One of my great passions in life is talking to people about what they're passionate about, and exploring how young professionals who don't know what they're passionate about can figure out what they're passionate about, and build careers around that passion.
I've spent almost a year on a quest trying to figure out what I want to do in the next phase of my career. I will always write. I love writing, and I make a face when I talk about writing that prompts others to remark, "Wow, you really love doing it, don't you?" When I'm writing and it's going well, I go into a state of flow. It's bliss.
Lately, I have felt called to be of service to others. I have a rather unusual skill set/ body of knowledge and I am starting to do something with it. I have struggled in the past with a rather severe case of OCD, that I make daily effort to manage and take care of. In 2012, I had a period where I was simply incapacitated by OCD and anxiety. Today, I'm happy, healthy, and high-functioning, and I want to share what I've learned.
I'll be blogging regularly at OCDCoaching.com. I'll be speaking at schools and colleges about OCD, and how everyone benefit from learning how to react to anxiety, fears, and self-defeating thought patterns in new and better ways. I am also offering coaching services to individuals with OCD one-on-one.
I think the process of learning how to live your life when you have OCD is really, really interesting:
For example, say that you have OCD and you have a routine for when you leave the house that makes you feel comfortable (checking to make sure the space heater is off, the stove is off, the lights are off, the faucets are not running, etc). But when you're on the sidewalk outside your house, you freeze: you're not feeling confident about that space heater. It could still be on.
Instead of going back inside after you've already left the house to double-check that you unplugged the space heater or blew out the candle, you shrug off the fear. Instead, you say, "Okay, so I may have left the space heater on. I don't know. My brain feels really tangled over the issue. Okay! I'm going to go about my day. I feel super uncomfortable right now, but whatever. I don't really care."
A slightly silly illustration: you can treat your OCD like a pesky little nuisance, like a small purple monster or a raging toddler, that is going to follow you around sometimes. Since it's going to come along with you and potentially make a lot of noise, it's helpful to learn to talk to it: "Yes, I hear you. You have something really serious to say! And I'm sure that whatever you're worried about is a huge problem, like worst case scenario.* I encourage you to talk all you want, and get this out of your system. I'm going to keep going about my day."
*You don't have to fully believe this part, that you're fine with the worst case scenario happening. It would perhaps be terrible if the worst thing your OCD worried about, happened. You probably have some evidence that 99-ish percent of the things you worry about don't happen. But you're not reassuring yourself right now at this moment--that just makes the loop of worry worse. Instead, you tell yourself, with fingers crossed behind your back, that you don't care if the worst possible thing happens.
IT'S SO HARD.
But sometimes something really amazing happens: when you accept that the worst possible thing could happen, the fear often fades. The fear seems less serious, because you took it seriously but didn't freak out about it. If you have the opportunity to see that what you worried about didn't occur, it's awesome: it's rewarding to see that you took a risk, and it paid off. The whole fearful episode was just the error-and-danger detection center of your brain having a little electric storm. No cause for concern.
If you do this over and over again, it can rewire your brain.
When you do this enough times--when you paradoxically accept your OCD fears, and see them to be just as they are, erroneous brain messages--it teaches the "fear-and-danger" center of your head to quiet down. If you don't acknowledge or validate the OCD thoughts, they lessen in intensity and frequency.
Which isn't to say that doing this isn't hard. IT'S SO HARD. You have to put systems in place to practice good self-care so you don't go insane from discomfort during the process. You learn to "just ride it out." Eventually, you get your life back.
I advocate a "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to OCD. Personally, I am always going to have OCD. It fully sucks. But because I can't make my OCD "go away," I live with it, working to be as happy, as joyful, and as flexible as possible in the process. When I'm anxious, I say, "Okay, I have OCD, and I feel super anxious right now." And then I get back to whatever it is that I want to be doing.
I want to help others recover from OCD, and to arrive at a place in their lives where their priorities, their interests, and their desires make up most of their thoughts.