Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mountaintops and Valleys

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joyOCD is unique.  It tends to ebb and flow, and depending on the success of treatment - usually medication and cognitive behavioral therapy/exposure response prevention - sufferers can spend a lot of time either in the valley or on the mountaintop.  I've spent seasons in both places (you can see a timeline of my mental health story here), and I most definitely prefer the mountaintop!

The Valley
Because that OCD valley is deep.  I mean, really, really deep.  So deep that it's hard to even see the mountaintop anymore.  Every second is hard, and is that mountaintop even real?  All I can focus on are those obsessive thoughts and how I'll never be able to beat this huge wolf of OCD.  I know that I need to eat to keep up my strength (especially with breastfeeding the baby), but I'm just not hungry.  The diarrhea isn't helping, and neither is the fact that I'm waking up way too early every morning with racing thoughts and physical side effects of the anxiety.  Will it always be like this?  I can't even remember what joy and hope feel like.

The Mountaintop
But that glorious mountaintop!  Life is so, so good, and I'm finally living like everybody else!  Those pesky intrusive thoughts still come, but overall I'm able to resist the really bad compulsions (I just give in a little bit!).  I can see and enjoy and thank God for the blessings that He has given me.  There's so much to focus on and get done - My writing!  My physical health!  My kids!  My friendships!  My house!  My finances!  My marriage!  My spiritual life!  I love feeling accomplished and being with people - these things make me feel alive!  Valley?  What valley?  Oh, that valley!  Yeah, I was down there for a little bit, but I can hardly remember what that felt like.  I know it was hard, but I have so much to do now, and I don't really want to think about it.  My OCD is okay.  I'm just giving in a little bit, so it's manageable.

My Pattern
  • MOUNTAINTOP: The mental illness is very manageable.  Thankfully, this is most of the time.
  • VALLEY: 
    • Giving in to the compulsions brings more intrusive trigger thoughts which bring more compulsions which bring more anxiety which brings more trigger get the idea.  What was manageable is no longer manageable and becomes almost unbearable.  What if this time my thoughts AREN'T a result of the mental illness?  What if this is something I actually need to think/worry about?
    • I desperately seek help from my support system (husband, mom, counselor, friends).
    • We increase medication (if necessary), and I work HARD on the cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure response prevention.  It's amazing how many intrusive thoughts bombard my brain during this time.  I'm sure it's the same amount as before I start the CBT and ERP, but when I am able to actually identify them?  There are so, so many.
    • I start feeling better and am able to see the illness as an illness instead of wondering if these intrusive thoughts are what I actually think.
    • Good days and bad days.  At first I feel good for only snippets at a time.  And then it becomes almost full days.  (This is where I am right now.)
  • MOUNTAINTOP: Back to normal - enjoying life!

Bottom Line
Every time I've been in the valley, God has rescued me and brought me back to the mountaintop.  This gives me hope!