Those of us living with mental illnesses work hard every single day to manage our disorders. Most of us find our own personal way and hopefully end up having more good days than bad.
I have found what works for me and these practices have allowed me to make massive positive changes in my ability to deal with my OCD. However, that does not mean I still don’t have terribly shitty moments.
Thursday night was one of those shitty moments that make me question how far I’ve come. The old saying…Two steps forward, three steps back, comes to mind each time this happens. It makes me feel like a fraud writing about mental health. Why should anyone listen to what I have to say when I still struggle? My ego is never louder than when I struggle.
I wasn’t going to go into detail, but I think that is exactly what I will do. Maybe it will help someone else who needs to see that they are not alone.
I have contamination OCD. In simple form….I have an unrealistic fear of germs and with getting sick. I see germs everywhere. This unrealistic fear of germs makes me think about and behave in ways you probably wouldn’t. That’s the obsessive part of my OCD. The compulsive part is in washing/cleaning to prevent the germs from making me or someone I love ill.
I think about germs and getting sick all the time. This is what I work incredibly hard to manage every single day.
Managing this fear takes a lot of energy and just like everything else in life, as soon as I think I have it under control something happens to remind me that I am forever a work in progress. (As we all are)
Thursday night I was changing from my around-the-house clothes into my pajamas to get into bed. You need to know that my bed is my safe space. I lost my balance and without thinking stopped myself from falling over by putting my hand on my bed. The hand that was holding the ‘’dirty’’ pants I’d been wearing.
Now most people without contamination OCD would be happy that they didn’t fall on their butt. They also would probably not consider the pants they just had on and had only worn in their house dirty. But that is not how my OCD mind works.
I was so upset with myself for making this mistake that I knew was going to cause me a bunch of work right as I was ready to go to bed. I said things to myself that I would never say to another living soul. I beat myself up in a way I haven’t in a very long time.
Only seconds after, I switched from beating myself up for making the mistake to beating myself up for having OCD and for reacting so negatively. Three steps back that felt like 40.
Long (yes it’s a lot longer than this) story short, I cleaned up, got in my jammies, changed my bedding, and got in bed. As I sat there thinking about what had transpired, I began to shift my thoughts to the part of my mind that knows how hard I work to manage my OCD and anxiety. The self-kindness I love to talk about kicked in and I began to think about my journey so far with OCD. It’s been a part of my whole life and it’s been nearly 20 years since I was diagnosed. I’ve worked damn hard to get to this point and I’m proud of the dedication I’ve put into understanding my mental illness.
My greatest takeaway from this setback was how quickly I was able to work through the emotions I was feeling. Years ago, I would have spiraled out and judged myself harshly for reacting the way I did. Not anymore. Now I choose to look at this as a temporary moment, a slight slip back into old and easy habits. A shitty moment that I was able to deal with.
Having setbacks in our mental health management is not only normal it’s expected. We all know that it’s a fight we need to keep fighting. Some days more than others of course, but the fight remains. My goal has never been to cure my OCD, as much as I would love for that to happen. It’s been to learn. To grow. To become skilled at practicing self-kindness, self-love, self-care, self-forgiveness, and a whole bunch of self-compassion when things get rough. I got there pretty quickly on Thursday night, and I’ll continue to strive to get there quicker and quicker with each setback.
For a moment on Thursday night, I felt like OCD won, but it didn’t. It was a gentle reminder that I am a person living with mental illness and that makes me the perfect person to write about mental health.
Thanks for being here.