🧠 #1: Spinning in neutral

🧠 #1: Spinning in neutral

In the hopes of publishing more regularly, I am trying out a new format. I want to share some thoughts on decisions, milestones, and exercise.

These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.

As I was out on an early morning walk this last week, the thought came to me to start trying to write a simple update on a regular basis. I have struggled to post as frequently as I would like to on this site, and would like to build that habit. One technique I have used successfully in other areas of my life is to add some structure that I then just have to fill in. This will be a new experiment for me, and I hope that you enjoy it.

In each update, I plan to include three sections: something hard, something good, and something else. The focus will continue to be on mental health and the workplace, and I will be sharing personal stories and experiences to illustrate the realities of living with a mental health condition. For more details on my journey of discovering and coping with OCD, you can check out my story.

Something hard

One thing that I have struggled with lately is decisions. My wife got me a fun, light book series for my birthday 1, and I finished reading it recently. As is often the case, finishing something that I have enjoyed was followed by a deep melancholy. I felt lost.

Part of the issue is that when I find something that I am deeply interested in, I go all in. It may even be described as obsessive behavior. Go figure. Taking something away from my brain like that feels similar to shifting into neutral while your foot is still on the gas. The engine is working as hard as ever, but with no gear engaged, it just spins, even to the point where it can be damaging.

All of this I knew about myself, at least at some level. Additionally this week, I realized that part of the issue was feeling paralyzed when faced with free time. I remember thinking the night after I finished my books, “If I can just make it two more hours, then I can reasonably go to bed. Maybe I can watch a movie to turn my brain off and make the time pass?” One might think that having a couple hours free to be able to relax would be a nice thing, but it was definitely hard for me.

Something good

This past week brought the culmination of months of effort as we wrapped up and released the first version of a new app at work. I am the manager of a mobile software team, and we have been focused all year on creating an entirely new app. It was such a relief to achieve this milestone, and to have the process go off smoothly. The release was just an internal beta, and there is still a long way to go, but this was significant.

In a full company management meeting, our C.E.O. spontaneously called on me for an update on the app and our release. I know that for many people, this would not belong in this section of the update, but I enjoy public speaking and jumped at the chance to let everyone know more about our work. It felt good to have something meaningful to say and the space in which to share it.

Something else

One activity that has made a significant difference for me lately has been going for a walk in the morning. A couple months ago, my therapist pointed out that part of an anxiety disorder is having adrenaline and cortisol build up in my body, and I need to process them. Taking at least half an hour a day to get my heart pumping is a crucial part of living with my condition and being able to treat the people around me as I want to.

It has been nice for me to remove the rules and pressure from an exercise routine and just try to make sure that I get moving regularly. Walking has been ideal because it is so simple—there is no equipment or prep to slow me down. I will typically get up and take one of our babies (3yo or 1yo) if they are awake, and just head out. Usually, I just let my mind wander or listen to music. Sometimes, I will pick a topic that I want to think through a bit, and will often come home with some ideas that I want to record.

There is always so much going on that it is easy to dismiss exercise as aspirational. But I have found it immensely practical. My day is significantly different when I make time to exercise.

Wrap up

This felt good. I hope it did for you as well. There is so much going on in the world right now, and it can seem overwhelming. Be kind to yourself, and look for opportunities to reach out to others.

  1. Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan 

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