Obsession as a word is tossed around quite a bit. “He’s obsessed with Star Wars.” “She’s obsessed with her boyfriend.” “They’re obsessed with making money.” It‘s seen almost as a more extreme form of love than just plain enjoying something.
But clinical obsession is something else entirely. Obsession is defined as “the domination of one’s thoughts by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.; the idea, image, or desire itself; the state of being obsessed.”
Synonyms include compulsion, delusion, enthusiasm; attraction, complex, craze; ax to grind, bug in ear, idee fixe.
When I get an obsession that disturbs me somehow, I know I’m verging on mania or depression. It depends on the content of the thought. When I get manic, I’m usually obsessed with an idea that may seem harmless but is actually dangerous for me. Obsessing about the future or the past is usually a sign I’m getting manic. I may fantasize about what I want, what might have been if I’d made different choices in my life, or about traumatic events that I can’t forget. “Fantasize” is the key word here; I’m not talking about planning or reminiscing about an event. When my mind flies off the handle of reality, I know I’m treading on dangerous ground.
When my thoughts run to hopelessness and lack of a future, then I know I’m getting depressed. The track gets deeper and deeper into pain, past regrets, or lack of hope about the future. Activity slows, and all I can do is lie in the bed and think about how rotten it feels to be me. All grooves converge into one if I let it go long enough, and I fantasize about suicide constantly when that happens, whether manic or depressed.
My most disturbing obsessions have been about men or about suicide. The ones about men are easy to fall into but very hard to dismiss from my mind. The object of my obsession may vary, but the obsession itself is usually sexual in nature and goes beyond infatuation, love, or just plain ordinary lust. I literally cannot stop thinking about whoever it is. Thoughts of him consume seemingly every waking moment. I have actually thought this thought and attempted to put it into action: “If I get a gun and blow the top of my head off, at least I will no longer be thinking about (this person).”
My obsessions with suicide can be very dangerous, because I am a planner by nature. I think of everything. My first major attempt came in May 2006. I took $1000 out of my savings account and filled up my husband’s Blazer with gas. My suitcase of clothes I hid in the messy laundry room where they wouldn’t be noticed.
I woke up at 1:15 in the morning listening for sounds. I didn’t hear any. Everyone was asleep.
I slid out of bed and went to my closet. I picked out my leopard-print top and a pair of black pants and tiptoed to the half-bath on the other side of the house and changed. I had done all the rest of the family’s laundry the night before. I wanted to leave as little to do as I could after I was gone.
I kept the lights off as I went out to the garage to my husband’s truck. I had decided to take it since he was going to need our Buick Terraza minivan for hauling around the kids from now on. I unpacked his glove compartment of his spare keys, his grandfather’s handicapped parking sign, and other personal items I knew he would need. I made a pile of them on the dining room table where he could find them easily.
I opened the refrigerator door just a crack and pulled out a six-pack of 100-calorie Dr. Peppers. I knew I’d need the caffeine to stay awake while I drove. I put them and my CD’s in the front seat along with my purse with Bob’s .35 pistol in it. I’d gotten as many of my Harry Connick, Jr. CD’s as I could put my hands on quickly—I enjoyed listening to him and knew Bob disliked him, so he wouldn’t miss them once I was gone.
I put the rest my luggage I put in the back seat. I stood in the kitchen and realized how quiet the house really is. I look at my watch—2 a.m. If I wanted to get started, it was now or never. I ran to the garage door and hit the lift button. I quickly locked the door behind me, climbed into the truck, and pulled out as soon as the door stopped moving.
As soon as I was clear of the door backing out, I hit the garage door opener in the truck so it would shut. I eased down the driveway with my lights off and didn’t turn them on until I turned onto the street. I was running away from home to kill myself somewhere that my family wouldn’t find me, and I didn’t want anyone stopping me now.
So you see how damaging obsession is to me. Often paired with obsessions are the compulsions to act upon it. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is in its own category of disease, but the gist of it is that by repeating certain behaviors, you can drive the obsession out of your mind. It’s fantasy of the highest order, but over three million Americans suffer from it at one time or another. If you obsessions will not go away and you are burdened under the compulsion to act on them, seek professional help immediately.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.