This week, I share about nailing the holiday, recognizing panic attacks, and expressing gratitude.
These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.
One thing I am grateful for is this outlet for my thoughts and feelings. It has been helpful for me to regularly take stock and to be honest with myself about where things are at. Many of you reading this have reached out to express support or solidarity or to comment on how nice it is to know that you are not alone in your struggles. I hope this blog can continue to help you as it is helping me.
This past week brought the Thanksgiving holiday, which is always one of my favorites. This year, we invited my mom and sister to our house for a smaller, more intimate holiday. As my wife and I discussed the holiday and our plans, my goal was to just be curious and take situations as they came up, instead of pre-deciding how things were going to go. And overall, I succeeded.
As we prepared for the holiday, we did a lot of cleaning and cooking, and I was glad that I was able to participate in most of it. There were a couple times when I started to get overwhelmed by the noise and the chaos of trying to get seven kids to pitch in. The trick for me was to find some jobs that I could put in noise-canceling headphones and zone out for a bit.
Once the holiday started, I was mostly able to just enjoy the time with the family. Again, there were a few times when I got overwhelmed, but I just snuck upstairs for a few minutes. I would play a little bit of LEGO Harry Potter and regroup, and then head downstairs into the fray again.
It was such a great feeling to discuss the day with my wife as we finished up, and to hear her thank me for being so involved throughout the day. My mind immediately went to all the moments when I had to step aside, but I was able to sit with having done that, and also having been present for most of the holiday. It felt like a great win for me, and a wonderful time for our family.
When I woke up on Saturday, I could tell that something was off. Ironically, it was the same feeling I am having right now as I try to write about this. I noticed a knot of anxiety in my chest, and then it dropped down in my legs. Right now, as I am sitting in my chair writing this, my thighs are repeatedly contracting. On Saturday, my calves were tensing up over and over. My wife recognized it as a mild panic attack, and I took a cold shower and then went for a walk in the brisk winter air.
On my personal blog, I have written before about how panic attacks feel for me, but it was not like this. As I think back to when I wrote about that, the kind of anxiety that I am feeling now was a near constant experience for me, and so a panic attack which escalated beyond that was a significant event. It is nice to take a moment and realize how far I have come that the agitation that used to be my constant companion is now uncommon enough to recognize as a mild panic attack.
When my wife commented on the situation, she mentioned something that shook me a bit. She said that I have been having one of these more mild panic attacks once to twice a week for the past little while. Additionally, I have been having more major panic attacks where I disconnect a little from reality once to twice a month1. I know that one crucial side effect of OCD is a loss of insight, but I was floored to hear how frequent these struggles have been over the past little while. This is definitely something that I will be discussing more with my therapist and psychiatrist to see how we can manage things a little better.
The leader of my church shared a blog post and a video message the Friday before Thanksgiving, in which he invited everyone to make social media their own gratitude journal for seven days. I decided to make a microblog post each day, and found the experience to be uplifting and helpful. I kept wanting to say that I was grateful for my OCD and all that I have learned, but I never felt it. I guess I am not quite there yet.
I thought I would just share each of my posts here.
Today, I am grateful to have found a therapist that is the right fit. It makes all the difference. #GiveThanks
One thing I am grateful for today is that I found a great small office space to rent to start getting a little more separation between work and home. Looking forward to getting set up and having somewhere to go for work. #GiveThanks
Today I am feeling grateful for my wife and her creative use of space. We have rearranged our small house and it is feeling great to have a quiet spot of our own amidst the chaos. #GiveThanks
Today, I feel grateful for my boss Mel Tingey. He is the best leader I have ever had, and is a fantastic support to me. I love working with him and continue to grow and develop as I do. #GiveThanks
Today, I’m feeling grateful for LEGO Harry Potter on the Nintendo Switch. 😆 It’s been a fun way to unwind lately and has good for my mental health. #GiveThanks
I feel incredibly grateful for a job today, and especially the one I have with O.C. Tanner. As all jobs are, it is hard at times and pushes me to stretch and grow. I get to be with great people and focus on improving the lives of people at work. 🥰 #GiveThanks
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am most grateful for my family, especially my fantastic wife. She is a tremendous support and a great partner. I feel so lucky to have her in my life. 😍 #GiveThanks
So many of us with mental health challenges struggle even more during the holiday season. It felt great for me to realize that engaging well included a healthy mix of sitting out to recover before reengaging. If you are having a hard time, I send you compassion and encourage you to reach out to someone. It is often during the times when we want it the least that we need support and companionship the most.
I wrote about one of these types of panic attacks a few weeks ago. ↩