There’s only 4 weeks left to go and I am fighting OCD, unrest and an awful sort of exhaustion that words cannot express. I don’t even know where to begin. Should I explain the never ending exhaustion that comes with mustering up the strength to coordinate bathroom breaks? How badly I wish I could just end this car living experiment? I mean, what’s the difference between 337 days and 365 days? I guess 365 days has a nice ring to it. On the other hand, I’m the only one who’s counting anyways.
Or maybe I should talk about the perils of OCD- the never ending self-doubt , the shame of rituals, the quiet fear and mistrust I have for my own brain? The gnawing feeling I get when I think about my upcoming trip to Belize and Guatemala and the probability of someone bleeding on me?
Folks, if you are just tuning in (insert news anchor voice), I’m having a real mind blowing experience over here and I just wish you all could see the look on my face because it says it all. This is core work- when you start to make sense of the mess of your very identity- the things that make you, you. Core work is about re-writing the narrative you have written, fed and shared with the world. I think that’s what this whole journey was about- finding the strength to craft my own narrative by doing something worth writing about.
So let me get some updates out of the way, and then we can get to the juicy existential stuff…
The weather is perfect and holding strong. Night temperatures have yet to hit freezing. Most days still reach around 60 and the lows are around 35. October is officially my favorite month and Fall has displaced Summer as my favorite season.
My body continues to thrive off the fasting and I have lost a good 15 pounds since I left McLean. I have been eating super clean since last month (few carbs, no refined sugar and no dairy) and happy to report the anxiety I sometimes get after eating and the incontinence that came back last month, has since subsided. I just hope that sleeping in my car and breathing stale air won’t have any long term effects on my body. Fingers crossed, I haven’t turned 30 just yet, so I will be milking the last of this youthful glow until the last drop.
I am still working 23 hours a week at my second job, which has put a big strain on my energy level but added tremendously to the bank account. I enjoy the mindless work of selling footwear. I feel so in the moment and so present when I am helping customers. And as long as they aren’t bleeding, constantly touching the bottom of their shoes or digging in their mouth, things aren’t too bad. In fact, I think this could very well be the perfect part time job to transition me from DC to somewhere else.
The OCD continues to challenge me at work- I cringe when people’s fingers touch mine, or when co-workers want to share beers and of course the never ending high fives with band aid covered fingers, freshly cut from unpacking boxes. On the other hand, I’ve learned to remember people’s names and not get to annoyed by small talk, which I hate just as much as bandaid fingers. I think I am making friends, and I think my co –workers like me well enough. Still, it’s terrible trying to fit in and make friends. Apparently I haven’t kicked that I want to be wanted and need to be needed feeling I associate with middle school and high school. Mirroring is still my predominant form of getting to know people, which is helpful in normalizing social interactions but terrible because at any moment I may ask for your permission to create a safe space for some 100% authentic expression (my optimal state). So I try to dampen it down, in hopes that people can digest my intensity in small bites.
My car still makes the occasional random noises and I continue breaking little things that have also reduced my quality of life-the pulley for the back seat, the pulley for the trunk, the glove compartment snaps, etc. Plus, I will have one hell of a clean up after this is all said and done. No amount of vacuuming can rid my car of the food bits, hair and slight sweat smell-especially with all the cracks and crevices. I will also have another $700 of repairs when my exhaust pipe gets repaired, but I won’t get to that until January` or February and atleast I will have a place to stay.
I bought my tickets for Belize and Guatemala- a gift to myself for enduring 12 months of car living. I even plan on splurging $500 bucks to take a 2 ½ hour helicopter ride to meet with an archaeologist excavating El Mirador. Once fully excavated, it will be the largest of all the Mayan ruins. The best part is that it will be exactly 1 year to the date that I decided to live in my car. I will also be vising Tikal, presently the largest of the excavated Mayan ruins, before catching a small flight to Belize City and then another to San Pedro. The last part of my trip will be sea kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing and eating at top notch restaurants on Caye Caulker. I might even snorkel with sea turtles, sting rays and sharks at Shark/Ray Alley.
I want to be honest with you all, because I know that I should be super stoked about this upcoming trip, but I am honestly scared shitless and I wish I could cancel it. I am stressed because it means two full days of traveling and six different flights spanning two countries and an island. I will be switching hotels, traveling first thing in the morning and have to ride on small planes, all things I generally try to avoid. The real issue here is anticipatory anxiety. The OCD is still pretty bad from last month- the worst it’s been in the last 6 months so I find my general anxiety MUCH higher than usual as my mind begins anticipating triggers before they happen. As a result, things that were already difficult, like using the restroom without washing my hands twice or leaving my car without checking the windows, lights and doors for ten minutes is even harder.
Adding the REI job and working with feet has added tremendously to my overall stress level. Plus I recently had to move the last few of my things from my sibling’s house and find lodging for after I return from Belize. I think this is why I am freaking out…I am ABSOLUTELY terrified about moving into a home. I have not cleaned a toilet or a shower or washed dishes or locked my own front door in over a year and a half. I know these things are mildly annoying for most people, but at the worst of my OCD, it could take me 7 hours to clean a bathroom and 30 minutes to leave the house if I didn’t have help. I can barely leave my car without starting at the windows to make sure they are up (OCD tells me they aren’t up, even when I am staring at them. I essentially don’t get the feeling that the windows are up, which is why I sometimes say things don’t “feel right”, because something feels wrong or off and I have trouble making and believing the memory).
I have been doing better than before Mc Lean, when I could barely leave my bedroom and worried that my dog wasn’t really inside or that some birds would come in through an open door and poop on everything- leaving me no choice but to engage in a 6 hour ritual disinfecting everything and taking a shower that involved washing everything multiple times because I couldn’t remember if I already cleaned that area (we call this false memories) or simply because it didn’t feel right. I haven’t even mentioned taking out the trash, making sure I don’t leave the stove on after cooking and the prospects of sharing a home with Air BnB guests. Really hoping I can work through fears of being raped at night and not remembering the next day, which I have struggled with in the past.
Sorry if I have overwhelmed you. I know many of you reading this have a hard time putting all of this into perspective. I do too. I’m torn because talking about how I feel is one of the only ways I know how to handle my own mind. But I also don’t want OCD to be the focus of my life either. I hate it, and it’s scary because I have a tough time knowing what parts of my experience are real AND relevant. For example, sometimes when I pass someone on the street, I get a bad feeling or even the thought and physical sensation that we touched, when in reality we didn’t. When I avoid changing clothes or sanitizing or checking the person for open wounds, I can feel muscles tighten in my back and arms. Sometimes it feel like daggers are hitting me in my back and arms, other times like a boa constrictor has cut off circulation around my throat. I guess that’s what I am trying to articulate- that I experience physical pain when I resist rituals. At one point I developed a tick and used to flail my arms and tap things hard to reduce the pain. This release is also a ritual and so I have forced myself to stop. And it sucks because I am usually doing things that require my attention and focus when this happens- helping a customer try on shoes, giving a presentation or spending time with a loved one. Eventually the pain goes away, but it still hurts.
So now the existential stuff….
With all of this going on, I feel exposed and vulnerable-almost like a child. There are so many times I want to curl up in a ball and lay in the fetal position under dark covers until the OCD monsters go away. Sometimes I call my mom crying and speaking in a baby voice and try to model behavior by asking how she might react. I usually get what I need to move forward, but I also curse myself after I call her because I should be stronger and able to do this by myself. And because I hate struggling and second guessing myself, I have added a layer of self- loathing and shame on top of the monumental task of trying to fight the OCD and come to terms with my own experience.
I also feel incredibly disconnected from most people I interact with. Because my support network is in Colorado, it’s been challenging to find spaces where I can let my guard down and just be me. Instead, I feel lonely when I am around other people (and almost never when I’m alone, I might add). I cycle between being emotionally transparent, full of witty jokes and stories, analytical to a fault and over communicative (my natural and optimal state), to my public persona-complete with the resting bitch face that says don’t talk to me, don’t touch me, I’m not really here, I’m just a figment of your mainstream imagination.
I’m working on that though. The last thing the world needs now, is another negative person. Recently, I’ve come in contact with some positive, focused and seemingly dependable individuals. While they renew my hope in humanity, it still takes time to get to know people. And even then, many are not who you make them out to be. Science tells us that having friends, family and touch is one of the most important predictors for happiness. Because I go back and forth between being an open and closed person, I’m sure many people have written me off as rude or find me too intense to hang out with. Maybe that’s why I am chronically dissatisfied with life?
But I get it- why I am off putting to many people. I’m the animated, anal retentive type, prone to emotional outbursts and brilliant ideas mixed with space cadet moments. Still, I ABSOLUTELY love myself- I think I am one of the coolest people I have ever met and I am fascinated with my own experience and the inner workings of my beautiful mind.
I know this might come off as egotistical, but I promise this self love fills me up with a childlike giddiness that I don’t want to lose. I hope you love yourself this way too and feel empowered to talk openly and freely about your experience. Wouldn’t it make it easier for us to get to know each other?
And perhaps most importantly, this FUCKING REDICULOUS election. It is even harder now to not quit my job and just walk out on everyone. Donald Trump represents just about everything in my life I have been trying to escape, and now he is moving two miles down the street from where I work. I have never liked DC and now I have another reason to dislike this God forsaken city even more. Ugh, I’m starting to get negative again and I was really trying to end this post on a positive note.
So where does this leave me with four weeks left to go? Well, I figure I have a few choices. I can A) bitch and moan and struggle and suffer through this, B) quit my job and decide to not invest anymore energy in this place, or C) lean into the pain and push myself in hopes of becoming stronger, flexible and more resilient. Even though I dabble between options A) and B) on the regular, I committed to leaning into the anxiety by upping my Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) game after a 20 minute ritual at work, to prove to myself that I can endure and even thrive in the most stressful and uncomfortable of situations.
It’s kinda like when you run the 400 meter dash and you hit the home stretch and your legs are burning and the negative self-talk comes in and you want to give yourself permission to coast. “I should keep my ass in the house”, you might say. “This isn’t worth it, why do I put myself through this”, you might add. But you don’t quit because you’ve heard that tired story before and lived it and because you signed yourself up for the race and put in countless hours of training to get here. And because you know that the pain is temporary and that it too will pass and that you won’t die from pushing yourself but could whither away in self defeat if you didn’t race, never pushed yourself, never knew what you are made of. So no, you never quit, even when other people tell you it’s okay to give up, even when your coaches tell you getting back in the game is a lost cause, because the discomfort, doubt and exhaustion you feel compares nothing to the feeling you’ll get when you cross the finish line with your personal best.
This is the hardest race I have ever trained for in my entire life. And with 4 weeks left to go, that finish line couldn’t come any sooner.