It’s been just over a year since I was officially diagnosed as having OCD & anxiety disorder and I’ve been thinking lots about it recently. Even as I write this I’m thinking about the pro’s and con’s of writing about it! Are people interested? Does my voice matter? Is writing about my personal experience even worth the effort? Well, the answer to those questions (at least in my often muddled head) is yes, and even though mental health is very much a talking point at the moment it is still worth it. Even if no one reads this post, the effort is ultimately worthwhile if only for my own selfish reasons because by taking the time to hash my thoughts down on paper it helps me offload all those ideas that I have whirring around inside my head and clear a little space. But why now? and what is the purpose of this ‘off the cuff’ blog post? I suppose it’s my way of tackling what is presently a very real challenge for me, one made even harder given my mental condition – that’s writing, or attempting to write an MA dissertation.
To bring those of you who don’t know me up to speed, I’ve been a student with the Open University for many years. I completed my undergraduate degree with the OU and I’m now so close to completing my MA in Classical Studies, but I just need to get the dissertation done. Over the years (like countless other students) I’ve hit barriers and come up against what at the time seemed like insurmountable challenges, but in the end I’ve always pulled it out of the bag at last minute. At the moment though, I’m struggling with writing because my head is constantly telling me that what I produce is never going to be good enough for MA standard and although I know that I will eventually get this dissertation done, it will be a long drawn out process where I am constantly second guessing my own thoughts and ideas.
A major part of my problem is that I’m terribly fickle and in certain circumstances this would be ok but my OCD makes this particular character trait a researchers nightmare. I get inspired by so many different approaches and subjects that the urge to change topic is a daily battle. Once I see a ‘rabbit hole’ there’s no skipping around it, I’m literally throwing myself headlong into it because I think ‘maybe this would be a better approach, or maybe this would impress the markers more’. I have very wide interests in the discipline which I still think is a good thing and after a great deal of indecision I have finally settled on a subject that I love and I am fighting against that little OCD voice in my head that is constantly telling me to change my approach. Researching is getting easier, I’m trying hard to keep myself focused and I know where I want to go with my dissertation. I also know that to keep on track I just need to start writing the bloody thing, but here’s the issue, it’s the writing that’s the problem.
Putting pen to paper is a challenge for lots of people and tell me if I’m wrong, but we all have those flashes of inspiration late on a night that sound ground breaking in our heads but when we write them down they read like the ramblings of a mad person? Well, this is pretty much how my head works on a daily basis, I write, I tinker, I write more then I inevitably delete the lot. I know what I want to say and I research it. I have my point, I have my evidence and I know how I want to analyse it, critique it, synthesise it etc but how do I do this when nothing I write will ever be good enough? That’s not that it’ll never be good enough for my markers, it’s that it’ll never be good enough for me. How do I overcome the harshest of critics when that critic is my own OCD inner self? Ooof, there’s lots of questions here, I bet I sound crazy! To clarify, I’m not. I’m managing my condition well but this is the one barrier that I can’t ever seem to get over, well at least not easily. I mean, I will get over it and I will get the dissertation done and the finished work may just by a stroke of luck turn out to be outstanding, but it won’t feel outstanding to me because when I submit it I’ll be convinced that it’s mediocre at best. A wise person once told me that ‘there’s a point when you have to accept that what you are working on is as good as it needs to be’, in principle I couldn’t agree more, I just wish my OCD would accept that advice because it’d make my life a great deal easier if it did.
Read this while you can… My OCD might demand that I delete it later!