Days like today (and weeks like this one), make me so thankful of how far I’ve progressed in my recovery. To put it mildly, the last few days have been absolute shit. I’m so glad that they are over and I’m hoping the rest of the week will go smoothly and without the giant bumps and bruises of yesterday and today. But, if this had been 2 or more years ago, back before I had started therapy or even been diagnosed, I wouldn’t have been able to function. I would have been curled in a ball on my bed crying because the anxiety would be absolutely crippling. I would be, to put it frankly, completely useless. But instead of being a useless sack of shit today, I pulled myself together, accepted the situation and moved forward. I’m really proud of myself for that. It’s one of the things that you don’t really even notice until you take a step back and say “Wow, I would have fallen apart before.” Two years ago, I could barely fathom an hour without the relentless thoughts and had no idea how to survive without rituals. And yet, two short years later, here I stand.
And seeing as I’ve got two years of therapy and progress under my belt, I’m not sure what I want to do with this blog. I started it in the hopes of putting onto paper, so to speak, my struggle and my triumphs so that I could look back and remember how far I had come. I wanted to connect with others and read their journeys through the grips of OCD. I wanted to share my story in hopes of inspiring others. I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to do with this blog, as well as getting what I wanted to get out of the experience. I’m not sure if I want to just change it up or if I want to shut it down. I’m proud of it, but I think I’ve grown past it. Yes, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but it’s not the only thing I want to talk about. In fact, it’s usually the last thing I want to talk about. I enjoy traveling the world, reading fantastic books, learning about wine and spending time with friends and family. I love going to the ballet, listening to Jimmy Buffett music and I love really good sushi. I love my life exactly how it is, and lately, that’s been without the constant cloud of OCD hanging above me. Whatever I decide to do, this is definitely the end of a chapter in my life. Obviously, I will continue to battle my OCD, whether on a small or large scale, for the rest of my life. But for now, I just want to enjoy the freedom and the new life I’ve been given by being free of OCD.
I wish you all the best of luck and much success. I hope everyone continues to fight and continues to heal. Just remember to breathe, and everything will be okay. 🙂
Goodbye 2014 and Hello 2015!
It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but it’s not because my last 6 months have been awful. Some of those months haven’t been great, but overall, my 2014 kinda kicked ass. I saw my therapist on Monday for a year-end wrap up and I came out feeling so empowered. Here’s a quick overview of my year:
- I did a lot of traveling:
- Ireland, Paris, Austria, Germany (2x), Seattle, Chicago (2x), South Dakota
- I got accepted to graduate school
- Georgia Tech’s Master of Science in Economics program
- I quit graduate school
- Something I’m actually proud of! I realized 2 weeks in that it wasn’t for me right now, especially considering that it caused my OCD to flare up
- My therapist and I have dubbed it “my successful failure,” and I’m really proud of how I’ve been able to talk about that failure
- I lost my best friend (but she didn’t die)
- We had an irreparable argument and I realized that sometimes, you have to cut the toxic people out of your lives like a tumor and I’m better for it now
- I healed from years of resentment and anger
- I learned how to process things, how to accept that sometimes people don’t change and how to let go of the negative feelings that have built up over the years
- I cut out the toxic people and environments, set boundaries with loved ones so that our relationships are mutually beneficial and spent a lot of time solidifying my marriage and enjoying my husband
- I bought a new car
- For the first time ever, I went to the dealership, picked out the car I wanted and drove it off the lot! And I’m completely in LOVE with it!
I have big plans for 2015. I wanted to put them down somewhere to keep handy because I really want to accomplish these few things this year. Here are my goals for the coming new year:
- Read 10 new books
- Mostly travel-related novels (I have a list)
- Travel alone
- I’ve never been on a trip by myself and I feel like it’s something that I really need to do. I’ve worked so hard to get my OCD under control and I feel like this is something far outside my comfort zone that will continue to push me to deal with my OCD
- Travel to a new continent
- I’ve traveled quite a bit to Europe, but I really want to get to Asia, Africa or South America this year
- Host a party
- I’ve always wanted to throw a get-together with friends/coworkers where everyone has a good time. My OCD has always made me afraid of rejection or imperfection (which automatically equals failure)
- Lose xlbs of weight
- I don’t want to publish the exact number, but I have one in mind. After years of struggling with my weight and after a complete failure due to my attempt at graduate school (after some great success this summer), I’m ready to get back on track. It’s time I work as hard on my outside self as I have on my brain
- And one “squishy” goal: Continue to fight, continue to heal, continue to grow…
So far, things are looking up! I rang in the new year with my awesome husband, great friends and a glass of pretty spectacular champagne. My life is pretty awesome and I’m really excited for what’s to come in 2015!
Thank you, WordPress, for reminding me that today is the 1 year anniversary of when I started this blog! Wow, what a year it has been!
I’ve made so much incredible progress in the past year, that when I go back and read my first few posts, I’m actually stunned at how far I’ve come. I wanted to start this blog mostly as an outlet and as a recordkeeper. I wanted to document what I was going through so that I could look back, as I’ve done today, and track my progress. I also wanted to use this blog as a potential help for others. If someone stumbled upon my blog and found that I was going through the same thing they were and it helped them feel less alone in this struggle, well that was a victory. I don’t know how many people this has touched, if any, but I know that it’s helped me in getting through some of the ups and downs of my recovery process.
I’m really proud of myself and the hard work I’ve put in, but I’m far from being done. Lately I’ve been working on how to better assimilate in normal life when before I was just removing myself from the situation. I’ve been working on my reactions to things, instead of stressing over why the other person couldn’t just change their behavior or approach. Over the last 18 months, my husband and I have made tremendous progress and we’ve gone from rock bottom to being whole again. At therapy lately, we’ve just been working on how to work together even better, and preparing for the big stresses that will ensue if/when I start school. (The application deadline was today so hopefully we’ll hear good news soon!) Like I said in my last post, my life feels like it’s on cruise control. I’ve been stressed at work, but I’m managing, and that is what’s most important.
I find it also fitting that my husband and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this week as well. We went to work, skipped a night out and cooked dinner at home. I had been in South Carolina the day before and he was leaving the next morning for DC, so we just decided to keep it low key. Before my treatment, I would have made a big deal out of not going to dinner and I would have been anxious about having to spend a night alone in the house while he was gone. This time, I actually suggested staying home and when he called me the next night while he was away, I never even heard the phone ring I was so deep asleep.
My life is so different now and I can’t imagine ever going back to what I was before. I’m so thankful for the day that changed my life and the events that led up to me seeking treatment. I never imagined that this was life I could live and I’m thankful for the people in my life that have supported me through it all. Cheers! 🙂
I feel like I’ve set my brain to cruise control and that’s a pretty neat feeling.
I’ve been ridiculously busy lately with work, applying to grad school, home responsibilities, etc. Not to mention the normal day to day stuff that gets in the way too. But the best part is, I’ve held it together most days. I’ve been stressed, but I haven’t let OCD take control. I’ve dealt with things, even last minute projects, as my opportunity to shine. And I’m shining so much, you need shades! 🙂 Before my diagnosis and treatment, I would have had a meltdown, had a good cry, put my big girl panties on and dealt with it, though in a very unhappy and anxious way, as I performed my rituals along the way. This time, I already had on my big girl panties, dealt with things, and was very happy about the result, without the crying, anxiety and rituals. Sometimes I feel like I’m having an out of body experience because I simply can’t believe that this is my life, that I am the person not freaking out about little things, that I’m in control.
And I know that by saying this, my chances of having a meltdown next week are high because that’s Murphy’s Law. Just about the time I feel like I have control of the Monster, that son of a bitch comes back to rear his ugly head. Maybe it’s because I’m further along in my recovery process now and I’m optimistic that I’m going to continue kicking ass and taking names. I’ve felt the anxiety and then I did it anyway. I’ve been going back to the gym, despite my harsh criticisms of my body and my constant comparison to others’ performance. I’ve been extremely on top of my game at work, earning recognition and the opportunity to be part of a group that represents my department to the rest of the company. I’m submitting my application to graduate school by the end of this glorious three day weekend and I couldn’t be more excited to take on this new challenge. Mentally, I just feel great and it’s a sort of foreign feeling. But I definitely think it’s a feeling I could get used to! 🙂
This past Friday, I took the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) as one of the few tasks remaining to finish my application to graduate school. This is a stressful exam for anyone, but for someone like me, it appears to be a much more daunting task.
Let me explain: As I’ve talked about quite a bit, one of the largest manifestations of my OCD is perfectionism. Vanilla Ice had it right: “Anything less than the best is a felony.” And that’s more or less how my brain thinks; anything less than perfection is failure. In addition, this was the first exam of any kind that I’ve taken since my diagnosis and treatment. During exams when OCD was in control, I would second-guess every answer and be concerned that I had selected too many C answers or too many B answers. Even if I was 100% sure of the answer, OCD would make me do the math again to be absolutely sure. I guess in a subconscious way, I knew this was my chance to prove to myself and everyone else that I was ready and able to take on graduate school. I needed to show myself that I’ve changed and that I can handle it now, much better than I did in undergraduate when OCD was in control.
So obviously, I’ve had many weeks/months to study and basically prep my brain for this exam. And what I mean by prep my brain is literally not psych myself out. I focused on studying in a very non-methodical, easy-going, this-is-not-that-important, kind of way. I got there early so as to not freak out over being late, and I read and reread the rules regarding testing so that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything. I was really proud of myself for taking my preparation in stride. But don’t let my calm attitude fool you, I definitely had a few moments where breakdown was imminent. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of; the ability to calm myself down, even in the face of potential failure.
On test day, I arrived early and ate my breakfast while studying in the car. I went inside early, found the restroom, took a minute to wash my hands and center myself before I went upstairs. Once I got through the security part (it makes the TSA look like sweet old ladies), I settled in my cube, with my giant noise-canceling headphones and paused. I took a deep breath, found my center and pressed start. Before I knew it, it was over. And I was thankful that I had made it through without second-guessing every single answer, without keeping track of how many times I had answered “A” or how many questions I might have missed. I even made a mistake during the exam; I didn’t allocate enough time to the first problem set and ended up not being able to answer a couple of questions and guessing on maybe 2 more. I could have very easily had a breakdown and not been able to complete the rest of the exam. But I shrugged it off, made a mental note to allocate my time better and literally made a joke about it in my head. (The GRE has an experimental section; either you take an extra Quantitative section or an extra Verbal section, and it doesn’t apply to your score. But you don’t know which section is the experimental one and trying to figure it out is pointless.) I thought to myself, “Wow, I really hope that was the experimental section because I just screwed that up!” And I moved on. I MOVED ON. This didn’t seem huge when I was taking the test, but after a few days to reflect, this was a huge deal.
Overall, my preliminary scores came out in the range I expected, and they should be good enough to get me into the program I want for graduate school. I can’t ask for much more than that. I gained some really great insight into my abilities without OCD in control and it gave me more confidence that I can live a life without OCD control. Now to finish those application essays! 🙂
What does recovery mean to you?
I recently had a conversation about recovery with my therapist. I asked her what that meant, because I feel like I’m striving for this unidentified, unquantifiable, invisible and all around “squishy” goal. What does it mean? How do I get there? How do I know I’ve gotten there? She explained that recovery isn’t a place or a time or a feeling. I will forever be “in recovery” because there is no cure. OCD will continue to reside inside my head for the remainder of my life. Recovery will be whether or not I let it come out and play. She said that relapse is always a concern and that I will forever have bad days. What counts is the space between those bad days. Recovery isn’t a place, it’s a constant. Just like an alcoholic is forever an alcoholic, they’re just a recovering alcoholic. I will forever be fighting my own demons in my head. Now, I know that sounds depressing, but here’s the interesting part. I’m a perfectionist, it’s a manifestation of my OCD, and I will never be rid of this, never be healed, and never be perfect. OCD has been making me strive for the very thing that it makes unavailable, and I find that quite ridiculous and rather funny. So all of that to say this:
Recovery is taking life one day at a time, remembering to always fight against the Monster, vowing to never give up or to at least try again tomorrow. Recovery is stumbling then standing, enjoying the twists and turns and sometimes bumps in the road. Recovery is having more good days than bad days, and forgetting what the bad days feel like anyway. Recovery is remembering that it’s okay to fail, as long as you try again. Recovery is doing your best, even when you feel your worst. Recovery is never giving up. Ever.
And with that, I’ll leave you with 3 of my favorite quotes from the brilliant Sir Winston Churchill and one from my favorite US President FDR:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
“If you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
“Never, never, never give up.”
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! 🙂