Word of the Week #81:

Scavenger

Have you seen one?

You probably have.

You may not have noticed them, or identified them for what they really are, and one cannot really blame you for that. They can be quite the masters of disguise.

They roam our world, lurking in the shadows, largely unseen and unheard. They lay in wait for the weakest of us, and when they find us at the weakest of our times, they pounce.

Occasionally, you can find them lurking behind traffic signals, often in packs. Sure, they are camouflaged perfectly as men seeking to serve and protect, but be sure you are not lulled into a false sense of security. They are waiting to lunge at you, any moment they can get.

Sometimes, they wait in your schools and colleges, your cricket fields, your gymnasiums. This may seem like their natural habitat, but do not be fooled. Without the slightest of warnings, they will slam upon your young shoulders the heavy burden of their broken dreams.

Quite often, they will disguise themselves as one of us, and with the promise of a better tomorrow, lead us down the sheer ravine. Of course, these vultures can fly, and look forward to the feast you provide.

Lastly, there are some that make inroads into our offices and industries, and often find their way to the very top. It is a good vantage point, you know, The Top. From up there, it is quite easy to spot the perfect prey, and to hunt them down with impunity. They get what they want, and then get away with it. Easy.

Now, with all these predators swarming around and above you, the question rings through your mind: How do I protect myself?

Well, you could try growing some spikes. It works for porcupines, it may work for you. But, unfortunately, that is not an option for most of us.

So, what do we do?

Maybe we could try growing some spines, instead?

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Word of the Week #80:

NemeSis: 

Monster

DISCLAIMER: This article is my personal account and does not prescribe any methods for diagnosis or treatment of OCD.

As a 2-year-old child learning to write on a 4-lined page, I was not aware that it was possible to leave a few edges of a few letters spilled out of the designated lines. The consequences of not sticking to the lines were terrifying and erasing every delinquent word and rewriting it was the easiest thing to do. When I saw the other kids crossing these lines, I could not accept it. It did not hurt at all during pre-school because I was smarter than most kids (not bragging at all) and time was not an issue. However, with age, the self-imposed rules kept growing and it started getting difficult to keep everything within the lines.

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Then there were fears — fear of heights, fear of closed spaces, fear of contamination, fear of people…

Since my moral standards were so high, I found it very difficult to trust normal people. If they could bend a rule, they could break a law; if they could break one law, they could definitely break another. I also took all spoken words literally. A person saying “I will kill you” would immediately be labeled as a potential murderer. It took me a long time to get used to hearing people use such words jokingly. That posed another problem… people did not mean what they said.

Then there were nightmares of war, apocalypse and dystopia.

Although experiencing and confronting this anxiety took a lot of energy and time, I did not realise it was a problem because I did not know there was any other way to live.

Maybe it was too much to deal with as a child even though most of it was only in my head. I started questioning if my fears had a basis and calculating the probability of my nightmares turning real. I created this entity called ‘My Rational Observer’.

At 8, I (or my rational observer) decided to deal with my fears on my own. I would lock myself up in small places and stay there till I stopped shaking. I waited and observed that I was suffocating not because of lack of oxygen but because I was using too much of it. This took a few tries. But I do not hyperventilate in closed spaces anymore. It is the same with heights. I would sit with my feet dangling off the 4 floor ledge. The first few times were terrible (my little brother witnessed this stunt often and freaked out). But it got easier. I still hate heights. But it takes a lesser amount of time to get over its mind-numbing effect.

Sometime along the way, I started having nightmares of me brutally hurting the people I loved the most. When I was 17, I unfortunately discovered The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud — the book convinced me that all my nightmares were a form of wish-fulfilment. This new information threw me completely off balance. I would break into tears every time I saw someone that I had recently mutilated in my dreams. I kept apologising to them without explaining why. In some time, all these people completely freaked out. They were sure something was wrong with me. I was sure too, but I could not really talk about any of it.

Two years later, I decided to see a psychologist. She turned out to be a follower of Freudian philosophies. During the first session, she had me convinced that I had some deep rooted ill-feelings towards the people I was hurting in my dreams. By the end of the second session, she had me convinced that I was a horrible and ungrateful person. The next few months were a nightmare — whether I was awake or asleep. Fortunately, I had some really good people on my side. I am not sure how I survived that period.

After completing Engineering, I decided to plunge into Psychology so that I could understand what was going on in my life. The people I met during this time had a soothing effect on my psych. It was during this time that I was first diagnosed with OCD. My mentors and teachers for the Psychology program started working with me, applying REBT (an older version of CBT) techniques to help me get a hold on my OCD. They also explained that the coping techniques I had been using so far were already similar to REBT (but I was just being too radical while applying them). I would like to believe things got a little better… maybe.

My need for order and the rituals necessary to keep my World safe, dictated that I should stay alone. Living with another human being would add another variable to my life and could trigger an apocalypse. The rational observerwanted to test that and I invited my very good friend to move in with me. I loved her company but the pile of her clothes at the corner of the bed stressed me out more than it should have. Once she became more important, she too got added to the list of people I hurt in my nightmares. The most logical thing to do was to stop sleeping. I developed insomnia. I hid my thoughts from her, but the insomnia had her worried.

My first instance of not resisting a hug was when my friend (and housemate) hugged me on her birthday to thank me for the gift. I had to resist a thousand thoughts about contamination and hygiene though. She realised how awkward I was. When I explained to her what I was thinking, she frowned at me and hugged me again, her words still clear in my memory, “There is no way I am going to stop hugging you. Let us see what happens.” Well, nothing bad happened. In about a month of being hugged repeatedly, I started hugging her back. It felt warm and happy. No, nothing bad happened. (When I look back at this, I realise that this was classic CBT, and my friend still does not know it is called that.)

Few months ago, I got myself 3 rescue kittens. Every single time I get home late from work, they scatter things in the house and make a mess. There is cat litter everywhere. I am not sure why it no longer causes stress. It is probably because of their adorable faces staring at me defiantly when I scold them about the mess. I end up smiling and picking them up and pampering them before I get to cleaning the house again. That delay is fine. And the cleaning can wait for a few minutes, or hours, or days.

When I look back, I have had OCD forever. Some parts of it were painful, but the others did not seem like a problem till someone gave it a name. Every person in my family has a different manifestation of OCD. We try helping each other out and it is one of the many reasons why we are so close.

Many of my friends have spoken about obsessive behaviours but they do not have the courage to visit a therapist and seek help. There could have been times when people would have given up on me, but they didn’t, and I am so grateful to them for this. OCD is not something anyone would want to talk about in great detail. There are also many misunderstandings around it. I have been told many times, “You say you have OCD but you don’t wash your hair everyday… so you don’t have OCD” or “I like to keep my house clean, I am so OCD about it”.

If you think you have OCD, please talk about it. Also, my OCD could be very different from yours. Formal therapy did not help me as much as real-life, regular people (and the rational observer) did. I have usually been in situations where there was me, my OCD and someone (or something) that I really cared about. In most cases, I was able to overcome my obsessive thoughts to cross over to the other side. So far, this is the only kind of therapy that has worked for me. Maybe it will work for you too…? Maybe formal therapy will work for you…? You will not know till you try. You will not know if the problem exists for you. You will not be able to fix anything unless you know if something is broken.

Sometimes, even now, I have to remind myself that I am a good person who would never let anyone come to harm with my actions. The nightmares are not so frequent anymore. I mostly sleep fine. I don’t treat my OCD like a criminal. I believe it is only a form of self-preservation, some twisted form of a survival instinct. I do get anxious about certain things from time to time, but overall, I am fine. As long as my rational observer is around, I will be fine. I am friends with the monster.

#OCDWeek

Word of the Week #79:

consent

|kənˈsɛnt|

noun [mass noun]

default state of a woman, unless negated through sufficient vehemence: it would be really difficult to decipher whether little or no resistance and a feeble “no”, was actually a denial of consent.

ORIGIN

Farooqui vs State, Delhi High Court, dated 25/09/2017

Word of the Week #78:

Bigotry

I remember sitting in my father’s study one day, towards the beginning of this millennium, rummaging through the cupboards, looking for something.

What I sought there must have been something ridiculously inconsequential, like a stapler or such, and what I happened to find was anything but that.

If I remember correctly, and I think I do, I stumbled upon a large, yellow notebook, uglier than most I have seen to this day. On the very first page, written in the familiar italic scrawl was a quote.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”
― George Gordon Byron

Of course, I did not understand this the first time I read it. I was barely 7 or 8, after all. I did have a dictionary at hand, though, and I had at least managed to teach myself a new word.

I would not come to truly understand the full measure of human depravity for another couple of years or so.

You know, 2002

15 years have passed since then, and while one would expect the world to have learned quite a few things over this span, the reality forces you to pause for a moment, and try to understand just what went wrong. Just a brief scan of the news is enough to make you cringe.

How did we start the week?

Well, at supposedly one of the finest educational institutes in our country, students protesting sexual assault faced physically assault.

Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up…

And on the other side of the globe, a bloviating buffoon created a man-made disaster immediately after a series of natural disasters had just subsided, essentially declaring that protests against intolerance will not be tolerated.

The irony…

Looks like in the time I grew up, the world has gone completely senile.

Word of the Week #77:

Credit

You know what I don’t get? Loans.

Well, yeah, I actually don’t get loans. You see, I don’t have any credentials or collateral to enable me to get one, but that is beside the point.

The real point here is that I don’t get loans. I just cannot understand the concept.

Really, you are just betting that you though even though you do not have the money now, you will have it someday. Of course, you won’t actually have that money because, well, you’ve spent it on the EMI.

Also, if you took the loan to buy, say, a new cell phone, or a car, or a nice TV, you must know that the item would hardly last as long as the term of your loan.

So, at the end of the day, you are bound to end up with neither the money nor the stuff, half-broken by the burden bearing down on your back.I will admit, there are times when you have to take a loan. You cannot be a doctor if you do not go to a medical college, and those things can be rather pricey. Here, at least you know you get to keep the degree. Same with houses and real estate and such stuff, at least unless you buy a sea-facing bungalow and, well, the rising sea level leaves it half-submerged. It can happen, you know…

And, of course, there are times when you just have to borrow, perhaps for a business venture. As they say, you need money to make money.

Or, perhaps you need it because your daughter needs an urgent surgery. You really cannot ask her to just sit tight while you earn that money with your own hands, right?

Some expenses are indeed unavoidable, and some burdens have to be borne.

So, in conclusion, I guess I do get loans.

I wonder why my government thinks otherwise…

Word of the Week #76:

Deconstruct

Editing is not fun.

Every writer will tell you the same.

“While writing is like a joyful release, editing is a prison where the bars are my former intentions and the abusive warden my own neuroticism.”
― Tiffany Madison

Of course, every writer, or at least every good one, will tell you just how important it is.

“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
― Patricia Fuller

Now, the trouble is that, as many people who know me well may attest, I am a guy who would be quite capable of doing just that. Why, I am quite sure I have actually done that, more often than once.

And, therein lies the problem.

Regardless, as I mentioned in the last post, I am wiser now. I know most people cannot handle me, or my work, without being appropriately dressed.

So, how does one proceed? The solution is simple. Not easy, mind you, but quite simple, indeed.

“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
― Don Roff

Word of the Week #75:

Sophomore

So, as you’d probably know, last week brought some much needed joy and jolly into our lives.

However, that lasted for barely a moment, before another mountain, much taller and wider than the last, stood stark in my sight.

You see, just writing a book, especially a rough, vague preliminary draft is quite similar to taking a stroll.

Of course, this stroll is long and strenuous, like the one in “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy, and completing it without losing your mind is a feat definitely worth celebrating.

Have you read that story, by the way? You really should. It is amazing.

Now, this ain’t my first rodeo. I have been doing this for years already. I know how it works. I know that, in contrast, the path ahead is not as simple. It may be short, but it is far more uphill.

So, while it still is a time for joy, we know how much more work needs to be done.

It is time to strap on the snowshoes, baby, and just keep walking.