A friend and reader wants to know how I’m able to focus at work, given the OCD person’s tendency to be consumed by worry. Here’s my answer.
Her specific question:
I know that at times, I have a hard time not letting one thought consume me. I pray, read etc. but sometimes that thought will be all consuming and (obsessive). Just curious how you plow through that moment.
Part of the reason is that my obsessive concerns were often about work. I used to be such a people-pleaser that I’d burn myself out over whatever job I had at the time. When I was away from the office, worries about work would consume me. I couldn’t just clear my head of it for the weekend and enjoy time off. My family suffered deeply because of that.
I’m much better now. When I’m not working, I’m not working. But sometimes, the OCD gets the better of me at work.
Last year, for example, I came into work itching to post two articles I wrote and did so even though my editor hadn’t had a chance to read them yet. In my head, it was safe to post them because I hadn’t heard back about any changes being necessary. Which meant I had the green light to push them live. So I did. Now, the editor was very cool-headed about it. He’s one of the nicest guys on the planet and doesn’t yell. But I could tell he wasn’t happy. Not realizing what I had done, he had started doing his own edits. I went back to my desk, feeling like a first-class asshole. I immediately sent him an e-mail apologizing profusely. He told me not to worry about it. But I worried about it anyway. I knew I had just allowed the OCD to run wild.
But the real question should be how I plow through the obsessive moment when I’m at home.
I’m not sure I have an answer. It’s complicated, because today I have years of therapy, coping skills and medication to draw from. But I still put up a wall from time to time.
One thing that’s pretty important is that somewhere along the way, I gained the ability to not let obsessive thinking paralyze me. Today I can still focus on other parts of my life even when something is on my mind. I can focus on my family and enjoy the moment. If I’m busy with an activity on the weekend, I don’t have work worries banging away at the back of my head like it used to be. Most of the time. Sometimes it does still happen.
I honestly think the medication is responsible for easing that kind of obsessive thinking. It corrected the traffic flow in my brain.
That probably doesn’t answer my friend’s question. But I hope I came close.
The lesson being that years of working on the problem has made me better. But the things I obsessed over were different from what she probably obsesses over, and that makes a difference, just as different people need different kinds of therapy and medication for their unique issues.