Friday, March 23, 2012

Fighting OCD and depression: I make the decisions

Two things my therapist taught me have been on my mind this week.
“Willpower is not a feeling you have. It’s action you take,” he told me during last week’s cognitive behavioral therapy session, which I wrote about here.
And during a February session, he taught me that the only things we can control about our thoughts are which ones we attend to and how we respond to them: our attention and our behavior.
Willpower, attention and behavior. The common factor I began to see is that I make the decision about putting one foot in front of the other and acting. I make the decision of what to pay attention to. I make the decision of how to respond to my thoughts.
I make the decision.
I haven’t been making good decisions in regards to my obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety. I also recognize that I haven’t been making the best decisions regarding my depression.
I avoid doing things that I know will help me. I’m trying to figure out how I can do better.
To be more specific, I’m trying to get out of bed at the same time every morning, at 6. I’m trying to be more diligent about setting a deadline for myself in getting my work writing done and not put it off until I have to do all of it in one day. I’m trying to be more consistent in things like working on my own writing and clearing my clutter.
When my alarm goes off at 6, my arm reaches automatically over my head so I can hit the snooze button. I hit the button every 15 minutes for the next hour or two.
Early this morning, I was awakened by Chase Bird, one of our cats. He was crying his distressed cry, which usually means he’s getting ready to throw up.
I got up and cleaned up the poor boy’s hairball. It was 5:40 when I came back to bed. I knew I could decide to just stay up. But I consciously made the decision to get back in bed. When the alarm went off, I knew I could decide to get up. I consciously made the decision to hit the snooze button.
Why can’t I make the right decision?
I am able to get up when someone else is depending on me to get up. When I have a work-related reason for getting up early, such as an interview or a trial to cover, I get up. When I have a doctor’s appointment or even a haircut appointment, I get up.
Basically, when I am responsible to someone else, I am able to put one foot in front of the other.
So why can’t I do that for myself? Why can’t I make decisions to do things such as cleaning up clutter, writing in spite of my anxieties and exercising, things that will help me?
I’m not sure.
My sleeping in is likely due to the fact that I dread having time on my hands. If I get up early, what will I do with my time until I leave for work? Well, I might have time to do something like write. But that causes anxiety. I might have time to exercise. But it will be difficult because I’m out of shape, and I won’t get in shape overnight.
It’s much easier to hit that snooze button.
I’m still avoiding. I’m still placing too much emphasis on how I feel. I’m still paying attention to the thoughts that tell me I can’t feel anxious.
This cognitive behavioral therapy is hard. Changing my life is hard.
I have to keep on trying. But I am looking for insight from you. How do you push through and do what needs to be done? How do you make the right decisions for yourself?


  1. Tina,
    I am so enjoying your post and look forward to reading them each night, you are giving me a great insight to things. Thank you for that. Even though it's been years since we've seen each other or talked it seems as though we both have a lot of the same issues.
    But my problem is I can't sleep, I wait and wait to fall asleep and it seems to be just within my reach I doze off and think I've been sleeping for at leat an hour or two only to see it's been a few minutes. Which makes me anixous which in turn keeps me from sleeping. I have to take medication to sleep for an hour or two at most. When I tell the doctor this and ask if they can give me anything to help, (because I have a tape-recorder in my mind that tells me all the things I should have done, didn't say , didn't say the right way, I didn't smile at the cashier, I didn't call the friend I should have, the list is never ending) all I am told is that natural sleep is best! If I could get natural sleep I wouldn't ask for medication!
    I also put off exercise, eating right, to many things to list and I have nothing but time because my depression and anxiety have me to the point that I am on disability, some day's I can't even go to the grocery store because of the anixety and I will tell myself I'm getting dressed and going but then I find some reason not to go because I just can't make myself leave my house. The thought of being around people just make's me so anixous that even the most simple task is impossible.
    I don't do things because I can't do it perfectly, my house has to be perfect or I don't feel like I'm good enough, once again the list is endless.
    Even though I never expect any of these things of others, for myself I feel like I'm not worth anything unless I can be perfect. And I know that, that's impossible for anyone but yet I can't except it for me. If you're anything like me the fear of doing something wrong causes me to not do anything a lot of the time.
    But I am grateful for finding you and honored to be able to see what a wonderful, insightful, and accomplished woman you've become. I always knew in school that you were special and that you had so many of the qualities that I wish I had and you have achieved so much, you honor me with even remembering who I am. Which makes me think that no matter how long it may have been since I've seen or spoken to so many old friends I did make some sort of impression, and I just want you to know that reconnecting with you has been a God send for me. So no matter what you may feel you make a difference, in my life and you are fearless facing what you do and still you keep going. So maybe if nothing else I hope you know you are an inspiration to those who suffer with the same things or many of them.
    Know that even though time has seperated us I think I found you to inspire me, and you are doing a wonderful job in your blog to help, and if you can touch one life and make a differnce that show's your worth as a person and in the career you have chosen.
    So I hope that knowing that show's what a truely gifted person you are. Thank you again, for giving me hope and showing me some new ways to try to deal with my own phobia's and doubt that I may not have made any difference, hopefully you will continue to write and relay your wisdom to us all.
    Stephanie (Steph)

    1. Dear Stephanie, Thank you for your many kind words! I am glad that you remembered me from so long ago in elementary school.

      We all have times when we need help from others, and I think we all help carry each other along when the going gets tough. So you make a difference, too, and you help others, too. The times that you have helped a friend or been a comfort to a family member or helped out a stranger or made a buddy laugh stick in other people's minds whether we recognize it in ourselves or not.

      I have trouble sleeping properly too. I wake up a lot, and it disturbs my rest. I've learned to try different things, like music, meditation, and reading something I know will soothe and inspire me. Sometimes nothing works, but I try not to get upset, because then I feel more anxious.

      I am by no means a professional. It has made the biggest difference in my life to have a good doctor and a good therapist helping me. I hope you are able to talk with your doctor or counselor about your anxiety and depression and how it affects you. There are so many ways to effectively deal with these health issues. You and your doctor just need to find what best works for you.

      Thank you very much for visiting and commenting. I learn so much from comments. It's a give and take. You all help me! Take care of yourself! :-)

  2. Oh Tina, it's all so hard, isn't it?

    As you know, I am also making the decision to get up early at 6am every morning. This morning I woke up naturally at 5am and I went to the bathroom, took my early morning meds and was contemplating going back to bed... I even switched off the light to do so but then I realized that I would be messing myself up. You see, I knew that for me, if I went back to bed for 45min., that I wouldn't be able to rouse myself at 6am, for the more I sleep, the more I sleep. So I decided to get up and read my book until 6am when I made breakfast, got dressed, made my bed, washed my face. Now I'm blogging whilst I enjoy a pot of tea and I feel refreshed rather than groggy as I know I would have if I had gone back to sleep.

    What do I do with my early morning time? I love the quiet "me" alone time while the world outside is still dark and for the most part quiet and my Mom is always still asleep at this time so I've got a quiet house too. I read, I write, I drink tea, I knit sometimes, I blog, I catch up on e-mails, I play on other websites. This morning, after I blog, I'll be working on my April budget. I am much more alert in the early morning and mornings in general than any other time of day. So, I basically do slow and quiet things that I enjoy but "never seem to have enough time for." And, yes, I enjoy working on my budgets :-)


    1. Dear Elizabeth, We must be on the same schedule today! I did actaully get up at 6 this morning. Yay! I woke up about 5 and couldn't go back to sleep. I did try until 6, then turned on my light and read for an hour. Then I fed the kitties, fixed myself my breakfast and turned on the computer.

      I have to admit, though, that I do have a haircut appointment at 9:30. I wrote that I can get up for those! It's not that I get my hair cut that often. Usually it's months in between But I just know that someone is waiting for me to show up.

      Thank you for telling me some of the things you do with your time. That helps. Those are things I could do too.

      Have a great day!

  3. Congratulations, Tina. I am nominating you for the HUG AWARD!

    The HUG Award© is for people with an expectant desire for the world, for which they: Hope for Love; Hope for Freedom; Hope for Peace; Hope for Equality; Hope for Unity; Hope for Joy and Happiness; Hope for Compassion and Mercy; Hope for Faith; Hope for Wholeness and Wellness; Hope for Prosperity; Hope for Ecological Preservation; Hope for Oneness.

    “People do not have to give up or compromise their own religious, spiritual, or political beliefs to qualify for the Hope Unites Globally HUG Award©. They qualify for the HUG Award© when, without bias or prejudice, they use their resources and gifts to make the world a better place for everyone.”

    Go to my website and see the details (and your name in bright lights). Mostly, I wanted you to know that your blog is delightful and insightful, and helpful to many. Keep up the great work!

    The Art of an Improbable life

  4. Hi Tina, As others have said, you really are an inspiration and help to those suffering from anxiety disorders (as well as to those of us who aren't!)
    One thing that came to mind when I was reading your post is how hard you seem to be on yourself. There are so many people (myself included) who hit that snooze button way more than we should, but I think it's just part of being human (and imperfect) and you shouldn't beat yourself up over it. I know you have goals and desires of where you want to be and what you want to do in your life, and that's great, and important. I just think you should cut yourself some slack and continue on, doing the best you can, and not be down on yourself if you don't end up doing what you think you should have been doing.....because there's always tomorrow for a chance to try again! Okay, that's my two cents worth. Do with it what you wish :) !

    1. Janet, Thank you for your two cents worth! I appreciate it. I hear you on that. I probably am too hard on myself, especially when I'm feeling particularly anxious or impatient with my progress, which I have been lately.

      Thank you for the inspiration that you provide and for your wonderful efforts to educate others about the true nature of OCD!

  5. Tina, it's only while reading your post now that I understood my own behavior. I get up every morning at 5:45 am to prepare everything for my children for school, then i get ready for work, then my second job, and later around 8:30 pm i am back home. I have to clean and cook and spend time with my children. although I end up exhausted and feel tired, i REFUSE to go to bed before 2 am. When I need to get up for something for myself, I just postpone. when I am alone, I stay in bed, I even forget to turn on the light at night, I forget to eat, I just do nothing, like I don't even exist

    1. Nikky, Yes, it's so much easier to forge ahead when we are doing it for someone that we feel responsible for, isn't it?

      Your schedule sounds exhausting! I can understand you not wanting to go to bed when you have not seen your children all day. I hope you are able to rest and rejuvenuate even a little when you have some alone time.

  6. Hi Tina! Congratulations on your nomination!

    I agree with Janet, you are WAY too hard on yourself. Maybe pick only one or two of those things you want to do, and then work on those. It seems like you are picking a lot of different things to work on all at once. That can be overwhelming in the best of times.

    As far as the getting up early, it is an admirable goal, but perhaps you need the extra sleep? Rather than feel guilty about snoozing, maybe you just need extra guilt-free sleep time. That's one thing I learned about myself. I am not a morning person, so I realized that and try to accommodate that when possible. You said that when others count on you, you do get up early. That sounds like you're doing the right thing to me. Getting up early or late on a day off, cleaning up clutter or not, is neither right nor wrong. Those things are a matter of preference. It's ok if you want to set goals for yourself, but if you don't meet them, you haven't done anything wrong! Hang in there. : )

    1. Dear Sunny, Thank you!

      You are so wise. You are right. I tend to bite off more than I can chew, and then I guess I get choked on it. I am getting trapped in the old "all or nothing" thinking that is not useful at all.

  7. Your questions are about "pushing through," and "trying to do better." That makes ME want to run and hide under the covers! That's a whole lot of pressure to put on yourself, and that, as you well know, increases stress, which makes it even harder to get up, creating a downward spiral.

    What if, instead of muscling out of bed to work, you focused on some pleasant activity, like a fragrant cup of tea, or a few gentle stretches, a little dance to lovely music, or some other activity that allows you some pleasure in your life and makes you want to get out of bed? In other words, give yourself something of joy to look forward to, something that draws you out of bed like a child on Christmas morning.

    I have to coax, cajole, and sometimes downright bribe myself to get going. Self-judgment doesn't work; compassion does. Treat yourself with the same kindness that you would a baby just learning to walk. In a sense, that's what you're doing.

    1. Nadine, that is an excellent idea, one I may use myself! You're right. It's hard to get out of bed when you dread what's coming. And you are absolutely right. Self-judgment does not work. Took me 2 years of therapy to figure that one out!

    2. Nadine, You are so right--compassion works a lot better than self-judgment! It's so easy to quickly turn on the self-judgment.

      That is a really good idea you have, to cajole myself out of bed with the promise of something joyful and pleasant. I somehow have turned getting up in the morning into something negative and difficult, instead of the beginning of a good day. Thank you!

  8. Tina - I can relate, but from the outside looking in I want to say DON'T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF!!! I too loved what your therapist said about motivation, and about choices - I will remember those little snippets of insight. But also remember to not beat yourself up. I HATE getting up in the morning. And I think for those of us with depression/anxiety it is particularly difficult.

  9. I wish I knew about the whole getting up thing.....

    I wish I knew the answers.

  10. Tina, it is great that you have the drive to keep on trying. I think that is the best thing to overcome your OCD. I have OCD as well and it is so difficult to control it sometimes. I wanted to share the website because it offers a lot of techniques for coping with your OCD. I hope this is helpful and I wish you the best.


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