Caribbean Lapse

I’m at the tail end of a moderate OCD lapse. Firstly, thanks. Secondly, yeah, it does suck. Thirdly, though, it is what it is: since OCD’s chronic I’m susceptible to flare-ups even when things are going great.

And things are going great! Like, “completely symptom-free” great. Things were so good I was able to listen to and enjoy a Soundgarden album (King Animal) for the first time since Chris Cornell’s death. And that’s what makes this lapse tolerable: the knowledge that I was there as recently as last week and that I’ll be there again shortly.

So does this: knowing exactly why it occurred. I spent last weekend in Trinidad. I know what you’re thinking: “The Caribbean! You get paid to travel! Suck it up!” But consider the itinerary:

  • Thursday: up at 4:20 a.m., followed by 17 hours in transit
  • Friday: 6-hour recruitment visit which included three presentations
  • Saturday and Sunday: two 6-hour recruitment fairs, during which my partner and I spoke with over 1,200 students; the fair was in a windowless ballroom, so while I was in the Caribbean I could’ve literally been anywhere on earth for all the sun and sand I experienced
  • Monday: evening information session

In other words, I had to be on the entire weekend (and yes, I’m aware it’s what I’m paid to do – I’m explaining, not complaining). Sam joined me, which was wonderful, but we spent most of our free time with colleagues. Between the work schedule, the “being on” and the lack of personal space, a lapse was inevitable. The lapse began Friday, intensified through Sunday and began diminishing – not surprisingly – on the cab ride to Piarco International Airport. But then I spiked again Thursday night: I was still tired from the trip and, as I’ve mentioned before, sleep deprivation activates the amygdala, the almond-sized part of the brain which, among other things, churns out the mental flotsam which comprises the “O” in OCD. My OCD symptoms only tend to manifest when I’m sleep deprived, and in this instance that’s certainly true (Sam and I also had an awful night’s sleep Thursday, the result of a malfunctioning thermostat – but that’s for another time). How tired was I following the weekend? I don’t tend to sleep on planes. Monday, I fell asleep while we were taxiing (we went straight from the information session to the airport). At some point during the flight I became aware of a medical situation happening on board. Next thing I knew we’d begun our descent into Houston, which was our initial destination. I’d slept the entire flight; that’s how tired I was (the medical situation was taken care of prior to landing).

I slept better last night. I should sleep well tonight, as well. That means tomorrow I should – should – be well and truly out of the woods. Lapses suck, but they’re ultimately opportunities to get better; they serve as checkpoints along the road to recovery and ensure I don’t get complacent. I’ve got a couple more trips this fall – a day trip to Houston, followed by six nights in Southeast Asia – that’ll provide even more opportunities to put my cognitive skills to the test. Today, however, I’m enjoying a lazy afternoon and, with luck, putting this lapse behind me. I’m better for having had it.

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