Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Episode 5: Julie's History – High School Years | 05/25/2009
ANDY BURNFIELD: Welcome to episode number five of Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Today we’re continuing our talk with Julie and me, Andy Burnfield, about Julie’s childhood. Last show, we went up through, like middle of high school basically, in American school years, and talked a little bit about her background. Today we’re going to continue on. Hopefully get all the way up through close to the present. And again, this is just to kind of get a little background as to maybe—so we can have our conversation on whether her OCD is mainly genetic or environmental. Let’s get started! So we left off in school; you would have been starting your sophomore year in high school.
JULIE BURNFIELD: Yep.
ANDY: And you came over here for a year because your brother started college and your parents took a year off to live here.
JULIE: Yeah. So my parents decided to come over to East Texas for when my brother was a freshman starting college; they decided they wanted to come over and help him initiate into American society, since neither myself nor him had ever lived in America before, just born and raised in Dublin. So we came over that year. It was the fourth year, the middle year of secondary school in Ireland, and as Andy said it was the sophomore year here in school. So my parents rented a house here in town. And my brother started going to college, and basically I was taken away from all my friends back at home. I didn’t know what to do, I really didn’t want to come over here at all; I didn’t have any friends here, I didn’t know anybody here. And…
ANDY: How was your OCD at this point in your life?
JULIE: My OCD at this point wasn’t terribly bad.
ANDY: But you did have it?
JULIE: I did have it, yes, but the real onset of it was when I got home. After that year. It was definitely there, but…
ANDY: So, what was it like—a lot of the people listening to this, well, you never know, but I would assume most of the people listening to this have never lived for an extended period of time outside of the US or outside of their home country; so talk a little bit about what it was like to move to an entirely different culture. I mean, you went to an all-girls school; you came here [Julie laughs] and went to a “not all-girls” school [Julie laughs]; you know, you have to admit Americans are different than the culture that you grew up in. So talk a little bit about the differences.
JULIE: Oh yeah. America’s a very different—it was kind of like a culture shock for me, as well as my brother. I mean, I had grown up with an American dad, so, in some—and I visited America numerous times—but living here was totally different way of life. Especially the weather. My god, it killed me. The heat was something you had to get used to, but I think that’s mainly just Texas. But just the way of life is different than it is. It’s a different pace, and different focus. Maybe that’s being in the South, too, whereas it’s, you know, the, quote unquote, “Bible belt”; but I never went to school with Christians—maybe out of my class of 40 there was maybe two other friends that were Christians. So in that respect it was difficult too, coming to, like, a “super-religious” place. That was difficult, and as Andy said, going from an all-girls school where I’d been with basically my core of best friends from the time I was four, and then saying all of the sudden, “Oh, see y’all, I’m movin’ to Texas.” So remember that first day, walking in to—we went to a private high school—walking in to that school and I had no idea what to wear. I had never been given the choice to wear anything to school before; I’d always worn a uniform, so that just seemed crazy to me. So basically I think what I ended up wearing that day was basically my own clothes that looked like my uniform. This pleated skirt and this blouse thing, and man, looking back that was a terrible decision. But anyway…
ANDY: Well I can actually chip in here a little bit, because—
JULIE: [Laughs.] Yeah, you say your part.
ANDY: A little bit of my backstory was, my family had just moved to this part of East Texas as well. And it was also my first day at this new school…
ANDY: …and this was the first time that Julie and I actually met.
ANDY: And I remember what she was wearing. And to paint a little bit of a picture, she was wearing a pretty long pleated skirt…
JULIE: [Laughs.] Blue, blue.
ANDY: Blue skirt.
JULIE: Light blue.
ANDY: I don’t remember the shirt she was wearing, because over her shirt…
JULIE: [Laughs] Come on now!
ANDY: …she had this crocheted sweater that looked like something my grandmother would have worn.
JULIE: Dude, that was my favorite sweater.
ANDY: And she had these light brown framed ’80s glasses that were like the size of tea cup saucers.
JULIE: Because my dad would not let me get contacts until I was sixteen.
ANDY: So I remember that day.
ANDY: That’s the first day I met Julie.
JULIE: Mmhm. I didn’t have my ears pierced either because I wasn’t allowed to have those pierced either. So this fourth year, this first year in Texas, was liberating for me. I got to wear my own clothes; I finally, by the end of the year, was able to get contacts, was able to get my ears pierced; I was living the high life, man!But it was very different going to school over here. It was very different going to school with boys. I’d never really been around boys before, or known what to think about boys. Never really liked boys before, or anything like that. So I was able to find a couple good friends that I was able to go through the year with, but for me it was a hard year.
ANDY: Talk a little bit about—you were pretty outgoing person in that year that you were here. You know, you and your group of friends were pretty—I wouldn’t say you were crazy in a bad sense of the word, but you were, you know, you guys were pretty wild, and—
JULIE: Yeah, we were sixteen!
ANDY: You had a lot of fun, and would you say that you kind of got out of your shell a little bit that year, or is that kind of the way you had always been with your friends?
JULIE: No, I would say I definitely came out of my shell. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what to do, I was really nervous about it, but…
ANDY: And you were really shy, the first few weeks of school. You were extremely shy.
JULIE: Yeah, cause I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I was in a different country. Like three weeks ago I was in my boarding school with all my friends that were girls, and wore kilts. And now I’m in East Texas, and there’s boys everywhere, and there’s girls wearing shorts, and flip-flops, and it was kind of like eye-opening for me. But yeah, by the end of the year I think I had kind of developed my own personality and like you said, kind of come out of my shell. And by the end of the year, I was really enjoying it. And honestly, I totally switched around and didn’t want to go home.
ANDY: What impact do you think this had on you mentally? Not necessarily directly with your OCD, but kind of, you know, in some ways you kind of grew up that year…
ANDY: …you kind of found yourself…
ANDY: And kind of knew how you wanted to be. And so, just kind of talk about that a little bit.
JULIE: I’m not sure what to say on that one. Kinda took me off guard with that one. But I definitely became happier in myself. Because I think being here, my parents gave me a little more freedom, and a little more leeway; let me do a few more things, and so I liked being out there. And I liked being with my friends and going to games and hanging out with people. And I mean, I wasn’t doing anything bad either. At that stage I hadn’t started my rebellion. I didn’t start my rebellion till I went home, but… .
ANDY: And I guess that’s kinda why I wanted you to talk a little bit about it, is because I know where we’re going with this.
ANDY: And so I’m kind of trying to understand what happened. You know, something happened the year that you were in the US that triggered, when you went back, you know, the rest of the story that we’re going to talk about.
ANDY: And so, do you know what that is? I mean, have you ever thought about, you know, because you were one person before you came to America your sophomore year…
ANDY: …you turned into this other person,
ANDY: …I think, in my opinion, you kind of grew up and found yourself,
ANDY: …and then you went back to Ireland and you became a totally different person. [Julie laughs.] And so, do you know, have you ever thought about what happened, or what it could be that caused this change?
JULIE: No, I’ve never really thought about it. I think that it had more to do with my being disrupted. I was disrupted to come to Texas, and I didn’t want to; and then I found out that I really did like it, and that I had friends here, and… I was just getting used to it, and I was just getting happy, coming out of myself, and then I got yanked back again. And I got my life all yanked out from under me again. And I think that may have had something to do with it, because when I got home to Ireland after that year, I realized that I had missed out on a lot while I was gone. And I came back and I felt different when I came back to Ireland, because, it’s kind of hard to explain, but I felt like a different person. And the person that I necessarily had become I didn’t really want to be, or I didn’t really feel like I fit in back home in Ireland. Because my friends had all been there and been together for fourth year while I was in Texas. And so they all got closer, and they all grew up, and they all had their personalities change and come out of themselves and so forth like I did, but my experience was totally different than theirs, so when I came home and all my normal friends were there, they had all changed different than I had changed. They had changed in that now they were interested in boys, they were interested in going out and partying, they were interested in going out and drinking, and I had changed in that I had perhaps succumbed to the maybe American way of things, where it’s all about going out and having fun, or in my high school since it was a Christian high school it was all about being with your friends, having good clean fun; but, you know, loving God and being a Christian at the same time. And I think…
ANDY: And that’s not what it’s like…
JULIE: No, that’s…
ANDY: … in Ireland.
JULIE: … not at all what it’s like in Ireland, I mean…
ANDY: …not saying either one of those is bad or good.
ANDY: But they’re totally different world views.
JULIE: They’re totally different. Because people in my life have said—this will sound crazy; It sounds crazy to me now—but people in my life have said, on numerous occasions, that Christianity is an American invention. So, when I came over here, and I was able to, quote unquote, “find myself”, I developed as a Christian. And then I went back to Ireland, where everybody was like, “Um, you’re not going out and drinking? You don’t want to go to this party tonight?” So I felt totally out of place with my friends. And I’d only been gone for a year. So it was a very important year.
ANDY: Well we’ve kind of already gone there, but now we’re going to begin, you know, you were in the United States for a year. That’s when we kind of met, at school. Not kind of—that’s when we met. And we never really started dating, but we did like each other.
JULIE: Tried holding my hand once, and I freaked out, and ripped up everything you’d ever given me.
JULIE: I didn’t know what a boy was. [Laughs.]
ANDY: Well… . And so, let’s go ahead and move back to Ireland.
JULIE: Moving back.
ANDY: Talk about—a lot of stuff happened in the next two years.
ANDY: Start wherever you want, and just tell—there’s a lot of this story that I actually don’t even know—so, if you could just start… you know, you’ve already talked about when you first came back and how your friends had changed.
ANDY: it seems like things happened with your parents as well. It seems like there was a change there. I don’t know if maybe your dad was gone for the entire year you were in the US, and so you had freedom, and then when you went back to Ireland you kind of had to go back to being a little kid. I don’t know exactly what happened, you know those are some of the thoughts that I’ve had.
ANDY: Start wherever you want.
JULIE: Sure. So, after that year, like I said, I went back to Ireland; went back to my same school. All my same friends were there, but like I said, they were different, and I was different—because I’d had my maturing experience in East Texas, in a Christian school, and they’d had their maturing experience there in Dublin, where they’d always been. So I came back and I felt like a little bit of the outsider. Like, I knew who all these girls were, and they were all my best friends, but they somehow seemed different, because I’d been gone for a year. So I think I felt the immediate need to fit in with them. So I came back after a year and I found out that they were going out partying, they were going out drinking, and you know, kissing boys, and yadda yadda yadda, and so, to me, I immediately took on board that that’s what I wanted to do. Because I wanted to be with my friends. And I didn’t want to feel left out after being gone for a year. So I just started doing everything that they started doing. And basically that’s where it started. That’s where the whole rebellion started. And then I found out that once I started doing it that man, I really liked it, and this is who I was; and that maybe that year in Texas, maybe I should just forget about that, because maybe that was just stupid and maybe this is who I really am. And I think what happened—you mentioned at home, being different. I think what happened was that I was alone in the house now. My brother was still in Texas. He was in college. I was by myself. So, the control, the strictness, the rules, all of it—instead of being divided between two children, it was all now directed at me. Harder than ever.
ANDY: Plus you had kind of come out into your own a little bit.
ANDY: So you were kind of used to having a little bit of freedom.
ANDY: And that was kind of taken away. And then, also—not to change subjects, if you weren’t done with what you’re talking about—
JULIE: No, I was.
ANDY: —but, this is also the point in time when you started day boarding, which I thought you had done before.
JULIE: No. Yep.
ANDY: And I think that’s a pretty important—not a change necessarily, in your life—but it’s a pretty important thing that happened, as a result of, you know, whatever, so talk about that a little bit.
JULIE: Well, I got home and, like I said, my brother wasn’t there. So even though our life was difficult with rules and strictness and control and all that, it was always a little bit easier when my brother was there. So I got home; I was in fifth year, I had two years left—fifth year and sixth year—and I got home and I started thinking, “Man, my brother’s not here, I’m all alone now; it’s gonna be like twice as strict. I do not want to be here by myself.” My dad was there a lot; he wasn’t really traveling as much that last year after we got back, so I wanted to be away from him and away from home as long as possible. So, since I wanted to be with my friends, and I wanted to feel fit in again, and I wanted to be away from home, I decided I’d be what’s called a “day boarder”. So basically what that is, I’m not a full boarder, in as, I don’t stay the night and I don’t stay on weekends, but after school I wouldn’t go home. I would stay there. We would have our sports practice, we’d have our games, we’d have our matches. Then we would eat dinner there. Then we would do what we called “prep” there, which is homework basically. And we would have our snacks, we would have our tea there and everything, and my mother wouldn’t pick me up until ten thirty at night.So for me, that was a way of having some control of my own life. Whereas I could get away from my parents and I could do what I wanted when I was at school. I could be with my friends, I could act the way that I wanted to, and my parents would have as little control as possible. Now sometimes when my dad was gone, I wouldn’t stay. I would just be at home with my mom. Because it was a lot easier when it was just me and my mom. But when my dad was there, you can be sure as heck that I was day boarding, and I was there till ten thirty every night.
ANDY: This is about the time in your life when you started dating. Correct?
ANDY: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JULIE: [Laughs.] Yeah, this is really awkward, talking about that in front of your husband. Um, so, on….
ANDY: There’s’ probably not much that I don’t already know.
JULIE: No there’s…
ANDY: And you don’t have to say anything you don’t feel comfortable saying.
JULIE: No, there’s nothing you don’t know. You know everything. I’m not worried. You know, when you start going out and drinking and partying, and going to clubs, and having fake IDs and all that stuff, obviously you start thinking about boys. And so, couple of them my friends were hanging out with had boyfriends, or were dating or so forth. So it definitely, I think flipped the switch of really ramping up the OCD when I started realizing that there were guys out there that didn’t treat me like my father treated me. And when I realized that there were men (or boys, really, at that age) of the opposite sex that liked me for being me, and not tried to control me or tell me what to do, then that’s when I started to draw the dichotomy between my parents.
ANDY: You didn’t necessarily realize what you were doing…
ANDY: …fully at the time.
JULIE: No, I didn’t. I only realized that upon reflection. But that’s when the dichotomy came between bad and good. Because that’s what OCD is all about. It’s about bad and it’s about good; it’s about wrong and it’s about right. Black and white. And this is when I started to realize that there was a clear dichotomy between who I was and who my parents wanted me to be.
ANDY: And now we’re going to get to the really fun part.
ANDY: After about a year and a half, you were getting pretty close to graduation,
ANDY: …I’m not sure if that’s what it’s called in Ireland, but you were getting close to finishing school.
ANDY: And needing to go on to do something else.
ANDY: Which I know was a very difficult time in your life. It’s pretty much when everything kind of…
JULIE: Fell apart?
ANDY: Got about the worst it’s ever been in your life…
ANDY: …If I’m not overstating too much.
JULIE: No, you’re not.
ANDY: Talk a little bit about the—I believe it was in a span of about three or four months,
ANDY: Maybe a little longer than that—
ANDY: So kind of talk about the events that happened up into the point when you came to the US for college.
JULIE: [Laughs.] Eventually, like I said, fifth year and sixth year was when I started going out there—and you know, partied and having different friends and realizing that I was not who my parents wanted me to be; but I was happy being me—and came to sixth year (which is the final year, and you have to start making decisions about where to go to college and yadda yadda yadda), and I didn’t want to come to America. Because I came to America once, and look what happened: I came back, and I felt left out. I was totally different. My parents had always pushed me along the religious lines, that you have to go to a religious school. You have to go to a Christian school. It’s just not acceptable to go somewhere that’s not a Christian college. And where the Christian colleges were, the Christian colleges was in America. So basically my parents told me, “You have to come to America to go to college.” And that did not make me happy. I took my SATs and scored pretty good on those, but I did it because my parents told me. There was no way I was coming to America. Eventually I’d been dating this same guy for a while—like a year or a year and a half or something—and at that time, you know, when you’re young you think you’re totally infatuated and that you want to be together forever and all that crap. But I didn’t want to go to America. Number one I didn’t want to leave my friends, number two I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend, number three I didn’t want to go to a friggin’ Christian school, where I couldn’t smoke and I couldn’t drink and I couldn’t smoke weed and I couldn’t do all the stuff; I couldn’t listen to music, I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t do anything! I was thinking like I was going to go to a convent, basically, that’s the way I thought. So, it got worse and worse and worse. The OCD was at it’s very maximum limit. I just decided one day, “You know what, screw this! I am not going to America, this is not what I want to do.” And so, I decided to run away from home. It wasn’t really running away from home, because I was eighteen; I could do what I wanted, but technically that’s what I did. I had a friend, an older married friend, and I called her up and I said, “Hey, can I come stay with you for a while till I get my life together? Because I’m not going to America.” And this was like a month, three weeks before I was supposed to start college here in Texas. And so I wrote my parents a letter, and I told them, I said, “I can’t do this. This is not who I am. I don’t want to go to America. I want to be who I am. I want to stay here. And so I’m leaving; don’t come look for me, because I don’t want to be found.” So my parents were both at work one day and I packed up all my crap and I walked—I don’t know what it was, four miles—to my friend’s house; walked all the way back, got the rest of my stuff, walked all the way back to her house, and I left. And I was gone. And honestly I’d never felt better about it. But I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. And… turns out, my father is over-protective and strict that he was, that he, when he found the letter, took that as a huge insult. And so he sent the cops out to look for me. So I was staying with my friend. And a couple days later—hadn’t heard anything—couple days later (I mean he, my parents knew we were friends, so I guess he’d searched everywhere else) couple days later, I see cop cars start circling her house. I’m like, “What the heck is going on?” I didn’t know what had happened. So, I knew there was getting pretty close, cops circling every now and then, and I was going out and, you know, being with my boyfriend. And his parents even told me at one point that, you know, “We understand that your parents are not letting you be who you want to be, so you are more than welcome to come and stay here if you want.” But I decided I would stay with my friend. And then one day we saw my Dad coming up and knocking on the door of my friend’s house. We saw him walking up and so she had another lady who was in the house with us at the time, and my dad was walking up to the house so fast we couldn’t get out the whole message. All we said was, “Tell him that we’re not here, that Julie’s not here.” What we meant was, “Tell him that Julie is not here and has never been here, and we don’t know what you’re talking about.” But apparently she didn’t understand that. So my dad knocked on the door and said, “Is Julie here?” and instead of the lady saying “No, Julie’s never been here, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, “Oh yeah, her and my friend Susan went to Bray.” Which is like another town. And my dad is like, “You mean so she’s been here?” and the other lady was like, “Yeah.” And I almost went through the friggin’ roof. I could not believe that she said that. So looking back on it, that was the turning point, because if she said I was never there, then I would never end up where I am today. But then my dad got the cops to go to the Bray, which is another town, and circle around there, and couldn’t find me. And then of course the phone calls started. And my parents kept calling me and saying, “We demand to talk to Julie, yadda yadda yadda,” and then they got my brother to call me, they got my grandparents to call me, they got anybody under the sun that they thought they could use to get me out of there to start calling. And basically there’s only so many phone calls you can take before you just, you know, “Screw it, I’ll just talk to them. Whatever.” We decided that my dad—my dad decided—that we were going to have, I don’t know what you call it, an “intermediary meeting”, or something. So we arranged a time. We arranged a time where we would meet, and we would talk, and so we set that up, and me and my friend went and my parents were there, and basically I just told them, “Listen, I don’t want to go to America. That’s why I ran away from home. That’s why I left, because I knew you wouldn’t understand, and I knew all that’s acceptable to you is to go to America. But you have to realize, I don’t want to go to America. And I’m eighteen years old, and I’m technically allowed to make my own decision. I’m not going to be happy if I go to America. I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet, but I know I do not want to go to America. I want to stay here. This is my home, and I like it here. And I don’t want to leave.” You know, to my surprise, my parents were a little bit more understanding than I thought they would be, and they said, “Okay, well, you know, come on home.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not coming home. I don’t want to be there. That’s not where I want to be.” So they said that (at the back of my parent’s mission, there’s a couple of apartments back there—you know, where missionaries stay and stuff) so they said, “Well you can stay back there,” and I said, “Okay, that’s acceptable.” So I stayed back there and my parents said, “Okay, well, we’ll work to get you into college here, and we’ll get you some driving lessons,” (because you can’t drive till you’re eighteen over in Ireland), so, “get you some driving lessons, and we’ll work with you.” And basically they said, “Okay, you don’t have to go to America.” And I was like, “Oh my god, wow.” So–
ANDY: Now, just to add a little bit to the story.
ANDY: You had taken your leaving certification at this point.
JULIE: [Laughs.] Yes.
ANDY: Didn’t necessarily have the results that you would’ve liked.
ANDY: Can you talk a little bit about that?
ANDY: Because I think that had a lot to do with what your final decision was.
JULIE: Yeah, that had a lot to do with it. I’d taken my leaving cert, but while I was supposed to be studying and preparing for my leaving cert, and was too busy going out and partying, in the back of my mind I was like, “Well, you know what? I’m going to college in America anyway; I’ve already taken my SAT, I’ve already been accepted into the college, why the heck do I want to spend all this time studying when I could just be out having a good time?” So for my leaving cerficate, I didn’t study. At all. Hardly at all. I mean, it was, as a person with OCD, and as an adult looking back on that, and how hard those tests was, I’m just disgusted with myself. But, you know, I was young, so that’s what I thought. So after I moved into those apartments at the back of my parent’s mission, we started thinking about college and so forth, and looking at my leaving cert results—which were terrible—and realizing…. The way it works in Ireland is, the amount of points you get on your leaving cert correspond to the amount of points that’s required to get in for a certain subject in college. So basically, out of all the things I chose, the only thing I could get accepted to in college—because of my not studying for the leaving cert—was bartending. I could get into the local, I don’t know, technical school or whatever, and I could learn to be a bartender. So, yeah. [Laughs.] So, back to the other part of the story. I was living in the apartment, and this all happened just within a matter of a few weeks. I was still going out with my boyfriend; I was still, you know, talking to my friend on the phone, trying to decide what to do with my life, and my parents had at this point decided they were going to call up the university here and decide to cancel me, cancel my reservations and everything. So basically, they had flown over the week before to come here to East Texas and to kinda come here and “unenroll” me. And to say, “Well, she’s got these scholarships, and we’re supposed to be paying this much, but, turns out she’s not coming.” So they were over here in America, and I was thinking—I don’t know how else to explain it—but one night I was just sitting there, alone, and I was just thinking, “You know what”—it’s like I was looking down the road in my life, and I was thinking—“If I don’t do this, If I don’t go to America and get into a really good college, and kind of start my life over, I’m going to make nothing of my life. If I stay here I’m only gonna go to school to be a bartender; I’m going to have no future.” And I just got this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t know what it was, and even though I hated it, and with all my soul didn’t want to do it, I knew that it was the right decision to go to Texas, and to go to college. That’s all I can say. It was an overwhelming feeling, and I knew that I had to come to Texas. And I, that night, called up my parents, and they were already here. And I said, “Don’t cancel my enrollment so soon, because I’m coming over.” So basically, they was like, “Okay, well”—obviously, they were super, super excited. So, I came over, they flew me over; I think I got here on a Monday. And we’re in Dallas, my parents bought me a car, and we drove down here to East Texas. We stayed the night, drove down here to East Texas the next morning, enrolled in college the next morning, and the rest is history. [Laughs.]
ANDY: That kind of wraps up this leg of the journey.
JULIE: Yeah, it’s a long one.
ANDY: Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff in there, and I think there’s probably a lot more that we didn’t cover that we’ll probably need to come back to at some point in the future. But that kind of gives you an overall background, at least through Julie’s college years.
ANDY: With that being said, we’re pretty much out of time for this episode again. And we’re going to stop there. So, if you want to contact Julie or I, for any reason, there’s a link on the show page, on the website, rethinkreviews.com/livingwithOCD. [Transcriber’s note: Andy and Julie’s current website is at www.ColdFlyer.com.] There’s a “email me” link, or “contact us” link; you can send us an email, and give us comments or questions, or leave comments on the show. Thanks for listening once again, and see you here next week.
Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder