Casual Friday #DiversityJC discussion about OCD and academia by @tibbsy07

After our last month’s discussion about #mentalhealth and academia, @tibbsy07 offered to share some thoughts about OCD and academia. In this thread, he explains his struggle and how important is to openly discuss OCD (and any other mental health issue)!

A thread by tibbsy07

Ok so let’s chat a bit about my experience with OCD and academia #DiversityJC

In full disclosure, I am no longer in academia but that has a bit to do with OCD and we’ll discuss as we go, ok?#DiversityJC

When I was young I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and that continued from middle school and into my first postdoc #diversityJC

During that time I went to numerous therapists and docs, did a lot of work. Meds and all #DiversityJC

I bring this up because of a very important thing that I learned about OCD when I was diagnosed. #DiversityJC

Full disclosure here too I am NOT an MD and I am only giving my speciic experience and symptoms and story w/ info from my drs #DiversityJC

People’s symptoms can and will vary and they may experience worse than me. #DiversityJC

Anyways, OCD is like a puppet master using anxiety and depression as marionettes. Often misdiagnosed #DiversityJC

The misconception about OCD is that people count things or whatever just because but it isn’t the case exactly #DiversityJC

The reality is that we do these things (the compulsion) bc we think that someone will come to harm if we don’t #DiversityJC

Or something bad will happen. I think about this constantly. I dont have physica compulsions just mental #DiversityJC

The constant thoughts or harm or bad things and trying to stop them is what separates OCD per my psychiatrist #DiversityJC

I just wanted to get that across before I continue. Even with meds I lose sleep bc I fear my son will fall down stairs etc #DiversityJC

And when a spell hits, it’s a snowball. I can’t turn it off like others might be able to. #diversityJC

But OCD has a lot of other smaller impacts that I am just now starting to learn after my diagnosis in late 2014 #DiversityJC

I don’t have many hobbies. I don’t stick with things and we’re working on it (dr incl) bc I obssess over a hobby #DiversityJC

And I set completely unrealistic goals that are unattainable and it crushes me when I fail so I obssess over something else #DiversityJC

This is the connection to academia – all through grad school and my first PD I had trouble on “the future” #DiversityJC

I locked in on an experiment or something and couldn’t get out of it. I would repeat ad nauseam and think about it constantly #DiversityJC

I didnt think I had any problems but I did. I ended up having trouble reading papers, do anything productive #DiversityJC

All I could think was if I didn’t do this/get this result I would be fired or it would turn out my pub was wrong then retrxn #DiversityJC

It ended up in a breakdown which was good in that it got me diagnosed and into CBT for OCD #DiversityJC

But I lost my first PD even with my own funding and crushed my esteem. I got another PD and it was good and left academia #DiversityJC

There are a Number of reasons I lost the PD, not all OCD, and I dont fault the PI. But untreated OCD was a large part #DiversityJC while I was never sure I wanted to be in academia, it does feel like I failed in a way. Diagnosis and therapy had helped a lot #DiversityJC

But had I paid attention and gotten diagnosed earier my career trajectory might have been very different #DiversityJC

I still struggle and some days are much worse than others. Sometimes it feels like OCD is always worse #DiversityJC

But family, therapy, and meds help. Take care of yourself. Ask questions. Talk with people! #DiversityJC

And dont be afraid to communicate! Had I spoken to my PI about it and not kept in dark it might have been diff #DiversityJC

To them I just basically wasnt a good PD/fit, and I don’t blame them for that. We split amicably and still chat a bit #DiversityJC

Their lab is super great now and my second PD was awesome and they are great too – but 2nd PD knew of my OCD #DiversityJC

So now I work on my OCD to minimize impact of my wife/son, myself and work #DiversityJC

That’s my story basically. I’m always happy to discuss my OCD experience and how it shaped my life – good and bad. #DiversityJC

I can talk about specifics with people and what it was like having panic attacks most days for hours on end for 4 months #DiversityJC

I do not blame anyone but me for my issues, and take full responsibility but know that I might have been able to be different #DiversityJC

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