If I were to compile a highlight reel of Caitlin Gent’s 2018, one of my Top Ten Most Important But Definitely Not Fun Moments would have to be when a counseling psychologist told me, in no uncertain terms: “You have OCD.”
For those of you who don’t know, OCD is a common mental health disorder that fucks shit up for a lot of other people, and, as it turns out, me. And rather than spending my time enumerating the vast array of OCD symptoms and subspecies, I would prefer to share a few things I have learned from this six-month-long cage match with my brain:
1. You can’t outsmart, out-think, or out-worry anxiety disorders. If anything, thinking just makes things worse.
2. Competent, experienced counseling psychologists are saints. You should talk to one. I wish they were cheaper.
3. Brains can cook up some crazy shit.
4. Many crises may be averted by eating a Greek salad with dinner, drinking more than half a glass of water per diem, reading before bed, and sleeping regularly.
5. Meditation sucks.
6. Okay, okay: meditation doesn’t suck. It is just difficult for people like me whose brains go 500 miles per hour. But that’s why I need it.
7. Sitting alone at a computer in a windowless cubicle for eight hours straight doing meaningless, inconsistently paced work is my personal hell and should be avoided at nearly all costs.
8. Coffee is death.
9. The right mind raised in the right church can develop all sorts of fascinating cognitive distortions.
10. The people who matter will still love you, and you owe it to them to practice all those coping strategies the counselor gave you and to be honest with them when you’re having a bad day and need them to (a) give you a hug or (b) tell you to snap out of it.
11. Never underestimate the power of snuggly dogs, weighted blankets, and hot tea.
12. The answer to “have you eaten enough today?” should always be “yes,” and if it isn’t, FIX IT.
13. If you’re like me, you probably just shouldn’t bother living in New York City, Los Angeles, or the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Overstimulation and under-stimulation are equally toxic. If you have to settle for either, pick your poison and learn to deal with it as best you can.
14. On good days and bad, be kind to the people who matter.
15. Don’t forget number eight, no matter how much you love drinking a twelve ounce pumpkin spice latte in a real mug with real pumpkin from your favorite local coffee roaster. IT IS NOT WORTH IT.
16. I don’t care if you like Anne Lamott or not: small victories are worth celebrating.
17. Damn it, I know this stuff is hard, but don’t forget to live! Eat tacos and go for long walks by the lake, no matter what crazy shit your brain is saying you really ought to believe about yourself or about that meat in the fridge. Spoiler alert: you are a good person and for Christ’s sake, Caitlin, the meat isn’t expired.
Caitlin Gent (’15) graduated with a writing major. She lives in Milwaukee and works in fundraising and development. When she’s not working, Caitlin is usually walking with a friend or singing in the kitchen. She likes to wax poetic about Wisconsin to anyone who will listen.