Tag Archives: OCD

Just Enjoy the Walk

My mom’s dog Chauncey is allergic to bees.

We didn’t know this until he got stung for the first time a few years ago, which unfortunately, was when I was taking him out for a walk. His little 13-lb body swelled up within minutes to the point that he looked like a hideous, wrinkly, bloated caricature of himself and he started having trouble breathing.

I swooped him up and ran the half mile back to my mom’s house. She wasn’t home–which is why I was walking him–and so I threw him in my car and literally sped the 10 minutes to the vet with him cowering and shaking on my lap the hole time. Long story short, he was eventually okay after the vet gave him an emergency shot and sent me home with drugs and an epi-pen for future accidents.

But for the first few months after that, he wanted nothing to do with me taking him for a walk, and any fly that even came within feet of his head made him crazy. Understandably, he was scared it would happen again.

Eventually he got over it and I could walk him again, and while he still is extra alert with bugs, he’s pretty much back to normal. He loves going for walks.

For me, even though I know we have his emergency kit and I take my phone just in case, I’m still scared every time that I walk him.

I still remember that day.

In fact, I still remember “that” day in the sense that I remember all of those days. I remember traumatic things that happened 15 years ago, being stuck in the blackout for three days while living in the heart of Detroit, getting sick and being in the hospital, the day that I lost my job, the stress of this last big “basement filled with water and expensive repairs and cleaning,” experience, etc.

Of course you never forget those things, but with me it’s always been different.

Every time we get a storm, I get neurotic about losing power (and now about my basement flooding again.) Every time I start to slip down, I worry that I’ll end up in the hospital again. Now that I have a job that I love and adore, I’m paranoid it might get taken away.

Nobody puts this stress on me but me, but in a sense I’m always afraid to get stung, afraid to have it all happen again.

This is good in the sense that it makes me prepared. This is bad in the sense that it can also makes my OCD ramp up and I physically wear myself down to try and gain some control, but also suspicious of all the good things, wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.

OK. Now I’m rambling.

But my point–I think–is that sometimes bad things happen because you made a bad decision or sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes good things happen because you work hard or maybe you just caught a break. When either of those things happen, you have to learn to just accept it.

joan

Shit happens. Sunshine happens.

I don’t know what that means but I’m just trying to say that you’ll never forget “those days.” Whether you were seriously ill, lost a job or a loved one, or suffered any type of trauma–you know you’ll never forget. It changes you, but it’s up to you to decide that direction of change.

As for me, through all the stuff that’s happened, I didn’t believe people who told me that things would get better. I wanted to, but when you’re in the middle of whatever that thing is, everything seems so far away.

Now that I’m kind of working on getting to that other side, I realize that they were right (have to insert “knock on wood” because, well, see above.)

Things might now work out exactly as you want them to–or when, but then again, maybe they’ll work out even better than you planned at a time they needed to happen. Whatever it is, you’ll get through it. And when you do and come to unfamilar place of “happy” or maybe “content”, don’t waste time wondering why.

In other words, don’t shit on your sunshine or shine the light on the shit or something kind of like that. Maybe a bit more eloquently, don’t be scared that you’ll get stung again.

Instead, enjoy the walk.

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Balance, Burnout and Other Things That Don’t Start with “B”

A few of you have asked for an update on how things are going with the new job, so instead of a lame attempt at humor today, that’s what you’re going to get.

I’m still really enjoying the new job a lot—and of course, it’s only been a couple of weeks—but there have been so many times I’ve stopped what I was doing and thought, “I get to this for my job. Holy crap.”

But it’s also a bit exhausting.

spiritanimal

Some posts have up to 50 pictures that I need to find, size, source, etc. along with writing the post, formatting it, etc. Seeing as I’m doing 2-5 posts every day, I am just trying to keep my head above water.

This is not a complaint, by the way, but simply a necessary introduction.

Balance

You see, I sometimes struggle with that whole “balance” thing in that my lovely OCD compels me to do ALL THE THINGS right away even though ALL THE THINGS don’t need to be done right away. I see an email or something on my “to-do” list and just want to cross it off, like it’s an itch I need to scratch.

This is great for productivity in that I don’t just shut down my brain or computer when the “traditional” work day is done, but this is not great for everything else in that I don’t just shut down my brain or computer when the “traditional” work day is done. 

It’s in part because I’m going to need to reach an insane amount of page views each month, and I have this nagging thought in my head that this isn’t “real” yet, that the emotional rug is going to be pulled out from under me and I’ll be right back to where I was. It just makes me work even harder.

See above–and my overflowing, “throw it there I’ll get to it later” table–for resulting actions.

I trust that it’s going to take some time to build up speed with things there and eventually I’ll let myself exhale. In the meantime, I’m trying to balance everything else because of that whole, “All work and no play” thing, even if the work does feel like play at times.

And when I get overwhelmed, I remember that I am so fortunate to be where I am. The most toxic part of my work environment now is dealing with Comcast when my email goes out–HATE–and the screaming neighbor kids.

Burnout

That’s where we come to this blog.

I’ll still be writing here, but I think I was getting a little burned out on this even before I started this job. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it—I do—but I don’t enjoy what goes along with it.

You can’t just write a post anymore and expect that people will read it. You have to promote it and invest a lot of time and motivation into playing that game—two things that I have in short supply. It’s also the reason I’ve shelved a draft of a third book I had thought about doing. I just hate the promotion side of things.

With my focus shifted, I’ve been really surprised at how I’ve been able to let those things go.

Before I was stressed if I didn’t have a post ready to go all the time, if my Facebook posts were well-received, etc. That sounds ridiculous, but I put such pressure on myself over a hobby, one that I enjoy but one that is that—just a hobby.

It’s actually kind of freeing. I like having to focus on something else and not worrying about that anymore. But again, that obsessive nature has shifted to work now, and I have to moderate it going forward.

But, a day at a time and I plan on kicking some professional ass.  When I get inspired to blog, I’ll blog. If I don’t, I won’t and won’t worry about it.

Deal? Deal.

Other Things

With that ridiculous ramble aside—I do promise a normal post next time—I thought I would drop a couple links from 22 Words from this week. 

I won’t bore you with all gazillion of them and will share some more at the end of the month–there are some good ones in the works–but here a couple you might enjoy. See you back here in a couple of days. 

48 Amazingly Big-hearted Strangers Who Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

These 30 Hilarious Wedding Photos Never Could Have Been Planned

These Kids Are Too Funny To Be Wrong. Their Parents Must Be So Proud...

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Letting Go

I hesitate to even write about my unemployment situation again because above everything else, I like to keep things light here. It’s a blog, not a diary.

But it’s also impossible to ignore the stress, the panic attacks and the uncertainty that I deal with every day and that some of you might relate to. Plus, people have asked, so funny next time but an update today.

lettinggo

Imagine being stuck at the bottom of a deep, dark hole with no idea how you’re going to make your way out. There are times you can see the sun up above and feel the rays on your face, but yet you are still down in that hole, surrounded by nothing but darkness on every side.

Friends and family walk by and offer heartfelt advice and encouragement, sometimes throwing a rope down to try and pull you back up. Grateful, you eagerly grab a hold of both the literal and figurative lifeline, only to find that it’s not strong enough and eventually you crash back down.

You try and remember that the next rope that gets thrown your way could be the one that saves you, but not knowing when that might be—or if it will ever show up, for that matter—makes looking up pretty hard.

It’s exhausting.

It’s disheartening.

It’s unemployment.

The thing is, I’m someone who functions best when I’m productive and creative. When I get on a roll—whether it’s just tweets, a blog post or something professionally—I feel great. I feel useful. I feel productive.

One of the biggest frustrations with unemployment—aside from not making money, of course—is that I don’t have anywhere to really focus all of that creative energy. Granted, hours of my day are often spent sending out emails, researching job boards and trying to find something new, but I’m a big fan of instant gratification. Work hard—see results.

Well, it’s been two months and yeah…not so much.

Every time I open my email or see a new posting, my heart lifts before dropping down. There have been several occasions when I was certain that I would be a perfect fit for the job, only to be greeted with a rejection, or even worse, nothing at all. 

This uncertainty is new for me.

I don’t like it.

Even though I know things could be so much worse, I’ll be honest and say there have been some pretty dark days. And as much as I appreciate the support, I find myself uncharacteristically envious of people with jobs or spouses to financially help them out, and I hate that. I find myself wondering if I’m doing something—or everything—wrong, and why just one thing can’t go my way, and I feel selfish.

I feel like I’m fighting a battle on every side. Much like a Saturday afternoon in Walmart, it’s not very attractive. It’s also not very much fun, and a pretty big creativity buzzkill.

And so this is where I add in the “hopeful” part and say there are two ways that all this can go—I can cling to how I want things to be or I can adjust to how things are now. When we cling to things—whatever those things are— we struggle. When we grasp at what we want or think we want, we suffocate it. When we identify with a list of “should,” we always fall short in the end.

So, I’m trying to let go—to some of the doubt, expectations, guilt, attachment to results and the idea that my next path needs to be a straight line.

Some days it’s really hard, but I know the next rope that gets thrown my way could be the one that saves me. Or it could conk me in the head because I was distracted by something shiny down in that hole. But for the most part, I’m more than ready to grab on.

And it starts with letting go.

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That’s Where I’ll Be

Six days before Christmas I found myself leaving the house at 7 a.m., not to go join the crowds bustling out to finish their holiday shopping, but to go stand outside in the cold and wait for the unemployment office to open the doors for the second time in three days.

As I made my way inside, I took a number and a seat among the crowd that had already filled up the room. A quick check of the clock showed that almost exactly two weeks ago at that time, I was told that my job of almost eight years wasn’t mine anymore.

And so, there I was, a number among the crowd.

Two weeks ago I would have never envisioned myself in that position, listening to an unemployment office worker address the room like a school teacher, instructing us as to the steps we needed to take, the forms we needed to complete, the frustration we should probably anticipate. I would have never envisioned myself among the crowd I often saw waiting outside as I drove past this building hundreds of times through the years.

Having security ripped from me in one quick sentence —“We’ve decided to go in a different direction” — essentially changed my life forever.

Instead of worrying about editorial deadlines or meetings, I now worried about overly complicated online paperwork, figuring out self-paid health care and sending out emails, resumes and positive vibes to the universe.

While I had previously thought freelance rejection was disheartening, I was now faced with rejection in terms of jobs I felt were a good fit, frustration in not reaching an actual person on the phone, and helplessness and fear that has reduced me, the woman who never cries, to sobbing like a baby more than once or twice.

And so, there I was.

When I looked around that room, I wondered about the stories of everyone else. What brought them to that point?

I wondered if they felt like a burden to those in their lives, despite how supportive they’ve been. I wondered if their hearts leapt into their throats every time the phone rang with possible news, if they got hopeful and then disheartened, motivated and then discouraged. I wondered if they missed the luxury of being stressed out over completely insignificant things like a long morning commute or a boring meeting.

And I wondered if they felt humbled, the way that I most certainly did.

While I’m envious of those not dealing with this, I’m not bitter and no that it could be worse. If nothing else, I’m now forced to realize how so much is out of my control—a feeling we all know that I try and avoid—and to let go of how I think things should be. I’m now forced to reflect and rebuild—a process that’s hard, but that’s also exciting in some ways, as I know my last job just wasn’t for me

It’s that whole, “see a slammed door as a window to new opportunity” hippy-dippy thing. 

Above everything else though, these past few weeks have showed me just how much I need people. I always appreciated those in my life, but this situation has forced me to open up, be vulnerable and let down my guard quite a bit. In doing so, I have been overwhelmed with the kindness bestowed upon me, melting away my cynicism and replacing it with a restored faith in people, in goodness, in hope.

I might have a heavy heart at times, but it’s also a heart filled with gratitude for those in my life—both online and off.

When my number was called I walked up to the desk and looked around that room one last time. As cheesy as it sounds, I hoped everyone else had their own stories to write that would end up okay in the end, that they had people they could talk to when the cloud of uncertainty shrouded the last spark of hope.

Without these people in my life this past month, I don’t know what I would have done. They’ve reminded me that while one sentence changed my life for the worst, one sentence could bring a new start.

It’s time to go in a different direction. 

And then, that’s where I will be.

While I keep things light around here, people are also asking me how things are going so I thought I would just give an update. However, attempts at humor coming next post.  

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The Psychological Purgatory of Depression

I’ve heard depression described as walking towards a sunset. You can see the light ahead of you, but even when you’re basking in the warmth of the light, you’re always aware that the darkness isn’t more than a heartbeat away.

sungirl

That sounds pretty accurate, but what makes depression so hard for those on the outside — and even those on the inside — to understand, is that being depressed and being happy aren’t always mutually exclusive.

People with depression can be happy, sad or funny just like anyone else. And while we’re all aware of the dangerous places depression can go, what no one seems to talk much about is that there’s a kind of psychological purgatory that exists somewhere in between the high points and the end of your rope.

When you’re having a good day, no one can tell you’re depressed because the symptoms aren’t as obvious as we think they should be. You might not be feeling that miserable “I can’t get out of bed” type of way, but your internal dialogue and view of the world is pretty similar.

There’s relief in knowing that you appear normal until one little thing sets you off — a comment, an obstruction to your routine, maybe nothing specific at all — and down that slope you go sliding again.

These are the times I sit at my desk at work, feeling panic and claustrophobic with a need to literally go run away from myself.

These there are the times when I’m at home on the couch, mindlessly flipping through the same websites, the same channels, feeling nothing but a need to not think.

These are the times when I should reach out, but the world I created is so narrow that I retreat back into my head, to distractions, to exercise to numb out the pain. These actions become habit, the habit then becomes an obsession and from there I’m stuck in a vicious cycle again.

But in some ways, as miserable as you — well, that I — can feel, you get used to it.

Depression doesn’t ask much of you other than to suffer, whereas happiness — in as much as you can remember it — simply can’t be trusted. It’s undependable and often fleeting, and while depression saps your energy, happiness is exhausting in a different way.

Even though you know there are people willing to help, you can never tell them everything. Revealing the plot of your story would give away that tiny shred of control — or the illusion of control — that you so desperately feel that you need just to get by.

Plus, seeing happy people makes you feel as if you have some kind of obligation to get well, and you don’t want to have any obligations or distractions that you don’t invite yourself.

So instead you avoid people when you can so you don’t have to make yourself vulnerable to questions, to wondering if everyone knows that you’re really a big jumbled mess, unable to figure out how to get back to “happy,” or at the very least, back to “content.”

That’s why it can be such a dangerous thing.

You can appear absolutely normal and functional to the outside, but be silently screaming on the inside. And when you’re down, you wonder why you can’t just “be happy” again, and when you’re happy you feel guilty for those times you’re stuck in the dark.

Then there’s the middle — that psychological purgatory — neither way up or way down.

These are the times to remember that isolation is a symptom, not a solution, and that flowery language aside, there still are those small shards of light. For me, sometimes it’s sitting outside. Sometimes it’s trying to be funny to people I see. Sometimes it’s getting lost in a book or emailing someone I trust.

Those things can spark the good days.

Of course you have to sift through the muck and the mud, but it helps to just enjoy the good days for what they are and not question why. Life isn’t easy all the time, even to the most well-adjusted individual, and the dark times aren’t a reflection of weakness or selfishness or anything you might tell yourself.

In other words, just because you deal with depression doesn’t mean that you are depression. A bad day/week doesn’t mean a bad life. After all, it’s not sunny every day but we know the clouds won’t last forever.

Enjoy that light when you can.

Originally published on The Huffington Post

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This Isn’t About Robin Williams

“Many who try to bring joy to the world are often the same people who fight a great war within themselves. Every fight lost is a tragedy.”

The death of comic genius Robin Williams spawned thousands and thousands of (well-deserved) tributes and blog posts about not only his career and his life, but also his mental health struggles.

I don’t want to read them.

I don’t want to watch them.

I don’t want to hear about depression and opinions from people who just have no clue.

That’s selfish, but I don’t want to deal with it because I live it every day of my life, a life that I’ve questioned the value of more often than I care to admit. While I would like to think that I would never go to that extreme, I’ve thought about what the world would be like if I were no longer in it, if I could never get “better.”

Because of that, Robin Williams’ death wasn’t surprising to me. Tragic? Yes. Surprising? No. Addiction and depression are equal-opportunity destroyers, regardless of age, sex or class. And the thing about addictions are that they’re all just a slow suicide, no matter your weapon of choice.

So why do some people make it while others lose the fight? I don’t think anyone knows.

What I do know is that for me, it’s not about lack of resources, because if I want to get help there are a million places to get it.

It’s not about people not doing enough to help, because I know you have to want and accept that  support in order to pull yourself out.

It’s also not about attention. My dark thoughts aren’t about death but rather the fantasy of finding some peace—any peace—to quiet the storms in my head.

That probably doesn’t make sense, but I wrote a piece for Huffington Post about my OCD that I never shared on this blog because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Plus, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that reality.

But it is reality, and so are suicide and depression and all those things I don’t want to read, hear or talk about a lot of the time—all those things I am forced to think about all the time anyway.

Yet that’s probably part of the problem.

After Williams’ death I posted that quote above on Facebook and linked back to a post I wrote on depression.

The response was huge, both on that older post and to the simple quote. People sent me emails sharing their stories, and someone commented, “Thank you for things that you write. You have a medium where you can reach out to other people and truly help them with your own experiences.”

Whether he liked it or not, Robin Williams had a platform to talk about mental health, and maybe in some tiny miniscule way, so do I–whether through humor or sharing my struggles. If nothing else, I need the support myself on most days.

Of course, there’s no magic cure or easy answers. But what there is is support if you accept it, people who care and a dialogue about mental health that has been reopened up with another loss of life.

This time it wasn’t you.

It wasn’t me.

And if it was, it’s safe to say the whole world wouldn’t be mourning our passing. But somebody would. Somebody cares. And every fight lost is a tragedy.

Keep up the fight.

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That Sinking Feeling

Despite what this post might suggest, I’m not high-maintenance. I just have severe OCD and like my routine, not to mention a house that functions as it should and remains rather clean.

With that said, any disruption to my basic necessities — water, food, Internet, baseball, power, mostly food again — are classified as mini-catastrophes in my world, a world where I’m not proficient in plumbing or electrical work where hummus flows freely like water.

hungry

So when I walked into the kitchen the other night and noticed my previously functional faucet releasing a small but steady stream of water, I started to lose my crap.

After taking a deep breath, I called an old handyman friend of my uncle that sometimes helps me with things and found out he could stop by the next day. I knew this was good, but I also knew this meant tons of more stress for my dysfunctional mind.

If I don’t have a sink, how can I make my tea? Use my steamer? Would he take so long that my normal dinner routine would be shattered? And what about my semi-clean floors? How am I supposed to survive?!?

Part of my frustration with these things comes from not being able to fix them myself, but 99.9 percent of my frustration comes from the series of events that follow after someone comes over to fix them.*

*Yes, I am most appreciative, but I am also OCD with no patience for putzing or lack of respect for the Lysol.

So without further putzing, let’s take a look at how this went (all times are approximate, as I’m still recovering from the trauma.)


9 pm—Enter kitchen and notice sink is running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

9:01—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

9:05—Call old handyman guy and learn a) he really wants to engage in a “to make a short story long” type of discussion and b) he can come by the next afternoon around 3.

9:25—Call mom and ask her to meet him at my house until I can get home from work.

9:26—Ignore problem for the rest of the night.

Next Day

5:30 am—Enter kitchen and notice sink is still running. Push on all the handles and scream at it to stop.

5:31—Express puzzlement over said dripping to inanimate objects within earshot and then try to will it to stop streaming down.

5:35—Leave for work and stress about sink.

4 pm—Arrive home, find mom in my garden and give her a 6-pack as a thank you.

4:05—Full of dread, enter the house and notice he didn’t heed the “Please take shoes off. Thanks!” post-it note I so carefully placed on the door. And that he moved the blanket I had down over the kitchen rug. And that he was using my favorite coffee cup and dish towel to catch the dripping water OH MY GOD!

4:05:10—Remind myself he’s helping me out. Deep breaths are taken and possibly exhaled as a loud sigh—this part is sketchy.

4:10—Make small talk and pretend to care what plumbing parts are called while discreetly moving the blanket over the rug and his tools onto paper towel.

4:15—Learn he’ll be done in about half an hour and decide I’m pretty much a revolutionary for my survival skills in times of such stress.

4:16 to 4:45—Distract myself in the form of preparing soon-to-be used cleaning products and plan how I can clean and get dinner ready on OCD time.

4:46—He’s still putzing. Start freaking out and immediately change my mind on revolutionary status.

4:55—While searching for Xanax salt lick, I’m informed it’s fixed. Pleasantries and payment are exchanged, as is the information that his wife read my first book after my uncle gave him a copy.

4:56—Feelings of annoyance wane as I gently lead him outside my house.

5:00—Begin manic Lysol/Swiffer sweeps of the counters and floors while prepping dinner at the same time, once again applauding my survival skills.

5:05—Enter bathroom. Notice the toilet seat is up, meaning his dirty shoes and everything attached to them paraded throughout my house and used my toilet.

5:06—Manic feelings return. Cleaning commences.

5:15—Smoke detector goes off, signaling that dinner is done.

5:20—Revolutionary status restored, but my sanity? Still MIA.

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