and everything will be okay

Day Twenty Nine

What are a few of your goals regarding your mental health?

Because of my perfectionism, I’ve tried to refrain from making goals in regard to my mental health. I just strive to get better every day and do the best I can. It’s not a hard and fast rule, just more of a guideline for me. However, there are a few things I’d like to accomplish with my life, especially now that I have a new outlook on the future, thanks to my therapy. 

1. Earn my Master’s Degree – As long as everything goes well this summer, I’ll be starting grad school in the Fall to accomplish this goal. I’m very excited to start this next step in my recovery. 

2. Travel Even More (and see more exotic places) – Obviously, it’s not a secret that I love to travel. It’s one of the few areas that OCD has left more or less alone. My therapist says that my OCD takes a vacation with me, and perhaps that’s why I enjoy getting away so much; it’s a vacation from my OCD as well. I’m more adventurous and willing to try new things and new experiences when I travel. However, push my limits too far and I have been known to have a breakdown while in a foreign country. 

3. Become a Leader at Work – I’ve always been a natural-born leader, but my OCD has held me back from realizing my full potential in regard to taking charge. I’m both aggressive and passive, and OCD magnifies these extremes. I want to work my way into upper management at my company and I feel like I’m positioning myself well to succeed in the future. This is more of a long term goal, and it’s something that I have to learn to have patience with, and patience is not my best feature.

4. Be Fearless – So this is very broad, but it encompasses things like: traveling to weird places, eating weird foods, meeting new people, putting myself out there, getting a tattoo or riding a motorcycle. I want to make choices without the days/weeks of agonizing over the decision before finally choosing the safe option. I want to not be afraid to take the risk.

5. Be Imperfect – I want to fail. That sounds awful, I know. But sometimes you need to fail to remember that you’re human and you’re not perfect. No one is perfect. Perfection is an opinion, not a fact. And it’s completely unattainable. Strive for your best? Absolutely. But remember that it’s okay to fail.

6. Learn to Forgive – This is a really hard one for me. I have a hard time forgiving others for their transgressions, especially if they show no remorse. I have a hard time forgiving those who aren’t even in my life anymore, but that I feel I never had the opportunity to end things with cleanly. I want to learn to forgive, truly forgive, and move on.

7. Love Myself – I am my own worst enemy and my own worst critic. I beat myself up a lot over things that I say or do, the way I act, the way I dress, the way I carry myself, etc. I’m harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I need to learn to love myself, and more importantly, respect myself because I am my own best advocate. If others spoke to me the way I spoke to myself, I would never speak to them again. So why do I allow my OCD to speak to me that way?

These are things that I never really thought much of before seeking treatment. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last 15 months and I’m really proud of that. It’s given me a whole new outlook on life and I’m so excited about the endless possibilities. I’m tired of living my life by a set of arbitrary rules that my brain set to control me. I’ve lived 25 years under the Monster’s control and I finally feel like a free woman. I feel like I can do anything I want, be anything I want, and I can be truly happy. Here’s to a new, exciting, OCD-free life – Cheers! 🙂

Day Twenty Eight

Explain a “bad” day

A bad day is when:
I lose the fight
I give up and give in to my OCD
My anxiety keeps me from enjoying things
I don’t want to eat/have a hard time handling moves
I let myself get anxious to the point of shutting down
I give in to my rituals
I’m angry/upset and don’t know why
I worry about every little thing
I check and double check and triple check
I straighten and align everything so it’s “just right”
I can’t let go

It’s hard to describe a bad day, mostly because I haven’t had many lately (which is awesome!) and because it’s hard to put into words a feeling that I don’t fully comprehend. It’s very confusing, but it’s a lot like the anxious feeling you get when you know something bad is going to happen. If I feel like that, I’ve already lost the battle. I am incredibly thankful that I don’t see nearly as many of these bad days as I used to. I’m quite content to not remember what they feel like.

Day Twenty Seven

Trying to catch up on my 30 day Mental Illness Challenge! I’m a little slow, obviously, but I am determined to finish. 

Day 27: Explain a “good” day.

A “good” day for me is when:
I fight the Monster and win
I feel the fear and do it anyway
I get a victory – no matter how small
Lunch and/or dinner isn’t stressful
I make a mistake and don’t dwell on it for the next 15 years
I see the messy/untidy house and don’t feel the need to put everything away
I roll with the punches, be flexible, or just go with the flow
I try something new
I sleep the whole night through and wake up decently refreshed
My husband tells me he’s proud of me for doing something to fight the Monster
My nephew isn’t afraid of me and gives me love
I can make a decision without the nagging feelings of potential regret
I don’t analyze every move or every outcome, but instead do my best and hope for the best

I think that about covers it for today! Thanks for reading

Quick Update

Life has been better in recent weeks, with the occasional ups and downs. 

I started back to Crossfit in recent weeks and have been doing well with my perfectionist/comparison issues. When I did Crossfit before, I was always comparing myself to everyone else in the room, so focused on what others were doing and how I was failing in comparison. I would give up too soon in a workout because I would rather fail on my own terms than show everyone that I was incapable. But since starting back in recent weeks, my former trainers have said there’s something different about me; I seem calm, relaxed and at peace. This put a huge smile on my face. Then, this week, during our workout, I found my OCD creeping back in, trying to convince myself to stop at 3 rounds instead of the prescribed 4 rounds, because “you don’t want to be the LAST one to finish, do you??” I recognized the feeling and I found myself pushing against it. “Just finish the power cleans; I know you have 5 reps in you,” my mind was pushing. I completed those and suddenly, my body was moving to the kettle bell swings. It was like an out of body experience. You feel yourself doing it, and you hear the voice inside your head telling you to do it and yet, it doesn’t feel real. Before I knew it, I had completed the last round and happily laid in a puddle of my own sweat, trying to catch my breath while absolutely elated at my perseverance.  I had done the one thing I couldn’t do when I was Crossfitting before – force myself to finish a workout instead of failing on my own terms. I was the last one to complete the workout, and I didn’t even care. 

I’ve had successes as of late, but I won’t pretend that I haven’t had failures recently as well. The Monster is ever present, but his influence is less and less than it used to be. And there are times when I let my guard down and he weasels back in to my brain. One thing that I struggle with is my fear of graduate school in the fall. I’m afraid of failing, of not knowing anyone, of being overwhelmed and disappointing people, of the workload, of the time commitment, all of it. I’m afraid of all of it. But the hope I have of succeeding, of proudly displaying another Georgia Institute of Technology degree on my wall, of my potential career aspects, of my increased self-worth, all outweigh the fear I feel. Feeling the fear doesn’t make you a failure – but giving in to the fear does. Sometimes you have to feel the fear, and take the leap anyway. I’m standing on the edge of the platform, trying to convince myself to just take the leap. 

Long Time, No Blogging

It’s been awhile since I wrote last, and for various reasons, it needed to be that long. A lot has happened, some good and some bad, but I’m still here and I’m still managing as best I can. Here’s a little peak at what’s been going on:

Medication: I decided to start medication for my OCD in August. But when I started having chest pains and heart flutters in December, I consulted a cardiologist and began the process of coming off the medication. I’ve been off the medication for about 3 or 4 weeks now, and still working through the process of a potential heart condition. 

Work: I love my job, but there have been several changes at work lately, which does cause some anxiety. I feel like I’ve been handling it pretty well, but the combination of coming off the medication and an increase in anxiety has made for a few tough days, but I feel like I’m doing alright. 

School: After much consideration and counseling from my colleagues and mentors, I’ve decided to return to Georgia Tech for my Master’s. I’ll be applying soon and hope to get into the Economics program where I earned my Bachelor’s. This will obviously cause more anxiety, but I feel like I’m in a much better position mentally than I was when I started my Bachelor’s. Here’s to hoping I can make it through with far fewer meltdowns than the last time! 🙂

I think I hit the high points. I hope to get back into the swing of writing more frequently again. Until next time! 🙂

Day Twenty Six

Day 26: How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?

This may end up being pretty long so I’ll sum up here – Everything is impacted by my OCD. Everything. 

Carry on. 

When I wake up in the morning, my mind goes immediately to the day ahead and what I need to do. I check the weather so I can choose the proper clothes and make sure I have an umbrella/jacket/boots/etc. I get up, take a shower in a certain order, dry off in a certain order, and get dressed. I struggle to choose clothes because I feel like people will judge me/make fun of me/perceive that I am imperfect/unprofessional by my clothing choice. I do my hair and makeup (I’ve gotten better about this!). As I walk out the door for work, I do my checks: Closet door closed? Everything picked up off the floor? Straightener unplugged? Lights off? Dog has food and water? Badge, notebook, phone charger, phone, sunglasses, jacket? As I pull out of the driveway, watch to make sure the garage door closes completely. Usually I ride to work with my husband because we work near each other. He drives most days because driving gives me anxiety. I usually try to play on my phone, read my email, etc so that I don’t have to pay attention to what is going on around me. I get to work and the rituals begin. I sit down, start my computer, read my email, go downstairs and get breakfast from the cafeteria. Come back upstairs, update my tools and start my day. My job is very ritualized so that probably doesn’t help either. I hate lunch because of the anxiety it gives me. I covered this in my food related triggers post. I worry about what others think of me at work and if they find me unprofessional/unintelligent/etc. I ride home with my husband, again paying more attention to my phone because of the anxiety that being on the road gives me. I get home, check the mail, let the dog out, watch him to make sure he doesn’t run out in the road. My husband cooks dinner, usually after a long battle over what to eat because I hate eating. After dinner, I usually watch TV, work on my blog, work on my computer, play with the dog, etc. I go to bed. I used to have to hard time going to sleep at night. I’ve been much better about it the last 6 months. I used to just lie there and if I did fall asleep, I woke up several times a night. I was perpetually exhausted. Now, I fall asleep pretty quickly and stay asleep most nights – a definite improvement. I have weird dreams sometimes, but that is mostly because I took my medication too late at night. So that’s a typical day for me. But the thing is, most of that is what you can see. Literally 24/7, my brain doesn’t stop. It’s a constant string of thoughts/planning/worst case scenarios/fears/rituals/anxiety/worries/processing/solving problems that don’t exist/defining “perfection” and “just right” to a ridiculous standard/analyzing every move, every word, every detail to try to figure out what others think of me. I spend the vast majority of my day analyzing things that are nonessential, unimportant, and sometimes complete nonsense. My brain never shuts off – I never get a break. I’m learning how to go easier on myself, to quit beating myself up so much. I am my own worst enemy and my own worst critic. I don’t love myself, and I certainly don’t respect myself. But I’m learning. I learning how to be an advocate for myself, instead of an aggressor. I’m learning to separate myself from my OCD instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. I’m learning how to love myself for my talents and for my flaws. I’m learning to accept that “perfect” is an opinion, not a destination. I’m learning that failure is not fatal (as Sir Winston Churchill said). I’m learning that as long as I do my best, I will be okay. But one thing I’ve already learned so far? I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. I have been through so much in the last 9 months, and when I think back to what my life was like just 9 short months ago, it seems like forever ago. It seems like someone else’s life, someone else’s story. But I changed my story, and it was the best decision I ever made. Thanks for reading. 

Day Twenty Five

Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.

I have thought about this a lot lately, considering what is happening in the country with the debates on mental health. I hear/read often that people blame President Reagan for “shutting down the institutions and letting the crazies walk among us.” Well, there were just as many people wrongfully institutionalized as there were those who probably should have been. But that’s another story. 

As a person with a mental illness, I don’t want to be forced into doing anything, especially into an institution. I don’t want to be held by law enforcement. I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else. I just want to keep on living my life without intrusion. So when I think about people being forced into treatment, I try to put myself in their shoes. Now, if someone is having a psychotic episode, trying to harm themselves or others, or has a repeated history of criminal/deviant behavior, I’m all for a law enforcement or psychiatric hold for a determined amount of time. I feel that the family should get a say, but I also feel like the patient needs a larger say. They are a human being, with civil rights and it is not my place of yours to take those away without a true, just cause. 

Now, when it comes to coercion, I can understand that from an intervention-type standpoint. Sometimes, I person has to hit rock bottom and confronted with the damage they are doing to themselves and others before they realize that treatment is necessary. Is it possible for them to resist? Absolutely. But again, that person has rights and you can’t just institutionalize them because they aren’t doing what you want for them to do. This is something that I struggle with – I want for people to get the help that they need. But if they aren’t a danger to themselves or others, and they are resisting treatment, I can’t force them into doing anything, especially if they are an adult. I can’t say, “you have to start treatment or I’m not going to talk to you.” It can’t and it shouldn’t work like that. Making someone feel guilty in order to make them do something isn’t fair, and they will resent you later on for making them do something that they didn’t want to do. You do have a choice: You can either accept them and love them for who they are at this place in their lives and be encouraging and supportive to them, or you can cut them off and be petty because you aren’t getting your way. 

So in conclusion, this is a tricky situation. You have to tread very carefully when you begin talking about taking away another person’s rights or guilting them into doing something.