OCD and Transitions

A few days ago my son Dan graduated college. My last post touched upon what this milestone means to me, and this past weekend we had a wonderful celebration with lots of relatives and friends. A well-deserved gathering to honor the graduate.

The days, weeks, and months ahead will be a time of transition for Dan. I am keenly aware that the upcoming changes, by their very nature, will be stressful. He won’t be in school anymore, or living with his three best friends. His girlfriend won’t be nearby. In fact, none of his friends will be around when he comes back home. He’ll have lots of decisions to make; types of decisions he has never had to make before. What types of jobs will he apply for? How will he approach his job hunt? Where will he live? What are his short-term goals? His long-term goals? Dan, like other graduates, will basically be building a new life for himself, and though that can be stressful and anxiety provoking for anyone, it is often even more so for those struggling with OCD, the “doubting disease.” So much uncertainty!

But there are ways to make this transition easier. I think one of the most important things to do is to prioritize all of these decisions, and just take one thing at a time. Focus on what’s the most important, and deal with that first.

Also, making major life decisions can be difficult for those with OCD and I think it’s important for sufferers to make sure their decisions are based on what they really want, not what their OCD is dictating, or what they feel is the “right” thing to do. Of course, depending on the severity of the OCD, this might be easier said than done, and that’s why having a support system in place is crucial. Therapists, family, and friends should all be aware of the changes going on in the OCD sufferer’s life.

Eating well, exercising, and taking care of yourself in general are always important, and even more so during times of stress and change. Yet so many of us don’t bother to do that. Carving out some time for enjoyment, even if it’s just something as simple as socializing with friends for a short time, can have a positive impact.

Dan’s OCD first became severe when he was a freshman in college. This was also a time of major transition for him. Will it happen again during this time of change?  The answer, of course, is “I don’t know.” I do know he now has the insight, skills and tools to fight his OCD; all things he didn’t have back then. Still, the future is uncertain. I, and hopefully Dan, will choose to embrace this uncertainty instead of worrying about it, and live each day to the fullest, as he moves on to this next chapter of his life.

I’d love to hear how others deal with life’s major changes…

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12 Responses to OCD and Transitions

  1. LOVED this post and the idea of embracing uncertainty! It’s hard to do, but worth the challenge. Good luck to him (and you) in navigating this transition. It’s an exciting time with so many possibilities!

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks so much, Amy. You’re right. It’s an exciting time full of possibility. We need to keep remembering that!

  3. Oh, I am so proud of Dan! I am also so proud of you for being such a great mother to Dan. I’m sure he realizes how fortunate he is to have you and his father always there whether in person or spirit to provide him strength everlasting. You and Dan have shown me hope for my daughter’s future especially when hope has been difficult to muster. Most Sincerely, Lisa

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thank you so much Lisa. I really appreciate your kind words and support. I think of you often, and yes, as hard as it might be to believe right now, there is so much hope for your daughter. Please keep in touch!

  4. 71 & Sunny says:

    Hi Janet. Please tell your son congratulations!!! What an incredible accomplishment, especially given his challenges with OCD. Congratulations to you too, as I know you were a big part of his success.

    Change is really hard for anyone. I had a relative who recently graduated from college and also struggled quite a bit with all the life changes. I think the loss of friends was especially difficult. Adjusting to working full-time instead of living the college life was also trying. Thankfully, this relative is now doing much better, but it did take a while.

    I think half the battle is understanding what is going on, and clearly you already realize this may be a challenge. Plus, as you said, you and Dan now have tools to deal with these issues. That makes all the difference.

    When I struggle with life changes now, I try to go back to the basics of CBT/ERP. I am particularly fond of mindfulness as it really gets me out of my head. Trying to be aware of my cognitive distortions is also quite helpful, as my thoughts tend to go crazy when I am stressed. I also try to make time for fun. I think Amy makes a great point. Lots of great possibilities here. Focusing on the adventure aspect of the journey can be really helpful.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks Sunny, and I will pass on your good wishes to Dan. You’re right, life is one big adventure, really, and he’s right in the middle of it now. He seems excited about various possibilities, so what more could I ask for at this point 🙂

  5. krystallynn says:

    Hi Janet,
    Your son has a real gift in having you there to support him. My heart just swells when I read your posts, I am a mom too and your love for your son is just shines through your writing.
    It’s funny because situations that most people stress about, I don’t. My husband was in the military and we moved every 2 years (with 3 young children) , after the military we moved just as often opening engineering offices up for a company we worked for. Sounds stressful, but I loved it. If anything was stressful it was my OCD making sure all our household goods were in “the right place” but for the most part I embraced all that.
    I worry about dumb stuff..and even the smallest of family tensions just puts me over the edge.
    But, having those “tools” are really the important thing.. and also not to let small slips in OCD set you emotionally backwards. By that I mean, it is so, so hard to feel you are doing good and then have a bad day or two and just feel like a complete failure. It is so much better to accept you had a bad day but know tommorrow can be better. When I am having a setback I still have hope now…I just keep remembering I have had some bad days and maybe even weeks before, but it can and will get better. That keeps me from getting depressed and letting the OCD win.
    Love to your family, Krystal

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks so much for writing Krystal, and for all of your kindness and support. I do find that interesting that you were not stressed over moving every couple of years with three young children. Just the thought of that gives me palpitations! I guess it just shows you how odd a disorder OCD can be. I appreciate your advice about just accepting a bad day as just a bad day and not a total failure. I will remember that if Dan comes up against tough times…….thanks again for taking the time to respond.

  6. Tina Barbour says:

    Janet, Sorry if you receive this comment twice–I had trouble posting earlier this evening.

    Congratulations to your son! I know you must be very, very proud of all that he has accomplished and fought his way through.

    I like your comment about not letting OCD make the decisions. I think I allowed OCD to make some major decisions in my life for a long time, especially when I was in my late teens and early 20s. I sometimes chose my education and career path because of my OCD and depression. I didn’t explore what I wanted. I played it safe because of my fear and hopelessness. I regret that.

    I love to read and hear about people creating new lives. Blessings to your son and you and your family as Dan embarks on his new life!

  7. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for the well wishes Tina! I know that at one point, every single decision Dan made was dictated by his OCD. That’s what makes this time in his life even more special…….he is in a “good place” and ready to explore what’s out there.

  8. Woohooo! Congratulations Dan =) !! (And to everyone who stood behind him too as the tassle crossed the other side of the cap)

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