Friday, November 17, 2006

Too Many Irons, Not Enough Fire

Trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease.

–Benjamin Franklin

I prefer to keep myself busy. Unfortunately, sometimes I’m busy just for the sake of busyness, and don’t really accomplish much. Sometimes when I lie down at night, my brain continues to spin wildly, filled with ideas for new projects—things to do, things to write, things to finish. I used to think this was just part of my personality. Even when my thoughts kept me awake all night, I believed I was just too wound up or over-caffeinated and that eventually my brain would calm down.

About 18 months ago I learned that this is a psychological issue called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When most people hear of OCD, they think of people who are germaphobes and frequent hand-washers. Although those are symptoms for some people with OCD, they are not mine. For me, it OCD is largely an anxiety issue. My symptoms (like the racing thoughts) are more prevalent when I am under a great deal of stress or am over-tired.

For me, OCD is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it actually serves as a positive thing because my obsession with routine and checklists etc. keeps me quite compliant with my cystic fibrosis medications. However, when I am not feeling well and my need for sleep increases, I start to worry that I’m sleeping too much and not getting enough things done. This in turn stresses me out and my OCD symptoms are brought to the forefront where they start interfering with my routine. Being out of routine stresses me out further and round and round I go to the point of exhaustion.

I’m learning a lot about myself and how to control the obsessions and compulsions. I am on a medication called clomipramine (aka anafranil) which really helps a lot. Still, even with medication I know that achieving balance is up to me. The choices I make about how I spend my time don’t only affect me, they affect my husband as well. In order to be a good wife and be as mentally balanced and stable as possible, I need to stay on track with the meds, keep up with my cystic fibrosis treatments, and most of all, get enough rest.

Getting enough rest is the difficult part. As I said before, there are so many things I want to do. I enjoy working as a scientist. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from working a full week. I also like the feeling I get to see my creative efforts as a freelance writer pay off. For all the irons I own, there isn’t quite enough fire. Cystic fibrosis and obsessive-compulsive disorder limit me in very frustrating ways. There are days when that gets me down, but most of the time, when I sit back and see how much I really have done and can do, I feel good about myself.

I don’t need to be ridiculously busy in order to be productive. I also don’t need to be constantly productive in order to have a sense of worth. I’m entitled to a rest every now and then. In fact, I should probably be resting more often if I really want to feel settled and at peace. That’s my goal for the remainder of 2006—to get some much needed rest. (If you know me personally, you k now what an incredible challenge that is going to be!)

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