In my update this week, I share about difficulty returning to work, the emotional impact of a TV show, and the results of my short device fast.
These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope that regardless of your situation, you have found loved ones to be grateful for and have expressed how you feel.
Coming back to work is often a difficult thing for many people following a holiday or time off. While I have certainly experienced a degree of that before in my life, I was a little shaken by the feelings I had on Monday as I contemplated returning to work the next day.
As I mentioned last week, I took the week off to be with family. We played lots of card games1, and built lots of Legos2, and mostly just enjoyed ourselves. There were certainly moments when my OCD flared up, and I needed to withdraw from the family, or take some time to recenter and focus on the people and relationships instead of my rules of how things needed to go. For the most part, I was able to quickly recover from those situations and move on with the day.
Near the end of the week, and over the weekend, as I considered returning to work, thoughts of change started to intrude in my mind. I started thinking how nice it would be to just quit my job and find a mindless job somewhere that I could just show up, do my work, and go home. I am a software engineering manager, and while I definitely enjoy what I do, there are many stresses.
I took some time for a free-writing exercise to explore what I was feeling below the surface. As I wrote, I realized that part of the issue is that I am tired. Tired of OCD. Tired of the rules. Tired of the strain on my life and relationships. Tired of the work of coping. Tired of fighting through each day. Additionally, I wanted to be able to leave work at work. I realized that the key skill that I want to be working on is mindfulness. I want to be able to be fully present wherever I am, and not have my mind stuck in the past or future.
Mindfulness is something that I, and all of us, can work on regardless of our situation or circumstances. This reminder was good for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.
My wife found a new TV series for us to watch a few weeks ago, All Creatures Great & Small. We have both read many of the books by James Herriot and thoroughly enjoyed the show. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for animals, although I’ve rarely had a pet for various reasons. Being able to see beautiful countrysides and the interactions of good people and true caring for living creatures was refreshing.
After we finished the series, I felt a keen sense of loss. I had emotionally invested myself heavily into the show, and it was difficult to have it end. I have discussed with my therapist that part of my OCD is that I feel things deeply. Books or shows or movies can affect me in significant ways, and I felt that with this show.
As my wife and I were eating out on a date, we discussed the show and why we enjoyed it so much. She asked me which character I identified with and why, and I responded with James Herriot because he was so honest and caring and hard working, and then immediately started sobbing. It caught me completely off guard. I realized that I have been carrying a lot of emotion without processing it. I still need to find ways to work through it all.
I mentioned last week that I was going to try something of a device fast, and wanted to report on it. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I felt so free leaving my phone out of my reach and interacting with the world in an analog way. I wore my Apple Watch still, so I was able to send and receive messages and make phone calls if needed. But I was surprised at how little I actually needed to use it.
I already interact very little with social media, but even this short break from the immediate distractions my phone has to offer further cemented my desires to take back control of my attention. Part of mindfulness, as I discussed earlier, is being fully present in the moment. I found that much easier without a distraction box constantly within reach.
Moving forward, I plan to try to keep my phone out of my pocket as much as I can. As nice as it is to be able to snap a quick picture, or record a kid quote, it is often even nicer to just enjoy the moment. There is a certain amount of fear of future loss of the present moment that drives me, and maybe you, to try and document what is happening. Putting my devices away has helped me feel less worried about my possible memory of the moment in the future, and more focused on how the current moment might change me for the future.
I have been struck over the past little bit at how many people are struggling right now. This really is a difficult time, and it is important for us to take and make opportunities to cultivate and expression compassion for others and for ourselves. Best wishes to you in your own journey.
Some of our particular favorites from this time are Skyjo, Bohnanza, and The Bears and the Bees. ↩
The big new set that I tackled was The Razor Crest. I built a bag with each kid, which was lots of fun. We also built a Resistance Y-Wing Fighter, and a Clone Wars era Droid Tank, which included the Ashoka Tano minifigure. ↩