OCD – Going Numb

Watching my OCD symptoms diminish was the most incredible and empowering thing, but it scared me because as my compulsions slipped, so did my emotional sensitivity and I was left feeling numb.  

This is a frightening feeling.  I wondered what parts of my personality my OCD would take with it and I felt my identity threatened.  What if Van Gogh or other tortured artists never had their depression? Would they still be artists?  Do you need misery to fuel passion?  

I saw an episode of “House” where Dr. H discusses this in a great way:

“Miserable? You think that by taking meds you’ll lose your edge? Stop making the unique connections that make you a successful doctor?” 
   “If Van Gogh was your patient, he’d be satisfied painting houses instead of ‘The Starry Night’.” 
   “Van Gogh would still be making inspired paintings of the night sky. Just maybe not from the room of his asylum.” 
   “You don’t know that.” 
   “I know both his ears would be intact. And I know his life would be better.”

 

My therapist showed me to look at my numb feeling like a concert.  When you walk outside a concert where the music was blaring, you feel like there’s clouds in your ears and everything is quieter than it should be.  It’s not that the world suddenly spoke in a whisper, it’s that you get used to high volume and moving into a normal range feels quieter than it really is, BUT it eventually levels out and that “quiet world” starts to sound normal.  

With OCD you feel everything extreme in your emotional range.  Everything is severe, so when you start to turn down the volume on your emotions, it feels numb.  

After my OCD became asymptomatic, I felt euphoric, but then I crashed into an identity crisis.  Who was I without my OCD?  It felt wrong and bad not knowing who I was because I questioned everything in my life from my breakfast choices to my husband, but what I would tell someone else going through the same thing is that don’t beat yourself up during this search for the self.  You’ll find your identity, but it will take time.  

Today I am no longer the “OCD Girl”, but I am a girl with OCD.  My OCD is not the star of the show, but it’s a part of my story, and that’s ok. 

Book Review for “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD”

I have been reading the “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD” by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy, and I’m not finished with it yet, but I am really enjoying it.  I was pleasantly surprised because so many OCD books tell you stuff you could google, and since many of us OCDers are online looking up this stuff anyway….

The book’s philosophy comes from mindfulness based therapy which I am a huge appreciator of.  This style of therapy is rooted in believing that the patient is not broken or damaged, but needing some reworking of thought processes that lead to low self esteem, depression and false belief systems about reality and the self.  It has a lot to do with learning to accept which is not easy, but in my experience rewarding.  

I’m an analogy person.  It’s how I understand the world around me and how I learn about myself.  There are some good ones in this book, so I am looking forward to finish it.  For example, one thing in particular that I get irritated by is when people say “o, you have OCD?  What do you do, like what are your compulsions?”  It makes me feel like they want to satisfy their intrusive curiosity more than they actually care.  The authors discuss this situation saying “you’d never ask a person with IBS to describe their latest bowel movement”.  So true!  They suggest a few possible responses to this like saying that “it’s personal” or “my symptoms change and evolve over time just as my anxiety does” which could stir the conversation back to the fact that OCD is an anxiety disorder, not a tv show.

 And while books are not a substitute for therapy, I do find that having some useful ones nearby can make some of the tougher times a little less tough.  

OCD & Depression

The day I was diagnosed with OCD, I was also diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.  I told my therapist that I agreed that all seemed plausible, but that the depression was a bit off.  I explained that if I had any symptoms of depression, they were only there because I have severe OCD.  That’s not the only time I have been diagnosed with depression, and each time, I reject it.

I had these seizure-like episodes as a teenager.  For years, a few times a week, I’d get dizzy, fall over and go into convulsions.  Joints locked, including my jaw and when I came out of it, I was exhausted and done for the day.  Doctors didn’t know what it was, though drug use and stress were the two common suspects.  It wasn’t in my head, and I took offense to being told I was stressed.  

Since then, I have not taken kindly to being told that stress is causing any of my problems and I associated depression with stress, and thus rejected that as well.  Why I don’t reject it now is because I have started to learn what it really means. 

I have Dysthmia which I think of as rain cloud.  It’s a mild form of chronic depression that feels like a little gloom all the time.  I do get happy, it’s just that those moments are rare and I am very aware of when they end.  It’s hard for me to stay happy because I know it won’t last and I get antsy for the crash.  This triggers major depressive episodes for me where everything feels like work and I lose sight of things.  I sleep and sleep and sleep, lose my appetite because I can’t feel my body’s physiological reminder to eat, get flooded with old cravings to binge and cut and get so hazy in the storm cloud, I can’t see the way out.  These episodes get triggered once in a while and when I come out of them, I feel like a completely different person.  

The reason I am posting this is because I misunderstood and rejected depression so much, that I hoped in sharing a bit of my story I could help clear up that for anyone else struggling with it.  

Some important things to know about depression:

  1. Depression and sadness are different
  2. Depression is not weakness or cynicism
  3. Depression feeds off of isolation
  4. Depression, anxiety, joy, etc…all are temporary
  5. Like OCD, depression may be a part of your story, but it is not who you are

Lastly, have a plan.  If you find yourself caught in a rainstorm, it’s easier to handle if you already know what to do, because when the storm hits, it’s easy to forget what to do.  It takes practice to create habits.  When I get into a depressive episode, I journal.  I remind myself to eat and that it won’t last forever.  Exercise is on my list, but it’s not yet my go to. Working on it.

Sometimes, mental illness makes it feel like we just can’t catch a break, but we just have to take things one day at a time.  And most important, be kind to yourself.  When depressed, do not team up with the bully in your head.  

Stay strong my friends.  

OCD – Loneliness

OCD has been referred to as the “disease of doubt” and I think most of us understand on a visceral level why.  Our obsessive thoughts feel shameful to talk about and our compulsive behavior can range from annoying to humiliating. Before we even know what’s going on, we know that it’s irrational.  We hide, lie, escape and do anything we can to get our minds to calm down.  This can create a very lonely environment.  Really, it comes down to the fact that so much of the time we feel like no one understands because we wish we didn’t.

I feel lonely a lot.  I am not one to call a friend when I need to talk, and although I’m extroverted in a lot of ways, I find it hard to make an effort to be social because making connections is still very scary.  Though, feeling lonely is unpleasant and I def. do not like it, I believe I am not alone.  

Writing on this blog, I have discovered a community where we can share, support each other, and remind ourselves that although it may feel like it, we are not truly alone.  We understand each other, and we share the same goal of wanting our lives to improve.  They will :)

We may not feel normal, and we may try to keep our secrets hidden, but we are not alone.  We need to remember that, because it is when we suffer alone that we truly suffer.

 

OCD TEDx Talk

I am really excited to announce that I will be speaking for a TEDx talk!  I will be telling my story with OCD and sharing a lot of the lessons that have come with the journey.  I will keep you all posted and of course, if anyone has any ideas or things they would like me to include, let me know :)