11 Ways I’m Coping With Anxiety and OCD During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Okay. So I’d be totally lying if I said I’m losing my mind solely over COVID19. As you may or may not know, I am also scheduled for surgery to remove an ovarian tumor in May. If it wasn’t scary enough to know that there’s a tumor (which trust me, IT IS), Corona had to go and further compound it. Seriously?

Last week after multiple calls with the Surgeon’s staff, we finally got a chance to speak with him ourselves. This is especially important because I had spoken with his Nurses and Surgical Coordinator multiple times, who told me no surgeries were taking place. Ahm……what? Like none?

Those calls and follow up calls left my mind scattered and racing (to say the least), trying to figure out what we would/could do if the Surgeon said no surgery, period. Instead, he told us, my situation is potentially too serious to cancel surgery and as it stands now, is not canceled.

Instead, I had to go for an MRI. Now, typically, an MRI is no big deal. However, in the middle of the pandemic, going to the hospital and remaining there for an MRI was a super harrowing proposal. The need for the MRI was this: did the tumor grow? If so, he’s moving surgery up and going forward. Or can they tell from a new MRI what they may be dealing with and therefore better know if it’s safe to delay? One of the big concerns is that once operated on, it would be much more difficult to fight off Corona, or once I got it, trying to survive it after major surgery.

He ordered the MRI immediately and we went on Friday. I should say, I went…….as for the first time ever, Bri couldn’t come in with me. I spent Friday vacillating between panic attacks and full on emotional breakdowns; half over the prospect of cancer and half over the fear of Corona. Friday was a long, exhausting day and while I got through it; it was no easy feat.

So, here we are Monday and I’m waiting again. You would think after hearing “it could be cancer” or “we found a mass” SIX times, it would get less scary. It isn’t. It’s just as terrifying as the last five times. It hardly seems fair that all this terror, speculation and not knowing is ALSO contending with Coronavirus. I was only so sane to begin with. Really?

Now, here’s a little tidbit about me. Besides suffering from anxiety and PTSD, I also have OCD. While I don’t want to too deeply delve into what OCD is and what it’s like to have it, I’ll just quickly give you a blip. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It can be genetic or can develop as a result of childhood trauma. For me, it’s both. As a child of trauma, one develops “checks” or behaviors or balances…….because we cannot control the things/situations around us, we create constructs that we can control.

When I worked and owned my own business, the OCD was like a super power. I was a perfectionist, crazily detail oriented, followed directions to the line and held myself to an incredibly high standard. After getting sick, those perfectionist standards became much harder (if not impossible) to achieve and the OCD crippled me for a time. Now, seeing dog hair on the floor & couch gives me anxiety. I can’t go to bed with dishes in the sink. I can’t have a snack without immediately putting away the box and plates. The beds must always be made. My clothes (down to socks & undergarments) always coordinate. All of the control mechanisms I’ve always had in place to bring me comfort and security, can now no longer easily be attained. But despite their difficulty in attainment, they’re the very thing that bring me comfort.

Add in the fears of cancer or Coronavirus and the obsessive, compulsive thoughts only intensify with very little to squash them.

After finally being formally diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder three years ago, I’ve come to learn alot about it and multiple tools to live with it. In doing so, I’ve come to find those same tools help with my sometimes crippling anxiety.

Given that we’re all in rather similar shoes right now, I wanted to share some of the ways I keep my sanity:

  1. Know/understand the facts. Try to differentiate what is factual and what is created in your poor little head. Get the correct information, not assumptions and make sure you’re getting it from reliable sources.
  2. Once you’ve gotten enough facts or information, enough is enough. Constantly reading the internet or watching the news is not helpful and has alot of gloom and doom sensationalism. Unplug from it and give your mind a rest.
  3. Try staying busy. Now I know this isn’t always easy when you totally feel awful. But, when you’re up to it, try reading a book (may just not one of those end of world kinds), do a puzzle, paint by number. Work on house projects. Whatever it is that successfully distracts you.
  4. If that doesn’t work, try shutting down. TV works wonders for me when I just can’t cope. It leaves me not thinking.
  5. Give in to the OCD. One of the reasons OCD manifests as a result of trauma is to give a child a way to control something. If they cannot control their life or their circumstances, they can control if their room is clean or their toys are perfectly lined up. So if for right now, giving in to the OCD contrives comfort, then that’s okay. Just make sure it doesn’t end up swallowing you.
  6. Keep your routine. Staying in bed all day won’t help. Dog walks will. Try to keep some semblance of normalcy.
  7. Practice gratitude. No…..I promise I’m not kidding……I’m absolutely beyond heartsick I could be looking at cancer. I’m terrified to have (or not have) surgery amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. We canceled my Daughter’s wedding and I haven’t seen my kids or Parents in six weeks. BUT…..today, this minute, we’re okay. I have many Blessings to be grateful for. Instead of focusing on all that sucks, look within yourself for all that’s good.
  8. Stay in touch. Yesterday was my first Easter, ever, away from my kids and it was awful. We missed the huge Easter Egg Hunt we have every year (Bri hides upwards of 150 eggs every year for our kids). So, instead, we video called them or spoke on the phone. I text with and call friends. I make sure to check in with my Aunt and Parents. It’s the human connection we’re missing and it helps distract you or them.
  9. If you’re in therapy, like me. Stay in therapy. Amelia and I now use Telehealth so that I can still work with her, especially when I’m struggling this hard.
  10. Prayer and Reiki. I can’t say I follow or belong to any religion, but I pray to God and Jesus daily and believe I have Angels that watch over me. I am also a Reiki Master. One of the things I love most about Reiki is that it’s flexible enough that it allows me to intertwine my faith with my Reiki. If you’re unfamiliar with Reiki, it is an Ancient Japanese healing therapy. It uses the body’s Chi (life force) to activate the natural healing processes of a person’s body. My favorite use of Reiki is in the symbols. The symbols encourage everything from peace, unconditional love, DNA repair and restoration to profound healing. For me, Reiki is my meditation. And if you’re thinking it sounds hokey, they offer Reiki at Dana Farber, Boston Children’s Hospital and John’s Hopkins as integrative & complimentary medicine.
  11. Last but not least. Sometimes, enough is just enough. And last Friday was exactly that. Terrified of spending hours in a hospital (right now), coupled with my intense fear of this tumor being cancerous just did me in. Two panic attacks and an ugly sobbing breakdown later and I decided to text my Therapist. Her response, she’d be terrified right now too and that it’s not only normal, but totally okay to be panicking and balling. And I realized she was right. I don’t sit in a rocking, sobbing ball 24/7. But when I do reach that point, I’ve decided it’s okay to be there. Being there enables me to get to the other side, to regain my strength and to go through with getting to the hospital and taking the necessary next steps.

Overall point, guys, whatever you’re doing right now to get through, it’s okay. It’s normal. So if you’re crying, cry. Yelling, yell. Angry, be angry. Just whatever you do, I hope it gets you to the other side. We may live with ALOT, but we have alot to live for.

I pray you stay healthy and well. Much Love, Stace

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Fighting with Fibro and Living With Purpose. Mom, Wife, Blogger and animal lover. Fighting with Chronic Illness on a minute by minute basis; sometimes winning.

9 thoughts on “11 Ways I’m Coping With Anxiety and OCD During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. I feel for you, Stacey. News keeps getting more and more distressing and I don’t think any of us can cope without whatever we’ve found that helps us disconnect for at least a while. I have some OCD-type behaviors that comfort me, too, and I’ve come to accept them as just part of who I am…no apologies. I worked in hospitals as a Respiratory Therapist and even back then it was a totally scary place if I had to be admitted and give up a huge measure of control. Sending you wishes for all things good. Keep us informed about your progress.

    1. I can’t even read any more news….it’s too much for me. So I look for my stories of hope or positivity and then am trying to disconnect. I have a dear friend who’s elderly and has been quarantined for weeks now. He was texting me early this morning and said he can’t sleep and he’s starting to really emotionally struggle. I told him to turn off the tv. It only makes a horrible situation worse.

      I kind of had the realization about just giving in to the OCD, so ran it past my Therapist. I said, if I “got it” as a way to comfort myself, why not use it to my advantage now? Instead of being a pain in the neck, maybe for now, it could be an advantage-she said go for it. But it’s a fine line to not have it take over. Oh well, I can handle a battle with my OCD.

      Yeah, as much as I was freaking out at the hospital, all I could think about were the poor people taking care of me and how valiant it’s is of them to still be doing it. Job or no job. You had guts, kiddo!!

      I’m glad you’re doing what you need to do for you. And especially unapologetically!!! That’s all any of us can do.
      I thank you very, very much for your well wishes, Bobbie.
      I pray you stay healthy. Much love ❤️

  2. I’m so, so glad you did this post. OCD isn’t something that gets talked about all that much in a personal setting rather than a clinical run-down, and I share quite a few of the things that have been matching you itch lately more than usual. I find that when I’m less in control of a situation, it gets worse. In your case, you’ve got so, so much going on and so many mixed emotions and worries that it’s not surprising it’s taking a mental hit, or that OCD has been provoked. Much like anxiety can be beneficial in some settings, OCD can be a fine balance and when just at home and trying to manage the day to day it can become far more detrimental than helpful.

    I love your suggestions. Keeping busy and/or keeping distracted are both things I use for anxiety & OCD, with distractions particularly useful with the continual thoughts going around. But it’s not always easy to be distracted and have it hold your attention, so it’s good to have some options (like when reading isn’t working, try TV).

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to have such an awful Easter without the kids. There will be brighter days ahead when you can make up for all these lost experiences. The fact that in the middle of all of this you are so compassionate and feel the power of gratitude, able to see the silver linings and the positives, just shows how much of a tough cookie you are, even if you don’t always feel like it. I think we can put way too much pressure on ourselves to keep going and to be strong, berating ourselves for feeling worried or upset, feeling like we should be doing more when we just feel shit. It’s crazy. It’s okay to not be okay and to feel what you’re feeling, ie. your brilliant point number 11.

    Amazing post, Stace. You rock! Sending lots of love as always and keeping my fingers crossed for some better, brighter news for you on the tumour situation soon…  ♥

    Caz xx

    1. Thanks so very much, Caz. I appreciate it. You’re so right-the less control I have in life, the stronger the OCD becomes. I’m grateful to have gotten some great help with the condition in the last couple of years and now, instead of trying to fight it, I’ve learned to take comfort in it and the small sense of control it gives me back. While it *can be* a big pain to live with, it was brilliantly contrived to bring us peace and safety when nothing else does. It’s tough to argue with when you look at is as a gift.
      It’s great to know of other people with it! There’s comfort in numbers!!

      I hope you’re recovering, I’m thinking of you ❤️ xo

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