This week’s update covers pain at inconveniencing others, the delights of designing a presentation, and communicating with respect.
These weekly updates are an ongoing series in which I share what it is like to live with OCD in an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health, particularly in the workplace.
I feel like I am finally starting to settle fully into work after the holidays. It is so nice to take some time to disconnect, and often results in an ability to see things more clearly when coming back. There is definitely a ramp-up period though to settle into a rhythm. I hope you are finding yours as well.
Last week, I talked more about an app project that I am working on. This week, I decided it was close enough to being ready that I invited some beta testers to try out the app. The people I invited were either those who had beta tested for me before, or those who had emailed me recently for support. All of these people had the previous version of the app installed already. Even though I had tested that scenario myself, I had made a number of changes since then.
Quickly after I released the beta version, I started getting reports that the app was crashing. Most people were not able to even get in to the app. It would just crash on launch. Even more concerning was that I heard from some who had tried to resolve the issue by deleting the app and installing it again. Because of how the app was set up before, that meant that they lost all their previous data.
This made me sick.
It was hard for me to sleep knowing that I had caused problems for these people who had been willing to help me. There were only about 15 people who had installed the app, but it still affected me greatly. I worked off and on throughout the weekend until I finally had resolved the issues that I knew about. It is still not perfect, but at least people can get in and use the app now.
As my therapist has pointed out, many of the feelings I was experiencing are normal, but with OCD, I often feel them to an extent that is not normal. I would suspect that many of us can relate to that. We are often faced with difficult emotions, and it can hard for us to access our common humanity and not feel like we are drowning alone in our feelings.
One of my favorite things to do is public speaking. Part of what I love so much is creating the presentation. Early in my career, I became deeply interested in presentation design, which took me into training, then product management, then experience design, then to development, and now to management. I feel as if I have come full circle as there are many times as a manager that I need to create a presentation in order to share information.
Over the past week, I was asked to prepare a presentation with my thoughts on communication. I wanted to explore the process of creating the presentation.
I have written previously on my personal blog about my perspective on remote working. In that post, I explored a lot of my thoughts on communication, but that wasn’t the focus of the article. As I approached this presentation, I thought I would start by writing out my thoughts. I have found that writing has a way of crystallizing what I am thinking.
After writing out my thoughts, I dove into creating the actual presentation. Part of the reason I decided to discuss this in my update this week was the level of work I engaged in. It certainly bordered on obsession. What I have found though, is that OCD truly is a gift and a curse. There are so many parts that make life difficult and painful, but there are also beautiful golden moments when I am able to harness an ability to focus deeply on something to create something of which I can be really proud.
As I started the actual presentation, I decided that I wanted to use LEGO figures to represent different people in the presentation. I loved how they turned out. I thought it would be fun to show a bit of how I created the figures using simple shapes using Keynote. The fun thing about how I built them is that I can easily make changes to the colors of a character, or change the hair for different looks. Geeky, and fun. 🥳
Finally, I wanted to share just a bit about my thoughts on communication, and especially how it relates to mental health in the workplace. If you are interested, you can read the entire essay I wrote on communication at bennorris.org/communication.
Default to asynchronous communication to honor others as people, improve critical thinking, and increase productivity.
Asynchronous most of the time, synchronous when needed
Just as in my article on remote working, much of my focus was on treating people and not objects. When we engage in synchronous communication and demand immediate answers from people, we start to lose our common humanity. It is much easier to get frustrated and to see others as obstacles blocking us because they are delaying us in moving forward. This kind of frustration can lead to much more serious states of mind and being.
When we are on the receiving end of those requests, life at work can feel overwhelming. We spend all of our time in emergency mode responding to urgent requests. Our time is broken up and interrupted. We feel as if others see us as existing only to provide them with information. Living in a constant emergency mode triggers our body to respond with our flight, fight, or freeze response, which is not healthy or sustainable1.
My belief is that when we communicate asynchronously more regularly, we can create an environment of safety and allow people to be their best selves.
We all need to step back and care enough for ourselves and for others to stop acting this way. We need to prioritize our mental health and that of others and find ways to move through our work interactions with more calm and respect. We can make a difference.
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This is part of why anxiety disorders, and OCD in my case, are so detrimental. Our alarm system is broken and so our brain is triggering the emergency mode where it is not warranted. ↩