In my last blog post, I explained that for five years my OCD convinced me I was going to develop psychosis and end up institutionalized. My fear of going crazy - a common OCD theme- felt much worse than the content I experienced in the past. It could be because it stuck around for so long, or maybe because it was present before and after a few personal milestones like attending college and securing my first job post-graduation. Whatever the reason, I survived. Now that I've spent some time in therapy, learning how to cope with my OCD, I want to share a few tips that have helped me manage anxiety in high-stress environments like the office or in class.
If the trust is there, be open with Human Resources, your manager, or teacher
Living with OCD isn't easy and gets harder when placed in an environment that causes you to focus on something other than, you guessed it, OCD. Since OCD wants all of your attention, sometimes it can be challenging to focus on the tasks at hand, especially if you're spiking. Spiking is when your OCD flares up and feels uncontrollable. Because of this, I encourage you to be open with a trusted supervisor or teacher about your experience with the disorder. That way, if you're having an off-day at work, they can recognize it may be due to your mental health, rather than a performance problem. As soon as you’re able to be candid about your experience with OCD, you can begin discussing accommodations.
Make time for your OCD
In the long run, avoiding your OCD will make your OCD worse, so learn to make time for it. If you tend to avoid intrusive thoughts, try to create space to explore the anxiety. Consider taking a 5-10 minute break for exposure scripts. Exposure scripts encourage you to use your imagination to think about or write about your intrusive thoughts and the results of those thoughts coming true... If that seems complicated, you can use the time to sit with your feelings and allow them to pass through. Giving your OCD a dedicated time slot will help you manage your attention and create space for all the real-life tasks that need to be completed.
Give yourself some credit
You're suffering from one of the most debilitating mental health disorders ever, you've survived, and you’ll continue to survive. Not only have you made it this far, but you have also accomplished many things despite your diagnosis. Give yourself a little praise. The next time OCD creeps up on you repeat these words to yourself, "I have OCD, I expect to feel this agonizing sensation and anxiety. I have felt it before and survived, I will feel it now and survive. I am more powerful than OCD."
And it’s true...you are.