Houston - We Have a Problem

If I were to recount all of the times I was forced to actually deal with OCD (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder) without my medication prior to 2018, I probably would place the estimate somewhere in the two-dozen range.  Which really does not seem to be that big of a deal when you think about it from a distance.  When you are intimately dealing with OCD/anxiety and are faced with dealing without medication, you would think the world was coming to an end.  Really? Yes, really.  It is that bad if you do not have the tools to cope.  Tools? What tools you might ask?  Well, if you are anything like I was, my “tools” were... my friends at the time, Xanax and Prozac.

They were held under lock-and-key and RIGHTLY so.  These chemicals are not something anyone should be experiementing with.  These medications require full supervision from a qualified physician.  I was seeing a certified physician who fully understood my condition.  So why was it I had to play phone-tag gymnastics to get my medications refilled?   I was attending my appointments, doing things by the book.  I would request refills early, as early as allowed by law.  I would call the pharmacy, then the doctor, then the pharmacy.  Sounds simple enough when I can write it down in one sentence. When lived out, it involves an absorbent amount of time, energy, and frustration to get a regular refill.  So every 30 days this phone-tag gymnastics would occur.

Without these tools of mine, I could not cope.  I did not even know where to begin.  I had heard some people mention something called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I am not a therapist or a subject matter expert, so my words about CBT/OCD/medication are a part of my story, and should not be considered advice or a recommendation.  I was told this CBT might be helpful.  I was told it had been proven helpful for “people like you” or “people with your condition.”  The last thing I wanted to do was to go to another psychologist.

The last time I had sat on the proverbial coach, I was verbally poked and prodded like a laboratory animal.  The only difference was that the psychologist I visited used words instead of scientific equipment.  My experience with psychologists had been a poor one and a really expensive one. One with zero benefits other than getting out of the house.   I could have gone to the ice cream shop and got a mental boost from the mention of ice cream.  So, as with other mentions of possible therapies, I was not real keen on investigating this one.  As with anything dealing with mental health, everything is up to the patient to pursue. Do not count on any office personnel giving you the encouragement to get certain things done.

Without my tools, I was a royal mess.  I am sure my crankiness was at an all-time high.  My fear would skyrocket.  I imagine it is not that different from a drug addict running out of their drug of choice, except He/She can easily go down to their supplier to pick up some more.  I was at the mercy of the two different players, the pharmacy and the doctor’s office.  If either of them failed to return calls, which occurred OFTEN, then I was left without my only way to cope.   The other factor which I have yet to mention was the way the OCD/anxiety makes social interaction increasingly more difficult. So combine fighting off the strange withdrawal symptoms that comes from being without your medications, plus the weird way I suddenly did not want to interact with anyone. It was no wonder all I wanted to do was sleep!

 

So here we have a situation.  I am beholden to the pharmacy and the physician’s office.  Every 30 days or so, I am put through the wringer.  Hopefully I can get a refill so I can try to lead a “normal” life. 

 

Getting Outside Your Head

So if I am not taking a pill to remove the anxiety, how do I deal with it when it comes? One of the biggest challenges in dealing with anxiety in a healthy way is knowing what to do when the anxiety comes. Keep in mind I am not a doctor or a counselor and this series is more of an informal expression of my experiences. I do not begin to think this will work for everyone, but my hope is that this will help someone. In this post, I would like to address one practical way of dealing with anxiety. There is nothing magical about these methods, but I believe we look too hard for something miraculous when God has given us a brain to apply basic methodologies in dealing with stressful situations. The key is to understand the situations and learn to deal with the associated anxiety in a healthy manner. This post will deal with the idea of “Getting Outside of Your Head.”

Fear and anxiety is a tricky thing, but I believe that God has given us practical ways to combat fear and/or anxiety. If you think about anxiety and the fear that goes with it, you will soon realize that what you are experiencing is largely trapped inside the walls of your brain. One of these practical ways of dealing with anxiety is to get outside of your brain. The symptoms such as tapping your foot or checking a lock are the physical manifestations of what is going on the inside. In previous articles, I mentioned habits which I developed to accompany my anxiety. These habits and others are side effects of the anxiety itself. I hesitate to say these are ways to deal with the anxiety because they are reactionary in that they do not actually process the anxiety in a healthy way. What I want to get to is a way to actually process the event or situation which is at the root of an individual’s anxiety.

The feelings we experience when it comes to anxiety are a complex range of fears, emotions, and beliefs which we have developed over time. You might say you understand the fears and emotions part, but what do I mean when I say beliefs? I do not mean this in a philosophical manner, but the practical application of beliefs. We begin to believe certain things will happen given certain conditions. Specifically in someone with OCD(Obsessive-compulsive Disorder), we believe that if we do not check something, something bad will happen to us or those we love. If we are sensitive towards cleanliness, then we might believe if we do not clean our hands then something bad will happen to us.

These beliefs characterize a situation in one particular point of view. Typically this “view” is the worst case scenario. So how do we get outside our own head? I will not pretend I even know part of the ways to accomplish this, but I will give a few. One basic way to do this is by taking a walk or changing up your routine. Crazy, I know, this is so basic, but what does this have to do with anything? A part of getting outside of our brain is to see things as other people see them. To see things in a different way. To experience something different than you do in your typical day.

If you have ever flown on a plane then you can recall the way the buildings, trees, and cities get so small when you are in the air flying thousands of feet up. Suddenly, the city which was all encompassing, now seems so small. The vehicles and buildings now seem less significant. The things which you have been fearing may now seem somewhat smaller. Many refer to this experience as obtaining a birds-eye view.

If you can practically find a way to accomplish this, your fears do not disappear, but suddenly your life-experience is different. It is an incredible way to break up the monotony of fear or anxiety. It breaks the cycle of your routine enough to jar them loose. In a way, it gives your mind a break. I am not saying this is the end all, magic pill, because it is not. What does happen if done regularly, is provide your brain a place to escape. If you have ever experienced overwhelming anxiety or fear, you will know that this is something we all want in that moment. We seek a way to escape our anxiety or fear.