OCDiaries: What a Bad Day Looks Like
I wrote this post on a day when I was really, really struggling with anxiety after a stupid trigger set me off. I thought it might be helpful to cast some light on how exactly bad anxiety attacks can make life pretty hard when they’re in full force, so I’ve detailed my train of thought and my state of mind below. This isn’t a post trying to say that all people with OCD deal with this, or that anyone who has dealt with something similar has OCD: just a look at my own experiences with the illness, and how it impacts my functioning day-to-day.
It all starts because I feel a slight twinge in a part of my body. It’s nothing much – an occasional pinching feeling while I’m lifting weight. It happens a couple of times, and I’m able to go on with what I’m doing. I watch some dumbass comedy on Youtube afterward, and lie on the bed prodding and poking and staring at this small part of myself. I swear, it looks like there’s a bruise there. But how could there be a bruise there? Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.
It’s about this point that I can feel the spiral starting. What the spirals start over tends to shift from week to week, but I go through phases with them – my health, my future, my past, my objective moral worth, my religion, my relationship. This week, apparently, we’re back on the hypochondria express. I want to get off, but I’ve already purchased a half-dozen tickets just in case I was to lose one of them.
I manage to hold the worst of it off with some of the techniques that I’ve been working on recently. I try to talk through the logic of the situation in my brain as I make myself some dinner. What are the actual changes that this slight discomfort is something serious? Very small. I know that I’m in objectively good shape. I know that feeling a small amount of pain isn’t unusual. That’s just the shit our bodies do
What if it is something serious? What if by putting off I’m letting it get more serious? What if I’m dying, right now? What if I only have a matter of months to live? How soon can I get to the doctors about this? The thoughts come so fast I find myself gripping on to the counter and trying not to throw up. I try to remind myself that anxiety has physical symptoms, and that focusing on the discomfort is only going to make it more pronounced. I stand in front of the mirror and mush and squish this bit of me until it hurts more. I eat my dinner. I don’t taste it.
I can already run through every single way that this slight pain could be an indicator of a profoundly horrible illness. I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to go on to the self-diagnosis sites – damn you, WedMD, the birth of many a futile panic attack – but my brain as already indexed everything terrible that this could represent. I run through all of it, repeating the worst ones in my head, and trying to find other symptoms to connect to this to prove that this is correct. I’m not crazy, I just have to come to terms with the fact that something is terribly wrong and-
By this point, I’m in a full-blown panic attack. Lying on the bathroom floor, too scared to cry, my stomach churning like it’s full of silt stirring to the surface. My brain is offering up its usual collection of awful ideas to make things better – cut yourself make yourself throw up starve die – and, in this state, it’s very, very hard to argue with it. I know, functionally, that none of these things will actually help, but the weight of the anxiety is so heavy that anything that gets me out from underneath it is a better option than this. Did I take my meds today? I did. Shit. No fallback.
I turn the light off before I come out of the bathroom so I can’t perform further inspection on my body. I rule out showering or changing clothes that day, because the thought of having to be alone with my naked body for any length of time is so horrible it makes me want to throw up. When I see my cat sleeping on the couch, I want to cry, because I’m sure I’m going to die and never going to see her again. The fear is so intense that trying to argue myself into believing it comes from a lie is basically impossible.
It takes a while for the fog of the panic to clear. I know I just have to sit and wait till it leaves me, but it takes what feels like a lifetime. My body is so tense from the anxiety that I can feel pain spreading across my whole body. At least I’m able to recognize it for what it is this time.
By the time it finishes, I just want to sleep, but I know that settling down so soon after a spiral like this is going to make it near-impossible for me to rest. I need a good couple of hours of cooling-down before I can actually move on, where I’m not going to be good for much but trying to ignore the open doors my brain is attempting to encourage me to pass through. I promise myself the usual – that I can book an appointment with my doctor if it’s still there in three days. You want to hear about the last time I booked an appointment, certain that a small bump in my neck was death herself come for me at last, and the doctor had to politely explain to me that it was a piece of my skull that had always been there? Yeah. They know me well down there. I wish they didn’t.
There is no flick-switch ending to one of these spirals, but rather a noble attempt to drag my ass out of it and into something more productive. That’s what I’m going to spend the rest of the night doing – trying to act normal in the hopes I can trick my brain into believing everything’s okay. It’s a hatefully frustrating way to spend my time, as I’d rather be doing something I actually enjoyed, not just trying to placate my head into not thinking that a metaphorical lion is about to burst through the door and eat me. But this is what has to happen – it has to happen because I have to come back to reality, and that means finding some way to move past what my head is telling me is going to happen, and focus on the things that are actually happening in my life right now.
If you’ve dealt with anxiety and panic attacks, and specifically trying to overcome them, I would love to hear about what’s worked for you – please drop them in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting me on Patreon for exclusive perks. Oh, and, as always, buy my fucking book!