November 12, 2012

OCD and my Identity Crisis....

I remember my therapist saying to me over a year ago – maybe it was even when we first started working together, that when I started to recover from my OCD, I would most likely go through some sort of identity crisis.  His thinking is that OCD takes up so much of our much of our lives, that when that “space” starts to open up – we aren’t sure what to do with it. 

I’ve been feeling this way lately. 

I’m not sure if it is directly related to feeling “recovered” from OCD, because I don’t think there is such thing.  Some of it has to do with the events that have occurred in the last year.  Either way, my life has taken a major departure from how I was living it before.  For the most part, I LOVE where I’m going.  But there are some days when I am scared to death, because I don’t have all the answers laid out right in front of me. 

I had a session with my therapist the other day and we briefly discussed this notion.  In some ways I think I am going through a “mid-life-crisis”.  Or, maybe it’s more like a “post-OCD-crisis”?  Who knows.  No, I haven’t gone out and bought a fancy new car.  (But I did have a bit of a crazy “affair” this summer.  LOL.)  I explained to him that for my whole life, I have always been responsible.  I’ve always over-thought everything.  (Of course, being a perfectionist, I still didn’t think that what I was doing was enough!)  I did my best to make choices that were “safe”.  And the result was to make me a bit of a china doll....suceptible to a lot of emotional distress should anything not turn out exactly as I wanted it to.   

In the last six months, I have grown tremendously.  I have made so many changes....for the better.  One of the biggies is that I am exercising regularly.  I can’t express enough how helpful this has been for me....for my OCD, for my PMS, and generally for my overall self-confidence.  Exercise (and new sport activities) has opened up my life.  I have a new friend that I run with twice/week.  I have a whole other group of friends that I mountain bike with.  And yoga has helped with my meditation and living in the moment. 

For those of you who follow my posts, you will know that about two years ago, I quit my “career job”.  I was burnt out, and my Mom was starting to get very sick.  At the time, the main reason I quit was because I wanted to be able to care for my mom in her last days.  But I also hated my job, and I was ready for a career change.  The problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. 

This past summer was “The Summer of YES” for me.  I’ve had so many new experiences – some good and some not-so-good.  But my skin is thickening.  And the OCD voice is diminishing, which is leaving room for my true, inner voice to speak up. 

I’ve spoken before about my plan to go to Africa next fall.  I’ve always wanted to go to Africa – it’s been a dream of mine for many years.  Now, with my new motto “What are you waiting for?”, I have made it my goal to go for six weeks next year.  I am passionate about this trip.  I feel drawn to Africa.  I have already made contact with the orphanage that I plan on volunteering at.  I wish I could go now!! I am hoping that my trip will open up doors for me.  I feel so strongly that I need to follow this path, and see where it takes me. 

Some days it’s very scary though.  It’s scary for lots of reasons.....and the “what ifs” start flying around my head like crazy.  Part of what’s scary is that I really do believe that being in Africa for that period of time will give me some answers regarding where to go next in my life.  For the last two years, my career life has been on hold, and I really have no idea what I want to do.....other than go to Africa and see what happens.  Perhaps I will get down there and love it so much that I will want to stay?  Perhaps I will get down there and come into contact with an organization that I can work at?  Or – What if I go there, it’s a great experience, but I come home with nothing other than some great memories – what then? 

Then there’s the scary notion that I might just not be able to go for financial reasons.  Lots can happen in a year.  What if my car dies and I have to buy a new one?  What if something major happens to my house?  What if, what if, what if.  In the last few weeks, this is where my mind has been going (See? We never really do “recover”!).  And suddenly, something that has been motivating me and making me feel alive, began to feel out of reach.  Impossible.  Unrealistic.  All the voices that used to fly around in my head...the ones talking me out of taking risks savouring life were back.  I felt so deflated. 

One of the things I’ve really learned in the last few months is “just do it – you’ll figure the rest out later”.  This is not to suggest being irresponsible.  However I would assert that many of us with OCD are OVERLY responsible – so it might not be such a bad thing to move to the other side a little bit.  :o)

I’ve adopted this motto with many things, quitting my job, getting a roommate etc etc.  And so far, it’s all worked out.  These challenges and experiences have also helped build my confidence.  And, I believe, helped me to keep OCD at bay. 

During my therapy session, as I was explaining to my therapist what I was struggling with, he said to me: “Jo-Ann – why don’t you just tell yourself that you’re going to Africa no matter what and you’ll figure it out along the way.  You’re not an irresponsible person.  You might have to take a bit of a financial hit.  So be it......”.  It made sense.  It was exactly how I had been living life since May.  Suddenly I felt so much better. 

I was speaking with my cousin about this theme the other day – telling her what he said to me.  She agreed.  She said that two years before she left her husband, she remembered being in therapy and despite her incredible unhappiness in her marriage, she said to her therapist that there was no way she could leave her husband.  For various reasons – moral, financial etc etc.  Well, she did it.  And you know what?  She’s doing just fine. 

I have one year to prepare myself to go to Africa.  During this year I will continue to learn how to take good care of myself, I will continue to have many, many growth experiences.  I will continue to have fun, and make smart financial decisions.  But nothing will stop me from going.  I really do hope that my time there presents new opportunities for me, because if not, I'm not sure what my next step will be.  But you know what?  I'm sure I'll figure it out along the way. 


  1. Oh, I just love this post! You are living your life just as you should be. Congrats!

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I'm glad to see that you are living your life beyond OCD. I think that in the thick of it we become so surrounded by our anxiety that we can't see past it. That's all there is and in the moment we think we are in control, we aren't. I've been having really good days lately and I'm starting to see the light and live beyond the obsessions. Granted, I think I'm struggling more with anxiety rather than OCD but it's there. You're an inspiration.

  3. Good for you planning to go to Africa! Thanks for sharing how you have been doing better, and how you've had a recent attack of the worries, but continued through it! I'm also doing better, but the worries still attack some days.

  4. You should definitely go! And it sounds like you've had an amazing last year. Good for you!

  5. GO TO AFRICA!! :D :D :D and this post, it is awesome!

  6. So glad to hear you are doing so well that you can make these long term plans now. Awesome for you!!! I love how adventurous you're becoming.

    I agree, recovering from OCD brings its own issues. But hey, if we can work through OCD, we can sure work through the other things that come along too.

  7. I am so happy for you. I have heard that about the void that not having OCD can leave, the "what now" of it. I think your therapists advice was so strong wise..and so appropriate to follow as we guide ourselves through life because you will never find out what Africa hollds in store for you if you don't go.

  8. I'm so happy for you that you are doing so well. Planning a trip to Africa is wonderful and since you have a year, you'll be able to plan it well.

  9. What a fantastic post. I agree with you, when you say you will figure it out along the way. I also have a hyper responsible trait in my personality, which does come along with OCD. Right now, financially, it is hard, but things always seem to work themselves out. I admire you for going to Africa, what an awesome experience!

  10. I am so happy for you! (And so happy that, though I can't seem to get myself back into the blogging community regularly, I come back here, and here everyone is!). You sound like you're doing amazingly. I, too, could use a dose of your "just go for it" attitude. I feel like I'm in my own post-OCD identity crisis - I'm better than I was (still PLENTY to work on) and my life doesn't revolve quite so much around OCD these days. For so long I was in what I thought of as the "rehabilitation" phase. Just getting back into working and taking it easy while I became more and more functional. Now I feel like it's time to move on - but to what? That's the hard part. I have a few dreams in mind...I suppose it's about time for me to start going for them! Congratulations on your plans to go to Africa - I think it's wonderful that you are going for it and I am going to try to think about doing the same for some of my own goals! Thanks for the inspiration. :)

    1. Great to hear from you Fellow! I've been a bit MIA from blogging lately too....for various reasons, but mostly because I'm "less OCD affected" and less in my head!!! I'm glad I have inspired you. :o)