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A therapist and a cake for my birthday

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I called a therapist for my birthday.

Quite the non-traditional gift, I know. But as I turn 44 today and assess my happiness —or lack of lately—I'm thinking this is the only gift I really need right now. My family and close friends already know this, but you see, I've got some demons. I battle with some anxiety. I fight varying degrees of OCD. I have a short temper. I am pessimistic (I prefer to call it 'realistic'). I have a strong intolerance for imperfection if that makes sense. I'm a complete disaster who ironically craves flawlessness.

My late husband Matthew and his buddies jokingly called me 'Gellar'—a reference to Courteney Cox's Friends character Monica Gellar, who was a neat freak and a perfectionist who needed a schedule and order for everything. Remember the episode where she explained how the comforter HAD to be put on the bed a certain exact way? That's me. I envision the way I want things to go and I don't like when any plans go awry. I can't stand messes. My brain starts telling me to freak out when things are out of place. It physically pains me not to vacuum at least once a day. I get agitated if the kids make a mess and don't clean it up. I lose my sh*t if they don't wash their hands directly off the bus (in my defense, the school recently sent a message about Hand Foot and Mouth Disease going around and my brain legit had a stroke).

My college friends used to think it was funny to rearrange things in my dorm when I wasn't looking, just to see if I noticed. Um, yeah girl, I noticed. But even now, 20-some years later, that's the thing— I can't NOT notice. In all my years I haven't ever been able to relax this part of me, to be just as 'normal' as everyone else. I realize that I don't think I ever will either. I am bothered by EVERYTHING. My husband used to say (sometimes in jest, other times in frightened seriousness) "you need help."

People always tell me, "just take care of yourself" by eating right and exercising. Get enough sleep at night or go meditate or pray. To them I say, it doesn't matter how many miles I ran today or which salad I chose to eat for lunch or how amazing seven hours of sleep might have been or even how many times I mutter 'God help me' during a road rage episode—the brain inside this skull is still the same damn brain pulling the strings and pushing the buttons and freaking out about germs and imperfections around me.

Someone dropped off a cookie cake for my birthday—a delicious concoction of chocolate chip batter and icing that would make any birthday girl giddy. But my brain is only perturbed at it because the cake decorator didn't cross the 'T' in birthday. I mean, how in the hell did she not glance over this before she closed the lid?" my brain screams. "How does anyone get to the checkout line with a typo emblazed on the front of this cake?" Oh the stress of it all. Sad, right? I know.

That's how I realize it's a problem I need to address—not only because my children are no doubt going to become what I am (my daughter has officially become a dictator already at age 10 and everyone is scared of her) but it's become an obstacle in my relationships. Specifically one I care about and want to be in as of late. Because sure, I can joke around and laugh and be fun on a date; but in the end, nobody wants to be with the negative girl who is going to be a tad psycho about germs and messes and cake typos.

Some days the tension and anxiety inside consumes me. I read into things. I can't let little things go. Add a little grief in there too some days and I'm a real peach. Why am I like this? Why can't I change? None of my three sisters are like this and we all came from the same parents and grew up in the same house. A friend told me it's all hard-wired. This is who we are from birth. My parents and sisters didn't have anything to do with it.

So here I am realizing at age 44 that this is always who I am going to be. It's just who I am. And who I am needs help.

I called a therapist for my birthday.


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