I was just reading my friend Tina’s blog over at Bringing along OCD, and this is what she has to say about her anxiety:
It was interesting to me that though I have a lot of anxiety, most of it centers on my thoughts and my perceptions, not on things that are actually happening in the present moment. It’s a different anxiety from what I feel in real-life situations…
Her words made me think of my son Dan. My guess is most of his acquaintances, and many of his friends, would not describe him as an anxious or fearful person. Every day occurrences that might typically stress people out don’t seem to faze Dan. Stuck in bumper to bumper traffic that makes you late for an important appointment? Relax, we’ll get there. A lost wallet or cell phone? It’ll turn up and if it doesn’t, we’ll deal with it. Computer crashed and you’ve lost important info? Don’t worry, it’ll all work out. Even during a family crisis (the death of his grandfather), Dan didn’t fall apart. In fact he handled it remarkably well.
Is it an act? Underneath that calm, cool exterior, is he really a nervous wreck? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Dan also likes adventure, as is evident in his choices throughout the years: He loves to fly and travel, and has rock-climbed, mountain biked, and skied black diamond trails – all happily. He has been on every type of roller coaster imaginable.
It’s hard to believe this is the same young man who could not leave a bathroom stall for four hours because “something bad might happen.” The same young man who could not eat, or drink, or enter certain buildings on his college campus. The same young man who was so consumed by fear and anxiety that he could barely get out of bed in the morning, if at all.
So what’s the explanation for this paradox? Many of us know the answer: Obsessive-compulsive disorder. When OCD was in charge of Dan’s life, everything was topsy-turvy, and nothing made any sense.The disorder is not rational, and as Tina points out, the anxiety it causes is not related to any actual event, but rather from the sufferers “thoughts and perceptions.”
As Dan became more immersed in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, and more committed to mindfulness, his obsessions began to lose their power, and OCD took a back seat. From the back seat it went into the trunk. It’s not gone, but it’s weak enough that it usually can’t even lift that trunk lid.
The best part? With OCD at bay, Dan (and all those who have worked so hard to overcome OCD) is free to live his life as he chooses, adventures and all. Of course, the thought of him racing down those black diamond trails totally stresses me out!