Wednesday, August 31, 2016

So I Guess I'm Disabled?

As many of my friends know from my constant complaining... I am currently on the job hunt.  I have two part time jobs but I need to move on to one full-time position.  Bring on the benefits.

Now, I think most would agree that there are few things in life as anxiety-provoking as job searching.  The future is so uncertain... you never know who you will hear back from and circumstances can change at the drop of the hat.  As my mom has pointed out, you have to "cast a wide net" and hope to catch something good.  

So, I've turned into an aggressive job huntress, prowling the internet for the best available positions for my skill set.  I have filled out many online job forms lately, reiterating my resume and personal information.  This includes the "Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability" form.

The form.
Now, in the past I've paid little attention to this form, because I never considered myself disabled in any way.  

Then it caught my eye: "Obsessive compulsive disorder".... listed right there with "Missing limbs," "Cancer," and "Intellectual disability."


Now, part of me thought, "This is really great news! Mental health problems are being recognized as real problems.  They're listed right alongside physical ailments."  I was surprised anxiety wasn't on there too... but at least it's a step in the right direction.

But a bigger part of me winced.  The discomfort associated with the negative connotation of the term disability as it applied to me was very real.  

I have to admit that even after seeing my diagnosis right there on the form, I still checked "No."

Let me be clear: I don't think that people with disabilities should be ashamed or feel like they have to hide.  I'm not ashamed of my diagnosis (which might be obvious as I blab publicly on the internet).  That being said, I couldn't deny my concern with showcasing it on a job form.  

I want employers to see my strengths, "Laura's Greatest Hits," my highlight reel... not my biggest weakness.  I certainly don't want to have my entire application viewed from the lens of one check in one "Yes" box.

I recognize that this is what those labeled as disabled have to struggle with every day.  For over a year I've worked with students with a variety of learning differences (from Autism to dyslexia to different physical limitations) and I finally got a small taste of what it feels like to be considered "disabled."  I think the experience will make me a more empathetic tutor.  Honestly, in some ways it may even make me a better person.

Whether this incident is ultimately a tragedy or triumph... jury is definitely still out on this one. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OCD in Sin City

Bellagio all lit up, like my friends and I would be later.
I just got back from Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada!

My friends and I spent an amazing weekend gambling, eating, seeing Britney Spears and David Copperfield, and even taking a burlesque dance class.  It was incredible.

The biggest triumph of all was that I kept my OCD in check.

For some with OCD, myself included, dealing with money can be a huge trigger of symptoms.  This is because money can be counted and quantified.... it can therefore lead to compulsions to recount and recheck.  It's easy to obsess over whether you have the "right" amount.  Doubt can creep in.

Money is also something that you can worry about stealing.  With OCD, you often worry about doing the wrong thing, the bad thing.  I worry about getting money I don't deserve.  In the past with slot machines, I have actually worried that they paid me too much (ha!).

Las Vegas can be a huge trigger of symptoms for this reason.  There is so much cash changing hands.  Last time I was there, my OCD was really bad and I would worry that I hadn't tipped correctly or that somehow I had cash I didn't deserve.

This time, the thoughts were definitely still there (for example at one point I put money down on the counter and then minutes later wondered if it was really mine).  However, I was able to move past them more effectively.  I was able to tell myself, "It's just OCD, relax and move on".  And it worked!

I may not have won any money (bummer), but this trip was a definite win on the OCD front.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

That Mid-Vacation Meltdown

A dolphin sneaking up behind me like all of life's problems.
Vacations are a triumph.

I just got back from an amazing Caribbean cruise with my family.  We got to relax, let go... stop worrying.  As someone with OCD, any excuse to stop worrying is a welcome one. 

But then you get to the middle.  All of a sudden you feel that mix of nausea and stifled screams: You remember that vacation is going to end.  

All those problems and stressers you were avoiding?  They're coming right back at you.  Then, the tragedy is that you spend a ridiculous percentage of the rest of your vacation worried about the end of your vacation.

My therapist (and a ridiculous amount of mental health tips) recommend practicing mindfulness - staying in the moment.  It's not easy, but it's the only way to really enjoy your life.

As summer comes to a close, don't let the mid-vacation blues get you down.  Don't let the upcoming winter stop you from enjoying these lovely sunny August days.  Focus on the now. Enjoy.    

Monday, August 1, 2016

Anxiety-Go! Vs. Anxiety-No!

So, I've realized that anxiety reactions tend to go one of two ways - Anxiety-Go! or Anxiety-No!

Let me clarify.

Recently I encountered someone who was so anxious about work that was due that he just didn't do it and procrastinated until he was in complete panic mode.  I would call this, Anxiety-No!  You just say no and ignore the problem to avoid the anxiety.

This is something I've always had trouble understanding because I am a fixer.  When something is wrong or causing me anxiety, I generally want to do whatever I can to make the problem go away.  Anxiety-Go!

The issue lately is that I've been facing anxiety-provoking situations that are completely out of my control.  I can't take the reigns.  It's frustrating and just raises the anxiety to new levels.

My therapist says that I need to take the "positive" steps that are within my control or the anxiety will just keep building.  She clearly is more supportive of the Anxiety-Go style.  

I understand where she's coming from, but sometimes you really do just have to wait and see.  They say patience is a virtue... it's also a bitch.  That being said, if you aren't being avoidant, learning to wait can be a triumph within itself.