Why Am I Doing This?

I just got out of surgery and this post-op is nothing short of terrible.  I’m ok, but geez do I know how to have fun…  Finals week at school and all I can think about is debt. Debt.

I talked about it to a few people and I wasn’t left feeling any better.  But something finally helped and I am taking deeper more peaceful breathes.  Here’s what happened:

I opened my email to respond to a few messages from this page and I read a few sentences only people with OCD would understand.  I felt connected like I do when I talk to someone else with a story like mine and I am reminded that we are not alone.

My nerves calmed a bit because I remembered why I am going through Naturopathic Medical School.  OCD.

OCD

My therapist had me do some “homework” once and come up with a list of short term goals like “keep daily anxiety under control” and long term goals like “get accepted into school”.  We then discussed how to modify some of my behavior so that I could work on both sets of goals at the same time.  Is “acting out” and getting “wasted” the best way to move toward my long term goal?  Of course it would help in the short term, but once I started this assignment, I realized how many of my decisions were based on instant gratification.  To be fair, sometimes we need to make things better in the moment, and making the healthy choice isn’t always easy.  But, we can’t give up.

I learned from this that the “big picture” was something to keep in mind and focus on when I felt anxious.  Reminding myself why I might need to delay instant gratification brought my anxiety levels down and I felt I could better tolerate the stress.  And I could tolerate it!

When I did that exercise, my long term goal was to get accepted into medical school, now it’s opening a practice that specializes in natural medicine emphasizing mental health.

Stay strong my friends!

Trading old habits for Trust

I miss cutting myself.  I miss starving, drinking, escaping, depriving myself; anything to talk louder than the OCD brain.  Psychotherapy is hard because these coping mechanisms work in the short term.  In fact, they work so well in the short term, it’s hard to see exactly how they mold the future.

I turned to self harm because I didn’t know when the anxiety would go away and if I could handle it for the duration.  I felt better serving myself because it was distracting from what I was thinking.

And while I miss these old habits, I can safely say that they are old.  It really does get easier.  Easier to trust that the anxiety dissipates, that sleep helps reboot and that new neural pathways can develop and more serotonin can stick around.

I don’t blame myself for how I got through the OCD.  I did what I thought helped.  And while I miss the short term relief, I value the confidence I have in myself and the trust I am establishing with my brain.

Don’t give up.  Stay strong because it’s a long journey, but it can get better.

 

The Wounded Healer

Ian Osborn wrote a book about OCD called “Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals” including details of his experience at medical school and becoming a doctor.  I should also mention that Ian had OCD.  Severely too.

When I read his book, my OCD was everything and it demanded all of my attention, but I hoped that someday I might get it under control enough to go to medical school to.

OCD makes us want to be perfect.  Perfect in every way and I knew the medical school would demand this same drive from me.  Scary.  The question was “If my OCD gets under control, can I have a purpose driven life?”  I mean, who wants to rock the boat?

I got to the point where I didn’t need help getting dressed and I didn’t have to wash my hands repeatedly, and the gratitude I felt was so intense, I wondered if I deserved more.  It felt wrong to want to go to school, like I had already been given so much.

GUILT!  The OCD’s right-hand man.  Sneaky.

Second year of medical school and my OCD has popped it’s head out in some very creative ways, but I have committed to not quitting.  Food was scaring me.  I’d be so busy with studying I thought “I dont have time to deal with this obsession” and walk out of my kitchen without food.

No matter what stage of your OCD you are in….weather you are newly diagnosed, in treatment, doing just fine…. You are more than your OCD.  Sometimes my OCD does feel like the star of the show, and I give it attention and take care of myself because my mental health is most important, but when things are good, I get to enjoy life a little and so do you!

 

Stay strong.

 

The Good Things about OCD

For a change, let’s talk about the good things that come with mental illness that may not shine through often, but make us unique.  YES!  I swear they exist, and sometimes those qualities are the very reasons that keep us out of treatment, because we don’t want to lose them.  The key (easier said than done) is to aim for healthy and let go of the not -so-great stuff so each day we can try to be a better version of who we are.

Here goes:

  1. Intense Emotion: Sometimes, and often it all just feels “too much!”, but then other times, isn’t it pretty cool to feel something so strong just like it was new?  I can get so excited over simple things just as I can get anxious over seemingly nothing, but when I have those joyful moments, it’s fun.
  2. Empathy: This skill is special.  It hurts, but when we learn to manage the double-edge sword, then it can be amazing for us and those close to us to feel a sense of understanding.
  3. Passion: “Overwhelmed” is a great way to describe it when emotions are on a roll, but the good news is we don’t have to look far for passion.
  4. Creativity: Finding our own ways to work within our brains to treat our conditions requires true creativity.  I also love to make art and see art.
  5. Insight & Awareness: We get really good at feeling the ground shake well before the invasion because we have experienced it so many times before.  We have real insight into some heavy emotions because of our painful pasts.
  6. Intelligence: Yep, there are studies that demonstrate a link between higher intelligence and mental illness.
  7. Compassion:  This was not a given for me, but once I practiced, I developed a skill I now use all the time in a positive way.  Showing compassion to myself, other people, animals and the earth is special.
  8. Obsessive thinking/Analysis: Mostly awful, but I think that sometimes the reason I can follow through with a task and not lose interest for a long long time is because of my tendency to latch on to an idea.
  9. Persistence:  We have a lot of practice at not giving up!
  10. Impulsivity: This one can be dangerous, but when it is harnessed, then impulsivity can become adventure!

Stay strong!

Borderline

I started this blog as a way to figure out OCD and beat it.  I wanted to connect and help others share in a collective voice so we could feel a little less alone.  That is still my priority, which is why I took so long to write this because so much has changed and I didn’t know how to take it.  Here goes.

A year ago, I gave a TED talk which was amazing!  I left the stage to be treated by a psychologist from Harvard.  She said that she didn’t think I had OCD.  Ugh…..WHAT??

No, she thought I had OCD, but another more umbrella style diagnosis to account for the symptoms that never went away.  It’s true, I never ended my talk with “happily ever after” but that was never the point.  My OCD cleared up, but my self-harm, fear of rejection, lack of sense of self, intolerance of intimacy, and substance abuse were just as bad as ever.  After a lengthy talk she referred me to a therapist in town for a full evaluation, and for the third time, I got diagnosed with something just as stigmatizing as OCD…

Borderline Personality Disorder.

Except it made sense this time.  Not good.  I had seen enough movies to know how everyone saw the “psycho borderline girl”. How could I tell anyone?  Who would ever date me?  How can I write my blog now?

So, it’s been a year of therapy, and I feel ready to say it.  And although it was a surprise, it made too much sense, just the way OCD made sense when I was diagnosed.  I am a whole lot of diagnoses, but a lot else too.  But the truth is that I have come a long way!

My OCD is mostly asymptomatic, self-harm is not in the picture, fear of rejection is in a healthy perspecitve, and intimacy is now comfortable.

I love this blog because I still strive to nurture a space where people with OCD and anxiety can participate in a voice, and feel a little less lonely.  I have some topics I am eager to discuss like POCD and maybe even Borderline, and happy to make a video about anything anyone else wants.

Stay tuned, but more importantly, stay strong 🙂