Navigating these new waters with COVID-19 dominantly in the picture has been a challenge for me. Not only does it call for more anxious thoughts, but it is causing a similar reaction to what triggered my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was ten years old.
My brain is constantly balancing two full-time jobs. One is being the manager of my pointless, anxious thoughts and the other is being the supervisor of my relentless, obsessive ones.
What's the difference, you ask? Well, my anxious ones look a lot like, "Well she didn't tag you in that post so she's probably annoyed with you. Yep - you've gotten those vibes from her before. It's happening - she's dropping you." Or, "they're all coming back from their universities now which means you're going to be more sad and it'll bring everything back."
My obsessive thoughts, however, are harder to handle. These are often related to deeper fears, like death, injury, rejection and heartbreak.
I love deeply and sometimes quickly, in all forms. That tends to be difficult for me to cope with. Most significantly, my biggest fears revolve around the losing the people I love and experiencing large-scale crises.
What comes with my obsessive thoughts are physical compulsions. When I'm nervous or unsure, I rip skin off of my finger tips. I try to bring awareness to this habit nowadays, but I'm a fidgeter at my core.
When I am deep in thought, I'll tap my fingers together in certain patterns. If one finger feels off-balance, I'll try to change the pattern until it feels better, but oftentimes I don't get that kind of relief.
One of my biggest struggles with OCD is, as I said, coping with deeper fears. I found out that I was struggling with this disorder when I became very paranoid about the world ending at a young age. I would scroll through so many articles and sit paralyzed with fear for hours. Through my physical response to the thoughts, my fingers had been ripped so badly they were sore.
It took a lot to break this fear of massive disasters. I struggle to think about war in other countries because I empathize too deeply, triggering my OCD. Threats of war between North Korea and the USA occupied a lot of my thoughts last summer for that reason, too.
So, I refuse to add to negative media swirling around about COVID-19, but I must speak out about this. I know that I'm not the only one with the entertaining combination of anxiety and OCD and those individuals are vulnerable right now. I am vulnerable right now.
I see germs everywhere. I see people dying. I feel what their family members and doctors are feeling. I am making patterns with my fingers way more than usual. I paid a lot for a really great manicure a couple of weeks ago that I've started to completely destroy.
Paying extra attention to whether or not my fingers are clean means that I am paying attention to whether or not they're balanced. Not that there is an actual balance to achieve, but that is the compulsion that I experience with the obsessive thoughts.
I was already feeling burnt out and ready for a vacation this past week. I've been coping with other issues and complications. But then, we're halfway through Kentucky and we find out that a travel ban has been put in place for Canadian's to avoid non-essential travel. COME. ON.
I was nervous about the virus before everyone actually needed to be nervous, but now I was in another country and my thoughts were spiralling out of control about what this all really meant.
One strategy that I learned in therapy to find evidence against your anxious thought to weaken it. I looked around at the chaos of COVID-19 affecting the entire world, and saw nothing about supportive evidence to the fact that this is a bloody crisis. What now?!
There are germs everywhere, which I knew. But all of a sudden it wasn't just me obsessing over this. It wasn't just me obsessing over the possibility of a large-scale crisis. I watched my OCD triggers come to life. There was evidence right in front of me that everyone else is just as freaked out about germs and global crises as I am, every single day! How's that for validation?
Needless to say, it's been a difficult week. We made the decision to come home early because I am not the only one who is anxious right now. I was worried for my family's wellbeing, my community and, honestly, the perceptions of others.
Even thought we left before the virus became super serious in Ontario, I was paranoid that it looked bad and was reluctant to enjoy the trip. I had to set social media limits and accept that I was going to feel like dirt sometimes.
I'm still adapting and understanding. We cross the border back into Canada this evening and start our two weeks at home. I'm learning to cope with this new world, as so many others are.
This isn't necessarily a happy-ending story. I can't really share that I'm doing much better with handling my triggers during this weird phase since it's still very new.
I just want people to be aware that this really is a nightmare coming true for a lot of individuals, including myself. And sometimes, yeah, the things that we worry about come true. Even then, there are always ways to cope.
I have seen such a huge community develop from this. The Earth is thriving (more to come on Climate Change soon) and people can connect in new ways now. We 're getting better at understanding the importance of having each other.
I trust my journey more than I ever have before. I'm learning to rely on crystals, aromatherapy, journalling and intentions
like my life depends on it.
But 2020 is already one quarter complete and, upon reflecting on that fact, I've realized that if I learned how to trust that other challenges in my life can work out, I can try to trust this one too.
All I ask is that you try to adapt and understand, too. We're learning so much about each other. Please take advantage of this time to care for someone new or old, strong or weak. We can do this if we do it together.
I'm here for anyone who needs it. Message me anytime, the easiest place to reach me is here. Your experiences may not be the exact same as mine, but they won't be so different that I can't be a listener.
Sending all the love.