Monday, June 6, 2011

Unseen Victories

Right now, life is so different.  New home, new rally to fight against OCD, new job.  It's that last one that has me tired and anxious today.  Today was my first day at a new job.  Granted, I'm still just doing training, but even so, it's not so much the job as the small unrelated challenges that come with it - things that I know others take for granted - that place strain on me. 

I feel like there should be some sort of support network out there for people who have overcome or are overcoming severe OCD.  A support group for those who are re-entering "normal" life and bravely facing the exposures that come with it.  A place where those who are "in recovery" can guide and mentor those who are getting back on their feet.  In general, I wish there was more available in terms of rehabilitation, guidance and support for the challenges that OCD sufferers are likely to face as they re-integrate themselves into society.  I certainly feel like I could use such a program.  Someone to tell me:  "Here's what to expect when you begin to get back into normal life.  These are some common feelings that sufferers experience.  These are feelings/situations that you can expect to face and a rough timeline of the stages in your recovery."  I recognize the importance of working on the behavioral components during therapy sessions, but what about the emotional side of things?  What about the rehabilitation aspect?  What about guidance in how to deal with all the emotional baggage and feelings of isolation that arise as a sufferer re-enters that "normal" world where people work full time and actions are not dictated by compulsion and avoidance?

So what were my unseen victories of the day?  I used a public restroom.  I touched sink handles.  I washed my hands like a relatively normal person in public and didn't avoid things after touching the bathroom key.  I also washed a mug I used at my new office in a relatively non-compulsive fashion considering that I just began washing dishes again on Friday.

These are all things that the average person does without thinking, without any sort of concerted effort.  But today, they were my victories.  Today my win was not completing the first day of job training in a professional sense.  No, today my victory was functioning and taking care of things that needed to be taken care of unrelated (or at least not specific) to my line of work - getting myself to work on time, washing dishes at work, and using the bathroom at work, etc.

But carrying this secret is hard.  I know I can handle the discomfort, but that's not the point.  The point is, I feel like something's missing, like there should be some program for helping sufferers adapt to their new lives after OCD has taken its toll and left the recovering OCD-er with the feeling of being somewhat out-of-place and unsure how to exist and operate within the confines of "normal" life.  After bending to OCD's will so thoroughly for so long, "normal" life is what feels foreign while the OCD world is all too familiar and comforting.

For me, it doesn't help that I have a new home/new roommate, as well.  I love it here and I adore my new apartment-mate, but all the same, I constantly feel like I'm carrying around this big black secret that I can't tell anyone about, that I can't reveal lest others find it disturbing or treat me differently because of it.  I envy those who can come home and can speak honestly of their day's stressors, who can turn to the comfort of family, roommates, or friends to get the understanding and support they desire after a hard day.  But with my OCD struggles and successes, it just feels like most people couldn't understand or would even be made uncomfortable if I shared such burdens with them.  So I keep them inside, hidden, even as I exert substantial effort to do those things that most take for granted.

My first day was taxing, but not so much because of the nature of my work.  No, the taxing part was exerting the effort to maintain the level of functionality expected when working and living a so-called "normal" life.  Honestly, I think using a public restroom and washing a mug were the most challenging parts of my day, and I feel disconnected from others because this fact is my big fat hidden secret.

Can anyone relate?  How have you dealt with the struggles of gradually re-entering the "normal" world after struggling with OCD?


  1. YES I can relate. I can relate to that feeling of wanting to be more "open" with my struggles and feeling alienated. I can also relate to the "emotional" struggles as you call them, and not knowing who to turn to. My last session with my therapist was a lot of that stuff. I broke down to him! (That was a first.) That's why I rely on the blogging community so very much. But I totally know what you mean....I think that if we could be more "out" - then there would be more of an open discussion about that stuff. AND - I hate to say it but I don't think there are many people with OCD who truly commit to ERP and truly recover from OCD. Maybe I'm wrong....

  2. I wish they had something between working full time and working very little and being on disability. Because I feel like I'm in the never-never land. I work too much and not enough.

    Sometimes I mention something about my ocd, and people think it is a joke, but I've said it. Like one time I was eating one thing for lunch and was offered another, and I said, no, thankyou, I can't eat suchandsuch for lunch today. That would break my schedule and my stomach would be annoyed. That leaves people not sure how to answer... I probably wouldn't do that at my current job unless I was having a really bad day. But they might just think you were joking.

    I hope you keep writing. You are part of my support group. :)

  3. I'm not sure that everyone else is working free of compulsion or avoidance--I was really good at hiding my anxiety at work, and not letting on that I had any kind of difficulties at all. When I was desperate and started getting acupuncture in hopes it would cure my OCD, one of my colleagues saw me coming out of the office, and asked why I was having acupuncture and I said for "stress" and she couldn't believe I had any stress at all, which freaked me out, since I was stressed and anxious all the time! It is possible to find friends who will support you in your struggles with OCD, and celebrate your victories--I have a couple close friends who know I have OCD and who get how hard it can be. My husband is also very supportive, and he can see the victory if I've made a phone call, or some other difficult thing. You rock for dealing with all these changes!

  4. I'm so glad I found your blog.My son also went through intense ERP Therapy and "recovered" from severe OCD. He is back at college now, and I know he still feels that he often does not fit in. I have to say though, that his close friends know he has OCD and are very supportive. Though OCD is one of the most misunderstood anxiety disorders, maybe we need to give people in general a little more credit, and educate them so that they will understand and support those with this disorder. Good Luck in finding your way....I think you are very brave!

  5. woops! I forgot to offer you my blog if you are interested in checking it out:

  6. I just found your blog and I'm glad you're sharing all of this because I think very many people will relate and feel glad to know they're not alone in celebrating small victories! I've found that the better I get to know my co-workers, the more they want to share in each other's quirks. It helps to have that support, and I hope you'll find that, too!

  7. thanks for sharing the steps in how uncertain that feels right now. I'm not there yet, but sounds like you are identifying what the barriers are - which is great - it is always harder to chop the head of the dragon that is invisible - or something like that....
    also thanks for describing what it feels like to want to tell people but being nervous to do so. someday these types of health issues will be like any other. saying, hello roommate, I have OCD will have the same resonance as saying hello roommate, I have cardiomyopathy. and in both cases said roommate will respond - sure, good to know.



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