Living in reality

My life is filled with impossible contractions. This week brought one of those to the forefront for me.

Sometimes I write because I have something to say. Something to share. Something I’ve learned. Other times I write to figure out what I’m thinking. This is one of the latter.

Part of living with OCD is confronting conflicting ideas and allowing both to be true simultaneously. Maybe it’s actually just part of living for everyone, but I know that I struggled with it much more before I began recovery.

I must avoid precious routines. They’re not a problem in and of themselves, but when they feel necessary for life to go well, or to have a good day, or for any other reason, they transform. They become compulsions.

The irony is that some habits really do help my day and life go better. Examples of those include:

  • Waking by 6:00
  • Exercising
  • Cold showers
  • Healthy eating
  • Free writing
  • Studying scriptures
  • Planning
  • Chatting with my wife
  • Tucking kids in
  • Brushing teeth
  • Flossing

All of those go in phases for me. I’ll do well for a while, and then ignore them completely for a bit. My quest has been to incorporate them into my life without becoming obsessive about them.

One key I’ve found is tracking. Many people benefit from it, and I love apps like Streaks.

But I cannot track habits.

That is one of the surest ways to transform an activity from enjoyable and helpful into an oppressive overlord demanding to be accomplished and threatening destruction if failed.

Another challenging aspect of routines is that I struggle with plan changes. A lot.

So I find myself trying to walk a fine line between preventing routines from becoming compulsions, and the reality of the toll that flexibility extracts from me. I can make plan changes—they just hurt and come at a cost.

Over the past week, every single day has started with an adjustment requested or required. From last-minute presentations to family situations, I’ve been faced with a number of plan changes.

I feel spent.

There’s a part of me that knows this is good for me. That God is pushing and stretching and teaching me. That I need, and even want, to learn to be more flexible.

And there’s another part of me that screams, “Enough!”

As I went for a walk yesterday, I found myself thinking, “It’s like everyone had forgotten that I live with a debilitating mental illness. Just because I’ve been holding things together lately doesn’t mean that I’m ok. It was just a year ago that I was completely incapacitated for a time, being shut down by paralyzing panic attacks. I don’t want to go back there.”

For me, the key continues to be extreme ownership. I cannot let myself fall into victimhood. I must own my OCD, especially how I respond to it.

I need to allow my emotions and recognize when I am hitting my limits before I exceed them.

I know my reality. Now I need to live within it.

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