Today is my first day at The Tribe! I’m not sure that participating in forums will be the best strategy for me personally, so I don’t think that I will spend a lot of time engaging in forums (though it’s great if people are getting support that way), but I do intend to commit to blogging every day. I will use the blog for two things: daily reflections and weekly reflections. Daily reflections will involve CBT exercises, feeling exercises, gratitude exercises and visualization exercises. Weekly reflections will be more thoughtful—about the lessons of the week, my progress in general, etc. I am nearly 28, have had OCD for 17 years, and have tried so many different ways of keeping myself accountable–in journals, in excel sheets, the list of methods continues—and I always seem to “fall off” my routines. But there’s nothing to do but keep trying new formats! And so here I begin, for April 15….
Reflections on Obsessions:
•Last week, I was struggling a lot with “What if, by visiting my uncle when I had a cold, I exasperated the issues that he was facing with his swallowing (due to stroke and cancer), and his death is partly my fault?” I think I have come to accept that there’s “no proof” of my obsession and that it is not rational (or helpful to anyone) to hold onto it. But I also feel a certain numbness around the subject; a sense that, OK, I’ve dealt with this for now, but when we finally have a chance to hold his funeral and I see his kids crying, it might come up again. I need to be prepared to struggle further at that time.
•i am aware that when the coronavirus quarantine rules lift, I will struggle a great deal with what is OK to do, and what sort of activities are too risky, and are my mild symptoms (say, post nasal drip) a reason that I must get tested or must quarantine myself. I know that this will be a struggle for me, and it will hard for me to believe people when they say I’m being too over-cautious. The fact that my cold worsened after I left to see my Uncle in Boston, along with the coronavirus outbreak itself, has worsened my distrust of people who say i’m being too over-cautious. I think I have to stop externalizing this judgment, however, and try to rely on myself to make such a judgment call. It’s true that there are authorities that give bad (uncautious) advice, but there are also authorities that give cautious advice that are still practical and calm. I need to be the one calling the shots about what’s over-cautious and what’s rightly cautious, and I can start practicing that immediately.
•The last couple days, I have been struggling a great deal with, “What if I don’t do enough to help my friend get out of the place where she’s living—where she’s being exposed to coronavirus? What if she dies …that would be horrible no matter what? And what if she dies AND i can’t forgive myself because I didn’t do enough to help?” I’m still struggling with a fear that I should be insisting more. but D: i need to wait for her reply; it would be bossy for me to keep enforcing things on her; I don’t know what’s best for her; she is an ADULT and can make decisions for herself. But then, a voice in my head says: in some situations, you absolutely MUST MAKE them get out of a bad situation—in some situations, you MUST rescue them….and my response: that’s true, but if I’m being entirely honest with myself, I’m not sure that’s what this situation is. i don’t know with 100% certainty.
•What I’m realizing: I believe the situation is to some degree not entirely straightforward; it’s confusing, it’s concerning. I believe i can ask my other friends about it, but not in an anxious “whatever you say will determine how I act manner.”
•What I’m realizing: I wish I could have approached her entire situation with a more matter-of-fact, emergency-management kind of approach. That I could have been practical, instead of entirely fear driven.
•What I need to try to do now: lower my emotions, get to a reasonable and practical place about the situation so I can try to see this for myself; update my friends about the situation and see what they say.
Feelings: embarrassment (for how I’ve been angry at my parents, therapist; for the ways I’ve been unfair and righteous and wanted so badly for them to “solve” everything). Horrified (for the inequality, for the cruelty of the White house). Sad (for the inequality in balances of grief; for feeling OK). Fear (for Natasha’s health).
What I’m grateful for: the support and understanding of my friends. the forgiveness and patience and imperfections of my parents–the lesson that they are just humans, imperfect. The opportunity to feel useful through journalism; my privilege to be safe. The possibility of beautiful things in life…the cathartic release that my creative work gives to others; the possibility of communion platonic and non-patonic. THe beauty of spring.
Visualization: She asks a couple friends, her parents, if they agree it is time for her to back off Natasha, and she takes their opinions into account. She gives Natasha space to think about it and puts aside panicked thoughts. She manages to calm down, relax, to the point that she is able to see the matter more clearly herself. She enjoys getting some exercise in the evening, and in being more kind and caring to her parents. She enjoys her time with Dominik and Natalie, and then in both creative work and in helping to get the story out about Abdul Khan.
One last thing; if i am going to take almost an hour every day to such reflectiveness, I am going to have to dial back my work expectations for myself. I am going to believe that 35–42 hours is just as acceptable as 40 to 48 hours. I am going to have to put my money where my mouth is, in terms of believing that we are not simply measured by our productivity, and that self care is valuable. I think it might be worth the investment. I think it might help me become BETTER at everything I want to be better at: 1) being a more loving & truly present daughter/niece/friend 2) being a better & more insightful/effective journalist/colleague. 3) being a more insightful, clear-eyed, calm person and thereby feel less often that life is unbearable 4) improve my physical health, so that I’m not constantly immuno-compromised by stress.