I thought it might be helpful to share a recent free writing entry. I had wanted to process my thoughts and feelings as OCD was starting to take over in my life. The realization that was happening struck me as I was writing my latest weekly update, #95: Experimenting with discomfort.
I had written in that update,
I decided that the general guideline is that tracking for a clear purpose is ok. Especially if my doctor asked me to.
However, if I’m tracking just to have the data, that’s where I should draw the line.
As I drove in to my office the day after writing that update, I knew that I needed to do some processing. Here is what I wrote.
I realized yesterday as I was writing my update that I was violating my rule for tracking. I was tracking all sorts of things just for the data.
I want to stop.
And I want the data. But why? What do I want it for?
I know from experience that I don’t really use the data. And when I start tracking, it gives OCD a foothold into my life. In this case, it has snuck in and started to take over more.
Part of my brain was justifying, saying that it will be more accurate to have more data points, which will help me see and report to [my psychiatrist] better.
But the goal is not accuracy. My fear is that I will do it wrong. I won’t have the data that I want, and so I won’t be able to go back and look at things.
And that might be true. I need to lean in to the uncertainty.
I want to challenge myself to not go back and change past entries. And also, it would be helpful to compare the same things. So maybe I will.
But I have spent way too long thinking about this. I am inclined to say that I get to think through it as much as I want right now while I write. Then I get a few minutes to set up the system in a way that makes it easier to do moving forward, and then I’m done. After that, I only get to do a simple log at night. The goal is to use the app as little as possible while still getting the benefit.
So now, indulge.
What do I want? Well, the answer is to figure out what I want to do with the data and then determine what data I need in order to do that. [My psychiatrist] wants to see trends—are things better or worse? For that, I actually would benefit from logging less.
As it is right now, I find myself worrying about the accuracy. So I don’t put that a day was red if it also had some green in it. Fuck that. It’s a red day.
Then, we want to be able to compare ranges and know what we are comparing. So it would be helpful to have inflection points or milestones. The ones that I want to have are appointments with him and med changes. That is probably enough for comparing.
Finally (I think), it would be nice to have some help saying what different days looks like. What was a red day? What was a yellow day? So I would like to have something to just describe quickly what went down. Basically, I want to record something about my symptoms.
And that’s it. I don’t want to record other activities I am doing. I don’t want to correlate with my sleep, or eating, or drinking. When I start to do that is when OCD starts to take over.
So which symptoms will I track? Irritability is one. Agitation. Panic attack. Dissociation or something—when I’m not in my right brain. Rigidity. Something about communication—I want to capture days in which I can’t compute things. Not sure what to call that yet. Getting stuck on something mentally. Maybe that’s it? I don’t want to have too many. Maybe rumination, although that might be every day. But it’s worth considering.
My mind already went through the question of whether to track wins in here. And I think no. It’s enough to say wins equal higher mood and less symptoms.
There is a strong part of me that wants to ask [my therapist] about this and get instructions or the proper procedure to do this right. I noticed a strong urge for that this morning, driving in. That is part of what tipped me off that this had become an issue.
I know. Trust myself. Call myself out and ask earnest questions. That’s usually all it takes.