A letter to family and friends

I had started a blog post to explain my current work situation, but then I remembered that I had written a letter about a month ago to my immediate family and a few other close friends that gives a lot of the back story. So, rather than rewrite, I thought I would just copy the text from the letter. It covers more than my work, but I think the rest of the letter has some good information and does a good job of sort of setting the landscape of my current situation.

Some developments since I wrote the letter:

  • I decided to take full time leave from work and I started on Monday of this week. I expect to be on full time leave for at least a few weeks. I’ve been approved to claim short term disability during this time away from work.
  • It turns out I don’t have the insurance that will cover the Intensive Outpatient Therapy. I’m still working with my insurance company to figure out what they will cover and working with the clinic to determine if and when to begin the IOP.

Dear family and friends,

I wanted to update you all on my situation.

First of all, the last month or so has me completely drained. I’ll go into that in more detail, but I wanted to apologize up front for being distracted and not being more in touch with the people I love.

The general trend of my OCD seems to be downward. I don’t say this to alarm you, but rather to help you understand my circumstances. Every week seems to be worse than the week before. The list of OCD triggers is now a mile long. I can’t seem to leave my apartment without being peppered with triggers. A bus ride to work or even a trip to the grocery store will have a dozen or more triggers. I’m constantly bringing home new OCD baggage. I can’t keep track and follow all of the rules OCD has in place; it’s just overwhelming and too much work. That combined with my busy work situation has resulted in an apartment that by my standards is extremely messy. I hate it. Additionally, OCD is constantly interrupting my work day. One OCD trigger at work can rob me of 45 minutes of productive time. I think this all can be explained by a few things. One, I think it’s just how OCD is evolving. Two, I think it’s related to the stresses I’ve been feeling at work and in other aspects of my personal life. Three, since I have now begun specialized therapy and I’m talking about all the OCD things every week with my new therapist, they are constantly on my mind and since we haven’t really started into the treatment part of therapy yet, I’m reacting to all the obsessive thoughts with many of the same old compulsive behaviors. I’ve heard that this is actually common as people begin therapy and people’s OCD often gets a little worse before it gets better.

As for work, this last week was my last full time week on the project I’ve been working on for the last 18 months. It’s been a very challenging project riddled with problems, most of which I attribute to poor all around management and insufficient resources to do the work we were asked to do. The last month has been a culmination of all the stress. The project was actually “finished” a month ago and turned in to <removed for confidentiality>, only it wasn’t finished because there were still a bunch of loose ends that hadn’t been resolved (again due to management and resource issues). I was given about three weeks to do what would normally be about two months worth of work. This last week was the most hectic and I worked quite a bit of overtime to finish it. Now that it’s done I finally have a little bit of a break to reflect on things.

Simultaneously over the last month, I’ve been working with my new therapist (Dr. Travis Osborne: http://ebtseattle.com/team/travis-osborne-ph-d/) to explore options for treatment. Since my OCD is intruding into work life, he highly recommended I seek approval for FMLA leave (Family and Medical Leave Act). FMLA is a federal regulation that allows people with health conditions, including mental health, to take up to 12 weeks of leave a year and still maintain full time employee status and benefits. It allows me to take time off work to pursue treatment, but I wouldn’t get paid for the time I don’t work. It also allows me to go on the record as having a mental health condition and protects me so that my company can’t fire me for having OCD (and to be clear, there is currently no risk of this; it’s just a protection my therapist recommended I have in place). So, over the last month I’ve had to “come out” to a select few people at work about my OCD and explain to them what’s going on in order to obtain approval for the FMLA leave. It has required me to be emotionally vulnerable and merge my professional and personal lives in a way I’ve never done before, which has been emotionally exhausting.

Another thing I’ve been exploring with Dr. Osborne over the last month is what treatment will look like and how to make space for treatment. Right now it feels like all my time is taken up by two things: work and OCD. Both have me totally exhausted. And since OCD is now significantly intruding into work, I need a way to create a wedge between the two so I have time to do the therapy. Dr. Osborne has recommended at least an hour a day of active treatment on my own. We’ve explored the idea of a reduced schedule to accommodate this: 6 or 7 hour work days, which I could do with FMLA leave. He has also said that taking some additional time up front can really accelerate treatment. There is an option for Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP), which is intensive everyday treatment. The clinic I’m going to has 10 and 20 hour a week options (either 2 or 4 hours a day). Dr. Osborne and I have been talking about taking an extended leave to pursue IOP. Luckily, according to Dr. Osborne, my insurance company has a history of approving and paying almost in full for IOP, so it shouldn’t be much out of pocket for this treatment. Additionally, I really feel like I need a break. I need some some time to catch my breath. I need some time to take stock of my situation, make some goals, and figure out what I want to get out of treatment. I need some time to put things in order that I’ve been neglecting for the last few months. All this is pointing me in the direction of taking some sort of leave from work. What I’m still working to determine is the duration or if it will be part time or full time. I’ve also been talking to my supervisor and HR lady about these options for taking leave to accommodate treatment. Last week I also got a call from my HR lady. It was a really sweet gesture. She noticed that I hadn’t taken any FMLA leave since I had been approved and wanted to check in and see how I was doing. She also offered me another option of claiming short term disability insurance in order to be able to take time off to pursue treatment and still get paid. If approved, short term disability would cover up to two thirds of my salary for up to 90 days. The caveat is that I have to go 15 days without working first for it to kick in. After it kicks in I can still work during that 90 days, and if I worked one third time or more I would still earn my full salary.

…omitted some of the letter here…

So, that’s my situation. It’s been a little rough, but I’m encouraged by all the tools I now have in place and the opportunity to create space to pursue treatment. Another encouraging thing Dr. Osborne has told me is that my type of OCD is one of the types that responds best to treatment. Time will tell, but I am optimistic.