Monday, June 27, 2011

It's almost conference time!!

I am officially registered for the 2011 International OCD Foundation Annual Conference!  I can't believe it's only about a month away! I am a self-professed OCD nerd and let me tell you, this conference has to be the Mecca of all OCD nerdiness.  With the expert presenters, the plethora of informative lectures, and the hundreds of empathetic attendees, it is an amazing experience for sufferers to learn about OCD and meet others who have experience with this disorder.  Now that I am registered, it suddenly seems so real!  Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Fear of Losing Interest

A fierce wave of apathy and a new level of busyness in my life have led me away from blogging recently.  This lessening of interest creates additional anxiety on top of everything else:  why am I not so interested in writing anymore?  Am I losing my fascination with OCD?  Am I losing my identity as someone who has suffered and continues to suffer from OCD?  Is finding out that I have OCD no longer an intriguing life revelation and now just one thing more thing to deal with?  I hope not.  Of course, that's exactly why I start obsessing about it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, so much has changed in my life recently.  I have a new apartment and a new roommate.  I also have a new job.  However, with the initial training period for that job now complete, I have drastically fewer hours, and the limited number of hours and my somewhat unpredictable schedule have me feeling less useful than I'd like to feel.  Lack of purpose breeds apathy and apathy breeds trouble adjusting to this new life.  It's getting better, but I still feel somewhat lost at times.

I'm hoping that going to the IOCDF's Annual Conference (which is coming up quickly - it's just a little over a month away!) will remind me of how much this disorder has affected my life, recently and in the past, as well as how intriguing I have found the research and treatment of OCD.

When I finally figured out, almost two years ago now, the cause of some of my strange behaviors as well as the key to freeing myself from those behaviors, CBT with ERP, it was like a whole world had opened up before me.  A world that had always been there but that I had never seen before.  It was a truly life-changing revelation, and since then I have clung to the hope that this revelation provided to buoy me up when things were not so great.  In fact, in some ways, that revelation has led me to cling more tightly to my OCD for fear of losing this thing that had for so long defined my life and the hope that this discovery had to offer.  I am slowly overcoming this fear as I move forward in challenging and letting go of my OCD behaviors, but it's still hard sometimes, and as I get better, it often feels as if my fear is coming true:  it seems like I am losing interest in my disorder and the dream of pursuing a career somehow related to it.

My failure to write here and to read and comment on others' blogs feels like proof of this fear coming true.  In truth, there are probably a number of factors that have contributed to my decreased online activity - all the new things in my life draw my attention elsewhere.  I am often still in the trenches, fighting daily battles with my OCD in so many of the things I do, but they are no longer the only concern that fills my mind.  Now I worry about work and whether I am performing well enough in my job.  I worry about what my future will become.  I worry about my roommate discovering my big OCD "secret" and what she might think of it if I were to straight up tell her about my condition.  There is so much else I feel I "should" be doing that it's hard for me to garner the enthusiasm to write an entire post - even now I feel like I should be showering, changing my sheets, doing laundry, running errands, etc., instead of sitting and leisurely writing a blog post.

I feel like I'm losing something, but I know that this is only one way to look at it.  I could assume the worst and take my changing behavior as proof that I no longer have any interest in my disorder and am back to square one when it comes to figuring out my strange life, OR I could look at the broader picture and think about all else that is currently going on in my life that might draw my attention away from my blog.  I treasure this place to write and to give a receive support within a community of OCD bloggers, and I don't want to lose touch with it.  Still, I don't have to view my decreased activity here as a purely negative thing - perhaps it shows that I am progressing and my relationship with my disorder is evolving.  Sometimes I can even entertain the idea that getting better will bring me CLOSER to my OCD and help me understand and appreciate the role it has played in my life even more, as my therapist suggests.  But all the same, it still scares me!  I don't want to lose touch with this forum for communicating thoughts about life with OCD, nor do I want to lose touch with this wonderful community of individuals who diligently and very kindly offer their empathy and support!!

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?

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