A Day In The Life

I decided on my way to work today to kinda make some notes regarding the way I felt, and how the day progressed. I thought this may help in understanding my level of anxiety, and to sort of judge at a later date the progress in managing my life, and anxiety levels. As I did this I noted that this may also help the observer (reader of this book in this case) understand the kind of thoughts, feeling, the anxiety levels and all that, which goes on in the head of someone who experiences OCD. Now this is not to say that this is what goes on in the mind of every sufferer, nor that OCD affect everyone the same. Also, this is one day out of many, and whilst it was a relatively average day for me, OCD does tend to change, to alter its presentation to the sufferer. Most of the below was written as or shortly after the feelings, or situation occurred, some however did have to wait until I got home from work. This was also done sometime after I had started taking Arropax and Pristiq, and I had also been seeing my Psycologist for a while as well.

So this morning I am back at work after the Queens Birthday, long weekend. I am wearing dress pants and shoes with a black T-Shirt under my Business Shirt. The reason for the t-shirt is a form of protection against other people touching me. This is pretty much how I dress for work each day. The only times I dont dress this way is on weekends and Fridays as it is a casual day at work. But on these days I still wear a t-shirt and a long sleeved jumper or shirt over the top and long pants. I rarely venture out of my house without 2 tops and one of them being long sleeved. Mainly to protect myself from other people touching me, but also without a long sleeved shirt I cant open doors as I cover my hand with the sleeve when touching door handles and the like.

Today I am quite agitated. Friday’s experience is playing on my mind, and I am back around people all day again. As I got out of my car I started to put on my “Work Place Mask.” The one where I am a professional, I know what I am doing, I am confident in my role and ready to work and engage people in conversation where required. It is a struggle to get the motivation to bother doing this. I just want to tell everyone to fuck off and leave me alone. I want to go home, log in to the office from there and work away, but alas I am unable to do this, so I must get into the swing of remembering social conventions of saying hello to people I work with, or walk past in the hallway. I am again having to continuously monitor my attitude, the way I interact, the facial expressions I make, everything about me and how I act I have to monitor, and adjust to meet the expectations of those around me. It is something I have become quite adept to, mimicking the emotional responses anticipated given certain circumstance. I also have to continuously monitor the same in those around me, trying to determine what the meaning of the expression, the wording used, the emotional responses of those I come into contact with. I dont really get this in people. I understand that certain topics and certain mannerisms get certain results. This I tend to use to my advantage, manipulating those around me to get a desired result. Another thing I have had to become quite adept in doing, “reading people”. It is, unlike for most of you, not something instinctive for me, I must concentrate, pay attention to every sign every tell a person makes to work out the emotional component of the conversations, and the delivery of the words, to understand the message within the message. To work out if I am being reprimanded or praised as the words to me do not always make it clear that I am in a conversation where either is occurring. Unless someone is very clear in what they are saying, spelling it out to me so that there is no chance of mis-understanding the meaning of what they are saying I am almost completely lost in the conversation and rely on my ability to read and interpret what they are saying and the context in which they are providing it. As I say this is not a instinctive understanding and does not come naturally. I must deliberately do this and concentrate, remain very focused on what is being said and going on so that my response both verbally and facially is appropriate. This is an extremely taxing thing for me to do, and I basically have to do this for a good proportion of the day.

As soon as I get to my desk I get out my things from my bag that I need for the day and set my iPhone up with the headphones, select an album and the headphones go on. Ill only take them off if I have to go somewhere, answer a call or someone needs to speak to me. So they are on basically all day. It gives me some feeling of isolation from those around me, also it helps me to concentrate on what I am doing as I dont end up getting distracted by the conversations going on around me. The music is reasonably loud, according to others, to me it is at a decent volume, loud enough that I pretty much can only hear my own thoughts, and nothing much else around me. My work phone is next to my computer and therefore if it rings I can see the light flashing if I am unable to hear it, but this being said it doesn’t ring very often.

Within a short period of time I have to go to the bathroom for the first time of what will be many times for the day. Unfortunately like the vast majority of OCD sufferers I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It is from what I understand a common side effect or symptom of OCD yet rarely the two are associated together in texts relating to OCD. In the end I went 5 times, not counting the times I just had to pee and to hide. I say to hide, as I tend to go into a stall to hide from everyone for a short period of time as there isnt anywhere else in the building I can go and just be on my own with no interruptions. It is not the most pleasant relaxing place for me to go but due to the limitations in choices it is the best I can do. I need these times to recoup somewhat from the constant watching and evaluation of others and interactions.

If I leave my desk my shirt sleeve cover my entire arm and flow over my hands so that they are somewhat hidden away. When walking around the office I look basically only where I am going. If I pass someone on the way to where I am going I will generally just smile or nod. Sometimes I will say hello, my normal response to someone asking how I am I will respond with “Getting there.” I will make a conscious effort to remember to ask how they are. Normally shortly after that I have drifted off, if they stop and start talking by that point I have likely walked away, unless they stop before the hellos and display a outward sign of wishing to talk to me further than pleasantries. Personally I would be much happier with out the social convention of saying hello etc when passing people, but I would also rather I didn’t have to talk to people full stop generally.

Through out the day my level of anxiety fluctuated a considerable amount. I can only assume that this is as a result of the upcoming exercise of having to touch the door handle as I leave. At times I was quite anxious, which I am sure those around me would be able to see if they were to look. I would at times stop and concentrate on my breathing as the psychologist had shown me as a relaxation technique. It helped but only for short periods. I would continue to fluctuate between being slightly anxious and about to explode. I watch these levels as much as possible, so as the levels rise I can start to try and minimise the anxiety, and try to calm down. If I can get on top of it early on then the level doesn’t fluctuate to a high level of intensity, however it is not an easy thing, when you are concentrating on something the level of anxiety can creep up quite quickly and next thing you know you are covered in sweat and shaking like a Chihuahua on speed. Initially it can be quite unnerving, even though this happens quite regularly to me, when you realise that you are starting to freak out and that it would be observable by others there is a moment of what the fuck is going on, calm down, calm down its ok. What are you freaking out about. Then you stop, you realise that the freak out has pretty much nothing to do with anything and slowly you start to find your centre again.

Im feeling quite teary this afternoon. The anxiety today is a bit much for me to handle. I cant seem to remain calm for any real length of time. I keep having to get up to have a smoke or go for a walk, or hide in the bathroom. The level of anxiety is extremely frustrating, it is causing me to find it difficult to focus on what I am doing, to maintain any level of real productivity. It is quite noticeable I would imagine to those on the outside. I seem to be continuously fighting this demon today, I think somewhat more than normal, but given I have been off work for 3 days I am finding being around people a hard thing to get back into. I know its only been 3 days, but normally it is only 2 and therefore I am somewhat out of sync on my normal routine for a week. I don’t feel teary in the aspect of sad, but more out of frustration. The anxiety associated with OCD can be very frustrating, not just because I am anxious but because of the interruptions this can lead to in day to day activities.

At the end of the day, as I left work I did as I was supposed to and opened the door, using the handle and not covering it with my sleeve. Initially, I was ok I was already a little anxious so this didn’t initially cause major issues. As I drove home I became more anxious about touching the handle, and found myself holding my arm out the window, in the relaxed way, not sticking straight out like an complete weirdo. If I needed to use my indicator, or touch something on the car in the interior I tended to use my hand that didn’t touch the door. I wasn’t able to touch my person, I found closing my hand hard and started becoming rather nauseous again. When I got home, I went straight into the normal routine, undressed and started washing the day’s clothes, washed my hands which was a massive relief, and started making dinner. I started to do some cleaning, and tiding the flat, amazing really as the house was already clean. I am much better with cleaning than I used to be, this is allowing me the time to write this book, and to relax somewhat.

Today has been a rather interesting day. I have been in a reasonable amount of pain today. My back has been really sore, making walking, sitting pretty much every activity difficult and painful. This is a result of my workplace injury. Certain circumstances will cause the pain to flare, weather changes, stress, over exhaustion, walking to much, the list kinda goes on. The weather has under gone a significant change which does cause me some issues, however this is, I believe being someone compounded by the anxiety I am feeling as a result of the ERP. I have managed to open the door at work, at the end of the day as per the ERP exercises the psychologist prescribed. I am not enjoying doing it, however I am doing it, and will continue to preserver through it.

Along with this today I have had some severe fluctuations in my mood? Im not sure that’s the right word but for lack of a better one I will use mood. I have had persistent thoughts of wanting out, of killing myself. Its not something I want to do, and I am not really concerned by them. Some time ago I would have been overly concerned about them, they were very common, a daily almost constant thought. I used to ponder different ways in which to do it, however it was never something I really had any intent to follow through on. Today was a bit different because it has been some time since I had persistent thoughts of killing my self. Having them today, has shaken me a little but again, they were not severe or serious thoughts. They come and go somewhat, and I dislike them however the idea of no longer having the anxiety, the thoughts, the everything to do with OCD etc is somewhat desirable even at the cost of my life. Though I wouldn’t kill myself, if I was to die and not have control of the circumstances, currently I don’t know that I would be too upset, or disappointed by the event. I know this seems quite dark and to some reading this would think that I do actually want to die, or to kill myself. It isnt the case at all, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to kill myself, but I also don’t want to wake up tomorrow and start the same mundane routine again that OCD imposes on me. Every night I go to bed, I know what the following mornings proceedings will be. Get up, go to the toilet, walk to the kitchen, make a latte, go to the lounge, have the latte whilst having 2 smokes, read News.com.au, AdelaideNow.com.au and slashdot.org. Finish the coffee, undress, put clothes in washing machine, go have a shower, hair, body, teeth, face in that order, dry, head to foot, put on my black shirt, then underwear, then socks, then pants, then shoes and lastly my shirt. Ensure everything I take to work is in my bag, and then leave for work. If at any point I fall out of this routine I will start again. Driving to work has its routine, when I change lanes, where I stop to get a V black and pack of smokes, when I have a smoke, what route I will take, when I take out my pass from the console, where I will park. My work life has a routine, when I do my daily processes etc. Trip home has its routine, much like the one to work, but without the stop for V black and smokes. I get home, there is another set of routines. Nothing really changes no matter the day, except if I am going to work or not. Little in life for me changes, the routines are daily, then there are weekly and monthly routines. If someone was to ask me, what are you doing Wednesday 5 weeks, 10 weeks etc from now, I would be able to tell them, what I was going to be doing, the only possible difference may be if I am to see my psychologist or doctor on that day. So when I say that I don’t want to die, but I wouldn’t be upset if it happened, a constant never ending ground hog day is not much to miss out on.

On the flip side of this, I have felt quite at peace about the whole situation during the day. Not feeling like killing myself, not being upset about the situation. I have spent some time today with a colleague about why I decided to get help when I did. This went on to bits about how my OCD affects me, and those around me. My colleague had the same expression, and responses to most people. One there is a level of astonishment and mild disbelief that what I was saying was exaggerated. Then there is a level of amazement that I am still able to work, and did so whilst at the height of the OCD impacting my life. Then there is a level of pity/sympathy for me and my situation. Im not a fan of pity or sympathy for my mental illnesses, or physical illnesses. This would stem from my personality more than anything, I don’t see a point in it, it’s a waste of time, and effort on the person offering its part, and provides no benefit to me except that I would have to fulfil the social convention of showing gratitude. Which again, is an annoyance and a bit of a struggle for me to do. However, I do find and believe it is important for those who suffer with OCD and other mental illnesses to be as open as possible with those around them, when given the opportunity. It helps those who do not suffer from OCD to understand, or atleast some level of acceptance of the illness, and the sufferer. But not only that. There is a level of fear, and apprehension surrounding sufferers of any mental issues. The level of misunderstanding, and mistrust of those with mental health issues has been there in society for hundreds and thousands of years and though getting better still persists. As soon as someone hears that another has a mental illness, the term going postal will be said or pretty shortly after. Normally it is, will he go or she go postal. People are instinctively concerned that any mental health sufferer is a hairbreadth away from snapping and being violent. Which is not true at all. The percentage of mental health sufferers with any inclination to violent tendencies are quite minimal, and for the most part those with uncontrolled violent tendencies are locked away for their and the publics safety, and though that is not pleasant that due to a medical condition they are locked away it is necessary until more effective treatments are discovered.




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