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.

An update: been okay, yet not tonight

I don’t know why, but I’m super emotional tonight and really upset and I want to stay somewhere else tonight. It’s probably a mutual misunderstanding.

Anyway, things have been pretty great lately. Work is awesome. I’m very lucky.

There’s going to be a change in my family soon. That might be stressing me, although it’s a positive. But it’s also the unknown.

But tonight, I’m full of angst. This morning, I was in tears talking with my partner over the issue not mentioned in the first paragraph (it isn’t about him, but is about something in our living situation). This evening, I’m so angry and so anxious. And I feel so alone and misunderstood. And so. so. so. so alone.

But I’ll feel fine and cheerful once I’m at work again. If I could just stay there all day and night, I’d probably feel a lot more stable. I get so awful on the weekends– that’s always been true for me, in my adult life. I am stable at work, but an emotional wreck at home. And always, always depressed and moody on the weekends.

My lymph nodes are painful tonight. I feel like crying. I won’t be able to sleep because I lost one of my earplugs. Wait, I think I found an extra packet tucked away a few weeks ago. I’m going to go look for it.

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.

 

Weaning off Lexapro: Days 125 – 136

I have been and am still on Lexapro 5 mg. I will not be reducing any more any time soon. So I won’t be continuing these type of entries after this, unless my dose changes.

I am on the 5 mg, after having been on 20 mg for like 12 years straight. My emotions and perceptions of the world around me are all over the place. In nearly every aspect of life, I am torn.

It’s impossible for me to know at this moment if indeed all of these parts of my life actually need to change, or if the angst and unrest I’m experiencing is a direct result of the decrease in Lexapro. I could make these changes and tear apart my current life. Or I could increase my Lexapro dose. Or I could do a little bit of both. But at this exact moment in time, I cannot know which is the most “correct” choice.

The past weekend was terrible. I was avoiding studying for a Final exam and I failed the pre-assessment. But all of the terror and hopeless that I was feeling inside, I didn’t attribute properly to the schoolwork. I attributed it everywhere else around me and I hurt my boyfriend and I hurt our relationship pretty severely.

When I was Home recently, it felt right. I wanted to stay forever. But if I broke up with my boyfriend and moved back Home, I’m sure I’d be full of anxiety and feel very dark and depressed. I’m sure that I would feel very scared and as though I’d shut a door to a very large world. I’m sure that for a long time, things would feel without purpose, shallow, and hopeless.

I pay [irrelevant] a month. I flip between that seeming like a small amount and an impossibly large amount. I am unemployed. So that money is basically coming from old savings– mostly money from my now-deceased grandparents.

But, many people go into debt for an education. That is socially acceptable and “normal”. ((All irrelevant.))

Logically, I realize other people’s wealth is irrelevant. I made the CHOICE to quit my below-minimum-wage-tutoring job to focus entirely on school. Of COURSE that means paying out of savings for a couple of years (kiss the old money goodbye; I wasn’t very good at Math).

I’m considering reapplying for the tutoring job. They’ve increased the wage to minimum wage now. I’m sure I could get in a few hours a week. It would be really hard because the bus route is not fast, and I can’t have the job unless I’m also taking classes there. So I’d be really splitting up my time to make a tiny amount of money. But it would also be giving me back my self-esteem. I felt good when tutoring people. And it would be good for me to have a set schedule.

My boyfriend and I are thinking of moving. I don’t know if it will help us or not. But I think that we need to feel more like independent adults again. And I hope we can find a place that shortens both of our commutes. But the cost will go up. We pay [irrelevant] rent right now but I don’t think we could find anything that low anywhere near here.

Yep, there is that wave of hopelessness. I just pictured how much effort and energy I will be putting into tutoring and how very, very little money I’ll be making and how it will all be going to rent. I know, this is reality for many people. Maximum effort to not even stay afloat.

I could go back to my parents. I’d be on such a good schedule there. I’d feel so much more at peace there. I’d be with my dog, who has congestive heart failure but is responding well to his medications. Up there, I could get a part-time job again and study. It’s all easier there.

I don’t want to go to couples therapy this week. I’m afraid of what we’ll talk about. And I don’t know my own mind on so many of the topics.

For now, I need to stop thinking. I need to focus on studying today. I deleted my beloved Pokémon Go app. If I could just delete the thoughts from my head… I need to get through a lot of readings and practice problems today.

Weaning off Lexapro: Day 7

Water's surface on a gray day

Water on a gray day

Today:

  • 15mg Lexapro, norm. thyroid meds
  • Multivite, fish oil capsule
  • Hardly any exercise (walking)

Symptoms:

  • NOT IN A TALKATIVE MOOD except with my boyfriend
  • VERY tired

I cannot be sure if my mood and exhaustion are from the withdrawal or from my period starting.

I’m not sure I can handle this weekend. Tonight, a friend was over and my bf, myself, and the friend ate out together. Tomorrow, there is a dinner party here with bf’s mom’s friends. It is so hard to distance myself from helping with cooking in times like this. But I do not want to help cook. I would chew off my limb to avoid cooking. Then on Sunday, another dinner party, this time w/my bro and his gf. I need to pick up some things for it. My bf wants to make cookies rather than me purchase something, but he’s injured right now and I’m too damn tired to make cookies. I know I will be cleaning the whole downstairs before the dinner party; that doesn’t bother me. If I’m asked to help with cooking, though, it will be one more inflation to my balloon body that is already set to explode.

I just need to re-adjust my thinking. Remember, it’s “the holidays”. They’re supposed to be stressful. It’s not all relaxing and fun and games and sacred, peaceful moments of thoughtful reflection and prayer, like when you were a child (I was very spiritual although nobody else in my family was or knew).

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. :/

Mood Turbulence

Fruit smoothie with spinach and arugula added

Add some extra nutrients in there…

My moods have been insane lately. I don’t know what lately means. Two weeks? A month? A year? Two years? Just since I got back from visiting my parents and dog?

It’s worse for me at this moment because two weeks ago, “Joe”, who had been getting more depressed by the day for several weeks, snapped at me over something that was definitely innocent on my part. What he said was very rude and inappropriate and I didn’t address it well. In spite of his immediate apology, I had already shoved it aside in my head and didn’t deal with it and I still haven’t. What you said was like being punched in the stomach. That’s how taken aback I was for a moment. And then I made excuses, Aw he’s just really depressed and has been alienating all of his friends and I don’t want him to lose me as a friend, too. Yada yada. Kept on our walk.

But it wasn’t the same. And this week’s walk wasn’t the same, either. Because I don’t really forgive anyway. I suspect I don’t actually forgive any one for any thing anymore.

So then today, there was a point where we had to make a decision about which direction to head. We both had a preference, which is rare. We both had a strong preference. I made mine clear but instead of saying, “no” to his preference, I acquiesced. And then silently resented him for the next hour or so. I had nothing to say. It’s not like I intentionally think to myself, “I’m going to give X the silent treatment now.” It’s just that, when I’m upset with a person, I don’t trust that person and have no interest in speaking and nothing on my mind to share. It’s very hard.

Back to my main point. Since things are weird between me and my only real-ish friend, “Joe”, it’s making it hard to trust myself and my sanity at all. I’m already having a hard enough time with “Peter”, with how we keep triggering each other (we’re seeing a therapist now, which seems promising).

I need help. Aside from facts and moments in time, my moods are unstable. They are flying up and down. I go from bliss to anger in an instant. I don’t feel that I can control it. And I have no patience and no tolerance.

There are “easy” (clear-cut, that is) things that can only help:

  1. Create and stay on a REGULAR sleep schedule (this has NOT been reality)
  2. Create and stay on a REGULAR eating schedule (this has NOT been reality)
  3. Eat nutritiously at every meal
  4. REDUCE the amount of refined sugars (my moods have been INSANE)
  5. Create and stay on a REGULAR exercise schedule (I have been exercising, but not at set times and not for set amounts)

I believe that I need the forced routine of a job or face-to-face classes to get back into the land of the somewhat living and normal. I applied to a part-time position recently but they had just filled the position. There is a full-time job I’m going to apply to, perhaps tomorrow. But, I really only want part-time, for the sake of finishing my online school.

Poem: Déjà Vu

Fear reverberates through my bones
An old déjà vu tugs its way toward me.

A feeling. A taste. A sound.
So familiar and yet…

Through soft air and dying leaves, I fall
Spiraling down toward the earth
To cover it in a downy white blanket.

Where is this?
Who am I?



 

Is this hunger?
Will I claw my eyes from their sockets to escape this feeling?
I can’t be here, not after so many years and countries have passed.
The blood runs shallow beneath my skin.

Be careful. The ice is thin and rotten
and nobody will hear your vocalizations
your desperation
Your cry for help.

Very nice professor!

I spoke with my professor after class today. I have him for two classes — one is a daytime class and I always attend and stay caught up and try to participate when I can. The other is a night class and my attendance has been terrible. Not just terrible — but often I don’t show up, and all other times I show up late. (Until last week) I have been staying caught up at home but then avoiding going to class anyway. This is because it’s a night class and across the city. It doesn’t take any longer to get there than to get to my usual classes, but mentally it’s much  harder. And I’ve been getting anxious about it days in advance. Basically from one class to the next. If I think about the subject, I’m fine. If I think about the professor, I’m fine. If I think about the location, not fine. If I think about the time of night, not fine. And my boyfriend has even been meeting me after he gets off of work and taking the bus back home with me. Plus I have two friends in the class (that’s why I thought it might be okay to take this class in the first place). But no. Every Wednesday comes and I feel completely incapable of going. It’s more like just lie on my bed and try to conserve energy for the night class, and feel more and more anxious all the while.

Anyway, so I spoke with my professor about it and he says that he can see I try hard and am a good student. He’ll be fine with me NOT attending the class in-person anymore! I can do all of the work at home and submit it, and come to his normal office hours when I need help!!!!! I wanted to give him a hug. For the day of our final, he is going to be on my normal campus, I can hang around there for a bit and then take the bus with him straight to the night class. So I won’t be trying to travel alone in the evening, and will get to the final on time! Yay!!! That is pretty darn amazing.