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.

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30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge–Day 2

MIA challenge

Day 2: How do you feel about your diagnosis?

I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I hate it because it would have been so nice to hear my therapist say, “Oh, you’re just using these actions and thoughts to deal with other stuff, and once we deal with that, you’ll never need these actions and thoughts again.” But instead, I have something I will spend my whole life fighting. Some days, I just don’t have the energy. Some days, I wish it would all go away.

But I love it because I know that I’m not alone, that it really is something I can’t help having but can fight, that I can help others understand it. Until I started therapy, I had no idea that many of my struggles were OCD. I knew contamination was OCD (thanks to the media, even though the media sometimes gets it wrong). But I never knew perfectionism was part of OCD and therefore something I could work on. I just thought it was normal for anyone who is successful in this world. I assumed you had to be killing yourself at work to have any measure of success. I assumed unhappiness and nervous breakdowns were just part of the package. But they’re not. Balance is possible. There are people who are incredibly successful who don’t worry half as much as I do on a good day. I’m glad to know this now because of my diagnosis.

I also love knowing about OCD because it has helped me understand some of my great-grandmother’s behaviors when I was a child. She helped raise me, and I now suspect she suffered from OCD. She worried about things that I even knew at the time were irrational, but to her, they were normal and fact. Understanding her has helped me realize how important it is for me to educate others, so we can create a world where OCD doesn’t own us.

I feel angry at the depression diagnosis, even though I know it’s been true. Even though I talk about how important it is to reduce the stigma, I’ll admit that sometimes the stigma about depression creeps into my mind and tells me I should be better at sucking it up. A lot of people have told me how strong I am when I’ve been in the throes of depression, and I get angry at myself because I feel so weak and vulnerable when I’m supposed to be strong. I have to remind myself that they say I am strong because I am fighting. Strong doesn’t mean letting nothing get to you. It means that you keep fighting, even when you can barely put one foot in front of the other.

I feel unsure about the possible PTSD diagnosis. I’ve always heard about it in relation to soldiers, and I keep thinking that what I have been through can’t compare to that. But then again, I just don’t hear much, if anything, about it outside of war and soldiers. Maybe it really is something I have. I don’t really understand PTSD, and right now, I’m more focused on getting a handle on my OCD than anything else. The stigma also affects this one for me; I keep thinking that if I actually do find out I suffer from it I shouldn’t tell people because it could seem like I am comparing my pain to the pain of soldiers. And I’m totally not. This whole area of my diagnosis is just one big confusing blur.

Anxiety disorder totally makes sense for me. It feeds into OCD. I’ve always struggled with intense amounts of anxiety. But through relaxation and stress reduction techniques, I’m learning how to stay more calm and level.