A Good Week

When things have been going badly for a long time, you hold out hope for a good day, and hopefully a good week. Just one that reminds you that things will get better, that there really is something to believe in. I had one of those weeks this week. Things have just gone strangely well. I’m cautiously optimistic.

It’s funny that I had a good week, because I was actually sick for a good chunk of it. I have some digestive system issues (surgery only corrected some), and they were bad this week. But too many things went right for me to let it get me too down. I introduced a friend to my new favorite TV show, which we got to watch together. I loved watching her reactions to some of my favorite scenes. I also got my friend in another state to watch it, which made me pretty happy. I finally tackled the task of cleaning out my clothes, a task I have been avoiding because I knew it would take a lot of time and energy and I just haven’t had the energy. But this week I felt like I could do it, and so I did. I even cleaned up some other things and got rid of a lot of stuff (I have a slight tendency to hoard clothing because I’m always convinced I will miss it even though I usually don’t). A weight has been lifted. When things are messy like that, I obsess over the mess and the feeling that I am not being perfect because I am not taking care of things. Like literally can’t sleep because I feel the mess around me, and I know I need to do something about it, but I’m avoiding it, so it’s still there, and I know it’s still there, and I should really do something about it because everyone else would, and obviously I shouldn’t allow any clutter or mess because I need to be perfect, and why is being perfect so hard when everyone else makes it look so easy? Imagine trying to sleep with that thought process running through your brain every single night. Mess increases my anxiety. It’s good for me to live with some mess so my anxiety decreases over time, but I try to not live with mess too long to ensure a good balance. I think I also obsess about messiness because on some level I am aware I am using avoidance. So now that I’ve taken care of it, I feel like I can do other things better too, like I can refocus my efforts to not let OCD control me.

I went out for Easter brunch and spent the day out with friends, chatting and laughing. I had a great lunch with a friend. I chatted with my best friend who lives in another state. I have some fun weekend plans. I got good news from someone who was dealing with something that was potentially scary but thankfully turned out not to be. I pushed myself to go to a networking event I had signed up for, even though I wasn’t feeling well and had been nervous about going. I made some good connections. I was contacted for a potential job interview.

To most people, this probably just sounds like an average week. But since my OCD, anxiety, and depression have been so bad the past few months, it’s been incredible to have a week where so many things felt normal and happy. The positive feelings have decreased my anxiety, making it possible for me to start working on my excessive hand washing again. I have been washing my arms and hands, but in the past day I’ve been able to start just washing my hands–not my arms. And I’m not obsessing as much afterward, wondering if my hands are clean. This is a huge improvement for me.

I’m trying to not let myself get too excited. Not that I don’t want to be happy and hopeful. I just know that for me, I have a tendency to put too much on pressure on things to be perfect. I have to remember to take each day and each thing as it comes, and remember to be grateful for the good when faced with the bad. I really needed this week.

When you’re in the middle of everything bad, it’s really hard to believe that something good will ever happen to you again. I was definitely there. But this week has restored my hope and reminded me that good things will come. They rarely seem to come when you want them, but they will eventually come. As hard as it is, you just have to keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep pushing yourself to live when all you want to do is curl up in your bed and stay there in the dark forever. If you don’t try, you’ll miss that ray of hope. Keep trying.

Hard, and Getting Harder

I don’t want to be that person that apologizes for a long absence. I had a goal to complete the 30 Days of Mental Health Awareness Challenge, and I do plan to get back to that. But I have abandoned this blog for months. Truth be told, life has just become too much. It’s been too hard to face all my demons. I know my old therapist would tell me that it is totally okay that I didn’t write anything for months, that it is totally okay that I am not being perfect.

The problem is, I’m dealing with a lot of feelings of failure lately, and I’m really struggling to let go of what is out of my control and to forgive myself for basically everything.

For nine months, I have been searching for a job. I chose to not look for work or complete an internship during my final semester of grad school because my OCD was bad, and I needed to focus on getting it under control and completing my schoolwork. Unfortunately, that has made it harder for me to find work. I chose to start my search a few months after graduation because I wanted some time to make sure I really had everything under control, because I want to be amazing at whatever job I do. I don’t want OCD to control me. But it’s worked against me. I’ve had some great interviews, and feedback always seems positive, yet I’m not chosen. I’m both overqualified and underqualified (long explanation). I’ve utilized my contacts list and gotten interviews, but I feel like I can’t keep asking for help anymore, because I’ve already asked so many times. This has devastated me. I have over three years of experience in my field. I have a master’s degree in my field. And yet I can’t get a job. I have never questioned myself and my choices so much in my life. I have tried to live without regret, but these days all I can think is that I should have gotten a master’s in psychology instead and worked toward being a psychologist.

In summary, I feel like a complete failure. I mean, I’ve always been an A student. I did impeccable work at my last job. And now I can’t find a job. Yeah, that’ll do a number on your self-esteem.

Considering that I struggle with perfectionism, this failure to find a job has hit me extra hard. I spend hours thinking about every little thing. Did I write the wrong thing in the cover letter? What did I forget to mention in that interview? What did that thing they said mean? What did the person they hired do that I didn’t? (Which of course is impossible to know.) I keep trying to improve. After every interview, I replay the whole thing so many times that I can’t clearly remember what happened, because the OCD sneaks in and twists things around by causing me to focus on details that were probably nothing to worry about. I recently snagged an interview for my dream job that I thought I did really well at, and I told my husband and friend that if I didn’t get it, I knew it would be the one to break me. And break me it did.

The moment I got the “You were awesome, but we went with someone internal” email, depression dropped on me like an anvil. I have been crushed under its weight ever since.

I spend my days alternating between screaming, crying, and melancholy. I sleep too much, and at all the wrong times. I do nothing for hours. Little interests me. I took a trip to my friend’s wedding shortly after this happened, and it took everything in me to get on the plane. I wanted to be there for my friend and with the people who love me, but I also really just wanted to stay in bed in the dark and not see or talk to anyone. I definitely was not myself throughout my trip, but thankfully my friends were understanding. I also spent some time with my mom, who let me spend my days sleeping and laying on the couch, without pushing me to talk about it until I was ready. She didn’t even ask about my job hunt.

I hate being this fragile. My anxiety is sky high; right now, the tiniest thing sets me off. My OCD has gotten bad again. I’ve been washing my hands like crazy, and I can’t escape from obsessive thoughts. I check the door lock too many times again. I’m back to hour-long showers. I have maintained a few successes, but my biggest struggles are definitely back with a vengeance. I know I need to find a new psychiatrist, since I have health insurance again, and get back on Prozac, which will help my OCD and depression. Meds help me, because they regulate the chemicals in my brain that cause all the anxiety and obsessive thinking. When in the midst of things, it’s hard for me to remember that a large part of this is biological–that I am not weak, my brain just doesn’t have the right balance. It’s hard to remember that I am not alone, that other people have struggled in the exact same situation. In the midst of this, all I do is wonder why I’m such a failure, wonder what everyone else is doing that is so much better than what I have to offer, wonder why I can’t ever seem to catch a break. Because on top of the job thing, I’m dealing with a lot of stressful things I can’t talk to people about–really heavy stuff that I’m pretty much carrying on my own. I have no answers. I know certain people are judging me and twisting perceptions of me, and they only know one side of the story–not mine. I feel very alone because of that. I know I’ve let people down. I know there are a lot of people who think I’m a snob or a jerk or this or that. I’m not really. I just haven’t had it in me to be social and open. It takes everything I have just to get out of bed in the morning. When I feel like this, I close off. I just want to escape from it all.

I want my lust for life back. I want to be contributing to society. I want to be doing something, anything. But I’m just not there right now.

It’s really scary for me to post this, to put this much detail about what’s been going on out there. I’ve put off writing this, because I’ve been so afraid to say it all. I guess I don’t want anyone to confirm my fear that maybe I really am not good enough. Or to use this against me later, since I’m still trying so hard. But I started this blog because I wanted to be real about OCD, anxiety, and depression. Millions of people suffer daily because of these. And I want the stigma to go away. I want people to know that they aren’t alone in these feelings, that someone out there has felt the same way and can still be happy and successful. I may not be there right now, and I may be struggling to believe the day will come when I will be there again, but every day I hold on to a glimmer of hope with all my might. I keep trying even though it takes a great amount of effort. Fake it until you make it, right?

If you’re feeling depressed, you’re not alone. If you struggle with OCD, you’re not alone. If anxiety fills you constantly, you’re not alone. But we can fight together. We can overcome. It might be a long journey, but every small step is still progress, and if we’re staying on the path and trying, then we’ll eventually make it.