External Factors in the Mitigation of Mental Illness

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I live in this universe.

I don’t quite understand a lot of what this universe really is, as with my OCD I am prone to overthinking every detail of life from the macro to the micro. And this one is pretty macro. I don’t know if this entire universe is just mine, or if everything that is going on outside of my own observations is as real as, well, me. But it all exists, and I interact with it all nonetheless.

I have mental disorders. I am working with all the energy I can find to solve, mitigate, control, and generally not have these disorders lead to a life not worth leading. And I’m doing somewhat ok in this respect, but it is still a constant crusade.

Because of my general obsession with organization, I take my attempts at approaching my disorders and handling them to a spreadsheet and database level. I list, I organize. It is science to me. Everything is science to me. Yes, I obsess over it all—but I must be on track to being a better person by mitigating the terrible things brought upon my life by my disorders.

I approach my universe scientifically. It does not offer likewise.

In science, knowledge is birthed from controlling external factors to move from hypothesis to something known either in theory or law. Controlling for these external factors—the mess and noise—is paramount to getting things right so we… know stuff. By allowing external factors to act on agents of knowledge, such knowledge is tainted. And this happens often. What really causes what? We often contradict as humans and our studies.

My brain cannot accept this. I wish for nothing else to live in a figurative cleanroom, where all noise is removed from the signal that is my understanding of my disorder.

An example: medication. I am on quite a bit of psychotropic medication. I don’t need it all, with my own observations first and in concert with my doctor, I know what medication is doing the “heavy lifting” so to speak. I happen to have started this journey from a diagnosis not of OCD, but of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Thus I was prescribed the benzodiazepine Klonopin. It did and still does seemingly nothing for me, and I really do not want to be taking narcotics. I promised myself to never do such years ago when I cut myself off Xanax cold turkey. Hell!

Over time, until we got to the diagnosis of OCD, I was prescribed more and more Klonopin. Up to four milligrams per day. Once I got on OCD-specific medication it became known to all that I should start tapering off the Klonopin.

So I was given free rein to do so at my leisure and to control for any side effects by tapering slower or faster.

I did this. I got it down to three milligrams per day, and just this last week I’ve tasked myself to cut our another half-milligram. And I did. Only days later did I notice that my anxiety was way up again. So this seems simple, no? Seems like three milligrams is what I should be on, right?

Well, it isn’t that easy and crap if I wish it was. You see, again—I live in this universe with external factors all over the place. My work is excessively stressful (often working 100-hour weeks, and being the center of any and all problems that arise at my business.) So I became dumbfounded at what could really be going on. I could not control for the noise to get to the signal that brings knowledge.

Or put in a simpler fashion: did the removal of some Klonopin cause the anxiety or did work? It could easily be one, the other, or both. This is not scientific! This is not a cleanroom!

Oh! And then as I moved quickly back to the old dosage, things lightened up at work. Welcome, but horrible timing for someone that is trying to measure something as macro as how my medication affects me or does not affect me.

Medication is one thing, and a good example because it involves a tangible item. Well, even though we don’t perfectly know why or how psychotropic medications work, I can still gain knowledge of their effect on me by controlling for all of the noise. But, I can’t. That part doesn’t exist just in my own universe, that is external.

We move on to the intangibles of OCD in general. I try to list and chart everything regarding my disorder, constantly. But shoved into what is an otherwise beautifully meaningful set of complete notes is… noise. It is hell to live through OCD and not know what is causing it, what is making it worse, and then what is just normal stressors that aren’t actually acting as much on my brains as I would think.

There are many times I wish I could put the outside world on pause while I figure out things internally. Not just for the purposes of getting such done more quickly, buy getting these observations and then solutions more cleanly.

But that is not going to happen. I am not going to have my cleanroom.

This universe offers a terrible structure for someone with OCD. I want to solve things with methods and algorithms, with spreadsheets and charts. But the world outside of this optimum reality is a complete mess of noise, bad data, and poorly architected constructs.

I waver on discouragement because of this. But I try. I am the scientist, I am the architect, I am the one suffering what I should not be suffering. There will be a way.