OCD and Transitions

by sira anamwong freedigitalphotos.net

As we enter this season of college and high school graduations, I’d like to share a post I wrote in May 2012, shortly after my son Dan graduated college…

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 – 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 obsessive-compulsive disorder, 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 is 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 those with the disorder to make sure their decisions are based on what they really want, not on 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 and be there when needed.

Eating well, exercising, and taking care of ourselves in general are always important, and even more so during times of stress and change. Yet so many of us don’t make this a priority. Carving out some time for enjoyment, even if it’s 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 exciting new chapter in his life.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there and I wish you all the very best!

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13 Responses to OCD and Transitions

  1. It’s good that he knows what’s going on and has some coping skills. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was about 35. So for at least 8 years prior to this I thought I was slowly going insane as most of my problems with OCD deal with obsessive thoughts which I kept to myself. Since diagnosis I have done group CBT and group Mindfulness. Both have helped me immensely! Good luck Dan! You’ll be able to make it through this transition.

    • Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad to hear you have found CBT and mindfulness helpful. Thank you also for encouraging Dan. This post was actually written in 2012 when he graduated. As you predicted he did make it through this transition and we are so thankful he continues to do well.

  2. This is such a great post! I have another semester still, but I’m already asking these questions all the time. Good idea to try break decisions down and prioritize to make everything more manageable.

  3. Lynn V says:

    Thank you; your blog about your son is very encouraging; and we need hope and encouragement. My daughter left college because of her OCD, which began suddenly and has become severe in a few months. We need to find a residential treatment program. The number of reviews of treatment programs are minimal and the majority are negative. We’re worried about making things worse if we choose the wrong program.

    • Hi Lynn, I’m sorry your daughter is having such a tough time, but with the right help, she absolutely can get better. If you’d like to email me (ocdtalk@yahoo.com), I’d be happy to try to help you sort out the residential programs.

    • musingsalongtheyukonriver says:

      Hi Lynn, I came across your comment and I really wanted to give you some hope and let you know about my experience. First, I relate to your daughter’s experience…I tried college multiple times, but due to OCD/depression, I had severe breakdowns where I couldn’t function in life…so I left college really early in. It is really difficult to have that sort of experience. For me the severity came on suddenly, too. I told myself for a long time that I couldn’t do college because of my OCD. I became a medical coder, but I let my OCD destroy me while working. I grew up with OCD, but only found out it was OCD at 18. Last year after getting married at age 26, I had another very severe breakdown (I’ve had multiple really bad ones since high school and it’s bewildering at times) where I couldn’t do anything without someone’s help and reassurance and I was “stuck” in bed. I actually think I only heard about there being residential OCD programs and really learned about ERP from Janet Singer’s book. I remembered about that and decided to look online and came across Rogers’ residential program in Wisconsin at their Cedar Ridge OCD Center. I got to get intensive treatment there for about 2.5 months and experienced drastic change in a good way. I then stayed for their partial hospitalization program. Unfortunately money ran out and I exited treatment early. It was really hard and I’m still working on recovering. I’m not working or going to school yet. However, because I got to experience the intensive treatment at the Cedar Ridge OCD Center, I have hope because of ERP treatment. Rogers connected me with a therapist in Colorado that is licensed to provide ERP treatment in Alaska. It meant a lot for them to care about my recovery and make sure I could continue on a good treatment path. I live in Interior Alaska in a small community with the nearest town being about 4-6 hours away depending on who is driving the terrible road, haha. Treatment access is really hard here. I’m able to get video and phone therapy though and it’s a big blessing. I applied to the University of Alaska – Fairbanks and am hoping to be able to take online classes starting in 2018 or 2019…finances are really tight for us. I also want to handle it well…it’s intimidating going back after dropping out of three colleges because of mental health. There are resources at a lot of colleges that can help a person with OCD transition back into school or to be able to continue by providing reasonable accommodations. The trick is determining what is enabling the OCD and what is healthy, but a treatment provider may be able to help guide that. I just want you and your daughter to have hope that it is possible for her to pursue college in the future. Because of ERP, I have hope to be able to get Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in order to become an ERP OCD specialist myself one day. Alaska doesn’t have good OCD treatment and I want to see that change. OCD doesn’t have to destroy her dreams. Janet’s son is good proof of that! Anyhow, supposedly one of the patients at Rogers’ OCD Cedar Ridge Center had been a patient at McLean’s residential program and ended up coming to Cedar Ridge after. The patient liked Cedar Ridge better. Cedar Ridge is set on a nice scenic property with a lake and forest trails that patients can get permission to use if their Behavioral Specialist thinks they are at a place in their treatment that it would be helpful. People have different symptoms, so different timing is to be expected. I can only recommend the OCD Center because that is where I went and I credit it with being a life saver for me. I don’t know what other residential programs are good and I can neither confirm not deny how good McLean’s is. It’s important to find the right fit for your daughter. If something inside tells you that one program isn’t it, then don’t worry, there are still other options. Hang in there….OCD is really hard not just on the person who is fighting it, but the family and friends around them. Make sure to take care of yourself as much as you can in your pursuit of helping your daughter get the treatment she needs. If you have any questions or your daughter needs a person with OCD to talk to, I would be glad to be reached at my email – takingthehelmer@gmail.com. Sorry this was so long…I tend to be wordy!
      Oh, and if she ends up at Cedar Ridge, try to request Caitlin as her Behavioral Specialist. She is the one that I had and she is very good at what she does. I credit a lot of my drastic change to her and how she “handled” me, so to speak. Also, I recommend requesting Dr. Mark Rossing. He is the best psychiatrist that I have ever had. He took extra time to actually talk to me about more than just medication. He encouraged me and he gave me more hope in psychiatrists. I really hope for amazing recovery for her and great hope and encouragement to continually come your way to get you both through this.

      • Thanks so much for sharing your insight and experiences. I’m so happy to hear you will be taking some courses. Yes, yes, yes, there is so much hope for those with OCD – no matter how severe! I have a feeling you will be helping many of them as a therapist :).

      • musingsalongtheyukonriver says:

        Thanks Janet! 🙂

      • Lynn V says:

        Thank you for sharing your story, for the program info and your email!

      • musingsalongtheyukonriver says:

        You’re welcome 🙂

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