This list began life in 2016. It’s evolution, baby: here’s the 2018 edition!
- Avoid becoming complacent in my recovery. This is the biggie. I may be in recovery from OCD, but I have to keep doing the things that got me better – in particular the sleeping, the healthier eating, the mindfulness, and the exercising. I’ve got a bad habit – a natural one, but still – of feeling great for a few weeks and then slacking off…which is how lapses start. Help keep me honest! And on the subject of OCD…
- Remain focussed on the process, not on the short-term results. An OCD specialist named Dr. Steve Phillipson wrote a wonderful (and long!) article about the importance of choice in the recovery process. It completely changed my perception towards my recovery. I think it’s a great read for non-OCDers, too.
- Withdraw from antidepressants – then see what happens. I’ve decided to give it another go. Last week I wrote: “I don’t know if [the goal is] complete withdrawal – but I’m allowing myself to entertan that possibility. I’m in a much better place than the last time I attempted it; this could be the time to give it another go.” Hopefully it is – and if it’s not, I’ll reverse course.
- Become a morning person. Three years ago I dabbled with waking up at 6am and loved it: I was waking up to start my day, not simply for the sake of going to work, and that subtle paradigm shift made a world of difference. Here are six other reasons to wake up early.
- Run. I was born to do it, and besides which I literally put it in my wedding vows – which means I’m a bad husband unless I get back to running in 2018.
- Bike 1,000km between now and the Ride to Conquer Cancer. It’ll be good for training; it’ll be better for shutting a certain someone’s mouth, at least temporarily (and insomuch as shutting that individual’s mouth is possible).
- Drum in front of an audience. I haven’t done it since 2007. The Smashing Pumpkins are back; can a Western Country reunion be far behind?
- Write. I miss writing, too, or at least I miss doing it for more than just the simple pleasure of writing. How am I supposed to produce the great Canadian novel if I don’t get cracking? The fact that a friend of mine recently published her first book was inspiring; the fact it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years means I’ll have to work even harder.
- Get involved in my community. I love Toronto for the most part, but there’s a lot I don’t love about it – in particular its current political leadership and in particular the gormless mayor who’s pushing to spend $5-billion of public money on a single-stop subway extension. It’s time to do more than sit idly by and tweet about it. And speaking of that…
- Cut back on screen time – and on social media. This is the other biggie. I don’t think technology’s the big evil; I do think we could all stand to use it less often, and I know I certainly can. Similarly, Facebook and Twitter are fine in moderation. I’ve cut back on both (or, well, I’ve cut back on Twitter at least), but I can still do more – like regular social-free evenings and weekends. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen: I’m easily found if you want to see me.
Last week – eight months after a whirlwind sequence of events which had me first lowering, then increasing my daily antidepressant dosage – I started tapering again, from 20mg of Trintellix to 15. A few weeks ago I rated myself on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. I got a three, which is “indicative of little or no OCD symptoms.” That doesn’t mean I’m cured – OCD can’t be cured – but rather subclinical, which is almost as good. I decided to try solidifying my gains, and last Wednesday my psychiatrist approved the initial taper. We’re meeting again in three weeks to reevaluate.
Let me be clear: I’m not anti antidepressants. At all. They’ve helped me get better; I know in some cases they’ve literally saved people’s lives. I’d just prefer having less of them inside of me. (Of course, I’d prefer not having OCD in the first place, but since that ship’s already sailed you won’t hear me knock medication that literally improves brain function.) But having said that: I still don’t know the end goal of this latest experiment. I don’t know if it’s complete withdrawal – but I’m allowing myself to entertain that possibility. I’m in a much better place than the last time I tried it; in fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to give it another go. Or, it might not be! I accepted the possibility that I’ll be on antidepressants for the rest of my life a long time ago. Ultimately, it’s for my doctor and me to decide.
Anyway. So far the withdrawal symptoms have been mild: a slight uptick in OCD, some grogginess, but otherwise little of note. More updates to follow!
Today, for Bell Let’s Talk Day, I challenge you simply to talk about mental health – not just today, but any day. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.
Better late than never (right? RIGHT???) it’s the 2017 Stuff and Nonsense Year in Review! Sam and I are back from our honeymoon; our bodies think it’s tomorrow afternoon, so making listicles is about the extent of my intellectual capacity. Whole bunch more writing to follow!
- Where did you begin 2017? Dodging fireworks in Lima, Peru. Like, literally dodging fireworks.
- What was your status by Valentine’s Day? Engaged
- Were you in school (anytime this year)? On numerous occasions
- How did you earn your money? Doing international student recruitment
- Did you have to go to the hospital? Nope
- Did you have any encounters with the police? I called the police after our car got keyed. Two different officers returned the message, so…define encounter, I guess?
- Where did you go on holidays? Peru, New York, Alberta, Chicago, Prince Edward County, and New Zealand (and since this is being written in mid-January, technically Fiji too); plus, if you count work travel, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, Istanbul, Cleveland, Quito, Bogota, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, and Dubai again
- What did you purchase that was over $1,000? Does a wedding count? Because if a wedding counts then did. I. ever.
- Have you kissed anyone this year? Y’know what? I did.
- Did you know anybody who passed away? Yes
- Did you move anywhere? Nope, although I no longer live in sin
- What concerts/shows/sporting events did you go to? Concerts: Tool, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, U2 w/the Lumineers, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (RIP) w/Peter Wolf, Blondie and Garbage, X, Paul Weller, the New Pornographers w/Born Ruffians, William Patrick Corgan (or Billy, if you’d prefer), Arcade Fire w/Broken Social Science, the National; shows: The Last Wife, The Audience, Miss Saigon, Hamilton (in New York and Chicago), HMS Pinafore, Guys and Dolls x2 (both at Stratford), Billy Bishop Goes to War, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; sporting events: baseball games in Toronto (x18) and Chicago (x2), hockey games in Toronto (x5) and Buffalo, an NFL game in Buffalo, and CFL games in Toronto and Hamilton (I’m missing some things…help?)
- Are you registered to vote? I am, although I didn’t in 2018
- What was the biggest change in your life? Getting married
- Where do you live now? Toronto
- Describe your birthday? As usual, I don’t remember it. [Thinks.] My parents, Sam, and I went to Pizzeria Defina for dinner.
- What has been your favorite moment? Seeing Sam walking down the aisle might’ve been my favourite moment ever.
- What’s something you learned about yourself? I’m stronger than even I imagined possible.
- Any new additions to your family? A wife!
- What was your best month? September
- What music will you remember 2018 by? For better and for worse: the music of Chris Cornell, Tom Petty, and Gord Downie
- Who has been your best drinking buddy? I basically stopped drinking in 2017; in fact, I can count the number of alcoholic beverages I’ve had since early May on one hand. But it’s still you, Jeff. It’ll always be you.
- Made new friends? Always
- New best friend? Nah
- Favorite night out? Gibsons in Chicago
- What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before? Ate at two Michelin-starred restaurants on the same day
- Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I’m making a tonne, actually.
- Did anyone close to you give birth? A better question would be, “Did anyone close to me not give birth?” To which my answer would be, “No.”
- What countries did you visit? In chronological order: Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, the United States (several times), Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, India, the United Arab Emirates again, and New Zealand
- What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? Honestly? Not much. Remember: “Success is having what you want; happiness is wanting what you have.”
- What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? September 15, for obvious reasons
- What was your biggest achievement of the year? Starting a new job (spoiler for 2018!)
- What was your biggest failure? Relaunching my “born to run” gene
- Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing beyond the occasional muscle tweak
- What was the best thing you bought? A PS4, obvs.
- Whose behavior merited celebration? Gord Downie
- Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Apart from the obvious sus…actually, never mind: just the obvious suspects.
- Where did most of your money go? Mine and Sam’s wedding
- What did you get really, really, really excited about? The Minnesota Vikings…and while it happened after New Year’s and no footage exists, you have to trust me when I say that my reaction to the Minneapolis Miracle was priceless (and yes, it really involved jumping into an ocean).
- Compared to this time last year, are you: a, more happy or more sad? b, thinner or fatter? c, richer or poorer? Happier, thinner, and poorer
- What do you wish you’d done more of? Running
- What do you wish you’d done less of? Making seating charts
- How will you be spending Christmas? With mine and Sam’s families
- What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2017? I honestly can’t think of anything. Help, someone?
- Did you fall in love in 2017? More and more each day
- How many one-night stands? Sam has one of her side of the bed; I’ve got this new pouch-type thing for holding books and such hanging from the bed. Did I answer the question?
- What was your favorite TV program? Fargo
- What was the best book you read? The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar by Franz Nicolay; honourable mention to Sting-Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin
- What was your greatest musical discovery? I’d be impossible to name just one
- What did you want and get? A wife
- What did you want and not get? One more Tragically Hip concert
- What was your favorite film of this year? Long Time Running
- On your birthday, how old were you? 37
- What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I dunno, 2017 was a great year (for me personally…). A competitive Blue Jays team, maybe?
- How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017? Buffalo check
- What kept you sane? Trintellix
- Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Gord Downie
- What political issue stirred you the most? The histrionics south of the border
- Who do you miss? Calgary
- Who was the best new person you met? All of them.
- Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017. It’s amazing how a one-letter word and a two-letter word, spoken consecutively in front of your friends and family and a man of the cloth, can change absolutely everything.
Happy New Year, everyone!
As with Donald Trump tweets there’s a Hamilton song for every occasion:
I’m in recovery, according to Doc Awesome, which means (put slightly different) I’m on my own. Awesome, wow! But do I have a clue what happens now?
Well, yes. Kind of.
I have mild OCD. But I’ve been working hard at my recovery ever since getting thrown through a bit of a loop in mid-May, and four things have been especially vital.
They are, in approximate order of importance:
- Mindfulness (there’s no magic bullet for recovery, but I’m growing more and more convinced that mindfulness meditation is pretty darn close)
This is basic stuff, but it’s critical: if, for instance, I don’t get enough sleep I can almost guarantee my brain will be grumpy the following day. I’ve done other stuff, too. I did daily exposure with response prevent, or ERP, from mid-May to early October. And I still take an antidepressant, although I plan on reducing my dosage in the new year. Ultimately, though, living with OCD often means simply living with OCD – letting the unwanted thoughts come and go, treating them like the mental flotsam they probably are, and not giving them any power. And it means taking basic self-care measures that are vital to everyday well-being regardless of whether or not you have a mental disorder.
Having mild OCD means it seldom incapacitates me. It certainly did, once upon a time, but that was before I developed the tools to manage it. I’ve got them now, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Ironically, I reached a point a few weeks ago where my recovery from OCD was actually becoming compulsive – and so I’ve pulled back a bit, and instead of meticulously cataloging my day-to-day well-being I’ve simply committed to living well with or without OCD symptoms. And by doing that, I’m actually speeding my recovery up. So that’s what comes next: slow and steady progress towards a life where OCD’s allowed to come and go as it pleases and where I’m able to ignore it almost completely. It’s nice to know that goal’s becoming closer and closer with each passing day.
I chatted with Doc Awesome on Monday. Here are the notes from our appointment:
- You’re in recovery.
- “You’re living your life with OCD. You’re not giving into rituals. You’re responding to obsessions the way we’ve talked about. You’re not avoiding things.”
- Continue to agree with/magnify your obsessive thoughts, no matter how difficult, every single time
- OCD wants you to see yourself as different. You’re not.
- We all have to live with these worst-case scenarios, even if non-OCDers don’t think about them.
- “I’m going to keep doing these things with the possibility that my worst fear could happen.”
- Respond matter-of-factly to OCD: “Oh, there it is again!” Don’t give obsessions an emotional response in any way; respond in the opposite way that OCD expects.
- Your attitude – of ambivalence, of indifference – will get you where you want to go. Ambivalence takes the power away from OCD.
- Continue to treat OCD like an annoying friend
- Don’t be frustrated by OCD. Instead, see it as a challenge.
- Don’t be obsessive about recovery. Let go of the obsession about getting better!
- Touch base once a month? Every 5-6 weeks?
- YOU ARE RECOVERED. 🙂
There’s still work to be done – but look at where we are; look at where we started.
Thank you everyone from your support these past few months.