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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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…

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.

What Have I Been Doing?

I had this idea.

The fall began and I decided I didn’t really need to pay attention to my OCD, since my busy schedule would consume me. I felt like it was working. I have been sufficiently distracted, in a strange and unhealthy sort of way. I don’t mind taking extra time to redrive routes and recheck doors. I can schedule that in. I don’t have time for CBT or to meditate. I just need to keep going, check things off of my to-do list and let OCD do it’s thing in the background; I will deal with it later, when I’m not worried about deadlines.  I have literally stopped everything proactive about fighting my OCD, from workbooks and blogs and seeing mental health professionals , to even simple self-care.

I just gave in. The obsessions and compulsions are now running me full-time; I have no mental energy left to fight them. But I didn’t care until today, and I think I just didn’t notice. I was getting comfortable with OCD in the driver’s seat, as long as I was getting my to-do list done.

Today, I ended up reaching the end of my rope. I did that crying on the floor of my room uncontrollably thing, all the while wondering why I was having this outburst. How strange! I really didn’t understand why. Why is my brain like this? Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel no motivation to be better? Why am I crying? Why am I irritable? Why does every noise, sight, sound, thought and person make me want to go run into an isolation chamber for an undisclosed period of time? Why don’t I care about anything or anyone? I have felt this way before. It comes and goes in cycles. I don’t know what triggers it and I feel very much that my emotions are out of my own control during those times.

Something hit me as I wondered why. I realized that for the past few months, I have been performing all compulsions without resistance, to the full extent.  I met every demand my OCD made. I would do anything to get my OCD to shut-up. I now realize that in doing that, the cost has slowly but surely gotten bigger each time I have given in. I have just gotten back from spending a full 4 hours straight on several compulsions and obsessions. Wow.

I reopened one of my OCD self-help books and am thinking of calling to bump up that appointment with my psychiatrist. What the hell am I doing? I don’t think I can put things off anymore.

Wandering/Blubbering In the Wilderness

Don’t quote me on this, but I vaguely remember many a bible story and study about the Israelite people, newly freed from bondage in Egypt, only to wander in the wild desert for 40 years. God was purposely withholding from the people the “promised land”.  They wandered aimlessly in circles to their death, paying for their grumbling, ingratitude, and lack of faith…or something like that. They are freed from slavery in the face of impossible odds, then complain about the food on their trek to freedom. They turn from giving God their thanks to inventing more convenient deities. They even choose to run from the promised land at some point, overcome by fear of the work they might have to do to claim it.  Oh, look . About.com has outlined this story, which can be found in the book of Numbers, since I’m pretty sure I got some of that out of order.

The point is, for some reason, my moping about today ended in my thinking of that old story. I’ve been having a rough summer, as I’ve written before, and for no good reason. My checking is at an ALL TIME HIGH and I waste hours each day. I have not been fighting it very well and often feel like just giving in. In addition, I feel like I am rotting inside and am very hard to please, and I’ve got no good reason. It reminds me a bit of something I went through in college, a year when I suddenly often found myself crying on the bathroom floor with no good reason. It was the same then as it is now: I have lots of reasons to be happy with my life, so why am I so often so unhappy?  Actually, there may be some reason:  I do know that the year I was crying like that on the floor until someone had to come get me, I was beginning to do my OCD rituals. I cringe when I remember the mess I was on that bathroom floor; my poor ex had to mop me up and probably thought he had a nutjob for a girlfriend.  I don’t understand why I did not catch it at the time, that maybe this was when the changes in my brain were first happening. I’d never checked like that before, and had never been that anxious. But something happened in me that summer, and I just sank into it and ignored it until it became what it is today.

So is there something to this pattern? My feeling overwhelmed by the anxiety until I end up blubbering with no known trigger? Don’t get me wrong; I’m trying to have a sense of humor about my behaviors and my OCD, because I need to lighten the load, but I in no way am saying “blubbering” and “no good reason” as a way to demean or misrepresent the very real impact of an anxiety disorder. I know what’s up. I have a very real problem, one with behavioral and biochemical roots and reasons, like any other health problem. My health problem does not make me break out in a rash or mess with my blood sugar (not directly and not yet anyway), but instead my brain is constantly sounding the alarm, be it a loud siren or a never ending buzz. But the noise and the anxiety is neverending, and that constant feeling in my body, that constant thought process in my brain which results in actions that disrupt my life daily, it drains the batteries and leaves me feeling pretty hopeless.

Anyway, back to my thoughts about my current wilderness: I am here and I can’t undo it. I am back where I once was, breaking out in sobs for “no good reason” and letting anxiety wreck my life and my spirit.  I am human, and I will find myself in my desert again, but if there is anything I retained from that Sunday school lesson, it is these two things: 1) I need to remember God is here to help me but 2) I really need to help myself too, as much as I can, and not make destructive choices that will keep me wandering until the years tick by. I can’t be afraid of the hard work it’s going to take to get to my promised land.

Time to sleep, so I can try again tomorrow.