My New Roommate (& How He’s With Helping My OCD)

We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.
― 14th Dalai Lama

A couple of months ago, I moved in with my boyfriend. That next milestone in a relationship is a scary one! The last time I did that, the situation ended up exacerbating my anxiety disorder (at the time I did not know what I had). This time however, is a very different story. I was diagnosed at the time that my current partner came into the picture, and from the very start, he has been supportive, comforting, and when the situation calls for it, tough on me for my own good (he often refuses to reassure me in my Pure O moments). I never imagined, however, how much living with someone in a healthy living situation could give me the extra boost I needed in my struggle with OCD.Read More »

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Is This Depression?

Every so often in my life, I withdraw. I don’t care too much about anything. I don’t care to eat, exercise, read, or be with loved ones. It is hard to focus on my job. I become apathetic about school well beyond the usual. I don’t even care to dream and wish. I see no future For myself. It is like this strange blanket of fog comes over me and follows me around for a bit. I sleep a lot or watch lots of TV. Everything feels threatening. I am confused. Is it OCD? Depression? GAD? All of them?

I think I am a pretty energetic person. I am normally a hopeful person. My blog is testament to the fact that I am full of dreams and am motivated to “just keep swimming”. I think I have a wonderful and exciting life! So what is this? I have had some very bad obsessions lately, so maybe that has set me up for this. Sorry guys, more questions than hopeful revelations in this blog. It is a very strange thing, not to hope or care or enjoy life.

The Big Decision: Taking A Break From School

This weekend I took a really big step in the right direction towards being kind to myself and enabling myself to get in kick-butt condition for fighting anxiety and OCD. I decided, 6 days before the big deadline that was supposed to define my purpose in life, the great application that I spent 2 years as a post-bac and many sleepless nights preparing for, that I was taking a break from school. I would not be going through with my graduate applications this cycle. I’m still processing what it all means, but the gift of a year to myself is a big deal! I’m excited. We live in a world that finds less and less value in being kind to oneself. This is perhaps the most rebellious thing I have ever done 😉 I am looking forward to OCD support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, investigating my options with medication, and learning as much as I can about OCD. “Time” will no longer be an obstacle, for now I will have plenty of it. And I have no doubts at all that when I return to grad apps, I will be a healthier, happier, and more mindful me.

I’m a Doormat to OCD

That’s the truth. I let OCD walk all over me. I’m kind of tired of hearing me whine about it myself.

I have just finished walking. After I drive, I go on walks. I don’t want to go on them, but it’s the compulsion to retrace part of the route I just drove because OCD is telling me I might have hit someone with my car and not realized it. So when I have exhausted the  driving in circles bit of the ritual, I decide to walk it. That’s a lot of time, but I tell myself to turn it into something good. Exercise! Right? :-/

Today I walked further than I have ever walked before. Along the main street, I walked until OCD was satisfied, but then I wondered if I had dropped something. No idea what that could have been. I know I did not drop anything. But OCD thinks it might have been my birth certificate or something ridiculous. I let OCD do it again, chisel away at my life again, hour by hour each day. And as I was walking home, I reflected on the sheer size that OCD has scooped out of my daily life. It’s huge. OCD is centerstage. And then I reflected on what I actually do about it. Nothing.

I have great OCD workbooks, unread and scattered about my room. I have a voicemail from the psychiatrist’s office, the second one they’ve left for my follow-up appointment to get started on my treatment plan. I guess it’s just time. I have to face the music. I have to give things up. I might have to give up straight A’s. I will have to give up money. I can’t keep worshiping at the altar of school and work. They don’t deserve my limitless devotion. Instead, I think I do. I think I deserve my time. I think my family deserves to have me be myself again. I think money spent on meds and therapy will be a great investment. I will do anything my boss or my professors demand, and my OCD, but I won’t do anything for me? Hmm…

The First Panic Attack

I had my first panic attack last night. Over something ridiculous. I am ashamed to post this (luckily, I blog anonymously).  A lot of people will read this post and roll their eyes in disgust. 

Ever since I was a small child, school has been my identity.  I need praise. I need perfection. I push myself to the extreme to get it. That was true when I was 7, and it is true now, and I am nearly 24. I don’t know how to define myself with anything else. It is my life. I have been superhuman in the realm of learning for basically my entire life. I suck at sports. I don’t make much money. I’m not the pretty one or the funny one. I even suck at being a Christian.  I have no talents or hobbies. As my good friend told me today, I have put all of my self-esteem and identity into one very familiar and, for me, stable bucket.

The problem is that when you are 24, you have other things you need to juggle besides your university coursework. Life happens, and you sometimes need to give your school work less attention and effort than you want to. Most people don’t have panic attacks about that. They just realize that paying the bills or maintaining relationships have much heavier consequence than messing up an assignment or exam. They make choices.

Last night, I basically fell short of my academic standards by a looonnnggg shot. It was pathetic. And the moment I realized it, I felt light-headed, my stomach hurt, my hands felt numb and shook, and my throat closed up. I felt out of control and wondered if I would die if I did not calm down.  I found out that this was a panic attack. According the definition, I think I have technically had lots of small panic attacks while driving, but this was the first time I wondered if I was having some kind of allergic reaction and my throat was closing up. 

I am alive. The point though, is not to share that I had a panic attack. I guess the point is for me to ask what is wrong with me? What kind of distorted worldview do I have that submitting something one minute late and sloppy for the first time in my life is what it takes to make my throat close up? Let’s not even go into the crying myself to sleep and then staying in bed all day today. I felt like my whole being was about to crumble with this one incident. I was no longer Supergirl in the only part of my life that has consistently gone well for me. I don’t know why my reaction to this objectively tiny event is maladaptive, over the top, and so uncontrollable for me . Probably sleep deprivation and the loads of coffee were not helpful. Clearly something needs to change. My entire well-being can’t reside in the basket of academia. My brain needs to see the world differently. 

Can I learn to be happy without things being OK? Perfect? What really matters in life? How do I start to teach my brain to see the world and myself in much healthier ways? 

But What If I’m Right?

It feels like fear. Not natural reasonable fear in the face of a visible threat. It’s just this stupid nagging voice at the back of my mind, in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes, I know it is OCD and anxiety. Other times, I really don’t know! That drives me nuts, when I can’t tell what is OCD and what truly requires my attention. Why can’t I be a bit more devil-may-care!?? I admire those people. They know they are going to be alright at the end of it.

And it strikes me out of nowhere at the worst possible times. Like right now, when I am trying to study for an exam that promises to do injury to the best of students.

I can’t shake the fact that this little nagging voice ends up being my true intuition 50% of the time and OCD-related monkey business with no foundation in reality the other 50% of the time. To make matters worse, I  think that even when it is correct, that some mistake I fear I have made really happened, I can’t tell if my OCD still distorted things because the crazy devastating consequence of that mistake is nowhere to be seen. Yes, the mistake happened. Was it a horrible ending? Not at all. The event I dreaded was real, but none of the consequences appeared to be. In fact, I don’t think anybody noticed or cared but me.

Let me give you an example:

I recently noticed a new employee at work completing on online learning module that I didn’t recognize. I knew it was required of everyone within 30 days of hire, and so I assumed I had done it, but that little voice inside of me said something wasn’t quite right and I’d better check it out. But I’ve been working here for almost a year! If my fears are right, someone would have told me. So I moved on. It must be OCD, making up some reason for me to get in trouble and be fired. 3 months later, I log in to my account and see that though I have no outstanding training, I totally did NOT do that required module! I was right!!! I had done a different one. No one noticed, but I panicked. It wasn’t my fault, it was all HR, but I panicked. So after 8 hours at the office, I came home and spent 2 more hours on  Friday night finishing that training and one more just to be safe. Who does that?

Sometimes, however, I am wrong. Like the time I thought maybe it was quite possible that my scantron for the final had slipped out of my professor’s pile and she would give me an F, so I emailed her. Of course, my scantron was safe and sound.

This morning, this beautiful Sunday morning, when I have to study  and run errands and go to church, I wake up and BAM! Suddenly I remember that about 3 or 4 years ago when I was a young undergrad,  I and an ex-boyfriend had tried to set up a webpage and paypal to collect donations and raise awareness for an endangered organization in our community. I recall being very wary of the idea suddenly and then being too busy; I wanted to leave fundraising in the hands of a separate group who clearly had a better handle on the issue. I also recall before hand trying to make a donation myself and the paypal link I made not working. Finally, I recall leaving the website in my ex’s very incapable hands after deleting the link to the paypal, etc. But he wanted me to leave the account open, as he still believed it could make a difference, so I left everything with him.

Cut to the present, and my big fear is that my bank account had somehow been linked to that paypal, the the ex idiot used it unknowingly (because he would do that), forgot about it, and then when our campaign to save that organization failed and all the separate efforts in our community shutdown, that somehow some donation money was left sitting in my account or in his paypal and we all didn’t notice. Because the details are so fuzzy from time passing, I can’t be certain. I want to scan every bank statement from that year, but those statements from years ago are no longer available. I even asked my mom, who when I was an undergraduate student, monitored my bank statements as a condition for helping me through  my undergraduate education financially, & she assured me she would have noticed.  I have called Paypal and they assure me that my bank account is not associated with the paypal of my ex.  I recall a big $0 and faulty donation link. I remember tying up loose ends. But what ifs abound.  Freak accidents happen. I knew I was thorough, but…what if, what if, what if…and I go to burn at the stake. Because that is how all OCD or not OCD-related fears end in my head. I must ensure nothing bad happened.  How unjust if someone donated money and it didn’t go where it was supposed to go?! My brain can’t bear the idea. What would people think of me?! I would need to fix it. Check and fix. Check and fix.

Wow. I feel loads better writing that out. The “what if I’m right” remains, but I kind of feel like I can move on with my life today. Let’s say, worst case scenario, the odds were defied and my worst fears are true. I was a very young individual with the best intentions; my guess is I probably won’t burn at the stake for something so small and unlikely from so long ago. I have no choice but to move on. I have done all I can to satisfy my anxiety. I could go order those ancient bank statements right now & scan every line, “just to check” & satisfy OCD , but life is moving forward and I need to as well.

Mindfulness Moment: A Corn Maze

One year ago, the psychologist who diagnosed me and helped me on the road to recovery during my darkest time asked me where my mind went when I thought of a safe haven. Where did I want to be?

I told him, the first thing that came to my mind was  autumn. A fall day. And I was at the corn maze at the local pumpkin patch. It’s huge, the one in my area. And I love all things fall, from pumpkin spice lattes to boots, to turning leaves. At the time this question was posed to me, I was on the edge  because my brain perceived the world to be ending for me.  So the idea that I could be happy, carefree, and beautiful during the holiday season, fully enjoying every part of autumn with the people I love, was a beautiful dream to me. It seemed, at the time, to be unattainable. Like heaven.

I just realized that my boyfriend and I are going to the local pumpkin patch and corn maze. And it’s autumn and the leaves are turning. And it’s been a year since the day my psychologist asked me that question. My OCD, while still a pesky jerk who invades every aspect of my life, has not killed me yet. I’m going. If I choose, I get to have that dream and that safe haven in a few hours.  If you read my last post, you know that I have allowed myself to slip back into a precarious place. As  result, I’ve been pretty pessimistic, ungrateful, and melancholic. How shocking, now that I remember that conversation and that vision. I can choose to have a mindfulness moment right now, and I’m going to.  I still have a wonderful life.