Month: December 2017

Pure OCD – when thoughts are pathological


Mental illness is a tricky beast.  It’s difficult to recognise when you’re in the midst of it.  I’m now more aware of when I’m feeling down.  I then take steps to get outside in the sun, force myself to do some exercise, or just be kind to myself.  But realising you’re in the midst of obsessive thoughts going nowhere is harder for me, because at the time it feels like a realistic and important issue.  I guess more mindfulness will help with this.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about these obsessive loops I get into.  It’s a bit like suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, except I don’t have the compulsions.  And then I discovered this is actually a thing.

Primarily obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder is a form of OCD where fewer observable and repetitive compulsive behaviour takes place.  However neutralisation of the disturbing thoughts still takes place using cognitive means.  The sufferer copes with the disturbing thoughts by mentally avoiding the issue, or by excessively ruminating on the “problem”.

The “problem” usually takes the form of a disturbing or intrusive thought or question, an inappropriate mental image or frightening impulse.  The thoughts “typically center on a fear that you may do something totally uncharacteristic of yourself” and usually centers on what you perceive as the most terrible action you could take.

Examples of obsessive thoughts I’ve had in the past:

  • Did I insult (bad) or upset (even worse!!)  XYZ when I made that comment (Apparently this was something I have in common with my Grandmother as she used to worry about this as well!)
  • Did I embarrass myself in front of people when I did ABC
  • If I don’t do XYZ (Donate to charity, help someone, etc) God will punish me/something bad will happen

Other examples of this form of OCD that fortunately I don’t suffer from (From Wikipedia article)

  • Responsibility: with an excessive concern over whether you’ve harmed someone
  • Sexuality: including recurrent doubt over one’s sexual orientation (also called HOCD or “homosexual OCD”).
  • Violence: involving a fear of violently harming oneself or loved ones or persistent worry that one is a pedophile and might harm a child.
  • Religiosity: manifesting as intrusive thoughts or impulses revolving around blasphemous and sacrilegious themes.
  • Health: including consistent fears of having or contracting a disease (different from hypochondriasis) through seemingly impossible means
  • Relationship obsessions (ROCD): Fearing that you don’t really love your partner, or they are not the right person for you.

The main reason I wanted to share this is because many people suffer from this form of OCD without realising it and don’t reach out for help.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (with professional assistance) is very effective, and so is certain anti-depressants.   The sad part of this illness is that it’s invisible – there isn’t any repetitive/compulsive behaviour to indicate there’s a problem.

If you feel you may suffer from something like this, find someone trusted to talk to, rather than bottling it up!


Morning Blues

Here’s a passage/random stream of thoughts/poem from April 2016, from when I was feeling the worst and started getting help for depression.  I don’t feel as bad about mornings nowadays, or if I do I’m a lot more kind to myself. 

Don’t worry, I’m feeling great at the moment!   I wanted to share this in case anyone else is struggling from difficult mornings, or battling with depression.  My heart and thoughts are with you.

I can’t get up in the morning.

Each morning brings a huge battle of will between my brain and body.
My soul feels crushed between the sheets.
The day ahead looms like a dark pit before me.
As minutes turn into an hour – a precious hour of oblivion where I don’t need to think…

I suddenly awake through some internal clock and groan when I see the time.

I force my limbs to move and kick my butt out of bed.
The morning stuck in bed is the worst time of my day.
The bed always feels like it will swallow me whole
envelope me in its sickly warm embrace.

I think about all the work I’ll need to do that day
meetings and training
friendly greetings with a fake smile
standups I force myself to participate in.
Questions will wash over me with its demands, stress and requirements and never ending interruptions that will distract me at every opportunity.

I don’t start any work as I know I will be interrupted,
and as I am interrupted I breathe a sigh of relief  –
that I do not have to start work just yet
a legit task has appeared before me.

I feel like a fake every time I open my mouth.
Words spill out to fill the space and cover my uncertainty.
I wish I could disappear.
I wish I could just stop and do nothing for days.
But I know if I do my joints will start aching, and then I’ll need to stretch, and I’ll need to make supper and clean clothes and feed the cats….

As I start moving through the day my joints feel looser and less painful, and at the same time my day seems more bearable and life not as insurmountable as it was.

I manage a few genuine smiles.
The antidepressants kick in perhaps.
Or maybe just the caffeine.

At the end of the day I feel happier but still scorn the time wasted that day –
being endlessly busy yet getting nothing done.
At home I escape into the internet,
reading article after article in an attempt to actually do something.

Hours pass and I haven’t done anything.

I don’t remember what I’ve read – it’s not important.

I drop into bed exhausted, wishing I had done so earlier,
and dreading the morning darkness one more time.

When enough is enough

If you’ve never heard of the hedonistic treadmill, it’s a concept that’s very useful to learn.
As you get used to the luxuries in your life – your sweet townhouse, your car, your stable 9-5 job – you tend to start seeing that as the norm and looking for something better.  Your expectations and desires rise with your income, and your happiness settles back to normal fairly quickly.  Net satisfaction gain = zero.

The treadmill has driven us throughout history to improve our lives and our environment.  Without this drive we would never have grown our own crops, or tamed and bred animals.  But this drive is still present in perfect, modern day – in the rich countries that we live in, causing us to want more.

I suspect this is what has driven me in my career.  When I was a QA I was striving to become a developer.  When I was a developer I was looking to improve my salary and autonomy, and that lead me back to QA (ironically, it paid more at the time!).
It drove me to seek a manager-level role, which I handled OK but perhaps didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would – especially once I had solved the “easy” problems.

I think it’s time for me to say “Enough is enough!”  If I have enough to pay all my bills, save towards an early retirement, and help out with any family emergencies, why can’t I just be satisfied with a comfortable job, doing pleasant work with a fun team?

I had this thought while reading this blog post – the charmed life of a thankful investor:

Rationalizing increasingly risky investments for the prospect of incremental luxuries seems completely unnecessary because you are thankful for the simple things in life that truly make you happy and cost very little.

This can apply to your job as well – if you’re happy and you’re earning enough (After all, earning more than a certain amount won’t make you happier) – why take career and job risks just to earn a bit more.  You’re risking a team that you don’t enjoy being in, a company that doesn’t gel very well with you, or a sudden restructure and being the first on the chopping board.  You’ll earn a bit more, but is it worth it?

Why does earning more money not make us happier?  Maybe because once you have enough to meet your needs, more money can’t buy happiness.  At around US$75k more money doesn’t make you happier day to day.  Getting 10% increases at that point may make you rate your life achievement more, but it doesn’t help with happiness.

Explanation in this Time article here (Google “Study: Money Buys Happiness When Income Is $75,000” if it doesn’t show)

 Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had.  …
Having money clearly takes the sting out of adversities. …
At $75,000, that effect disappears

So here’s to finding a cozy job that pays well and treats you nicely!
And to the hedonistic treadmill never starting up to ruin it all for you!