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Sunday, September 23, 2018

The social stigma of OCD

   

     Today I want to talk about the social stigma that surrounds mental health issues in general, but for those of you reading and myself....specifically OCD.  We all have struggles in this life that we have to deal with.  That's just the truth.  For some of us, those are physical health issues.  For some, they are mental.  Some are emotional or relational.  Maybe financial.  And most of us deal with several things over the course of our lifetime.  I don't want to say that OCD is one of the worst things in the world to have, because I believe there are so many people out there that experience far worse.  And OCD itself, even, can range in severity from mild to debilitating.  But this is an OCD blog, and so my hope is to help others that are struggling with OCD.  To even just let me know they're not alone (because that is the common comment I get on my blog.  Someone just thanking me for writing, and realizing that they are not alone in their struggle).  The truth is that OCD ranks as one of the top disabilites according to the WHO (World Health Organization).  So it is a big deal.  It is a problem.  And it majorly affects a lot of us that have this.  Everything in our lives.  One of the things I really struggle with in this battle, is the fact that there aren't too many people to talk to that really understand what it's like to have OCD.  Fortunately I met a great friend through this blog and we have message conversations and give each other updates frequently, so that support has been excellent to have.  It's mostly the reason I started this blog back in 2013, because I was at a low point and just needed someone to talk to.  I deeply needed to connect with someone that experienced this too on a daily basis.  I also wanted to document my journey, because sometimes we forget where we've been and how much progress we have made (it is progress to us, even though non OCD suffers could never understand it).  I have a couple of friends currently that are battling cancer and they have Facebook or Caring Bridge pages to update their friends and family on their illness.  I think these pages are great.  People are able to get updates without being nosy and asking the person questions.  The person can divulge as much, or as little, information as they want.  They are able to derive support from people and a sense of community. They have people that care about them, that want to know about their struggle, and are there for them.  They can be open about their health issue--and without judgment from others.  Because they  have a PHYSICAL problem.  But what about MENTAL problems?  Where is the community for those of us with mental health issues?   It's behind the scenes.  Its an internet community that only those of us with these issues belong to.  For OCD, It's googling things that most normal people wouldn't even think about, like 'emotional contamination", "clothing contamination", "showering OCD" and "husband contamination", and hoping that we find something on the internet.  Some magical advice to give us.  Someone that is struggling like we are.  That's why my blog is anonymous.  Because I've admitted it before, and I'll admit it again.  I didn't ask for this disease.  Neither did you.  But I'm embarrassed that I have it.  I don't want people to know about it.  If they knew the things I've done or avoided because of my OCD or how much it has affected everything about me...they would think I was crazy.  There's a deep sense of shame in having this illness.  That is why we suffer alone.  That is why pretty much everybody, including my parents, don't know my diagnosis.  Only my daughter, my husband, a couple of my medical providers, and a couple of friends that I've met here on my blog.  Along with all of you that read my blog.  I know that you all understand, as you experience the same thing likely.  Hopefully many of you have confided with others though and have a sense of support outside the internet.  But many don't.  Can I imagine posting the things I write about on this blog for all of my Facebook friends to see?  NO!!!  Especially when I was in the worst of my symptoms and I was doing the absolute craziest things--such as shutting off the water supply to the toilets before I started my laundry for the day.  I spent almost a year doing this.  Insanity as I look back on it.  Or how about the fact that I would throw clothes away just because they felt contaminated after being out in public?  Just because I was walking around and it was windy and sawdust came my way.  That I threw my ENTIRE outfit in the garbage that day.  That I would throw away food, entire meals sometimes, because something "might" have happened to them when I was cooking (like I saw an ant on my counter and it "might" have gotten in the batter.  That I would throw away dishes that my dog licked when they were on the counter.  That I once took 5 tries to buy a purse because something kept happening to it with the cashier at each store I went to.  That for MONTHS I was unable to shower normally or use my  hands to wash my hair because gasoline dripped on my  hand at the gas station.  That I combed, yes combed, shampoo through my hair  and tried to rinse it away the best I could it because I couldn't shake the feeling that gasoline was trapped in my hands.  And this all led to an accumulation of dried up shampoo and orange residue on my scalp that is horrifying to think back on now.  But really--can you imagine?  Can you imagine a Facebook page called "My journey through OCD" that was made public to all of your friends.  Where you documented your concerns and your exposures.  "Today was a rough day, I went to the mechanic to have my car fixed and spent 2 hours cleaning my car out.  Wiping the seatbelts, the dash and the seats themselves off with soapy water three times.  Yes, it had to be three, because that would make it feel clean".  Or how about "today for the first time in 18 months I double washed a load of clothing instead of triple washing it".  Or "today I ate with my hands for the first time in a year, instead of using a fork to pick up chips or other finger foods".  Or...showing a picture of myself at the worst of my OCD (when my hair was halfway down my back because I didn't want to contaminate myself by sitting in a stylists chair, when I hadn't had it colored for a year because I didn't want chemicals in my hair.  When I hadn't worn makeup for a year for the same reason--didn't want chemicals on my face.  When I look at that picture and cringe because it looks like someone mentally ill.  There is a distinct unwell look to me.  In fact, we moved into our current house shortly before I hit the worst of my OCD.  Most other women on the street forged friendships, and I was too ashamed of myself to even face these other women.  I stayed inside, didn't socially interact and I think they all thought I was extremely rude.  This was all stuff from a few years ago, but all true things and just a few examples of a thousand more that I could give.  You would have to revisit about November 2013-May 2015 to read the worst of my OCD posts.  Thankfully I have come a long way since then.  Fast forward several years now and thankfully none of these things are issues for me.  I look better, I feel better.  I take care of myself and I am happy to get myself ready each day.  In fact I do better when I do.  I put on my makeup, do my hair, use my hairspray and color my hair regularly.  Not in a sort of vain way, but a health way.  As I'm going to try to look my best today and go out in the world and do what I can to fight this OCD another day.    Although I still have my OCD issues that, yes, I am embarrassed about.  I can't ride in my husband's car--too contaminated.  I still separate my clothes into outside and inside clothes (as far as separating what I can wear in my car vs my couch inside).  I won't use restaurant silverware.  I still feel a chronic, mild depression, although it is manageable.  But I still feel like I am missing out on so much in life and still could improve so much.  In fact, that is another post I am working on--coming up with the issues I still have and how to tackle those.  Because I've been thinking down the road, toward things that are going to become more problematic for me, and I want to tackle some more issues before that.  Huge post coming up about that soon!
     But this has been heavy on my mind lately, so I just wanted to let you know that if you're reading this, you are not alone.  Furthermore, those of you that have OCD, you are some of the bravest people I know.  You have no choice but to go out and fight this disorder every day.  Just like I do.  We are good at putting our "normal faces" on while out in public.  Appearing normal to those around us, and pretending like we are normal just like everyone else.  I know I am.  None of my friends would understand what goes on behind my closed doors, or in the deepest recesses of my mind.  But inside we are struggling with something that sometimes we don't even understand.  Why we have this?  Why is it so hard to stop doing what we do?  Why can't we just be NORMAL?   Why do we have to be bogged down with these worries, that most people don't have?  I don't understand why I have OCD (or why you do either) but I do trust God and know there must be a reason or purpose for it.  There has to be.  As the picture states above, God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.  And OCD is a hard battle.  And we are pretty tough people.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Climbing my "mental" mountain...

     Happy Summer!  This is a big blog post for me, so I apologize up front as there will be lots of details here.  I haven't been posting for awhile, because truthfully nothing "big" with my OCD has happened, in a good or bad sense.  Several months elapse between my blog posts now which is good in some ways, because it means nothing significant has happened that I need to process or work through.  But it is also bad, because it means I haven't been exposing or pushing myself or really doing anything different with my OCD.  I've just been maintaining my current level of OCD, which truthfully isn't too bad these days.  It's manageable.  But last week my family took a summer vacation to the Colorado mountains/Rocky Mountain National Park.  We have not taken a family vacation in 7 years.  If I'm being completely honest (which I always keep it real here), a lot of that has been because of my OCD.  I avoid, avoid, avoid what I am uncomfortable with.  It has been my biggest downfall in battling this disorder.  The last time we vacationed in 2011, it was difficult for me (and that was way before I even entered the worst of my OCD, which spanned 2014-2015).  Going on a vacation during that time period would have been absolutely impossible.  Even leaving my house or going to a family function or an appointment was extremely difficult at that point.  If you'd told me in 2014-2015 that I would be able to vacation again a few years later (albeit having some definite interesting way around things to help with the contamination) I wouldn't have believed you.  But it was possible.  And it did happen.  And it was a HUGE step in the right direction for me.
     When we first broached the subject of taking a vacation earlier this summer, I didn't really expect that it would happen.  I knew I was close to being able to go (as in, maybe next year), but I was scared to push myself that far out of my comfort zone.  But if I've learned anything from dealing with this disorder for 12'ish years, it's this:  You have to expose yourself before you're ready.  You will NEVER be ready to do what makes you uncomfortable.  You will always find a way to talk yourself out of it.  You will always let the anxiety win, unless you purposely face it head-on.  In addition to the contamination OCD, I also deal with a lot of generalized anxiety and so there were some other concerns I had about this trip too.  After wavering back and forth for weeks, where I literally was absolutely not going one second, then talking myself into it the next second---I just finally said "let's do it".  Now if only I could have just gone into this and pretended I didn't have OCD for 5 days....but we all know that's not how it works.  Maybe in a few years I can have a normal vacation and not have to bring my own bedding/towels, and some other things that were necessary for this trip, but alas....I went.  And that is what matters.  And for the most part, I had a great time!
     Because of the contamination issues, I have always had problems with vehicles that aren't my own.  My own personal vehicle I keep clean.  For the most part I don't do anything with it.  But if I have to sit in a public place (like a restaurant, doctor appointment) which doesn't happen super often, it "contaminates" my car seat, and I always wipe off the leather seat afterward with soap/water.  Or more lately I have been using a car seat cover, and then just remove it after the outing so I have a clean seat to sit on moving forward.  We took my husband's car on this trip which is absolutely contaminated to me.  I put a car seat cover down over that.  I wanted to put some type of cover over the seat belt but I refrained from doing that.  We ended up staying in a vacation rental home (townhouse), which ended up working well for the most part.  He actually wanted to do this, as he doesn't like hotels.  It worked great, so I am glad about this.  I was able to have a separate bedroom from him (he is one of my biggest triggers, if you're not familiar with my blog), which allowed me to keep my luggage and all of my things in a separate room.  My daughter and I stayed in the second room.  Because I am fearful of sleeping on a bed/sheets that aren't mine, as soon as we arrived, I stripped the entire bed of its comforter blanket and pillows and the only thing I left on was the top sheet.  I did inspect things briefly (but did not spend a lot of time doing this) for signs of bugs or anything strange, and did not find anything.  I brought a big king sized blanket that covered the entire bed, so I wouldn't have to lay on the top sheet (and it provided a layer of what I felt was clean).  I brought our own pillows and pillow cases and a sheet to cover ourselves with.  So we didn't really touch anything directly on their bed.  I brought our own bath towels, and used those instead of the townhouse provided ones.  The townhouse was actually very clean overall though, and I was thankful for that.  It was fully stocked with a washer/dryer, full kitchen, furniture, and dishes.  For someone without OCD, it would have been great.  But of course I wouldn't be able to use any of those dishes (not knowing how they were cleaned, etc.).  There was a grocery store close by, so I did stock up on bottled water so we would have something to drink.  We ended up not spending a lot of time in the townhouse anyway other than to sleep, shower, and occasionally relax.  We did a lot of activities while there, most of them very dirty.  Yes I contaminated myself beyond belief a few times, to even where I was surprised.  But I so badly wanted to have fun on this trip and I was motivated to just do the activities, have the fun, be in the midst of the filth and not look back.  We went to "Fun City" where they  have mini-golf, Go-Karts, bumper boats, and giant slides among other activities.  I also got on a bungee trampoline and had to wear a harness (worn by multiple other people and visibly dirty).  My daughter got inside of some water balls that were absolutely filthy.  Her socks were stained black on the bottom it was so dirty.  We also did a horseback ride through the mountains one evening, which was actually pretty dirty, if you can imagine.  All of the horses stopping to pee and poop on the trail, some of them a foot in front of you.  There was a TON of dust/dirt flying up in the air as we moved through the trail (even our trail guide commented it was dusty ride) and when I got off the horse the inside of my jeans were visibly caked with dirt).  There was also a lot of bugs flying around us on the ride.  Most of this stuff in and of itself wasn't too bad for me, because I've been working on contaminating myself in public for 3 years now.  The one difference I did find, is that had I done this in my own town at home, it would have caused me problems, feeling like I was contaminating my car after sitting in all these dirty places that so many people sit.  I would have come home and showered right away after being at a place like this for 5 hours, and put on my "indoor clothes" before sitting down on my own couch.  Then those clothes would have been washed separately from everything else, so as not to "contaminate" the rest of my laundry.  But....I found that there are some easier things with your OCD about being away from home.  There is nothing to keep safe anymore.  You are in the contaminated world for several days in a row, so you can't keep your clean/dirty worlds separate.  Or there is, at least, no need to for this time (for the most part).   There is no clean home to go to.  No clean car seat to keep.  No clean vs. contaminated clothes.  On vacation, I was able to contaminate myself, stay contaminated the entire day, come back to the townhouse  and contaminate the furniture, go contaminate his car, etc.  You get the point.  I was able to move freely about, from place to place, without worry of spreading the contamination.   The only thing I did keep safe while there was the bed.  Only when I was in my pajamas for the night, would I sit on the bed.  And no other clothes were worn on the bed.  Why is the bed always have to be the safest of the safe places???
     I was worried about sharing a bathroom with my husband while we were there.  Thankfully it was 2 bathrooms, but only 1 shower.  So for the most part we were able to stay separated, other than sharing the shower.  I was so thankful for that.  And so thankful that we chose the townhouse over the hotel.  I have a feeling I would have had a lot of problems in a hotel.  I didn't really do much other than Lysol off the shower floor and handle right before I showered at night (he showered in the mornings), so this actually worked pretty well.
     As I mentioned before, I have a lot of generalized anxiety in addition to the OCD.  I tend to catastrophize things when I get worried and convince myself that the worst case scenario is going to happen.  Prior to leaving, I had convinced myself of many things:  that we would catch lice or bed bugs from the townhouse, that we would get in a car accident on the interstate (I was googling statistics about the chance of a fatal car accident on an interstate), that we would fall off the edge of a cliff driving through the mountains, that we would pick up a virus/cold from being around so many people at the resort, that I would have an allergic reaction to something I ate there (because I do have a peanut allergy, so understandably that is an actual rational concern especially with breads/bakeries), that we would get sick from eating at an unfamiliar restaurant, that the cable would break on the tram up the mountain and that we would fall to our death 12,000 feet, that we would suffer from altitude sickness (I also googled statistics about heart attacks/elevation), and finally that we would get attacked by an animal while walking the trails at the Rocky Mountain National Park (my fear was a mountain lion).  Not only did I think that one of these might possibly happen, I had scenarios in my head where every single one of these things happened.  Can you imagine the odds of any of these things happening themeselves?  Let alone all of them together on the same trip?  Anxiety is truly horrible.  All you can think about is the dreadful possibility that something bad might happen.  As I prepared for this trip, after committing to going, I started doing some of my old "magical thinking" compulsions.  Such as, I need to do things a certain way so that we don't get in a car accident.  Luckily I've learned when my mind is going in that non-productive direction, so though I started having some trailing thoughts, I knew how to nip that right in the bud.
     I am pleased to say that nothing bad happened on our trip.  We drove up 12,000 feet to the top of a mountain and did not drive off the edge (although it was definitely nerve-wracking at a few points).  As far as I know, we did not contract bed bugs or lice (although trust me, we did some head checks and I left the clothes we wore on the trip outside in a large garbage bag for a few days).  None of us got sick (and there was even a young boy on the shuttle bus at the park 2 rows ahead of us who was coughing and whose mom was feeling his forehead and kept saying "you're so hot/feverish").  We did not have any significant breathing issues or resulting heart issues with the altitude.  We did not get attacked by a mountain lion.  We were not able to ride the tram, due to my peanut allergy. The tram ride warned of heavy peanut dust in the tram cars, so I elected to not ride that.  I'll admit, I was a little relieved to have a legitimate excuse here.  But no tram cars fell out of the sky that day.  We did have a brush with a potential disaster on the way home from our trip.  40 miles from home a semi truck did not see us in their blind spot and started getting over and honestly almost pushed our car into a ditch.  It was horrifying and scary.  I am so thankful to God, he was certainly looking over our family that day.
    I also brought my own silverware on the trip, and kept a plastic Ziploc bag of them in my purse.  I do not use restaurant silverware (and haven't for several years).  Most of the restaurants I ate burgers, pizza or sandwiches so I was able to go wash my hands before eating, just like I would do if I were at home.  But a couple of meals required silverware.  Luckily my husband used the restroom before eating both of these times, so I was able to swap out the silverware without him knowing any different.  It really lined up very well each time.  The other thing that I had not prepared myself for, which I found absolutely disgusting (but surprisingly did pretty well with) was the fact that I had to use outhouses at the national park.  And there were no sinks in these bathrooms.  Just a hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall.  I'll use hand sanitizer in a bind, as it is better than nothing...but in a restroom?  Out house?  No way.  But I had no choice, so I had to do it.  And then of course my phone felt contaminated as I was using it to take pictures, without having had washed my hands.  But...again I dealt with all of this surprisingly very well.  I think it keeps going back to the fact that everything was contaminated at that time, so I knew it was okay to keep things like that, as when we returned from the vacation I would shower, wipe phone down, etc. before entering my clean zones of my house..  s
     So, to recap, I did expose myself in several ways during this trip:  riding in hubby's car, staying in a rental townhouse, sleeping in the townhouse bed (albeit with my own bedding), sharing a shower with my  husband for 4 days,  driving on the Interstate for a long period of time (16 hour round trip)gemstone panning (which included running pans through filthy brown water), riding down giant slides in canvas bags that others used and had their shoes all over, bungee trampoline using harness that others wore, being without shoes on the trampoline, riding in Go-Karts and wearing those seatbelts, riding in Bumper which were wet and dirty looking on the seats, eating at restaurants that I've never been to, riding a horse where there was lots of bugs and dust/dirt flying around everywhere (the insides of my jeans were caked with visible dirt after this), riding in a public shuttle bus, using  outhouses where there was no soap/water, and driving up a huge mountain to 12,000 feet elevation (when I had convinced myself we were going to fall of the edge).  also, we had to board our two dogs for this trip, which invoked anxiety as well.  It scared me being separated from them for that long.  I was worried something would happen to them, and we wouldn't be there.  I was worried something would happen to us (such as an accident), and our dogs would be left without a family.  I was also worried about them having an accident in their kennel from not being let out as frequently as they would be at home, and them coming home with urine on their fur.  My husband gave them baths when they got home, so that took care of that.  Our little pup did come home with a UTI from the kennel, so I'm not sure if that was random or related.  The vet told me that stress can cause UTI's in dogs, and the kennel situation may have stressed her out.  Guilty dog mom, right here.  
     Whew!  That was a lot of stuff packed into 4 days.  There were some other issues too, such as my husbands irritability on the trip that bothered me.  Stuff not even related to the OCD, but that wore me down.  Was the trip difficult?  Certain aspects, but not horribly.  Was it easier than I thought it would be?  Yes, for sure.  Am I glad I went?  Yes.  It allowed me a chance to be normal, or at least semi-normal for a few days which was actually a really good feeling.  Do I think I can do this again next year?  Yes!  I'm hopeful that I can do it with a few less quirks than I did this year.  I'm getting to the point with my OCD, where sometimes I feel this is "as good as it gets" (just like the movie, LOL!)  When I look back on my life 3-4 years ago I was horribly consumed with OCD, and now I can function pretty normal, as long as I have some barriers and can separate things dirty from clean.  I know that is ultimately the crux of this disease and without eliminating that barrier, this disorder will never be gone.  But I am leaps and bounds better than before, and we have to take pride in our success.  Because this disorder is so difficult to live with.  Little things throw us off, that other people don't even think about it.  It is so mentally exhausting how much we overthink things, compared to other people.  So although I did not do any physical climbing of a mountain while on my trip, I certainly climbed one mentally and metaphorically.  And I have to say that getting to the top of that mountain felt pretty good.  If this is as good as my OCD gets, I can be okay with that.  I have a lot of other updates for the summer which I will post about soon too.  Hope you are all having a great summer (can't believe it's almost over), and just know that if I can conquer this with my OCD, I know that you can conquer your mental mountain too, whatever that may be for you.  Even if you feel you are not ready for whatever exposure you need to do, JUST DO IT!!!!!!  Just like Nike says :)   You take a piece of your life back each time you do an exposure and push  yourself.  And you stop missing out on the stuff that you've been missing out on for so long.  If I hadn't pushed myself, it would have been a whole year again before I would have even had the chance to take a vacation.  Don't let OCD take your life from you.  It is a scary ride to get out,  but it is oh so worth it.  
 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A new puppy, a wedding, and a bad cold/flu season...oh my!!

     Wow, once again I can't believe how much time has slipped by without an update.  It is definitely time to post here, as a lot has been going on.  This blog is also my way of documenting my own progress (as I find it interesting to look back in the months/years and see the progress I have made).  It has been a pretty busy last couple of months at my house.  First of all, we got a new puppy in January.  We already have one dog (who is 4 years old), and getting another dog was not even on the radar.  We made a very impulsive decision to get this puppy, and although things were pretty hectic initially, I am happy to report that things have calmed down slightly and I am finding a new "normal" with 2 dogs.  I was in the worst part of my OCD when we got our last dog.  I mean, very bad.  I knew that there were going to be some contamination issues with this new pup, but knowing how much better I have been with the OCD, and knowing exactly what to be prepared for, I told myself that it probably would be challenging for a little bit but that I would figure it out, and things would be okay. And things really have been okay for the most part.  Sure there have been some issues that have popped up, and some others I never even could foresee (that don't so much have to do with the OCD), but all in all it's been good.  The house training has been great  actually.  Our  older dog was a nightmare to train and had accidents constantly in the house.  This pup is an early riser and for  awhile the lack of sleep was truly draining me.  I was getting about 5 hours/night, and was used to 8 on the weekdays, 9-10 on the weekends.  I require a lot of sleep to feel well.  I think that is partly why I started feeling so bad.  I also lost about 6 pounds in the first month we had her.  But things are going better now.  I've gained a few pounds back, and I'm getting a good 8 hours every night now, plus trying to nap on my days off and on the weekends, and I'm feeling more like myself again.  I'm just truly amazed, honestly, at how much better I'm handling things this time around with a pup.  I can not believe how truly trapped into OCD I was 4 years ago.  If you want to read about some of my worst times, visit my blog posts between July 2013 and March 2015.  When our oldest dog was a pup, I was throwing clothing away left and right, as if they were disposable.  I would buy new slippers sometimes on a daily basis because her bone would drop on them.  Sometimes I would throw out clothes for no valid reason, looking back on things, other than I thought *maybe* something had happened to them.  Those feelings of contamination would usually hit when I was cleaning up urine or vomit and I would somehow worry that the corner of my sleeve got urine/vomit on it, and I just have vivid memories of a huge hamper sitting in the stairway that I would just throw clothes in every day.  That was when my laundry issues got really overwhelming too.  So....I knew that obviously I couldn't head down that road again this time.  I've done very well.  She's had a few accidents and I've cleaned those up with no problem.  One night (her third night with us) she actually had pooped in her kennel overnight and there was dried poop everywhere--kennel bars, paws, her body.  I mean everywhere.  While my husband bathed her, I cleaned her kennel up and just went back to bed wearing the same clothes and everything.  4 years ago I don't even know how I would have handled that.  Probably a shower and throwing those clothes away.  I think most of my clothes now have been contaminated by the puppy in one way or another, and I'm proud to report I've only thrown a few things away.  She used to come up and paw and jump on me, but she doesn't do that anymore.  What usually happens now is she will come up and nose me on my jeans and leave a wet nose mark, or nip at my shirt sleeve when I pick her up, or something like that.  Because I'm still separating my indoor and outdoor clothes anyway in the wash, I've just added an extra step which helps to keep the clothes, but yet feel like I can decontaminate them first.  I just throw any clothes that she's "contaminated" in my mind in the washing machine first.  Wash them on a sanitary setting, and then throw the rest of my regular clothes in and run the cycle again.  It doesn't add much time on and at least I'm keeping clothes and learning that they can be contaminated and re-wear them.  So, that part is going good.  It's really forced me to face that issue.  In fact, there have even been some occasions where she's contaminated stuff and I don't treat it any differently with the wash.  Just throw it in with my normal stuff.  I am learning that if it's all dirty, it just goes in together and comes out clean.  It's getting easier.  It really is.  I am glad that we have her though.  She is a great addition to our family, and really a lot of fun.  I was determined to not let my OCD hold me back or govern this decision.
    
     OK, moving on to this flu season.  This flu season has been horrible, really awful.  As you may recall, influenza is a huge trigger of mine.  Since this flu season has been so much more severe than the last several years, I have really been extra on edge.  I hate being out in public this time of year.  Family gatherings would be very difficult for me to attend.  Anyone that is coughing really sets me off, and I almost find myself getting very angry and irritable when out in public and people do not have good cough hygiene.  I don't eat out much during flu season.  I anxiously await each weeks "flu report" by the county health department to track the severity of the flu.  Finally...finally...finally....the flu season is ending.  Numbers are down.  This has taken a load off too.
 
     Moving onto an entirely different subject.  My sister-in-law (my husbands sister) got married last weekend.  Seeing as though we are still technically in flu season with influenza still very obviously around to some degree, I worried this wedding weekend would be difficult.  The wedding was in the next big city over from us, about an hour away.  Because it was within a reasonable driving distance, we drove up there on Friday night for the rehearsal dinner and came home.   Then drove up again on Saturday for the wedding.  My daughter and I drove back after the wedding, while my husband stayed the night there.  A few weeks ago while influenza was still dreadfully out there in high numbers, I was terrified at how I was going to deal with this wedding.  But...as it turns out everything went extremely well.  I actually would have the opportunity had I wanted to not go in to the ceremony, or to stand in the back (as family was seated randomly, and no one would have known where I was), but I chose to sit up front behind my in-laws.  Normally sitting up front in a church or any type of stadium/arena would be an absolute no for me.  I always, always sit in the back.  So this was a good thing.  To my surprise no one there even really seemed sick.  My OCD always imagines the absolute worst case scenarios (which I will write a future post about soon!!)  So of course for the wedding my OCD imagined half the people there showing up with terrible colds  (or the flu!!) and us all ending up getting sick.  But I need to relax.  And as I am out more and more in public and facing these things, I truly do find out that it's not that bad.  It was absolute fine!!  And here is a jaw-dropper to add to this--me, the person that never eats buffet style or out in public--I ate at the wedding!  And it was buffet style.  I had zero plans to eat at this wedding, however I did bring my fork in a plastic bag "just in case" I ate.  Because I still don't use any silverware that has not come out of my own kitchen drawers and dishwasher.  Somehow we were able to snag a table at the reception right next to the buffet.  In my mind (because those of us with OCD are good at planning things out), I figured that table would be the first to be dismissed after the bridal party went through the line.  Thankfully it was!  Since we were about 15th in line for the food, and I could see everyone go through, I decided just to eat.  And again, it was fine.  One week later, and nothing has happened to me from eating that food.  None of us got influenza, or any type of illness from anything associated with the wedding.
     
      Some other things have been going on with my husband too, but that is too much to tackle right now, so will update on those things too.  As usual, that is always a huge stressor for me.  While I'm pleased to report that things went better for us last fall, we appear to have taken another downslide again.  I don't know if part of that is the stress of a second dog and those first initial couple months of sleep deprivation.  Our relationship got pushed completely to the side.  I don't know what will happen there, but again I will post more on that later.

     Tomorrow is Easter!  I'm not sure what our plans will entail at this point.  I was hoping to get to our family gathering, but we are actually forecast to have a pretty significant snow storm move through tonight.  I am so tired of this dreary, cold weather.  Overall, I just don't do well in the winter time.  We have had a few teasers of the sun the last few weeks, and I am anxiously awaiting when the weather warms up for good for spring/summer. With flu season coming to an end soon (hopefully!), and things settling down with the dogs, and the approach of the warmer weather, I am hopeful that things will be better this spring.  Since I went back to work part time last summer, I have accrued a ton of vacation time and have been saving it all up for this summer.  This summer I will only have to work 2 days per week, plus I will have an entire 2 week break spanning end of July into the middle of August.  I am so ready for some downtime!
    
     I hope this spring finds you doing well.  Never forget:  just fight against your OCD in small ways every day, and you will be amazed at the progress you make over time!  If I can do it, I know that you can!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

What the OCD sees...

     Happy New Year!  Wow, I haven't updated for quite some time.  I am doing pretty well right now, which is mostly the reason for the lack of blogging.  Either that or I have just managed to live better with the issues my OCD presents, thus it doesn't seem to impact my life as much as it used to.  I just wanted to talk about a couple of situations that have popped up recently and how the OCD mind can spin things and catastrophize these situations.  What the OCD mind sees, if you will.  The worst case scenario in each situation.

     First of all, I want to just be happy and soak in the fact that I am doing amazingly well compared to where I was 3-4 years ago.  Life changing difference.  It is truly amazing to me.  I want you to know that if you are out there struggling with OCD and have lost hope--please don't!  I was a in a place 3-4 years ago where I was turning off toilets in my house each time I did the laundry, throwing out entire loads of clothes in the wash (even if they were brand new) because somehow I thought toilet water was contaminating the washing machine.  My clothes were basically all disposable and I was replacing things constantly.  Spending hundred, if not thousands, of dollars on items to be replaced.  I don't even want to know the grand total!  I had trouble taking out trash outside because I felt like the moment the trash bag hit the bottom of the can, that contamination would just spew upward at me from the base of the can.  When I could hardly walk outside around my neighborhood without feeling contaminated from the wind/debris blowing around.  When I stopped wearing make up or getting my hair done for a solid year.  When sitting in any public place caused me to feel contaminated beyond belief.  When my hands were so raw and horridly destroyed from constant handwashing that my hands became covered in warts and looked like bubble wrap.  When my hands became contaminated by gasoline one day (because it dripped on my hand while filling up my car) and for about 8 months after that time I could no longer wash my hair normally.  My  hands were contaminated and I put shampoo on my hair and combed it through each time I washed, the shampoo couldn't even rinse out properly and I developed a gross orange film on my scalp because of that.  I could go on and on with examples, but if you haven't read my blog before you'll just have to read the previous posts to see where I've come from and where I am now.  I think the first steps toward me making big progress were in the summer of 2015--so for 2 1/2 years now I have been chipping away at things and I am really doing quite well.  Yes there are some things that cause me problems--my husband still being a big one.  I still admittedly have a ways to go with the clothing contamination and lots of things I could work on there--but I'm still doing a lot better in that respect!  My laundry is not a big issue at all for me anymore.  Most of the things that I struggled with for a few years at my lowest point are a non-issue anymore.  And for that I am truly grateful.

     Part of having OCD is, as I described above, your mind anticipating the worst.  I think this something those of us with OCD always have to be particularly mindful of.  And just learn to fight back against it.  To not give into the worried feeling, but just go with it.  Try it, and learn that the situation probably won't be as bad as our OCD imagines it to be.  I think it is important to keep yourself in the game and keep yourself in situations that make yourself uncomfortable.  You have to keep fighting back against this disorder to get out.   For example, I always have a problem going to family gatherings.  I have a fear of germs/illness and my OCD tells me that someone there will always be sick.  My OCD imagines everyone there coughing with their mouths open, it imagines the kids sick with drippy runny noses.  It imagines my family being exposed to viruses and becoming ill days after the event.  For this reason I spent a good 1-2 years avoiding family functions, because I just couldn't handle the stress of worrying about it.  I knew it was 100% certain that if we didn't go the family function, we couldn't pick up any germs/illness there.  If we did go, there was  a chance.  OCD doesn't like to take chances.  So it doesn't.  We start avoiding, because it is easier.  And the avoidance and not staying in engaged in life, is our downfall.   This year I was determined to not ask for reassurance from my family, specifically my mom, "is anyone sick?  Do you know if any of the kids are sick?"  Remember, my family (including my parents) doesn't even know I have OCD.  I have more of a germaphobia in their mind, thus my questions.  We went to both sides, my husband and my family, Christmas celebrations this year.  To my surprise, no one at all at either gathering seemed sick at all.   Everyone was fine!!!!  And even in the midst of cold/flu season.  The strange thing is within the next few days several of my family members were sick, apparently one of my uncles had been sick with a cough that day--I just hadn't noticed.  But...my dad, my cousin and my grandpa all became sick within a few days after Christmas.  None of my family (myself, my husband or my daughter) got anything.  A second example is that my husband had a colonoscopy the week before Christmas.  As soon as I heard he was getting this (just a screening, he wasn't having any concerning symptoms), my OCD started to panic.  I knew that when I had my own colonoscopy a couple of years ago it was an absolute mess.  Of course it didn't help that I couldn't even sit on my own toilet seat--and eventually I just had to--because let me be honest here, it just doesn't work to squat over the toilet seat for 2-3 hours doing a prep).  My OCD told me his bathroom was going to be a disaster.  My OCD imagined poop all over the toilet seat, the wall, the floor.  It imagined him pooping in his bed and ruining the mattress.  It imagined him pooping in my car on the way to the actual procedure.  It imagined all sorts of awful/disgusting stuff.  But...here is what actually  happened:  He did his prep the night before and the morning of and nothing bad happened.  I went in to clean his bathroom the next morning and it looked the same as usual.  No poop anywhere.  I put a mattress protector on his bed "just in case" and his bed was totally fine in the morning.  I took him to his procedure and he didn't poop on my carseat.  There were no problems.  But yet for weeks my mind was filled was worry/anxiety on everything bad that "could happen", when in truth nothing bad did happen.  And thankfully his colonoscopy ended up being normal.

     The OCD mind.  It's a scary thing, it really is.  Usually what the OCD tells you is going to happen, comes nothing close to what actually happens in reality.  I don't think there is a way to get out of this quickly unfortunately.  You just have to keep exposing yourself to situations, and I can assure you that it does get easier each time.  I have a lot more I want to talk about, and I plan to start updating a bit more frequently here in the near future.  I want to talk in details about the problems I'm still having with my husband, and my plans for this year as far as "what is next in treating my OCD?"  I also might start taking the Lexapro that my doctor has been suggesting for almost a year now.  I was completely against it for awhile, then on the fence for awhile, now I'm leaning toward giving it a shot.  Lots of stuff to talk about!  Hope you all are doing well.

   

Friday, November 10, 2017

My biggest exposures yet... intimacy again

**I am really sorry for the length of this post, I haven't posted for awhile, and had a ton to update!  So bear with me until the end!  :)

     Well, if you've followed my blog for any period of time, you will know that my husband is one of my biggest triggers.  It's mostly because, I think, when you have OCD, it's hard to live with anyone that doesn't follow your rules or more accurately the rules OCD sets for us.  When you try to maintain your clean zones in a house and another person is constantly coming along contaminating everything...it gets really hard.  Now I think it would even be rough for someone with OCD to live with someone with normal hygiene.  But what happens if your spouse actually veers toward the complete other end of the spectrum, and is completely unhygienic in a lot of aspects.  Then what?  That is where I've found myself for so many years.  I've stated lots of things about hubby in previous posts--he just seems to have no care at all if he lives in complete filth and disorder.  I would think that most adults would at least have a clothing system for clean vs dirty clothes, would shower on a daily basis for the most part, and would prefer to have a clean bathroom in which to shower.  This does not seem to be the case with my husband.  I have documented photos of his bedroom and bathrooms through the last couple of years, that someday I feel I may need to show a psychologist.  I need to know if there is really a way that this can work with us? 
     These pictures show clear cut evidence of the filth he is willing to live in.  Now, because I keep to my own rooms in the house and he keeps to his, (other than sharing the living room and kitchen area), there was a period of time where I never even stepped foot into his rooms, other than to gather his laundry for the week.  His rooms became so overwhelmingly disgusting to me, I couldn't even bring myself to go in there and clean them.  So they kept getting worse and worse.  And he didn't take measures to clean them.  Until they got horrendously bad, and I made him.  He at one point had black mold growing up the entire length of his shower curtain.  Black mold growing on the walls of the shower, and I'm not talking about a few spots.  I'm talking about 25% of the shower wall covered in black mold, spanning a matter of a couple of feet.  He will pick up anything in his room and heed no attention to when it was last worn.  He has no clothing system.  His clothes are not in dresser drawers.  They are just all over his room on the floor, for the most part.  Clean clothes on top of visibly filthy clothes (from painting, farm work, etc.), to the point one would never know what was clean or dirty anymore.  He wears a mouth guard at night, which is covered in a thick white film, with black mold spots and some orangeish discoloration (more to come on this later, as this has been a crucial turning point).  He sleeps on a mattress that has been stained with some type of orange fluid , soda??, I'm not sure?).  He sleeps with pillows that are truly so old and filthy they are uniformly dark brown now (as opposed to a nice white that you would expect your typical pillow to be).  One outside of our home would never know hubby was like this.  When he goes to work, his clothes appear clean.  He does typically wear things I've washed and tried to hang up for him, to work.  He showers before work, and appears professional.  He's not a bad person.  He is actually highly educated, with 2 Masters Degrees.  He is a very smart person.  But for some reason, he's never been hygienic or cared.
     For all of the reasons above, plus a lot of the hobbies he has been into (painting, farming, car/tractor restoration, odd jobs, handyman things), I have had an increasingly difficult time with him through the years.  So much that we went a period of 5 years without any intimacy between us.  No sex for 5 years.  No kissing for 7-8 years.  Maybe 2-3 hugs total during that time.  Separate couches.  Need I go on?  Our relationship has been suffering more and more these past few months, and in a true effort to expose myself to him and start working on my OCD with him, I decided it would be worth it for our relationship to resume physical relations with him.  I wasn't sure how this would go.   Here's how it all went down:  When you haven't had sex with your spouse for that many years, there is a fear that things are going to be super awkward.  I'm pleased to report that the first time we had sex it went very well.  So well in fact that we decided it was something we both missed a lot, and we ended up doing a repeat just a few days later.  Now, a few weeks after the original time, we have made love 4 times again and have the 5th time planned on the agenda for this weekend.  Of course there is a lot of things that go into this when you have OCD, in order to control the situation a bit.  I made him shower (and of course I did too beforehand, because eww--that is just gross otherwise), and I laid out a clean towel, boxers and clothing for him after the shower.  He was instructed to brush his teeth, use mouthwash and wash his hands very well before coming into the bedroom.  Then the compromise was that I would have no rules (other than no kissing on the mouth) when it came to sex.  If he could follow through on those rules for me, then I would not push him away, or ask him any reassurance questions when he came into bed.  And the system worked great.   The second time things went even better.  In fact even though I had told myself I wouldn't kiss hubby that time (because the kissing part is still bothersome to me),  I ended up lightly kissing him a few times during sex.  And it was wonderful.  It was so great to be with him that way again, and I felt so much more connected to him.  I was amazed that after all the issues we'd had for so long, that we could come together that way and it felt so right.  This is proof that we can be stronger than our minds, even though OCD seems to have a ridiculously hard grip on us oftentimes.  My fear is getting germs/sick from kissing him, but even in the moment those fears went out the door. Even afterward I felt a little nervous about the kissing, but it truly wasn't anything overwhelming/paralyzing.  It was pretty mild anxiety truthfully.  After these first couple of times reconnecting, I had motivation and hopes that maybe we could try to discuss some of the aspects of his clothes/rooms that bothered me.  That we might work together on cleaning some of that up, with the hope of it bringing us closer together and allowing more intimacy.  We talked about it and we seemed on the same page, and I was so hopeful and happier than I've been in a long time.  I literally started thinking about hubby all of the time and now it was in a positive light.  I found myself being more attracted to him, and desiring to spend time with him.  I wanted to push myself and I knew this could all work out after all. 
     So, I set forth a plan.  I spent a lot of time, money and energy over a period of a couple of weeks.  I figured out how I could temporarily spend time in his bedroom, so that I could sleep in his bed and not have to shower immediately afterward.  I purchased some separate clothing (underwear and PJ's) that I could wear solely in his room when I was with him.  I even bought some different sheets so that those could easily be swapped out on nights I wanted to spend in there.  We set the date for the next intimate night, and I was so looking forward to it. I promised myself that this time it was going to be the best yet--that I was going to kiss him fully no matter what.  Fully kiss and be in the moment.  And I was so ready for it.  Now....here is where we go back to the earlier reference to the mouth guard.  When all of my disappointment set in.  I remembered the mouth guard.  And I wasn't even sure that hubby still actually used it.  When I have seen it in his room (during various times I just go in there to collect his laundry), it is usually just sitting in random places around his room--sometimes on his dresser or nightstand.  I started to get a strange feeling today--what if he actually still uses that thing?  And I'm supposed to kiss him?  I can't emphasize enough how truly horrifying it looks.  This is not just an OCD thing.  I promise you.  This is a very unhealthy situation.  I asked him about it, and he says he still uses it sometimes.  He said--in fact, I just used it last night.  And right at that moment, my heart fell.  Because I know there is truly no way I can kiss my husband when he puts that thing in his mouth every night.  I've googled articles tonight on the dangers of dental devices, and this is a real thing.  Yeast, bacteria grow on these things (especially when not cleaned properly) and they can actually cause life threatening illnesses, not to mention just your normal growth of strep, staph, and fungus.  Is it wrong for me to not want to kiss him when he's basically sucking on a moldy piece of plastic for 8 hours every night?  Is it wrong of him and he is being unfair to me, by allowing this to continue and not acknowledge this is wrong and unhealthy?  I do know the difference between OCD concerns and real concerns--and this is one of them!   I told him at that time that I was not going to kiss him, and that in fact I was very upset that he knowingly let me kiss him last time despite that.  How is his mouth even supposed to be anywhere on my body during sex?  I feel I was so emotionally invested into wanting this to work and I was truly devastated after seeing that.  At least when I was disconnected from him, it didn't hurt so bad.  Now we've been intimate after 5 years and I've opened my heart up to him and allowed myself a glimpse of what our relationship could be like....and this mouthpiece has devastated me.  At first I thought he at least might acknowledge it was unsanitary and do something about it.  And at first that didn't appear to be the case.  He said he needs it at night, because his teeth would be ruined without it.  I asked him if it would be possible to buy a new one.  Even though they are costly, I feel it is something worth the money in order to re-establish intimacy between us.  I feel like if I'm going to dive in with the exposures with my husband, I need to do it 100%.  There is no in-between here and picking out certain bits and pieces to work on.  Also I feel very awkward in the sense that why I am I trying to work on this marriage, when he clearly doesn't respect my health?  Truth be told, I am highly allergic to mold. I have recent allergy testing to prove that.  I had a mouthguard once, and actually am doing Invisalign currently.  I've taken care of all of my dental devices and mine have never looked like that.  So even if he gets a new one, he's still going to have to take care of it...and what are the chances of that?  Slim, I'm afraid.
     I tried to clean his mouthguard, and it did not work.  I soaked it in vinegar, Listerine and washed it with antibacterial soap and water.  There is still a horrible layer of film all over it that will not come off, and definite black/orange mold spots.  I was very direct with him and told him if he continued to use that, that we would not be able to kiss.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I really do.  So...he hasn't used it for 2 weeks now.  We have been intimate twice since then, and the second time (after that mouthpiece had not seen his mouth for a solid 10 days) I actually did fully kiss my husband.  I was a little worried about this, but...I figured if I was going to set parameters, then I had better be following through on my end of the deal.  I still don't know where this will go in the future.  At some point again will he find the mouthpiece and wear it?  Will he get a new one and take care of it? 
     I have also spent a considerable amount of time over the past 2 weeks deep cleaning our house. When my OCD was at it's worst, I couldn't even clean certain areas because they felt so dirty.  I could keep up on my areas of the house, but as I mentioned above with my husbands things it became so overwhelming to me.  He didn't pick or clean up and it just grew worse and worse over the months.  I spent a good chunk of a day cleaning his bedroom, organizing his closet and washing everything on the floor and putting it away. He finally has clothes hanging up again, clothes in dresser drawers, and clothes in the hamper.  If I can go in there every couple of days and take 2-3 minutes to clean up, I can really easily stay on top of it.  Same with his bathrooms.  They got deep scrubbing that they haven't seen in a long time.  I can honestly say that if I had to use one of his bathrooms at this point, I could.  I can walk in his room and it feels "normal" to me, which is good.  There are still a lot of things I have concerns with, and I realize that it will take a long time to navigate through all of this.  It will be a constant work in progress.  If we come to a standstill and can't progress anymore on our own or communicate about how to get through this, then I would consider talking to a psychologist.  Just to question how we deal with these things that come up?  How does hubby try to "meet me halfway" for awhile so that I can keep increasing my exposures with him?  I know a lot of it is little stupid stuff, but it still stands out in my OCD brain and screams "contaminated" to me.  Like when he handles our dogs slobbery rawhide bones then eats without washing his hands.  When he grabs some random glass off the bartop counter that has probably been used several times without being washed, and uses it to drink out of.  When he uses the same exact coffee cup at work every day and it never gets washed.  When his idea of finally washing out that cup, means just swishing some water around in the bottom and calling it clean.  When he might not even brush his teeth twice daily.  I could go on and on here.  This is really a separate post, but does intertwine with everything I've been talking about thus far.
    But, the bottom line here is I did a big exposure. One I really never thought I would be able to do again.  I re-established intimacy with my  husband.  Kissed my husband.  And I promise you, if I can do this...so can YOU!  I have talked to a few of you outside of this blog with similar intimacy issues with your significant others.  Not knowing how to navigate the contamination and everything the OCD throws at you.  So you just start avoiding, and your spouse becomes more and more contaminated to you through the years.  But I absolute promise you, it is worth it.  I feel this is a huge step in repairing our relationship.  Right now everything has to be "controlled" so to speak, with the showers, clean clothes, clean sheets, etc.  But I do keep adding things in everytime, to show my husband that I really am working at this.   I feel in my heart he will never understand how hard this is, and how much I pushed myself to do this.  But that's okay.  Those without OCD simply will never understand what we go through.  Their brains do not work the same way as ours. But I HAVE been on the other side of the fence.  I have lived a life (for almost 25 years) that did not include OCD.  And I am certain that when hubby and I were first intimate (and I didn't have OCD), that I didn't think about these things either.  OCD makes things really hard sometimes.  But it doesn't make them impossible.  Push yourself to do something today.  I promise you it will be worth the effort.  It is the most liberating, freeing feeling to gain your life back from this disease.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A new app to help treat OCD!

    


     When I first started this blog in 2013, OCD was starting to become a huge presence in my life.  I was at that time seeing a therapist who did "talk therapy" with me, and honestly seemed more intrigued by my symptoms rather than trying to help me navigate through them.  I never once heard the terms Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) from him.  Needless to say I spent quite a bit of money there and didn't get any better while I was seeing him.  I was frustrated with the system, and the lack of knowledge even from psychologists who claimed they could help treat my OCD.  So I ditched the therapist, and I decided to educate myself as much as possible about OCD.  I read countless books on OCD, developed this blog to begin connecting with others with the disorder, and began to formulate my own ERP program.

     I believe that unfortunately many other OCD sufferers meet the same barriers that I did, when looking for treatment.  The cost itself is very prohibitive.  Many people have high deductible health insurance, and in that mental health coverage is completely separate from medical coverage.  That's the way it is for me too.  Also finding a good quality OCD therapist proves more difficult than one might think.    You can click the link here  on the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) website, to enter your zip code and find a list of providers trained in treating OCD.  I tried this one time and found one single provider in my entire city who "specialized" in OCD.  I called her and left a message on her voice mail (private practice) and never even received a return phone call.  While I'm certain that there are great mental health care providers out there, I just know that a lot of them really don't even understand OCD fully.  Even my own primary care physician is very misunderstood about OCD, as I've come out with more bits and pieces to my personal struggle through the years with her, and it is obvious by comments that she makes that she is very uneducated about the disorder.  Many people are simply embarrassed and ashamed by their symptoms, as there is a horrible stigma associated with mental disease in general.  Many sufferers hide their illness because of this.  Yet sadly it is estimated that 1 in 40 people struggle with OCD.  And that it takes 14-17 years....yes you read that right, on average for them to find help.  That is truly mind blowing.  I will be 40 years old in a few weeks, which means I've spent almost one-third of my life thus far dealing with OCD.  I'm learning to manage the disorder, but it still has a lot of control over my life.  A lot.  And I'm guessing for a lot of you, this is also the case.  It wasn't until I started doing self guided ERP therapy that I truly started making some progress with this disorder.  There is good news though!  We can begin to claim our lives back from this disorder.  Even if we are not in a position to get professional help (or simply don't have the access to it), we have the power to start treating this beast on our own.  ERP therapy does work!  If you're not familiar with what ERP is, you can read about it here.  ERP has proven to be highly successful in treating OCD, and most patients who go through ERP therapy will have a significant reduction in their symptoms.     

     A week ago I was contacted by an organization that has developed a new app called nOCD.  Stephen Smith is the founder of this app and you can read more about his personal story with OCD here.  They wanted to find a way to help bring good quality help to people, with this proven method of treatment.  The developers have requested collaboration from writers and bloggers in helping to get out the word about this app.  I've already downloaded it, and plan to incorporate it into my own self guided treatment.  This app is fully customizable, and basically helps you to set up your very own unique ERP program based on YOUR specific obsessions, compulsions, and triggers.  Because even though we all fall under the same umbrella diagnosis of OCD, the truth is that many of our symptoms differ from each other.  So the only way to treat each particular case is to design a unique program for each individual.  All based on the same concepts, but tweaked for each patient.  You can download this app, for absolutely free RIGHT HERE!!!!  Currently it is available for iOS devices, but I am told they are working an app for android devices as well which will be available this fall.  But if you are on a desktop or Android device, you should be able to still click the link and it will take you to a different screen where you enter your phone # and a download will be sent to you.  Just  enter in your triggers, obsessions and compulsions, and it designs it for you.  The more specific you can get, the better.  I've found personally, rather than enter in each item all at once, it was easier for me to get on the app each time I was "triggered" as I would come up that way with many patterns of my triggers that I didn't think about initially when making a list.  Again the more detailed you are, the more you will get out of this!  It  provides real time tracking of several factors:  time spent doing ERP exercises/exposures, anxiety levels during exercises and during general use of the app, location/time of day of OCD episodes, and many more things!  All or your personal information will also be stored on a HIPPA compliant secure server.  You have the ability to track your progress and see that you are improving!  It can be used solely on your own, or in conjunction with therapy that you are already receiving.  The data can also be directly exported to your health provider.  There is also an added SOS help feature which offers you help in those high anxiety moments when OCD suddenly strikes. 

     181 million people world-wide suffer from this disorder.  We are not alone by any means.  But I know that it feels like we are.  We do have the power to do something about it.  Please, please download this app today if you are able.  It will definitely be one more stepping stone to help in your fight against this disorder.  You have nothing to lose by fighting back against your OCD.  In fact, you have quite the opposite--very much to gain!  If you try out this app, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Please, give it a try!! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Overactive Bladder, Funeral, and a future hamster?!?!...

     Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted--too long.  Do you like the title of this blog post?  Yeah, I didn't know what to call it.  I wanted to post about these things in particular, but, I'll try to keep each thing short.  I've been doing okay for the last 6 months.  Not great in terms of OCD, but not terrible either.  I haven't really made any huge gains, but I haven't had any setbacks either, so that is good in my book.  I am finding that I do fairly well on a day to day basis, but when something out of the norm happens, it tends to spike my anxiety and things get frustrating during those situations.

     One of the biggest reasons I haven't been pushing myself with the OCD exposures the last several months, is that I was diagnosed with Overactive Bladder (OAB) in April.  Probably have been dealing with this for a few years now, but it's gotten a lot worse.  I actually went to a urology clinic in April and was diagnosed.  It's basically like OCD of the bladder, and I don't mean that jokingly.  I used to see all of those commercials about OAB which would depict a middle aged woman (usually in her 50's or 60's having trouble with this issue.  But this disorder is real, and its extremely frustrating.  I was urinating about 17 times in a 24 hour period (including the anywhere from 2-4 times I would get up at night) at the time I was diagnosed.  I was offered some medications, and instructed to try some dietary measures (apparently cutting out acidic food can help to decrease bladder irritation).  Well, as you know I'm not a medication person.  Not with the OCD, and now not with OAB.  So I elected to self manage this on my own, and I have made some progress but it's still been very frustrating to deal with this summer.  I don't want to get too deep into the specifics of OAB, since this is an OCD blog, but both of the disorders are similar in the sense that the more you give into the urges (bladder urges with OAB), the worse the condition gets.  Similar to OCD in where the more you give into your OCD, the worse it gets too.  So I'm basically learning to retrain my bladder, and although I would say I am somewhat better since April, it is still not great improvement.  In fact, I go back to the urologist in a couple of weeks for a follow up appointment.  So this has greatly affected my summer and my stress level, and has actually caused me some issues in the OCD department...what if I have an accident?  What if I wet the bed?  etc.  I haven't done these things, but they are still what if's constantly going off in my mind.

     We also had a family funeral a couple of weeks ago as my grandma passed away at the end of June.  Now first of all, I feel a lot of guilt over the fact that my OCD played a huge role in my not seeing my grandma much over the last few years.  I last saw my grandma on Christmas of last year, so it had been a good 6 months.  Her and my grandpa had recently moved into an assisted living facility last summer and I  honestly had been contemplating visiting them this summer, taking them some goodies as I know they would have enjoyed that.  But...I didn't get to.  It wasn't just the OCD that kept me away, it was the busyness of life, and that is unfortunate.  I was working from home the day that she passed.  My parents were coming home that day from their vacation, and suddenly I got an unexpected phone call from my mother.  She sounded very upset (crying), and just said very simply that they were at the end of my street coming up the street at that moment, would be there in about 30 seconds and they had some sad news.  Now my immediate thought was that someone had passed.  My parents never come to my house unexpectedly and certainly not on a whim like that.  I have to be honest on my blog here, because this is where I come to be honest.  To say the things that no one else other than those with OCD will understand.  One of my first thoughts at the time of that phone call was that something bad happened (I had a feeling it was one of my grandparents) and my thoughts immediately turned to--what am I wearing?  If someone died, my mom is going to be upset.  She is going to try to hug me.  Are these clothes able to be contaminated, or should I go change in the twenty seconds before she'll get here?  To complicate matters, my parents had been caring for my niece, who has head lice, in their home just a few days earlier.  So I was already worried about the lice and being in close contact/hugging with my mom, in case she had somehow gotten it from my niece.  Isn't this horrible?  Isn't this awful that I would think this first in my head.  It's just where the OCD goes unfortunately.  My parents came in and delivered the news and if it weren't for the headlice fear, I probably could have hugged her and dealt with it.  But the headlice fear put me over the top and paralyzed me with worry.  I just kind of touched her arm and said I was so sorry, and we chatted for a few minutes before they went home.  I just feel like such an awful person for writing this.  The funeral didn't take place for almost a week after her death, which just gave me even more time to "freak out" about everything leading up to that.  I knew there would be concerns at the church service (I would be expected to sit in the front rows with family, where I would never choose to sit normally for church.  I always go in the back row.  Always.).  Hugging all over the place, plus again with my sister and my niece being there (and the headlice again!!), how in the world was I going to manage that?!  I don't think I slept more than a few hours the night before her funeral because I was so consumed with these thoughts I couldn't even relax.  I had tried to politely tell my sister the day prior that our family was going to forego hugs with her and my niece because of the headlice--but for real, wouldn't that bother most non-OCD sufferers anyway?!  Then the more I thought about it though, if they were hugging everyone, and then everyone else was hugging us anyway, there was still some concern about this lice spreading.  I was just mortified with all of this.  Thankfully we got through the day and everything went pretty well.  As with most exposures, once I started hugging everyone there, it started to bother me less and less.  I just knew I would sanitize myself thoroughly in the shower as soon as I got home.  The kicker here is that I did pick up a cold virus at the funeral.  I avoid family gatherings because I don't want to get sick is part of it.  So I exposed myself, and I got sick.  My mom was sick, and the people sitting directly behind us at the church service were notably with cough/congestion.  I picked up a head cold which wasn't too terrible thankfully.  I was just so glad when that day was over.  I was so exhausted that I showered immediately and went back to bed at 6pm to take a nap, which I never do that time of day.  I was able to easily fall asleep.  OCD can just be mentally draining.

     There are so many more things I want to talk about in this post, probably because I'm just so far behind--but I don't want to get it too long.  I think I'll wrap up this one by discussing the pet hamster my daughter wants to get.  Now as you probably know, we already have a dog.  So the pet thing is not new to me by any means.  Over the last few months she has been strongly advocating for a hamster.  She is such an animal person, and really wants to do this before she gets too much older.  My husband and I both had hamsters growing up.  In fact here is a gross story--I can vividly remember my hamster peeing on me when I was younger.  It was crawling on my back under my T-shirt and there it went.  I don't even want to know how I handled that situation, at my probably 10 years of age at that time.  Did I even change my shirt?  Did I shower afterward?  My gut feeling thinks I probably changed T-shirts without bathing, and never even gave it a second thought.   Because that is maybe what a normal person would do, right?  Would they even wipe the pee off their skin?  Ew.  I don't even want to think about it.  Anyway my daughter is so sweet and has come up with a huge power point presentation for me about hamsters and their care.  She has put a great deal of effort into this!  Even taking into consideration all of my concerns (poop, handling, etc).  I feel like I'm in a fairly good place right now with my OCD, so I feel like this would push me out of my comfort zone and I just don't want to run into any problems that cause a lot of stress over the next 2 years or so of it's life span.  That being said though, I already feel really guilty for my OCD affecting my daughter and I feel like maybe I just owe her this.  To just be able to deal with this and feel uncomfortable, so I don't get in the way of something that she wants.  I don't want to get into all the logistics of how having a hamster would be uncomfortable, because I think its fairly straightforward.  Poop.  Pee.  In a cage, walking around it.  Picking it up to hold it.  You get the picture.  She would like me to decide this soon (and its really me that's holding this up.  My husband is okay with it), as there are only 3 1/2 weeks left of summer break before school starts again.  So I've been thinking and thinking.  But I just can't seem to say yes yet.  I know when we got our current dog, I had a lot of problems with her initially and it took me quite a bit of time to get used to her in the contamination sense.  Part of that was because she had such a terrible time house training in the beginning, and there were a lot of urine concerns with her.  So again I just see where I'm at now, and I'm terrified of that making me worse.  Ugh.

     Hope the summer is treating everyone well.  Like many other OCD sufferers, summer is a time where I do a lot better in general.  Since we in the peak of summer now, I am really trying to relax and soak up these beautiful days!  We've done quite a few things this summer, so for that I am thankful.  My daughter starts high school in just over 3 weeks, and I am already nervous about some things associated with that.  I try not to worry too far ahead, but the OCD just never shuts itself off.  A post for another time!