After missing a week, I share about the struggles of OCD and anxiety getting the better of me for a bit.
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.
Whew. These past couple weeks have been rough. I decided last week not to try to force myself to write an update. It’s hard to allow myself to do something not 100% and it’s also good for me. And, I could barely function last week, let alone write.
A couple weeks ago, I shared the wave of emotions I rode in preparing for and conducting the meditative sketchnotes workshop. That was on Thursday November 18. The next day, I met with my therapist and told her I was not doing well. I tried to be more open and honest than I had been for a bit, and shared some of my journal entries over the past while. I have been feeling miserable for a long time—not actively wanting to die, but feeling like I would rather be dead and done with everything. We recognized that I have had similar episodes in the the past, and it is usually tied with not being on the right dose of medication. When my OCD has free reign in my brain it takes so much mental effort to deal with all the looping thoughts that I get run down easily.
So I got in touch with my psychiatrist and made some adjustments. That brought some hope, but also the knowledge that the next little while would be rocky as we made adjustments.
That same weekend, we had a scare with one of our kids needing stitches. As a parent, the safety of our children is one of the biggest concerns, so that had a real effect on me.
Thanksgiving was the following week, and it was filled with family time. My 90-year-old- minus-exactly-one-month grandfather passed away, and we drove down to Arizona for the funeral. There was certainly some grief and sadness but we were glad his suffering was ended. And it was a nice time to be with extended family.
In many ways, I limped along the next week until my therapy session on Friday. It had been just over two weeks straight of near-crippling anxiety every day. My body was so agitated that most days I could do very little, and often struggled to sleep at night. There was plenty of crying and sudoku and jumping in a cold shower and resting in the dark and quiet.
As I met with my therapist, she recognized a couple things. First, I had been stuffing down a lot of emotion instead of sitting with and processing it. That needed to stop. Second, as a result, I had so much tension and energy built up in my body that needed to be released.
As I learned during my time in an intensive outpatient program for OCD, when my brain floods my body with adrenaline and cortisol, it has to be metabolized. One of the simplest ways was high knees—just run in place until I was exhausted. And since I haven’t been exercising much lately, that didn’t take long.
The very next day, my wife commented that it was a relief to hear me sound happy. “Whoa, whoa, let’s not get carried away,” I said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m happy. But I definitely am a bit better than I have been.”
I have written before about sounding like myself again after breaking free of the grip of OCD. It is similar to a fever breaking. There comes a tipping point where I start to improve again. Everything is not solved and back to normal, but things are at least headed that way.
I don’t know where you are at this week, but chances are that you are struggling with your own challenges. I send you compassion. And I offer a reminder to both of us to not stuff down our emotions. We don’t have to react to them immediately and allow them to run our lives. But we do need to acknowledge them and allow ourselves to feel them.
Let’s be kind. Both to those around us, and also to ourselves. We all deserve it.
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