Monday, August 6, 2012

A long day with OCD

I couldn’t get enough bars on my phone. How could I do my job? How would I make it through the weekend if I couldn’t get the information I needed now?

Those were the thoughts that I brought along with me as I went through the day on Saturday.
It started early in the morning when my husband told me about a story he saw on the website of the local TV news station: there had been a suspicious death in the county that the sheriff’s office was investigating.
At my newspaper job, I cover the county: the government, courts and the sheriff’s office. I needed to find out what was going on.
So I took a quick shower (quick for me) and jumped in my car to try to find the site of the investigation, hoping there would be officials available to give me a statement.

Some background: One of the things that bothers my obsessive-compulsive disorder the most with my job as a reporter for a weekly newspaper is depending on others to get in touch with me.
I write my stories based in large part on talking with others. Some of that is done by phone. I leave a lot of voice mail messages; I wait for a lot of people to call me back.
I have a hard time waiting for them to call back.
I obsess over whether or not I punched in the correct phone number to call the person. What if I left my voice mail message on the wrong phone for the wrong person? If I’m using my cell phone, I compulsively check the call history to make sure I called the correct number.
When I don’t get a call back right away, I worry that the person never got the message. So I call again, compulsively checking the number again.

Saturday morning, I drove up and down the road where the person who died had lived. I searched for the house, looked for yellow police tape, for sheriff’s office vehicles, for signs of a crime scene. I found none.
I worried that I wasn’t doing due diligence, so I put more miles on my car than was necessary to try to find the scene.
I finally saw a couple of deputies on the side of the road, and they told me to contact the major about the case.
I have regular contact with the major. I tried his office phone first: voice mail. Then I tried his cell phone number, which I had programmed into my phone and written down in my little phone book I carry with me.
It was a wrong number. Now I worried about the accuracy with which I had written down the number in the first place. Maybe he had just changed his number. Maybe I hadn’t been careful enough.
I finally left two messages: one on his office voice mail and one with dispatch. That covered all the bases I had available.

Back home, my husband asked me if I still wanted to go on the outing we had planned for the day. I didn’t expect a call back any time soon, and I had my cell phone with me, so I said yes.
I didn’t realize that during parts of our trip on back roads, I’d have no cell connection. I received notice that I had a voice mail. I thought it was probably from the major, but I couldn’t even call my voice mail system to hear it. No bars.
We finally reached a small city where I could listen to the message. He hadn’t left any numbers for me to call, so I called his office again, then dispatch again and left another message.
I knew then we’d be driving back into areas with no nearby cell phone towers, so I began to obsess over not getting to talk with this man.
What if he tried to reach me again and just got my voice mail? What if he got mad at me and didn’t try again? What if I couldn’t get any information until Monday? Then I wouldn’t be able to get anything on the website. My whole weekend would be ruined if I couldn’t talk with him that day.
So my thinking went.

But I was with my husband, and we were going to a lovely place (which I’ll write about in a future post), and I decided to try to focus on him and what we were doing and not worry about the major.
The thought that I was going to miss out on the story crept in from time to time, but for the most part, I was able to focus on the moment.

My anxiety returned as we drove back to cell service areas. Long story short, I left another message, and the major left a couple of messages, and we played phone tag. I finally got to talk with him.
I learned that the suspicious death was indeed a homicide.
When we got back to Altavista, I went into the office, wrote a short brief and loaded it up on our website.
Then finally I could go home and relax.

I had an anxious day. But, of course, I suffered nothing like the family of the man who had been murdered. God bless him and God be with his family.

Do you ever have days full of anxiety, with one thing after another happening? How do you respond?


  1. All your worries about the phone calls are me to a T!

    I hate getting voice mail, worrying the person won't get my message, double checking the number, worrying I didn't program the number in my phone correctly, worrying the person will be mad if we have to play phone tag. Ugh.

    Everything you wrote-- it's me too.

  2. I'm sorry you had such an anxious day, Tina, but glad to read you were able to focus on your outing, even for just a while. Sometimes I long for the days when we just had phones in our homes!

    1. Janet, things were simpler then, in a way, before cell phones, weren't they? I love having the cell for convenience and safety, but it can be a headache, too!

  3. So true our problems pale when we compare them to someone going through great loss. I think you did fantastic!

  4. That does sound like a rough day. So sorry it distracted from your outing a bit.

    Once I had friends coming from out of town and a case blew up and I had a kid I was working with (when I did juvenile probation) that was suicidal and needed to be taken to a mental hospital immediately. So I was supposed to meet up w/ these friends and it was a Friday night and I was trying to handle things w/ this kid - who was by then on the run. It was a big mess and very stressful, but eventually he got help and I was able to enjoy my friends over the weekend.

    1. Lisa, sometimes the work world impinges on the home world and makes for a lot of stress, doesn't it? Glad your situation turned out OK.

  5. I think you handled all that stress very well Tina!
    I am so wary of cell phones I don't even have one. But the thought of phones and how people depend on them now a days made me smile - when I was in Africa we had a phone where you had to swing the handle to contact the operator first. Didn't work very well, half of the time they were asleep! Or you got cut off halfway the conversation. Can't even imagine how I handled that anymore.

    1. Klaaske, Your comment brought back memories of my own. When I was a little girl, we were on a "party line," which meant several people were on one line. If another family was using the phone, you had to wait until they were finished. Now we tend to want what we want right now, and there's something sad about that.

    2. You are so right about that Tina. Africa has actually thought me a lot about "wanting". The 14 years that I lived there were a great experience.

  6. That sounds like such an incredibly challenging day, but it sounds like you went about doing all that you could in that situation.

    Your question got me thinking - and I hate to admit that my answer is this: I do have those days, however I don't feel much outside of the first couple of "stress provoking moments", as I tend to shut down fairly quickly. Not the best thing to do, but I'm working on it!

    1. Amanda, sometimes I do the same thing. But I guess because this was my job and I was feeling hyper-responsible, I kept pushing it. It's never easy, is it?

  7. Oh, I HATE days like that! I'm so sorry. You know, the thing is, it always usually works out OK, doesn't it? You'd think we'd learn that by now, but, ugh.

    By the way, I read the article. You did a great job! Plus, I found a new favorite online newspaper! he he I've never had a favorite reporter before. I do now!

    1. Oh, Sunny, you are so sweet and encouraging! Thank you!

      You're right--it usually works out OK, but that's hard for me to remember in the midst of it all.

  8. I try to keep my head down and keep going. It usually catches up a few days to a week later. Sounds like quite the day! It's never easy.

  9. Hi Tina, I'm like you, I check my phone over and over, check my messages to make sure they came from people I know, even if the number is right. I can't even leave voicemail, I feel to embarressed for people to hear my voice, they might laugh at my voice or think it's strange, when it's really not, it's just my voice. I check and recheck I've dialled the right number before making a call, and sometimes I can't even accept a call, I feel to anxious. Susan :)

    1. Susan, sometimes phones seem to be more trouble than they are worth, don't they? And yet, we need them sometimes!


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