Since it is Tax Day, I thought I would do a more lighthearted post going over some things that have changed since I’ve been on this OCD-mental-illness-therapy-medicated journey. Yes, I can bring it back to taxes. Promise.
When the Mental Illness Rules your Life
When you live with a mental illness or mental health challenge, your habits and viewpoints change or adjust sometimes so subtly that you think that those things are just “you” or who you are. I guess that it some ways, they are or they become as such. For instance, if you routinely avoid something or do something in a specific way because of your anxiety, eventually that becomes your way of life. You might think that you just don’t “like” doing that thing, forgetting the reason that you changed your life to accommodate that habit or action in the first place.
Is that general enough for you? I’m trying to think of a non-ridiculous example, but frankly, usually the examples are pretty ridiculous. Like how I have avoided using my “kids bathroom” because in my mind, the potential for it being dirty and “contaminated” (pee on floors, poop stains on the seat, whatever) is higher. So pretty soon it became normal for me to not use that bathroom, and it didn’t seem like a big deal. To an outsider, no one would really know that there was an anxiety-related issue behind my not using that bathroom. Does that make sense?
Anyway, over the last two or so years, I have faced a few of these “fears” and tried to break these habits, including:
• Tithing and Taxes (see, I brought it back!): I have traditionally been really anxious about whether or not I’ve paid the perfect, correct honest amount of tithing and taxes. I hated tithing settlement or having to file taxes because I had to “sign off” and say that I was being totally honest about how much I owed and needed to pay. What if something was off? What if I was “lying” without knowing it? (Which, by the way, it isn’t really lying… if you think that you are telling the truth…but OCD doesn’t think like that). I would get so terrified having to sign the taxes or tell the Bishop we were “full and honest tithe payers.” I’ve tried to relax a bit more about these things. I signed our tax papers without even reading through all the paperwork this year (we have an accountant who goes over and files them).
• Reading Agreements: The tax/tithing discussion leads nicely into this next point. I used to feel like I HAD TO READ THE ENTIRE document whenever I had to click that I read and reviewed the user agreement or whatever (on, say, iTunes, computer applications, etc.). This made me not want to sign up for a lot of things, and/or it took SO LONG to read through the legalese. I set up a new iPad the other day and didn’t read through the entire agreement! And I clicked that I accepted it! Woohoo!
• Death: I thought I should bring it in since it’s in the title of the post. But really, since my medication induced depression awhile back, I haven’t been as afraid to die. I’m not terrified of death (not that I want to die), it’s just not a huge “fear” anymore.
• Parking: I used to avoid parking in between cars or parallel parking. I’ve made it a point to just park!
• Saying the “right” thing: My concern over my language and saying exactly the honest and correct thing has become more relaxed. Not that I’m going around lying, but I don’t worry so much about hyperbole and sarcasm, etc.
• Avoiding ALL sketchiness: As a random example, we went to an old middle school that is slated to be demolished because I read online that you could go in and salvage chairs, desks, etc. Anyway, we were there getting some chairs, and the construction guy said that the school district actually didn’t want the general public in there… but he said that we could take the chairs if we left ASAP. Hyperactive, moral scrupulosity OCD would’ve had me freak out, leave the chairs, and try to write the district asking for forgiveness or something. Instead, we took the chairs, told the lady in charge what we took, and left. So take that, moral scrupulosity.
Isn’t it Good to be Good?
Of course, there is something to be said for being honest and upright and doing the right thing. I believe in being a good person, but I’m learning that it’s okay not to be perfect and that, sometimes, our brains get set to “high alert” on things that a normal person wouldn’t have the same concerns or worries about. It’s in these cases that ERP and CBT can help us to dial back our behavior to a “normal person” level.
How has CBT and ERP changed some of your behavior and habits?