#78: Painful therapy

#78: Painful therapy

This week, I share about a difficult therapy session, the joys of doing what I love for work, and striving to find balance.

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.


Something hard

My therapy session last week was effective, and also painful. It was one of those session where I was called out on a number things that I am doing.

Being called out hurts.

That really is the reason that I go to therapy though. I have done enough treatment that I am not learning new skills. But that doesn’t mean that I effectively apply the skills that I know.

Much of the benefit of therapy is gaining insight into the areas on my life in which I want to change, but am unable to on my own. Over the past three and a half years, I have built a relationship with my therapist that allows her to know me well enough to quickly spot where I need help, and also to be able to deliver the help in an efficient manner. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, she often reminds me, “The meaner I can be, the faster you are going to heal.”

Knowing that it is helpful doesn’t stop the hurting. There is still pain. But the key is that it is not suffering. Suffering occurs when the pain doesn’t have a clear purpose. As Viktor Frankl taught in Man’s Search for Meaning:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

We have the ability to choose how to respond to the pain that will inevitably come to us in life. This is perhaps the biggest gift that OCD treatment gave to me—the ability to choose again.

When a mental illness takes over, it is similar to an addiction. My therapist says that dealing with me is not any different than dealing with people who have substance addictions. In each case, the brain run amuck and requires some intervention and rewiring to restore agency. As I went through my intensive outpatient program, I learned that I could feel emotions without acting immediately on them. That was life changing.

It’s still not easy, but I know that I am making progress. It’s discouraging after discussing changing my approach for an hour and then immediately acting contrary to everything we discussed. It’s also impossible to make instantaneous change. This is a process, and I am on a journey. A very long journey.

Something good

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am transitioning my role at work to focus more on engineering. This past week was one of the first in which I was able to dedicate myself to that.

And I loved it!

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy the process of identifying a problem and then crafting a solution.

The engineering work that I am doing right now is to enable my other team members to work more effectively. An example is that we store our data in Airtable, have our website built by Webflow, while managing our customers and accounts in Outseta, sending transactional emails from SendGrid, and have everything connected with Make. This week, among other tasks, I made it possible to create a record in Airtable, filling it out like you would a spreadsheet, and then it publishes a landing page with a link to a waitlist that we can send out to get people interested in a program we are going to run.

One of my favorite moments was working together with one of my team members, and watching him try to create a new landing page. The process took just a few minutes, but then there was an error. I jumped in to diagnose and fix it, and he saw the configuration in Make, and commented,

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I don’t have to deal with or understand any of that.

We all want to feel needed, and this struck a chord for me. I realized that I am providing a real service for him. This is something that I enjoy and am good at, neither of which are true for him. So it is a beautiful moment where we can complement each other and accomplish more together.

Something else

Balance is so hard.

As I just wrote about, I enjoyed myself at work more this past week than I have in a while. I also worked way more than I have been. Instead of starting my day with a nice routine, I’ve been jumping in immediately to solve or create something.

It feels good to be flexible and let go of my “right” view of how my days must go. I wrote about how important that is for me a few weeks ago in update #72: Losing my routine.

But I also missed some of the things in my routine that I enjoy. When I don’t take any time to think and process my work, and just do the work, I can easily lose sight of the big picture. I can get lost down rabbit holes quickly.

Working like this is also draining and exhausting. Even though I am energized and love the work, if I am not taking time to think and process, I run myself ragged. This is a good moment to take stock and realize the extreme I am swinging to, and take steps to find some middle ground.

Wrap up

Wherever you are at, I’m sure this past week brought ups and downs for you. I hope that you can find compassion from yourself and others in your life. Sometimes that compassion comes with pain as you need to get called out and corrected to improve. It’s important to sit with the emotions that arise and allow them space. As we do that, we can mindfully digest them and retain the ability to make our own choices to move forward.

We’ve got this.


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