My experience living with OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia with panic (and mild depression and PTSD) during the COVID-19 pandemic #covid19 #ocd #anxiety #mentalhealth

My experience living with OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia with panic (and mild depression and PTSD) during the COVID-19 pandemic

A handful of months ago I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (commonly referred to as OCD). I didn’t know I had had it for over the last 25+ years. It wasn’t until I confided in my therapist about something that was truly bothering me to my core, something that would also question my integrity (something I feel strongly about) and something that no matter how hard I tried to convince myself out of it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. My sessions with her are for therapy, EMDR, CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) with cognitive reframing and exposure and response therapy. Well, this particular week I was a mess. I couldn’t get rid of this thought and it troubled me to my core. Even having told my fiance and my dad who both said it wasn’t anything bad, I couldn’t help but feel awful about it. I called my therapist’s office and when she called me back, we talked about it and she eased my mind. But then in therapy that Friday we talked about it more and in depth and that is when she told me it is OCD. At first, she thought it was pure-OCD but after a few weeks we learned it is regular OCD. I have rituals, compulsions, obsessive thoughts, the whole nine yards – but I thought they were all just normal. Who knew? And, I hide them pretty well.

Add to this over 25 years of generalized anxiety disorder and a sneaky agoraphobia with panic, PTSD and mild depression; (plus, a laundry list of physical health issues) and you have the perfect storm. With therapy, therapy homework and a LOT of hard work, I have made great progress. I will post about the whole situation another time, but for now, let me tell you how this is and has been going. For the tools and resources I use, please see my blog post here. I am truly proud and grateful of the progress I have made. The body and brain are truly amazing.

Anyway…

I think myself into a hole. I have even described to my therapist that I can basically think about two things simultaneously. I can worry and think and focus and multitask and everything all at once, like it’s my job. The problem is, I have gone undiagnosed for decades and I have essentially been running myself energetically into the ground. Think of a spinning wheel of thoughts and worry and thinking and thinking endlessly and fighting the thoughts almost 24/7 for decades with no relief. It is exhausting.

So, I am at a place now where I am quite aware of the thoughts and when the OCD is flared worse than normal and whatnot. (And for those interested – I have this ability to go into “readings mode” where it is like going into a totally different mindset to do readings and reiki, etc. It is all kind of strange, but for spiritual work, it is good strange. But these mental health issues are why I change my offerings, website and other stuff so often. I am working on that and being more consistent with my offerings versus changing my mind every other day.)

With the recent pandemic, COVID-19 if you will, I was at first okay. I felt if I get it, I would be fine. I am 33 and while I am immune deficient and have a list of health issues, none of the health issues are the risky ones that have been known to worsen the situation for someone who gets the virus. So my risk factors, while I have one of them, aren’t too bad.

As time went on it started becoming realer. Games getting cancelled (NBA, NHL, MLB), my fiance’s classes got postponed until April (he is a teacher), then his classes getting cancelled all together until the summer, kids having their school year halted, people told not to go to work, people working remote, no traffic on the streets of greater Boston (which is eerie and weird). Then it developed to people in a mad dash to the supermarket for toilet paper of all things. All of this was happening while I was trying to fight for an MRI (mentioned in a previous post) after a car accident on Valentine’s Day, dealing with even worse health issues and taking care of the million steps needed to get my car taken care of from the accident, insurance, fighting for a rental, getting the new car registered, get its sticker, oil change, paperwork, excise taxes, and more and also student loan companies not getting their checks and a hundred other things, while also not being able to do things like lift stuff, do repetitive movements, physical therapy or gentle yoga (also mentioned in a previous post). (I have a running, never ending, to-do list.)

It made me feel sad around the time my fiance’s classes got postponed. Then it was a bit scary going to the grocery store and seeing a ton of people there (when no one used to go to that particular store). And while I have felt a low-grade, underlying fear and added stress to my consistent state of chronic stress, the moment it triggered me was seeing empty aisles where paper products used to be. My inability to find cleaning products, almond milk, cheerios, gluten free pasta, sensitive skin soap, etc. I was baffled. These are products that I buy regularly, from a store that doesn’t usually have a high turnover. The products I buy aren’t of the norm – people don’t typically buy gluten free, non-dairy products and so they are usually available – until now.

Then I started getting angry and still do with people who hoard stuff, with people who go out and don’t practice social distancing, and those who know they are positive for COVID-19 but go out anyway.

A couple weeks ago I told my therapist this all has triggered me, and the OCD has been extra bad. I have been fighting it now for 2-3 weeks (I don’t know which week we are on) but I know it has been 2 weeks minimum of this. We went over the thoughts, we reframed them and she gave me kudos for my mindful awareness and all the inner work I have been doing.

This week I told her it is still bad, but I am working through it and she sent me an article about how people with OCD are coping with this. In that light, I will share this with you.

This is what my mind is like on a regular basis, even without the pandemic:

Imagine you are worried about COVID-19 24/7, you are worried you will give it to others, you are worried you will get it and spread it, you are worried of washing your hands or over-washing your hands, you worry too much washing makes you neurotic and not enough you will get the virus, and you worry that if you get it, you will have to go to the hospital and then you will spread it there and possibly hurt others or family members. Now add to it the lack of products – worrying about finding soap, paper products, almond milk, gluten free stuff that no one actually likes but me and the rare few other people. But THEN add to that the normal stuff – the worry about self-harm (that is unfounded), the worry about hurting others (that is unfounded), the worry about being dissociative (which is also unfounded), and the constant labeling of everything (I do this mentally) and label every cough, sneeze or noise you hear – “that is a wet cough, that is allergies, that can’t be the coronavirus,” and watching others outside and just seeing visuals in your mind of it spreading, or getting mad because too many people are too close together, but if you see a picture of them on the beach you also have visuals of a tsunami (which is unfounded), and you avoid the beach, and you worry about work, and if you will have hours, and if you are serving them enough and if your family is okay and how stubborn people are being and you want to explode because they aren’t listening, and then you add to it, lack of communication from people, why readings and sales are slow even though you always have a lull around Easter but at the same time worrying about charging them at all due to the pandemic and if you should be charging anything at all or if your services are not expensive enough or if they aren’t cheap enough for others to buy, and how you don’t want to pry on the pandemic and be sales driven. (I don’t want to be perceived that way either because I am not like that.) Then add to it – are you sending out enough helpful tips and articles? Are you doing enough to help everyone going through this? How can you help them more? Then add to it, the physical pain, neuropathy, and other physical issues you deal with on a daily basis. Then you worry about touching the mail, touching grocery store items, and then you start getting worried about phone calls coming in – who it is, what is going on. And you get grossed out by the allergy eye gunk from the cat and have to wash your hands even more. Then pile on some of this – You worry about PTSD nightmares that continue to happen, worry about not getting enough sleep and also worry about sleeping too much and if you will get a worsening of depression, and if your car will die on you and if you will end up with a bug in your hair (has happened a lot) from being out walking, and if you will get sick from being out walking, and how certain people in your life are horrible not-mindful humans with mental health issues of their own, who hurt you emotionally but they aren’t as proactive in their treatments; and then dwell on that and creating boundaries and if you are doing the right thing and ruminating with that – and worrying about what you do around the apartment so as to not get hurt or break something by accident like a bone (something I have done) because you don’t want to burden the hospital and you don’t want to go to the hospital out of fear you would get the virus and also spread it and everything else above and then add to it worrying that you have upset someone or that they aren’t talking to you because you did something wrong, and then add to it a song you have had in your mind for days, and counting most of what you do in your mind but in 4’s (I am a pianist), so you count in 1, 2, 3 ,4, 1, 2, 3 ,4 …and then spelling words in your mind and forgetting to do things like breathe, go to the bathroom, and eat, etc. because your mind is just constant. Then worrying about calories and fat intake and if you will end up going over your calories and trying to reframe your thoughts on this weight loss journey effort. And worrying about the MRI and taking DAYS to decide what to do and ask the opinion of others and then make the decision and then question the decision in loops and ruminations. And worrying about seeing people in your life, even just one, or your other half going to one persons house to help them- because of the virus and spreading it, and you are worrying about birthdays upcoming, getting cards, gifts, and how shipping which was 2-day (and spoiled us) is overwhelmed and now out 1-4 weeks and the birthdays are April 3rd and 11th respectively and more. This is what my mind is like every day! And this isn’t even close to everything I think about and ruminate about. I also have rituals (13 journal pages worth). And this is WITH help and therapy and stuff the last 5 months or so. I have made huge progress, but this is just a glimpse of what it is like …

Now come back to the present moment taking what you just learned, amplify it by 75% in severity from being triggered by COVID-19, add in worry about relapse of progress, and be overly triggered and over-sensitized about most of your life happenings and then add in the spiritual element of things happening around the world and feeling everything energetically because you are intuitive, psychic, medium, empath, medical intuitive, an indigo and very intuitively connected and feeling the sadness and panic of the world – things that most people don’t experience (I am grateful for and blessed to have these abilities don’t get me wrong) – and more.

Then still in reality – you have everything going on above. You are standing in the supermarket and COVID-19 information comes over the speaker, people are not 6 feet away from you, some are wearing masks, and half the products you use can’t be found. But you feel like you are in a horror movie because the information over the loudspeaker of the supermarket about the virus makes you feel like you are in some kind of awful movie – surreal. And then it triggers more. The next thing you know, you feel like you have to shower and like you have germs crawling all over you from all the people you have been around and you want to break down and cry but you stand your ground and press on until you get home, wash your hands after putting groceries away, shower and then go back around and experience the looping all over again.

Now breathe.

Now you know what it is like being in the mind of someone with OCD (add 75% increase in severity at times) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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