Topic: OCD and the so-called novel Coronavirus

[Hi all. I’ve been wanting to write a post about this for a while. But full disclosure: I have been very, very, extremely lucky. I was able to leave the city for the country, where I have been for three months. I did touch three airports and then quarantine for 14 days on the other end. Also, I am still employed and working full time from home. And largely, none of my friends or family have died from the virus so far. So my thoughts on this topic are not as panicked and stressed as they would otherwise be. The only negative I feel at all times is anxiety/guilt — because I am so far away from my partner and workplace, and feel I have been more lucky than I “deserve”. And work is super stressful because three people were fired and the rest of us have to pick up all of their work. But that is all for a different post.]

What I want to discuss is this highly contagious virus and my observations from the perspective of someone who experiences contamination OCD on a good day. To me, it feels like a very cranked up version of how I’ve always felt. It’s like my normal tendencies are amplified.

I was born to wear a mask. I was born to avoid touching doorknobs and avoid outstretched hands of greeting. I was born to avoid breathing in another person’s breath. I was born to stand across the street when chatting with neighbors. I was born to avoid standing in a crowded post office. I was born to stay a hundred miles away from a sneezing or coughing person. The amplified part is that I do feel strong anxiety when a non-household member gets very close, particularly if they’re not wearing a mask. And I feel quite upset when I have to go into a store, with double-mask and typically gloves (for which I have a specific routine), and so many other people are not wearing masks at all (if they would wear a mask, there would be less chance of virus in the environment).

These parts of the so-called “new normal” are easy. What will NOT be easy, and may in fact be impossible for me, is going back to a previous life. How will I possibly snuggle in shoulder-to-shoulder with a hundred other people on a dirty train? How will I possibly walk around in a grocery store in the future without a mask and possibly gloves? (How had I ever become so mentally healthy that I was able to do those things?)

Hearing people TALK about hand-washing for 20 seconds, and proper washing technique as though it was a brand new concept was shocking to me. Hearing people actually think aloud about what might be on a mailing envelope or a piece of grocery store fruit or a public railing was a little satisfying for me, I’ll admit. For a brief time, non-contamination-OCD people actually had one second of insight into my mind. There’s never been ANYTHING in public that I’ve EVER touched in my adult life that didn’t cause me to at least briefly consider what might be on it. 99.99% of the time, I’m able to pick up or handle the item anyway, but it’s ALWAYS the first thought. For a brief time, people around the world seemed to take a moment to consider those things, too. It was nice.

I use past tense because a lot of areas within the USA seem kind of done with considering surface contamination. That’s fair enough, because now we believe the virus isn’t as transmittable by surface contact, so even I don’t wash my hands after handling the newspaper (which was delivered four hours before I touch it anyway, so I don’t know if that example should count).

How I’ll deal with life going back to the old-normal, I have no idea. Frankly, I’m probably isolating myself so much that I’m missing out on a lot of germs that would be helping to strengthen my immune system in the long run. But the future will come when it comes. For now, you’ll be speaking to me through a mask from a great distance away.

Corona virus and wanting to go Home

Well, it’s finally gotten to me. The whole virus thing. I’m not even worried about catching the virus, because I’m not in a particularly vulnerable group, so it would probably be like a normal flu for me. I hate flues, but I don’t think I’d be hospitalized or anything like that. But all the same, I want to go Home. I want to be with my parents. I’m tired. Everyone is talking about working remotely for a while. I wish my job didn’t involve the fact that I have to go to the office for certain tasks. But I don’t know how I could do certain things from afar. MOST of my job, I could do from afar. Like 90% of it.

I’d want to go Home in the best of times. But now I’m very stressed. I’m snapping at the people I live with. I’m getting a bit short with people at work when they don’t respond to my questions within 24 hours. And it’s probably because they’re choosing to work remotely at times and I can’t, so I’m jealous.

You know, whatever job I get next, I’m going to make damn well sure that it’s something I could do remotely if push came to shove. I hadn’t PLANNED on going Home yet, but my partner has to stay home for the next month. A lot of places around here have told their workers to work remotely. The trains are bizarrely empty and it’s nice because I get a seat, but it’s also weird. I wonder if I’m the smart one or the stupid one.

My parents are kind of worried. They’re in a vulnerable group. I want to be with them. I am Homesick. If the vision of going there hadn’t entered my head, maybe I wouldn’t be so wistful, but it’s in my head and I want it so badly.

I mean look, if worst came to worst, I could ask for unpaid leave and go there anyway, and leave the company in a lurch. And if they said no, I could quit and walk away, and go Home.

I’m kind of lonely lately. I have been arguing a lot and, like I said, I’ve been very snappy with the people I live with. I don’t feel connected with them right now. Everything they say and how they say it feels alien. They don’t understand me and I don’t understand them. But it’s become so bad, I’m not sure how to get out of it and get back on the same page, at least with my partner.

Oh the things I wish I could say on here.

OCD Run Wild

I woke up this morning with a major flare up of my OCD. I was in bad shape. My thought loop couldn’t be broken and it was about my old obsession, which I have written about here once, somewhere. (Not that the post does it justice.)

Probable Causes for the Current Worsening:

  1. I’ve been a little under the weather for the past few days. I’ve had symptoms like dissociation, which always freaks me the fuck out, since I used to dissociate 24/7 for a couple of years with no hope of ever recovering (which I mostly did, though).
  2. I have a disc that I would like to access in order to lift off photos of my dog, but it happens to be labeled as containing old emails I wrote to [person of my obsession] and my therapist at the time. I haven’t brought myself to open the disc, yet, although I desperately want those dog photos.
  3. In the past week and a half, I have had a couple of dreams which have become a routine — a few times a year, I get basically the same dream. [Person of my obsession] has, after so many, many years, agreed to meet with me at a public cafe, and have a conversation with me about what happened, so that I can have closure. Sometimes these dreams end up with him agreeing to meet me once every couple of weeks, and always he is disinterested in my company and disappears. But that part isn’t the distressing part. It’s the fact that he’s agreed to meet with me in the first place. It’s so real. There’s so much hope. This happens several times a year (regardless of whether I was on the 20 mg Lexapro or the current 5 mg).
  4. Because of feeling under the weather, my boyfriend and I had a conversation that went badly and I felt untrusting toward him. Whenever I lose trust in a person I’m supposed to be close with, I remember [person of my obsession]. Because I trusted him completely, 100%, as I have not done since then toward any human. Any. Human. And frankly, will probably never do again.

Anyway. I let myself give in to my obsession this morning. I opened up Facebook, which I don’t use anymore. But I did. I contacted one of his best friends. I said, basically, that I am having a really hard time with my OCD right now but it looks like it’s been 7 years since I’ve written to you so that’s pretty good.” He doesn’t know the story, he doesn’t know what’s bothering me, he doesn’t know why I wrote to him 7 years ago, either. Thank god I have a buffer, but it’s still bad that I broke down that way this morning. He was kind in his response. It’s a person I’ve known since elementary school yet we don’t keep in touch (and I’m not sure this is considered keeping in touch, either).

Personal mental illness day

First of all, my breast lump was a benign, liquid-filled cyst, so that’s good. It’s about half its largest size now, and is not painful anymore. It seems to have stopped getting smaller. They say it can last a couple of months or perhaps get larger and smaller for the rest of time. If it becomes too painful for me to bear again, they can drain it, but said there would be a 3 in 5 chance of it refilling. So I elected not to do so, as it is not presently painful.

Preface before the rest of the post: I’m sick today and yesterday. Lost my voice, kind of a sore throat, totally exhausted. Also, a hint of vertigo and a lot of dissociation / out of body experiences.

Today is a wretched, miserable day and yet it didn’t begin that way. It was a perfectly happy morning. Yesterday was difficult. I don’t know what except that I lost my voice and felt EXHAUSTED. So I might be having allergies, flu, and something else as well. Because now my own mental processes have kicked in and my negative thoughts have been spiraling out of control. And since I haven’t had any private time until this instant, which I had to force, I have been feeling blind and like I am swinging around an ax to get people to give me space.

Loosely translated, what I mean is that my partner and I have had some negative exchanges today. It actually got REALLY bad for a while. But come on, I wanted to be left alone and you just wouldn’t. I was already in tears.

Oh well. I am tired. I don’t know if I have a flu or not. Certainly my throat is sore but that could be allergies. Certainly I’m exhausted beyond words. But I wish so much that you would just see when I am sick and not take it all out of control and make it all like we still have to have this serious conversation THIS INSTANT but that I will take like 4 or 5 days to recover and then we can have the conversation. Instead of hurting me and basically forcing me to hurt you, too, because I’m backed into a corner with no other way but to grit my teeth and cry and say shit to get through. Ridiculous. This can’t happen ever again.

So not okay.

So I’ve had like an hour of ALONE time now and that has been a relief. I’m going to take some anxiety medicine, just in case there’s a mental illness element to this yuckiness.

 

PSA: Check your breasts!

This is a friendly reminder to CHECK YOUR BREASTS for lumps!!! Yeah. You’ve done it for years and never found anything abnormal so you may have gotten lazy, like me. Do it. Go do it right now and then continue to do it regularly so you know what your normal feels like and can detect slight changes.

Otherwise, you might be like me, who hasn’t really gotten around to self-checking in a couple of years and also may not have had an appointment with a gynecologist in the same amount of time. So my breasts have been ignored for a couple of years, which didn’t seem like a big deal since nothing had ever been unusual with them.

Until Friday evening, when suddenly I felt a pain as if I’d been punched in the breast (one side). It hurt so badly. I felt the area and there’s a hard lump there about the size of a kiwi or an egg. Well who is open on a Friday night? (No one.)

On Saturday, I went to the Urgent Care. They were all booked up for the day, so they transferred me to another Urgent Care. That doctor said I needed a mammogram ASAP. By this point, it was excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t raise my arm on that side. Going up and down stairs was quite painful. Touching the area was way too painful. I have to be gentle when walking, even on flat surfaces.

But, the mammogram places all around the city are booked solid. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking around with an extremely painful lump the size of an extra large egg in your breast. I have an appointment scheduled for a few days in the future and in spite of calling around all morning today, that is still the best I’ve found.

Now, I’m not saying it’s cancer. The doctor thought that the way the lump moves is more like a cyst. But there’s only one way to find out for sure.

So this is your friendly PSA: Follow through on routine breast-lump self-checks. Do it. Because if I had noticed this gigantic lump when it was slightly less gigantic, I’d have saved myself a lot of pain! I recommend it.

Weaning off Lexapro: Days 76 – 86

Ladybug

Ladybug

Meds:

  • 5mg Lexapro, normal thyroid meds
  • Vitamins when I remember
  • Exercise: LOTS of walking and some bicycling

Symptoms:

  • IRRITABILITY
  • Strong, quickly changing emotions
  • More tired

Journal Items:

  • I regret having gone so long between journaling here, because this has been a HARD ten days
  • My body is NOT pleased with this lower dose, yet!
  • I am biting my bf’s HEAD off at the slightest drop of a hat
  • I do think that the last couple of days have been slightly better
  • Until my P.M.S. also joined in, and now I’m super emotional and who can tell what’s what
  • Studying has been challenging
  • We have company over for about 10 days, which has been good so far (but knowing myself, I’ll need some alone time soon)
  • It’ll be hard to have alone time tomorrow, seeing as my door hinge is going to have some wood glue as one of its newest additions and will then be open, propped up while drying for the whole day. 😉
  • Tomorrow needs to bring much focus and studying. It’s hard [to focus] because the content is so hard right now.

Weaning off Lexapro: Days 72, 73

Dramatic, dark clouds with light highlights and patches of blue sky, plus a gull

Clouds from Monday’s walk

Meds:

  • 5mg Lexapro, normal thyroid meds
  • B12, sublingual
  • Multivite, chewable
  • Exercise: walking

Symptoms:

  • Some acid reflux
  • Instant crankiness
  • Feel like life is out of control
  • Tired

Journal Items:

  • I had something on Monday, I had something on Tuesday, I have something today (a primary care doctor appointment that I wish I could put off for another few months), and I have something tomorrow evening
  • I finished the book I was reading for fun
  • Pokémon Go keeps me busy and moving around outdoors and interacting with people
  • I’ve started a new class that is going to be very, very full of important information. It’s a very central class and the reading is dense. I’m not even through the first chapter yet.

Weaning off Lexapro: Days 5 + 6

A field of small, bubbly clouds lit up pink from the morning light, against a sky that is a gradient from yellow to blue

5th Day: I should wake up around sunrise more often. That’s beautiful!

The 5th Day:

  • 15mg Lexapro + norm. thyroid meds
  • magnesium, mutli-vite, fish oil capsule, iron all taken separately
  • A little exercise (walking)

The 6th Day (today):

  • 15mg Lexapro + norm. thyroid meds
  • Fish oil capsule; iron; multi-vite
  • A little exercise (walking)

Symptoms:

  • Yesterday, I think I felt pretty neutral. I don’t recall anything.
  • Today, I’m getting a little bit of dizziness but it’s not unmanageable yet
  • Today, also, I’m NOT in a super talkative mood, but I think that’s unrelated
  • Today, additionally, I experienced some anxiety. No more than “usual” but more than the day-after-my-one-Prozac-dose, so that’s sad. I preferred the no-anxiety feeling, to be frank
  • I have been sleeping soundly lately, I think. But I did feel extremely tired when it was time to get up this morning

P.S. I finished my final exam (I passed, somehow). And I have already started to study for the next course!

Weaning off Lexapro: Day 2

Mostly blue sky, a hint of ocean, and a piece of tree

Beautiful blue

Today:

  • 15mg Lexapro, in the morning (with usual thyroid med)
  • 1 fish oil capsule, 1 magnesium-something-or-other-vitamin
  • Some exercise (walking)
  • 10mg Prozac, before dinner

Symptoms:

  • Actually, I had moments of happiness. Maybe I am very excited about this process
  • I did get angry at one point but not more than I have on previous days. It didn’t last long, which is unusual for me
  • I still have cramps (unrelated)
  • By around 4pm, I started to feel light-headed and a little dizzy. By 6pm, I took the Prozac because it was just getting worse and I was at a dinner party at my Uncle’s house with family and I wanted to feel okay. It worked very rapidly.

Alas, the dinner party started out fantastic. My brother told some growing-up stories I hadn’t heard before and they were amazing. I haven’t laughed that hard in AGES. But it ended with an ugly twist. I’m not sure if my uncle was just drunk or frankly, I believe, high. I don’t know. But he did say some very odd things, even for him, and for a while talked a lot about race and made someone at the table feel wretched and she left for a while and when returned, had been crying. Nobody knew what to do. It had been such a fun evening before things got weird.

Also, I didn’t study very much and tomorrow is my final. I’m probably going to fail. Since it feels hopeless, I find that I don’t care about it as much as I should. :/

Weaning off of Lexapro

Water colored blue and pink from the sunset

Sunset on the water

Hi all,

Today begins a true attempt at weaning off of Lexapro 20mg, with permission and help from my psychiatrist. Update: I have been on the drug for over 10 years straight.

I definitely want to document this process so I will know if the withdrawal becomes too unbearable, or in the end if I just need to go back on because I was better on it, etc.

Today:
* 15mg Lexapro in the morning (with usual thyroid dose)
* 1 capsule of fish oil and a multivitamin, just because
* I must get in some solid exercise, just because
* tonight, 10mg of Prozac (this will allegedly ease the withdrawal symptoms because of the longer half life) UPDATE: I did not take it because I didn’t feel dizzy or zappy or anything

Symptoms:
* Have had diarrhea and cramps for 2 days, totally unrelated (could be PMS, food not agreeing with me, or a bug)
* Very anxious about being on the 15mg today — waiting for the electric zappies to hit me at any time, but they haven’t started yet.

That’s all there is to report about this for now. 🙂

In other news, I’m doing terribly at focusing on schoolwork. TERRIBLY. But within three days of now, I will have taken another Final exam. I’m not sure if I’ll pass it.