You Make Me Happy When Skies Are GRAY

“I like to start my notes to you as though we’re already in the middle of a conversation.” (Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail) It is true. I’d like this place to be one where I take an idea and run with it, without any care that I may sound like a babbling idiot. We all have random thoughts and ideas we find ourselves wondering and because I have this outlet of a blog, I often think, “I should write about that!” Ask me 4 hours later and that thought is long gone, hence the few and far between posts. However, today I picked up my laptop to ramble. In a very tender children’s chapter book called, “The Tale of Despereaux”, the author uses the phrase, “Dear Reader” at different points in the story and it feels as though she’s sitting right next to you as the story develops. I read that book years ago with my students and it’s stuck with me. What a cozy feeling.

So, Dear Reader, I wonder where you are as you read. How are you feeling? Do you have trouble brewing in your heart or gut? Maybe a heaviness you can’t pinpoint? Or, you may be feeling light today. Oh, I hope so! That feeling is notably better than the latter. I very often feel a smattering of both and although I like to have things in better “order” than that, I’m trying to work at letting feelings come and go as they please.

If you are new to this blog, I have a history of intense anxiety that eventually led to a correct diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Along with depression struggles, it’s been an uphill climb at times. I feel hopeful though. While at the beginning of my struggles my number one goal was just feel better and beat myself up because I couldn’t “snap out of it”, today I see more clearly that no one lives in a black and white world with any success. Last year I jumped on the Word of the Year train and found it to be quite encouraging, so this year I chose the word, GRAY. Having OCD, my brain wants nothing more for things to be in order or to feel “just right”. This word reminds me that my thoughts, feelings, habits, relationships, weight, digestion, confidence, behavior, and even the weather are ever-changing! I can sub-consciously try to keep all my ducks in a row, but it’s inevitable that one or two will waddle off track.

Do you think you have any spaces where you are placing unrealistic expectations? Are you giving yourself a hard time for things that you think you “should” have in order? Here are a few phrases that you could try adding in to your inner dialogue (because there are very likely negative thoughts that fly through without you even knowing!): “Well, I don’t feel very good/just how I want to feel, but I’ll let that sit next to me while I carry on.”, “That feels really frustrating! Anyone would feel that way, but it doesn’t have to rule me right now.”, “I wish I hadn’t eaten that, but I’ll have a glass of water and try to remember next time that I don’t like this feeling.”, “This feels yucky, but experience shows me that it will pass in time, so I’ll give it space and focus on what I value in this moment.”

Virtual Hugs. Love, Emily

OCD is Not an Adjective

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 26th Annual OCD Conference in Austin, Texas. If you read my first post about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you’ll know that I painfully struggled for over a decade before being correctly diagnosed two years ago with OCD. This disorder is greatly misunderstood and this isn’t helped with media’s portrayal of being “so OCD” about organizing and germs.

Throughout the weekend’s events, I met people from all walks of life and from different parts of the globe that are affected by OCD; sufferers, parents and siblings of sufferers, and the therapists and doctors that serve in that field. I met several doctors and therapists that have been extremely influential in my journey with books they’ve written or podcast/Instagram postings. The sessions covered a variety of topics with panels of both experts and sufferers that shared their experiences. Because OCD can reveal itself through many different themes (contamination, intrusive taboo thoughts, relationship, etc.), there were specific support groups scheduled for the evenings. This quickly became my favorite part because I was sitting amongst men and women of different generations and from all over the country and world that knew exactly what it was like to think with a “sticky” OCD brain. There were laughs and tears and conversations that went late into the night. Without getting too dramatic, it was beautiful.

OCD is not an adjectiveI think I have always known that there is relief and hope found when you know someone else understands a similar struggle, but that became magnified through my experience at the OCD Conference. I’ve made friends and will keep in contact between different time zones so that we will know and be reminded that we are not alone. I plan to attend each year so I can learn about new advances in treatment, ideas and encouragement on learning to live with OCD, join forces to advocate for mental health awareness, but most importantly, to gather with others that understand.

If you or someone you know struggles with intrusive thoughts and/or obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors, inward rumination, seeking reassurance or avoidance, look further into OCD as a possibility. The International OCD Foundation’s website can give you more information and help you find the support you need.

Dear Discouraged Brain,

Dear Discouraged Brain,

I know you feel heavy and uneasy. Upon waking up you were probably reminded that you “have this problem” and are apprehensive about the day. The basics feel more like a chore and that scattered feeling in your brain makes it seem like not much is getting accomplished in an organized or timely manner. That irritable button gets pushed a lot at the smallest things. Forcing a smile is almost painful when your sweet children engage in a story or tell you something silly. I know it’s really hard and you hear the thoughts streaming that are saying, “It’s not getting any better”, “I shouldn’t feel like this”, “Why do I have to struggle with this?”

Here’s the honest truth. You do feel the way you do and it is all valid. You are allowed to feel sad and angry that this “thorn” seems to get the better of you some days. BUT, you do not always feel like this! I’m writing this letter from the other side of the hill. It’s not too bad over here. The weather fluctuates with a few rain showers here and there, but overall, life is worth the living! I just did a belly laugh not too long ago and giggled at a meme on social media. I woke up this morning and started thinking right away about something I wanted to accomplish with work and around the house. I feel tired right now and do wish my brain acted a bit more like my neighbor, but all in all, I am doing ok.

Each “setback” on this ebb and flow style of mental illness is an opportunity. That isn’t just a line (even though it sounds like one). When you get practice time, it’s a good thing. Because it’s so easy to forget when it feels heavy, here are a few reminders: When the flood of yuck comes, slow that breath and make room for the discomfort. Practice the “radical acceptance” of every previous step and where you are right now. It is important to make a to-do list to help you feel productive, but leave some room in there for rest and self-care (even if you don’t feel like it). This will pass through and the light will peek in, but only in its own timing. Every circumstance is allowed and purposeful. I am really proud of you and I love you.

Love, On the Brighter Side Brain