Coming Out, Depression

It’s about time I start taking my own advice

I love books, and like most bibliophiles, I’ve amassed a collection I can’t possibly read in a lifetime. Short of becoming the world’s fastest speed reader, these books will likely remain unfinished. With such self-awareness one would think I’d stop buying books. Alas.

I’m a bit stubborn, so it takes just short of an eon to make changes in my life. (It also takes me several years to write a blog post. Mea culpa.) Back on April 15, 2016, I posted about needing therapy. I was in a bad way, and I knew it. Once again, however, that self-awareness didn’t propel me forward. Imagine me instead sitting on my futon-that-strives-to-be-a-couch contemplating therapy and then deciding life sucks anyway and then seeing what’s on Netflix while chastising myself for not cleaning my apartment.

That is, until now.

Drum roll please.

I started seeing a therapist, who confirmed that I was indeed in a bad way. Not only do I have OCD (which, thankfully, has been manageable), but I also have depression. Apparently, I’m also in the business of collecting mental illnesses. Unlike my book collection, however, I plan to deal with my disorders effectively. To that end, I’ve started taking antidepressants, which have been a life-saver. That’s not an exaggeration. I’ll devote more time to discussing my meds later. (Perhaps when the current ice age ends?) For now, I’ll just say that the medication has been working and therapy has been good.

Taking the step to get help is hard even if, as I have, you’ve done so before. I mean, I even advocate on therapy’s behalf. I go door to door passing out flyers. I write therapy fan fiction. All this to say, I’m an imperfect advocate, but that’s ok. (My therapist says I should be less hard on myself.) So I’ve gone and done it; I’ve gotten help. I think I’ll celebrate by buying myself a book.

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Mental Health

The Reluctant Sentimentalist

I’m trying to figure out how I’ve gotten so much cornier as I get older. Shouldn’t the cynicism be firmly entrenched by now? I’ve long said that I’m only masquerading as a cynic, which is true. I know life can be incredibly difficult, and I’ve faced some dark days myself. If running away from my brain ever became an option, I’d likely do so for an hour or two, maybe even a weekend. That aside, I hold onto hope for reasons I can’t understand, and that scares the crap out of me.

But now things have gotten out of hand. I may or may not cry when I see a sentimental story. I also look at dogs and kittens and maybe even miniature humans and think, “How cute.” And I’m blaming all this on my niece. She’s six, so she can handle the responsibility.

The fact that I become a big weepy mess when she invites me to school functions is all her fault. That I say “I love you” more often to other humans, including that little one, is all her fault. That I want to do better by her is all her fault. And I’m no stranger to temper tantrums, bouts of screaming, and nose-picking. We have that in common. But here’s the thing: it’s amidst all this that I still find love. Damn her.

The world has not prepared me for this. I am completely caught off-guard by my love for her. (If you’re interested in how this all started, I wrote this story about it.) And it’s made me so so saccharine. But – big sigh – I think it’s good for my mental health. You need a cause bigger than yourself to feel fulfilled, and while I’m still working on that in terms of my career and my passions, I have my niece to thank for showing me who I’m working for. The world is hers now, and – forgive my corniness, for I have sinned – I want to make it just a little better.

Anxiety, Depression, OCD

Ask for Help

The first time I needed help, I only asked for it when I hit a breaking point. I had known about my OCD for years, and only once did I try to speak up about it. It was a failed attempt that included me stumbling around for the right words to say. I forgive myself for that now, but I would love to go back and say, “You don’t have to wait to ask for assistance.”

For whatever reason, I set up my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew I wouldn’t get help for my OCD unless something devastating happened. I believed my OCD had to get so out of control that I’d have no choice but to seek assistance. Then the devastating thing happened. My friend died in a car accident, and I couldn’t handle it. I was teaching at the time, and I’m grateful for those hours I spent in front of the classroom. While up there, you’re forced to concentrate on the task at hand. There’s no time for lingering thoughts. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because it’s so true: performance has much in common with mindfulness, and it’s one of the reasons I feel at home when I adopt a persona, be it as a teacher or a comedian. Don’t get me wrong; I am myself when I teach, but I’m also performing a bit. I’m the version of me that’s not an introvert.

During that terrible time after the accident, when I was home alone or just sitting still somewhere, I couldn’t escape the rituals. Unexpected accidents are a chief concern of my OCD-addled mind. Nearly every ritual I complete is a stopgap against this uncertainty. At this point, I was checking traffic reports every time my sister went to work to make sure she was safe. I called my parents every night to see if they were still alive. I could no longer sit quietly and watch TV or read a book. And still I didn’t get help.

My body pushed me in the right direction. I became so ill with the flu that I had to go to the ER. The nurse who took my information offered me a ride to the room in a wheelchair. I thought she was joking, even convinced myself I didn’t need no freakin’ wheels. The nurse knew better. She kindly, gently got me to sit down, and I was grateful for it.

I recovered from the flu, but my mind was still wary. It took me sobbing on the phone to my mom to finally say, “Hey, perhaps I should call a psychologist.” I had reached my breaking point. But here’s the thing: there shouldn’t have to be a breaking point. I wish we could all be free to say, “I need help.” Even now, I’ve hardly learned my lesson. I’m hurting deeply, and I know I need to make a phone call. I’ll do it, if only because I’ve said I will so very publicly. But those words are still hard to write.

Ultimately, I can’t be an advocate if I don’t take care of myself. I’m going to take care of myself.

OCD in the wild

Share Your Story

Recently I shared part of my story  at The Secret Illness, a great site where people discuss their intrusive thoughts and say a little bit about their OCD. If you or someone you know has OCD, check out the site and consider sharing your own story. You can even be completely anonymous.

The more people know about OCD the less stigmatized it will be. Plus, hearing other people’s stories has always made me feel less alone. Perhaps this is true of others as well.

Anxiety

Building a Better Ellipsis

Today in my internet ramblings I found this statistic: women hit the nadir of their happiness at 38 ½. Even without scientific backing, this feels right. I’m 38 ½ (yes, I still count with halves), and I’m sad. Before I move on, let me say that I’m angling for an optimistic post. My initial response to this stat was: “Of freaking course!” After that, I thought, “Well, here comes the upside.”

Let me be honest and say how unhappy I’ve been feeling, even intimating to some that I’m going through a mid-life crisis. Mostly, I think this is because I’m adjusting to several big life changes. Not only have I moved to another state for a mediocre job, but my family just lost their house and thought it would be fun to camp out in my one-bedroom apartment. We make s’mores and sing Kumbaya every night. My anxiety has also turned my brain into an echo chamber of doom. When I say that phrase, it’s with mock melodrama, so it sounds funny. When I’m living that phrase, it’s doesn’t feel so funny.

Every morning I wake up and think, “This can’t be it.” That’s another phrase tinged with both hope and despair. When I’m tired and cranky as I head out to my mediocre job, I’m not feeling so optimistic. But when I’m writing and thinking and exploring topics of interest, “this can’t be it” has transformative power. There’s definitely more. So much more. To be sure, though, such hope is difficult to hang on to. And yet…

I should end this post at that ellipsis, weigh down those few dots with possibility. But hope only comes with real work, and I don’t even know what kind of work that entails. Pick up the pen; put down a few words. Watch some stand-up comedy. Set goals. Dream a little bit. Pay attention. That sounds like a good start.

That’s also not where I want to end this post. It’s too tidy and trite. Here’s something more specific: my current goal is not to give in to anxiety for three minutes. Then I’ll go for another three. I don’t know where I came up with that time frame, but it feels more authentic than five minutes. 2:59…2:58… That’s a better ellipsis.