Coffee and OCD

by Matt B. on March 9, 2015

The world shrinks to the size of a decision.

On the phone, I ask N to bring a coffee home, my second of the day. Reluctantly, she agrees. (I get jittery, anxious, and OCD has its backstage pass.)

I drink a few sips, then put it down. A few more, then again.

I have to make bad decisions over and over.

My anxiety is up, stays up, so I write an exposure script:

Because I had too much sugar and caffeine, I’ve overworked my heart. I’ll be nervous and jittery and full of anxiety, and I’ll hurt myself. Eventually, I’ll have a heart attack. And that’s just how it’ll be.

I read it out loud into my hand-held mic. I hesitate to let N hear it, but our studio apartment settles the matter. “It’s totally not true! Coffee helps you poop.” she says.

“I know,” I reply. But I don’t.

I plug the mic into the computer, fire up GarageBand, copy-paste 60 times. Headphones in, I listen to the loop for 10 minutes. Then I get up, throw the coffee out. (Walk away when you’re struggling, Matt.)

We sit down to lunch, and I sip N’s coffee. Am I to resist all spontaneity? In the name of what? I can’t remember.

The food is hot – cream would cut the spice. I walk to the trashcan, retrieve my coffee. (It didn’t occur to me to pour it out. It doesn’t occur to me to tell N, either: I’m trapped in the tiniest dilemma I can think of.)

I see very clearly: I’m not making choices. This is just happening. I write:

It’s 1 pm, and I want to work. Circadian rhythms argue, but I’m not inclined to listen: I’m more afraid of watching inspiration drift downstream.

I suck down coffee, then feel my heart box my chest. The caffeine, or my anxiety about the caffeine?

It’s very difficult to describe the gap between the pettiness of the worry – an extra cup of sugary coffee? – and the enormity of the fear it generates.

An hour later, I fall asleep – the sleep of shock, of shutdown. My mind is a spinning color wheel. Let me rest.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nate March 9, 2015 at 8:21 am

Wow Matt, this is intimate and intense. Thanks for sharing.

Matt Bieber March 9, 2015 at 10:18 am

Thanks bud!

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