(It Happened – Stephanie Pauline)
I’ve seen blog posts after the owner has not written for a long time that simply say something along the lines of “Y’all, I am doing so much better” and that is the end of the post and often the end of the blog. I don’t think I have been away long enough to warrant that and I think I want to keep blogging…and I feel like as a blogger I have always been way too verbose to have a one-liner post…but I am doing a lot better.
Four years (ish) ago I claimed that I had absolutely no OCD issues anymore. At the time it was true…but OCD is a sneaky beast. Since then there have certainly been times when the OCD came back…usually it’s just been a few hours or maybe a day and then it is gone again. Considering the sleeplessness and poor intake over the past months since not matching the first time, I probably shouldn’t be that surprised that a more protracted relapse entered my life even though I am doing a lot better with the grief than I was. My body and mind are still recovering even if I want to claim that I am fine. I still cry sometimes. I gained weight to my goal (not all of it back) and kept the weight on long enough to say okay unless there is a concern it doesn’t matter whether or not I keep this weight on. I did lose some of the weight again, but having a lower set point is okay as long as I am actually eating reasonable meals three times a day and not using up excessive amounts of energy without replacing it.
OCD makes it hard to be at work sometimes because people call in sick sometimes and the internet says shared pens are disgusting and dangerous and so are phones. OCD makes me vulnerable to computer viruses, because if I need to search the internet for stomach flu stories, I need to click on every single link…which means potentially clicking on dangerous sites…I am fairly certain that is how my yahoo email account started sending out spam emails on its own which I only discovered when it sent one to me…I was so embarrassed because I have no idea how many people it may have fraudulently sent emails to since the emails are not archived in my sent mail folder…and I don’t know whether proper etiquette is to pretend it never happened or to email absolutely everyone I know to make sure I don’t miss anyone in letting them know it wasn’t really me…but then that would be basically another pointless email clogging up people’s inbox…and I really hope they know it wasn’t really me. Speaking of my obsessive searches…I am very much aware that the more I search the more fear I feel, but when the OCD strikes, the need to know overrides all logic, and it *feels* like reading all the things will make me safer…luckily, so far, although I had a bit of a protracted relapse, it never got to a really bad point at all, more of just a very mild hovering just above a normal point for a long time. Just in case though, after getting home from Target to buy my Christmas tree, I allowed myself to wash my hands because I was at a point where I wasn’t touching things and I knew that if the anxiety didn’t calm soon it would be a lot easier to cope if I washed my hands and kept my apartment at least relatively clean than if I forced myself to horribly contaminate my entire apartment…shopping can be hard. Partly because the internet also says that shopping carts are dirty and because people on the internet admit to going shopping while sick (STAY IN YOUR HOME PEOPLE) so all the stuff in the store might be contaminated. Also, there are times when I want to buy bleach, and I know that I am not quite ready to be responsible with bleach. There have been times I would have been ready to go shopping but didn’t because I was afraid I might come home with a bottle of bleach.
Sometimes “just relax” or “what’s the worst that could happen” are unhelpful words that show a lack of understanding, because trust me, if I could “just relax” I would. But sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect…case in point: Thanksgiving. It came into my head that I *was* bringing something to Thanksgiving, so I asked and asked until I finally became in charge of bringing rolls. Easy, right? Well, first I kinda fell asleep after lunch and woke up and realized I intended to start getting the rolls ready a while ago…then I realized the directions were super confusing/vague. As I finally get to the let rise at least 45 minutes I look at the clock and realize that I am falling hopelessly behind the timeline. Remember that not only am I taking extra time trying to understand, the area in which I still wash almost excessively is when cooking…washing your hands doesn’t take a lot of time but do it enough times and it adds up. And I am also realizing that even if I skip half of the rise time I still have nowhere near enough time to re-use the same pan for two batches and I only have one pan that is really intended for making rolls so I’m going to need to come up with a creative improvised solution ASAP to get everything into the oven at one time. So this is the perfect time to spill and/or splatter most of a stick of butter all over my microwave. I don’t know the importance of butter in this recipe – I might just try skipping it altogether next time and see what happens instead of getting stressed out. Trying to make up time while shaking from anxiety makes it hard to get a new stick of butter unwrapped. Just sayin.’ And of course I spill flour all over too. To speed things up I try mixing the bread dough with a mixer…and pretty quickly realize it is a bad idea but for a few seconds freeze which is long enough for the dough to get up into the holes to the point that the eject button doesn’t work and I have to yank the stick things off of the mixer base…so after skipping a few steps I didn’t have time for I tried all sorts of things to get the dough out of the inside of the mixer and am hoping it’ll work again next time I have an appropriate use for it. Anyway, at this point you have to either laugh or cry…so I announced to myself that I now have the most well-greased microwave ever. And as I am looking for more towels to try to clean it up because soaking up some of the drips before they got to the floor with paper towel and napkins was good, but real towels are the only match for the explosion in the microwave, I relax and realize that it doesn’t have to be perfect and my worth as a person is not dependent upon my ability to make rolls. I might feel embarrassed if they turn out bad, but it is not the end of the world if there aren’t rolls for thanksgiving. In fact, I have been at thanksgiving celebrations where there intentionally was not rolls.
So yeah. The rolls weren’t perfect and some of them were falling apart. I ended up with a hard to clean microwave and almost every bowl in my kitchen dirty (thank God for dishwashers). I burned my serving tray by pouring the rolls from the pan directly out of the oven into the towel-lined tray. And I was still late to Thanksgiving…but I also still had a wonderful time. Thanksgiving can be hard for me because of my social skills or lack thereof, but I had such a good time. No one made me feel awkward for what I did or didn’t eat or for what I did or didn’t say. It was okay to just be me. I was accepted and included and LOVED it!!
Probably a week-ish later I had some time scheduled to hang out with a new friend. Maybe an hour or so before it is time to go I read a text from her that she hadn’t thought to tell me but her kids had been sick. And the way it was worded definitely sounded like the vomiting kind of sick. Full stop. This is basically how I lose friends. Anyone in the home sick pretty much means the person is going to be contaminated for a LONG time. I was determined not to lose my brand new friend. I was terrified because clearly if I hadn’t already been told this is not a contamination-aware home. I am strong. My plan was bring as little as possible in and only things that can be cleaned easily. In my car was a towel to protect my car from germs and spray hand sanitizer. Of course one of the first things that happens as I come in is she is preparing food that my passive can’t reject…and one potentially sick kiddo was helping. So, long story short, I ate throughout the day even with toddler fingers in the bowl. That is not something I really ever expected to be able to do. I don’t know if it would be a big deal for “normal” people, but it was a big deal for me. Yes, I did come home and wiped my flip flops with a sanitizer wipe, stripped all my clothes off into the washer with the towel and my watch band, ran a quick wash cycle while showering, found a new towel and clothes, ran a *real* wash cycle, and worked on cleaning my watch itself, my phone, and the floor where I walked before showering…yes, excessive, but after that I was totally fine again, and that is a huge accomplishment for me. I CAN challenge myself and I CAN do it without falling apart.
Do I still have OCD fears? Sometimes. Do I still at times struggle with the grief? Definitely, but I can live life okay with minor contamination sometimes and accept minor risks…and even challenge myself with big risks. And I no longer get up every single morning wishing I weren’t alive. I might not be thrilled with where I am in life, but I am doing so much better than before.
I don’t recall where this quote came from, but it’s been on my list of things for awhile… “I needed to live, not live better.” It is easy to be frustrated with myself and see all the perceived failure, but that misses the fact that one of my major success stories is that I lived. There are a lot of really hard things that I have faced in the past year, and even before that, but I survived. Sure, in retrospect it is easy to see how maybe there is some way I could have fought harder and lost less weight for example, but starving short term wasn’t going to kill me. I needed to live, not live better. It took all the power I had to get something in my mouth every day and to keep on making it through each day on almost no sleep. I did my best, and I survived. It really is only by God’s power that I am still here. Barely functioning I didn’t necessarily always remember even the basics of driving like gas vs brake, much less the intricacies…and I was often trying to get where I needed to be while struggling to see through the storm of tears. It wasn’t the best way to live, but I needed to live, not live better…
It is crazy to think that at this time last year I was finishing up and submitting the applications to the nine places I expected to interview including the one place I intended to end up. Now I am finally in a job that I do not like, but that I am learning to be thankful for because it pays the bills and has allowed me to grow not professionally, but personally as I learn how to make new friends and stuff…’cause as a resident in a lot of places you get a built in friend of your co-residents who also have just graduated and are in need of friends and with whom you will spend lots of time, so being a real pharmacist I skipped over that hand holding step into the real world.
I am really proud of myself. I might have challenges to overcome, but I am a fighter and no one will take away my shine.