Monday, September 6, 2010

Nose Piercing and Fear of Being ME

I am in the throes of OCD anxiety. I got my nostril pierced 2 days ago. I've wanted to do this for a while. I went to a very clean, reputable place. I got a tiny silver ball and I really like the way it looks. Now I am worried I have contracted HIV. Last night I started feeling a sore throat coming on. That's all it took.

I don't obsess in this way often anymore. So when I do, there is usually an underlying psychological conflict that is manifesting through my OCD. I know this obsession is related to fears about what others think of me, particularly my mother. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow to celebrate the Jewish New Year with me. They will absolutely HATE the piercing. When I was in high school (30 years ago) I got a few piercings up my ear. My mother hated it. She was always saying "Just don't get your nose pierced."

So perhaps I am a 45 year old woman who moved 2000 miles away, has her own family, her own lifestyle, and is still struggling to individuate from her mother. This has been a BIG issue all my life. I felt unloved and fearful starting at age 4. I was not allowed to express my feelings growing up. I tried very hard to please my mom in order to win her love. I also spent a lot of energy dissociating from my feelings. As an adult, I married a man who was mean to me. I relived the dynamic with him. I finally did leave him. This winter will be 7 years that we are apart - though we are still connected through our children. I am also still trying to individuate from him.

Through my recovery and ongoing therapy I've worked through a lot about my relationship with my mom. We do well together today. My biggest issues have been finding my voice with her, being honest about my feelings, and accepting her limitations. I can never "get" the love that I wanted as a child. But I can enjoy the love that she does have for me as an adult. My ex husband is another matter, but I am making progress there, too.

I do believe my fear about HIV - in my mind, a death sentence brought on by recklessness and self expression - is all about this historical baggage with my mother. I've been through it before in my life when I was going through changes and "breaking away" from her expectations of me.

I must say that sharing this with you compassionate OCD'ers (my peeps!) has helped take away some of the intensity. I still feel the obsession. But I also feel the healing potential from letting it just be OCD and not the truth. I also have compassion for the little girl that I was who struggled so much and who is still here struggling. Perhaps, this is an opportunity for her to grow up and let go a bit.

Happy New Year y'all - Shana Tova V'Mtukah ( A good and sweet year). And thanks for "listening". I really need you.


  1. Congrats on your nose piercing! One "good" thing about this type of fear, is that there's not anything you can do about it, so you can just wait for it to dissipate. That part's not fun, but you will come out the other side.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you've had such a sudden flare up, but it's wonderful that you can call it out for what it is. Though it doesn't solve the problem, I feel like it does make it a little easier to bear just knowing that, quite likely, it's the product of OCD.

    That said, I was thinking about it and I had a similar experience in which I became acutely fearful of having contracted HIV. Several years ago when I was undergoing a major transition in my life and was really stressed about it, I picked up a copy of Newsweek which was almost entirely devoted to looking over the history of HIV and the AIDS epidemic, from the time we hardly knew what it was, to the advancements we've made today in treating it.

    Suddenly, after reading that issue, I was terrified that I might have HIV. I was worried that something that had happened months before may have exposed me to the virus. I was suddenly and acutely aware of a possibility I had somehow managed not to worry about for months, and now I wondered how I had managed NOT to worry about it for all that time. The fear seemed irrational and yet it was so strong. Now I know that I was having an OCD flare-up. Anyways, I can remember how irrational and yet still terrifying it seemed. So I can certainly relate.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the stress related to your family's visit and what they might think exacerbated your OCD. Looking back, those times of stress are when the OCD was most likely to grab ahold of something new in my life.

    Hang in there! I admire your determination to do what YOU want regardless of what others or OCD might say. Your ability to so proactively fight your OCD is inspiring to me and I suspect that you will emerge victorious from this latest struggle as well!

  3. Good luck with your mom tomorrow! I'll be thinking of you. (And sending encouraging thoughts your way!) Hopefully after her visit, the stress will dissipate some and you can find some peace to enjoy your new piercing. (Which by the way, I am totally in awe of. I would never have the guts. Ear piercing about did me in. ;D )
    I totally understand about the underlying things you're worried about triggering an OCD flare up. It sure helped me when I realized that was something that happened with me.
    Good luck!

  4. Congratulations on your self-expression through your nose piercing and your blogging about all the OCD that got stirred up! I too am learning compassion for the girl I was and my OCD doesn't thrive on compassion, so it's a win-win.