I have a big secret that only my parents and my husband know about. I have a compulsive disorder and an anxiety disorder. The combination of each disorder has several effects on me, depending on how bad the day is. I get debilitating migraines, or I won’t move off the couch. Sometimes I’ll continuously overeat, or clean until I get bleach poisoning. Sometimes I’ll get panic attacks that leave me breathless, or up at night vomiting. I’ve had these since I was a child, but it’s progressively gotten worse as an adult. With more responsibilities, everything becomes exacerbated.
There are times when my compulsion seems like a gift. Once I start something, I cannot stop until it’s completed. It makes me a strong organizer and manager. It makes me a fast learner. But then it cripples me because I always feel like Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have a hard time finding joy because I am always worried about the next step.
I bail out on events, and almost always hate receiving invitations because my first inkling is to say no. People think it’s because I’m selfish, arrogant, whatever, but it’s a powerful anxious compulsion to be at home, following my schedule, without a break in my routine. I fear being tired, I fear not being able to drive, I fear being thrown off my sleep schedule. Ludicrous, empty fears which stop me from living.
I have horrifying nightmares for weeks before school begins again, not because I don’t want to work – in fact, my compulsion makes me a work-horse – not because of the students, or faculty – I teach at one of the most prestigious high schools in the country; a school I passionately love – it’s the anxiety of never being finished. Even when a school year ends, a new one begins, and I am never done; there is no next step. I think this is why it’s gotten worse as I’ve aged, because at least when I was younger there were graduations and steady movements; now it’s a redundant mundane sameness that never finishes.
I believe part of the reason these disorders linger is because I cannot determine the root of them. I hope someday I will have an answer, but for now, it’s just a series of management techniques to get through each moment. This is one of the reasons I started crafting and creating bath products, candles, and body products; I find the process of creation cathartic, therapeutic, and relaxing.
Creating products is part of my compulsion to know what ingredients are inside the bath and body products I use. In this way, the compulsion is also a gift, because it forces me to continuously create until it’s perfect, something I know other people will genuinely benefit from, as well.
I also practice mindful meditation with aromatherapy and binaural rhythms. I use different fragrances that help me feel calm and relaxed. While there are classic scents, such as lavender and chamomile, it’s really any scent that you enjoy. The binaural rhythms are special musical sounds, used especially with surround-sound headphones, that help your brain sync with the relaxing sine waves. It may not work for all, but it works for me. (Check out the video below.)
I also have to step back and evaluate my physical health. It’s an ironic rollercoaster because I will be extremely unhealthy when I am in one of my anxiety-funks, but it’s only when I am being healthy am I able to control my anxiety. This is something I am still trying to work on, but one of my biggest goals is to increase my water intake, reduce my carbs, and increase my fresh fruits and vegetables. This weekend Frank and I went out to New Jersey to Wegmans (my favorite grocery store), and invested in healthy options. We meal-planned for the week, to ensure we’re both eating healthier. It’s something I am hoping to turn into a habit because I know I feel better when I eat healthier.
Writing also helps me. Simply sharing my disorders with you through this blog is helping me cope, and making me accountable for my coping. It allows me to be mindful of the thoughts I am having, and to articulate them in a way you will understand my feelings.
If you feel you may be suffering as well, there are some great tips on helpguide.org, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend or family member, or seeking the help of a therapist, opening up to the right people will allow you to get you the help you need.