catch some of the others I can control them as well.  And there’s another reason I thought I’d share these.  I was over thirty before I realized counting even was a manifestation of OCDs.  When you live with them you don’t think about them they’re just a part of you.  It took reading Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters companion book and finding out it was one of his personal OCDs before I realized I did it too.  And that’s one of my most consistent and persistent manifestations.  So hopefully someone will read this, see something they didn’t know they did, and it’ll help them identify and maybe manage their OCDs a bit better too.  And maybe help them find their version Zen.

Warhammer Fantasy Painting: Skarsnik!

Skarsnik is one of my favorite Warhammer characters.  The so-called warlord of the Eight Peaks (I’m a Queek Headtaker fan so I dispute that) has a great personality, a weirdo backstory, and some creative tabletop rules that include his wonderful partner-in-crime Gobbla.

I got my model (as I’ve gotten many of my favs, see Taurox the Brass Bull) off of eBay damaged.  I actually like damaged models.  You get them cheap and  give you tons of chances for creativity.  You can use your own parts to replace missing ones and even completely change a model entirely.  It’s ton’s of fun and economical.

I had to add my own spikes to Skarsnik’s back and replace his sickle-sword but that was just part of the fun.  I give you my Skarsnik:

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Warhammer Fantasy Painting: Night Goblin Big Boss on Great Cave Squig

So here’s a fact: I like squigs.  I don’t know why but I can’t get enough squig units or squig related models.

After finishing my wyvern and liking the way his squiggy shield turned out I moved on to paint my Night Goblin Bigboss on a Great Cave Squig.

First off I love this model.  The posture of the gobbo looks like he’s barely holding on to his bounding mount and the squig is wonderfully expressive and full of personality.

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I went classic on all the colors. The night goblin boss is wearing traditional black robed with a bit of blue edging.

I was pretty happy with the helmet too, as it’s clear it was looted from dwarfs.

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But the squig is where it’s at in this model.

His massive teeth are incredibly fun to paint and I haven’t had a chance to paint real bone so clearly in previous models.

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I was running low on 40mm bases so I repurposed one from a troll.  It worked pretty well as the pre-textured based made for nice cave environment.

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Next week, the biggest Night Goblin boss with the greatest squig of them all (may he rest in peace…)

Everything was Roses when they Held on to the Guns: Guns n’ Roses Not in this Lifetime

I’ve been lucky enough to attend some pretty impressive concerts.

I got to see U2 live in a relatively small stadium, Journey from just a few feet away, and Ozzy’s last Ozzfest with the Black Sabbath lineup.  I even got to see Axl with his new Guns N’ Roses line up back in 2012, having previously seen Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum (the Use Your Illusion line up) with Velvet Revolver at the aforementioned Ozzfest.

At the time I thought seeing the various parts of GnR in their new ventures was as close as I would get to seeing the original line up live; especially considering the legendary bad blood between Axl and his former bandmates.

Then the news broke last year that Slash was quoted making some exceptionally flattering comments about Rose.  And Axl was then quoted reciprocating with some equally complimentary statements about Slash.  The two cornerstones of the band thawing a bit?  Rumors flew quickly, would there be a reunion?

A few months later it was announced that Rose, McKagan, and Slash all signed up for a reunion show at Coachella.  Since I knew I wouldn’t hit the lottery any time soon I figured it’d be something I’d have to miss…until they announced tour dates featuring Axl, McKagan, and Slash.  And that they would be playing the football stadium in my city!

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Duff back on bass!

I’ve been a GnR fan since the late 80s and early 90s.  I grew up watching their videos on MTV (back when they played music) and became borderline obsessed with the group after the Use Your Illusion albums.  Even though tastes and moods can change any time anyone asks “who’s your favorite band?”  Guns n Roses was always the answer.

It's not the same GnR without Slash...
It’s not the same GnR without Slash…

For me the show had a lot to live up to and it came through beyond what I could have imagined.  My best friend Mike (who’s been a fan almost as long as I have) called it “the culmination of his being.”  Over three hours of classic and newer GnR material.  Arrangements that harkened back to the Use Your Illusion tour (I remember seeing Slash play the Godfather Theme on a VHS tape I had of a GnR show from the 90s) and even some surprises; such as two songs featuring the first member to be ousted, Appetite for Destruction drummer Steven Adler.

Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!
Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!

What made the show remarkable to me was that it wasn’t just a greatest hits tour.  Yes they played the biggest of the biggest hits and the roar of the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard when the opening strains to “Welcome to the Jungle” echoed off the stadium stands, but it was more than that.  “Jungle” was followed with relatively deep cut “Double Talkin’ Jive” which has one of my favorite drum beats and guitar outros ever.    That in turn was followed by the 9 minute epic, “Estranged” which possibly features my favorite guitar solo ever.  Halfway through the show they broke out the ultimate GnR deep cut by playing Coma.  A 10 minute song I never thought I’d experience live.  Casual fans all around me sat down as the song wound its way through its narrative leaving me one of the few in my section standing up and singing along.

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Coma Live in Concert!

The whole show transported me back in time where playing Doom and drawing comics was all I did every day.

It was far and away greatest concert I’ve ever attended.  What’s the future of GnR?  Who knows.  Axl being as unpredictable as he is may decide to drop the act and just tour with AC/DC (which I have to say if they came here with that line up I’d be pretty psyched for that too).  McKagen may ditch it for a solo act.  Slash might do the same.  The camaraderie on stage appeared pretty damn good though, with Axl jamming to Slash’s solos, and Duff getting to do his own Misfits cover.  And I can’t think of a show where bandmates could play for 3 plus hours for as many shows as they have if they weren’t enjoying themselves.

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Nearly 30 years after their debut…Axl still has it..

I shouldn’t hold out hope for a new album featuring the OG GnR line up…but I am.  Maybe someday we’ll hear new material, even just a song or two, from 80s metal’s Lennon & McCarthy of Axl and Slash.

Take a bow!
Take a bow!

But if it never happens, or even if the band happens to implode yet again in the coming weeks, those of us who grew up in the GnR era will always have the masterpieces they produced from 1987-1992.  And I’ll never forget the show they all got together to put on in 2016.

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Positivity and Independence Day (1996)

It’s July 4th and since it’s a holiday I usually have to work I decided to partake in an old tradition from college and high school on July 3rd and watched one of the seminal movies of my generation, Independence Day.

I saw this movie twice when it was new.  Once as a family move in the summer, and again with some friends at the dollar theater during its second run (do movies even have those anymore?)  I loved it.  Though at the time I may not have known why.

Then I went through the cynical phase of my twenties where everything that I thought was “cool” as a teenager must have been “lame” so I decided this cheesy blockbuster probably fit that bill too.  It didn’t help that the production team of this movie ended up churning out one formulaic disaster film after another in the years that followed, or that, by the time my cynical phase hit, the general mood of the country and its entertainment started to turn “dark,” which later resulted in the dreary, joyless action movies that were troughed to us until The Expendables and Marvel reminded us that they could be fun again.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  I hadn’t seen the film all the way through in maybe a decade, and its reputation has faltered as “cliché” in recent years.  But moments in, when the moon shakes and the ominous shadow sweeps over the Apollo landing site…I was sucked in again.  And stayed that way through the entire film.

The characters, while yes are broad ethnic and narrative stereotypes, are still lovable and every one of them has a purpose.  Will Smith is charming and energetic.  Jeff Goldblum is awkward but heroic.  Bill Pullman is tortured but a leader.  Everyone is there for a reason and acts within their purpose at all times.

The alien menace is faceless through most of the movie, but when they are shown they are generic enough that they remain the unknown threat even after the amusement park ride tour of their mother ship.  Their weapons are insurmountable and their motives make them unstoppable.  Which leaves a combination of special qualities to stop them: human ingenuity, creativity, and cooperation.

This movie doesn’t have any chosen ones, or destiny stories.  All of the characters are actually on a bit of a lull when the film starts, Smith’s Hiller can’t be an astronaut, his girlfriend is an exotic dancer working for a loser boss, Goldblum’s David is an overqualified TV network tech, Randy Quaid’s Casse is a drunken incompetent incapable of even providing for his nomadic family, and the President is being lambasted in the media.  All slightly down, all very different but when the crisis occurs they all rise to the challenge.  Each of them a metaphor of the way the disparate nations and ethnicities in the world come together to beat back the alien menace and “not go quietly into that good night.”

Is it all a little optimistic and cheesy?  Hell yes.  And hell yes it’s awesome.  This was before every character’s story had to be told in flashback to give them all “proper motivation” and before Christopher Nolan turned every one of these stories into tales of dark, tormented tales of survival that both over explain motivations and suck all character from the characters.

It’s FUN.  it’s funny.  It’s exciting.  And most importantly it’s optimistic.  Which is something oh so many films and entertainment have seemed to forget they could be.

I know enough of history to know the fables of our country’s “birthday” are heaped in legend and not as glorious as the Revere printing press would have us believe.  But if there’s one thing you could gain out of Independence Day, and not coincidently the main theme of the film that bears the same name, is that hope and optimism are can never truly be defeated.  Maybe beaten down a bit but it will always come back to win in the end.  It’s what people are, and what we really want.

So turn off all the hate and negativity that’s saturating news, entertainment, and politics right now.  Put on Independence Day and remind yourself of the fun and positivity that can be experienced when a group of people, whether they be fictional characters, film makers, or movie goers, turn off the cynicism and remember what life was like as a kid in the movies.

Warhammer Fantasy Painting: Orc Warboss on a Wyvern

Off The Top of My HeadThough I don’t have anything specific against Age of Sigmar I still prefer the regimental blocks and high-concept rules of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  Something about huge blocks of troops and monsters crashing into each other and fighting in more linear combat than the modern, tactical squad-based war of 40k.

Having recently played Warhammer: Total War (which is a perfect marriage of concepts as far as I’m concerned) I returned to painting my poor fantasy armies.

I started the game with the Orc faction and decided to start with my orc army.

I picked up this metal Orc Warboss on a Wyvern at a friendly local game shop.  The model seemed a little wonky but I liked the look of it and knew these weren’t exactly for sale everywhere any more.  I’m glad I did.

I used all basing and dry-brushing techniques.  These are my favorites and since I don’t have an airbrush tend to give me the best results for most of my models.

The wyvern is a bright green but I used a tan color for the wings instead of flat green.

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It was a lot of layering, shading, and dry brushing, but I was really happy with the result.

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The warboss was actually more fun than the wyvern.

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I was particularly fond of how the squig on his shield turned out.

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This was a terrifically fun model to paint (and Pacific Rim was the perfect movie to watch while painting). I ended up liking him a lot, even though, admittedly, I mostly wanted to paint this guy for practice since the one I really want to do is this guy.  Azhag the Slaughterer!

He’ll be appearing soon!