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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!
   

     






Tuesday, February 21, 2017

OCD and Physical Intimacy

     So...I'm going to tackle some thoughts on a taboo subject here on the Internet.  At least, it seems that way for me.  I have struggled with this problem for years and I've done countless internet searches which yield not a lot of information.  Usually, I'm directed to my own blog--ha, ha!  But, it's not really a joke.  Considering the amount of people in this world that struggle with OCD, I know that issues with physical intimacy and all that brings, can create a lot of problems for us.
     When I look back at my life pre-OCD, things just didn't bother me.  I could hold someone's hand without wondering what countless contamination they had been in contact with all day.  I could kiss someone without worrying what contamination/germs were infesting their mouths.  I could have a normal, healthy sexual relationship with my husband without worrying about the many thoughts that would plague my mind in my life with OCD now.  But that is just the thing with OCD in general.  We give way too much thought and attention to things that most people don't even consider.  And it's not that we want to give it that attention.  We desperately don't want to think those things.  But that is the obsessive nature of the disorder.  Dwelling on things, worrying...until we come up with special routines/compulsions to work our way around the anxiety...sometimes even avoiding activities completely because otherwise it just becomes too much to deal with.
     Even when I first started developing OCD, about 12 years ago now, I don't remember having sexual issues initially.  Most of my stuff was targeted around "magical thinking", but I was in the beginning stages of contamination OCD (and just starting out with some germ fixations and handwashing compulsions).  OCD has a way of morphing through the years, however.  I've visited this in previous blog posts, but it's worth mentioning again because I feel there were a couple of defining moments early on with my issues with my husband and intimacy.  When I first started with OCD I was going through a very stressful period in life.  We were having some serious marriage issues, and I was going through a lot of depression/generalized anxiety and some other health issues.  I was having some panic attacks and was simultaneously dealing with some potential food allergy problems that manifested later in life.  I tested positive for a walnut allergy.  Now to be honest, I haven't eaten a lot of walnuts in my life, and there is a chance this could have been a false positive test.  But, OCD does not see things that way.  My OCD mind convinced me I was allergic to walnuts and that if I came into contact with not only walnuts but peanuts or any other form of nut--that I would have an allergic reaction.  And jumping to worst case scenario, my OCD convinced me I would have a life threatening anaphylactic reaction.  Part of the problem was that I ate a Snickers cheesecake slice one night before I had a panic attack, so this wasn't something that my mind just conjured up one day.  There was a definite "I ate nuts and I had shortness of breath, difficulty breathing following"....(although that was later found to be a panic attack).  Obviously an anaphylactic reaction doesn't just resolve on it's own.  After this walnut allergy finding, my mind became fixated on something bad happening to me if I came into contact with with any type of nut.  Suddenly I didn't want to kiss my  husband anymore.  He ate a lot of nuts (still does to this day), and there was certainly a huge risk there for me.  I started inspecting his pants pockets when he came home, for evidence of granola bar wrappers (which were the usual culprit).  I would flat out start asking him every night before bed if he ate nuts that day.  I was scared out of my mind.  But of course he couldn't see that it was anxiety.  He was just very irritated for answering the same question every night.  Maybe part of me was mad at him.  Mad that he didn't stop eating nuts.  Mad that he cared so little about my health that he didn't make a simple change in his diet.  Mad that he couldn't see how anxious this all made me.  But it put a huge dent in our relationship, one of the first in a big series of events.  No matter how small or trivial this seemed, I am certain this played a big part in the downfall of our physical intimacy.  I eventually got to the point where I was so tired of asking him every day, and getting those snarky responses that I decided I wasn't going to kiss him anymore.  I simply wasn't going to take the risk. 
     Even before the nut allergy issues, there were other things about kissing that bothered me as well.  Mouths are just gross, to be honest.  People put objects in their mouths-pens, keys, etc.  They put fingers in their mouths.  They eat without washing their hands.  Not to mention viruses and illnesses that can be transferred through saliva.  It is just too much to think about sometimes.  And that is the sad thing about having OCD...we are going to think these thoughts no matter what.  We will fixate on these things, because that is how our brains work.  So, as far as the kissing...it just seems gross to me.  I can truly tell you that I can't remember the last time I kissed my husband.  Even a peck on the cheeks or lips.  It has been years and years.  My best guess is probably 7-8 years ago.
     But moving on to other things...what about sex itself?  Sorry to be so blunt, but I think this issue could stand to be discussed.  I've tried for years to discuss this with my own husband to try to find a solution, and I can't even get my own spouse to talk about it with me.  For a little background information, our sex life has been non-existent for 4 1/2 years now.  But I will be honest with you, it's not because I'm not willing to try.  It's because my husband is so convinced that there is no way it would work with my contamination OCD, that now he just avoids the conversations.  There is a back story with the sex problems too, just like with the kissing.  I've also discussed this in previous blog posts, so bear with me.  We went through a period of infertility after we had our first child.  We tried for several years to get pregnant, and had one miscarriage during that time.  No successful pregnancies.  Infertility, if you've dealt with that, is already very stressful.  Nothing is more awkward with sex than when you have to plan out when you're going to have it.  Oftentimes falling on nights where you don't really want to do it, and you just end up going through the motions after awhile, hoping that it will work this time.  It was during this trying to conceive phase that my husband developed a hobby of working on cars/machines.  He was doing a lot of very mechanical stuff, spray painting cars and working with a lot of grease/chemicals.  Just imagine "mechanic hands".  They aren't very appealing or comfortable for someone with contamination OCD.  To imagine those hands on your body.  I remember one afternoon he was painting stuff in our own backyard and he came in the house with his hands covered in green spray praint.  Also the fronts of his jeans were plastered with the green spray paint.  He didn't stop at the sink to wash the paint off his hands.  He just came in the house, went directly back to the shower, and there ya go...my OCD was triggered big time again.  All I could imagine at that point was his entire body being contaminated with the spray paint/chemicals.  His green hands contaminating every inch of his body as he showered.  Thus entered in sexual problems.  How do you have sex with someone when you feel they are contaminated?  His hands always felt contaminated to me, as he was inevitably always working on a project.  I could see dirt/grime underneath all of his fingernails.  I had several ways of helping to reassure myself at this time, but all it did was just tear us further apart.  These are the strange lengths I went to:  at first it was just showering/washing hands before intimacy, then at some point I "inspected" his hands before he was allowed to touch me, I eventually had us shower together and I would wash off his genitals (how awkward is that?!) so that they didn't feel contaminated to me.  The act of having sex became so ritualized beforehand, that there was no spontaneity or fun or anything romantic or normal about it at all.  It was the most dysfunctional process.  And even after we had sex, I would go in the bathroom and scrub at my own genitals trying to remove any trace of his bodily fluids.  And I have a deep sense of guilt, shame and embarassment about all of that.  But truth be told, I wasn't trying to be difficult.  It was my OCD telling me that I had to remove every trace of possible contamination or I couldn't even be comfortable.  That is what OCD compulsions are trying to make you do...be comfortable, and give you that reassurance you so desperately need.  After it became clear that we were done trying to conceive again, that took some pressure off and at least a condom was an easy solution for the "dirty genitals".  But our sex life was basically killed off.  Eventually, it just stopped.  I got into the worst of my OCD at that time with clothing contamination..so sheets, bedding and all sorts of things that I never even imaged at the beginning of my OCD would be a problem, were then an issue.  There is a lot more to the story, but I'm trying to keep this short (and not doing a good job with that obviously). 
     For a little over a year now, I've been trying to approach the conversation about sex with my  husband.  As much as it does make uncomfortable, I feel I've come up with a way that this can work.  He's been avoiding the conversations though, just stating that he doesn't see a way that it can happen.  I think it we can find a way to bring sex back into our relationship, that is a big step for us.  I think it is a way for us to connect and to try to brings some intimacy back into our marriage.  I've told him this before too, and as awkward as it seems--I think it would be easier for me to be around him naked, than clothed.  I am so worried about my clothes becoming contaminated, so if we're naked I don't need to worry about that.  I've got a plan set for the bed and showers beforehand.  But no, I'm not going to wash his genitals this time.  And I think my plan is fairly reasonable, considering I'm trying to go out a limb and make this happen.  This a big exposure.  But I can't do it without him,  obviously. 
    Just to summarize about the whole intimacy thing in general.  It's really tough.  I look around and I see people holding hands all the time.  I see people kissing.  It's natural.  I think about all of the kissing and sex that goes on in the world and most people are just fine.  Most people don't see it as a danger.  They see it as a very healthy, satisfying part of their relationship.  And that is how I used to see things.  I wouldn't think twice about a kiss, even after I just ate something.  I know that I had sex without washing hands, and did some very unsanitary things looking back.  But now my mindset has changed, and I see the unsanitary factor in all of it.  I think about the dirty mouth, the unbrushed teeth, the exchange of body fluids, the unshowered skin, and the very dirty hands that are all over each other.  And it's too much for me.  I know it's too much for a lot of you too.  Several of you have commented in many of my blog posts how much these things bother you.  So, I know we're not alone.  I've talked to many others who have also gone years without having sex with their spouse.  Who cringe at the thought of their spouse touching them.  But then I've also connected with others who say that their sex life is not affected by their OCD.  They are still able to completely be able to be with their spouse that way, and not bothered in the least.  It's interesting what our OCD dictates for us individually.  But this is a topic I think is worth exploring.  At least if one other person reads this and knows they are not suffering alone, then it was worth writing all of this. 
     I've tried to think this through from all kinds of angles.  Is it possible to have a romantic relationship with someone, when you really truly don't think you will ever be able to get past this part of your OCD?  Is it reasonable for your spouse to expect some degree of ritualized behavior before sex, in order to at least get that part of your relationship back?  I would love to know how you deal with this.  Please, please don't tell me to seek professional help.  I already know that is out there and an option.  But if you have had this problem and benefited from professional help, I would love to hear your story.  I'm mostly just curious how others have dealt with this.
     Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end!  It's such a horrible topic to explore.  For those of us with OCD, we know it all too well.  For non-OCD sufferers, it's something they will never have to imagine.  We live in silent suffering, those of us with OCD.  Here's to hoping that all of you are doing well!  I will post soon about my progress in general and where I'm at with everything.  Just had this topic heavy on my mind lately!
       

Monday, January 9, 2017

A rough start to the new year

     Happy New Year!  I can't believe it's 2017.  I am not really a "winter person", so the cold weather where I live really gets to me this time of year.  I deal with some Seasonal Affective Disorder too, so add that into the mix of OCD, and the winters can sometimes become very long.  Why is this?  I think winter is harder in general just because cold weather and darker days are kind of depressing.  Also for me, the added concern of colds and illnesses circulating really bother me.  I've really kind of a rough start to 2017 and we're only one week in.  I keep telling myself that this is okay.  This is temporary.  I'll get through this. 
     To begin the year, I've had some more problems with my husband.  This is really a separate topic for a post of it's own soon, but I want to touch it on briefly today.  I am really starting to wonder if someone with OCD and someone on the very opposite end of the spectrum (one who doesn't care if he is dirty or unhygienic in any way) can really live comfortably with one another.  I get it, so please don't remind.  I realize I have OCD, and therein lies a lot of the problem.  Most of what bothers me, doesn't bother most other people.  I think that when you have OCD, it is always going to be difficult living with somebody else.  Because they simply will never live up to our standards of cleanliness.  And they shouldn't.  I really get that.  It is an OCD problem.  But....what happens when there are some legitimate hygiene issues?  What happens when these things have been going on for so long, that you really start to lose trust in the other person, and find yourself having obsessive thoughts and engaging in compulsions because in a lot of ways, they are potentially putting you at risk.  At least themselves, and possibly you and the rest of your family.  Sometimes, I think it is a real fine line to walk.  I will delve into this into much more detail in a post very soon (as I have been thinking about this almost 24/7 lately, even in my dreams, yes!).  But to throw out there some very unsanitary things about my husband--involving mold, a lot of it.  The bathroom that he uses, has mold growth in it.  Very bad.  It used to be so, so bad.  Then I made him clean it up and it was better for awhile, but now the shower curtain is growing mold again.  Not just a spot or two, but the whole length of the curtain.  I have asked him to change it and he doesn't.  I have asked him several times.  I can not go in there because I am afraid of breathing it in and causing respiratory issues.  I am actually allergic to mold after all, as are a lot of people.  He wears a night guard for his teeth, and there are black mold and orange stains on it.   He still wears it.  How would I ever be able to kiss somebody (we stopped doing that a long time ago anyway for other concerns I had) thinking that is in their mouth, and going into mine?!  I went to collect some clothes of his to wash the other day and noticed black mold and brown sludge all caked all over the inside of his toilet bowl.    These are just a few examples to show my point  here.  He also went four days without showering over the New Years holiday.  A few of those days he was out the farm working.  Then he changed oil in two of our vehicles, laying down on the garage floor which is absolutely filthy.  At that point I thought he would shower, but no...he simply came inside and changed his clothes and sat on the couch to watch TV.  Didn't shower until the next day...when it had been an official 4 days since the last time.  I don't think these are OCD issues (especially the mold/bathroom issues).  I think they are extremely unsanitary, and I am certain that most non-OCD sufferers would even find that appalling.  But sometimes I think that because I have OCD, my husband feels I don't ever have a valid complaint.  Any cleanliness concern I have is simply chalked up to the fact that I have OCD.  I don't think that's fair.  I think it's put a huge wedge between us, and I'm not share how to bridge that anymore.  I don't know if we can.
     My husband also came down with a cold several days ago, and that has put me on edge too.  One of my absolute worst triggers with OCD germs is coughing.  I simply just can't handle people coughing around me.  Knowing the respiratory germs are airborne, it's almost like I can just visualize the droplets of viral particles all over the place.  Granted, he has actually done very well with this cold.  He has kept his distance, and tried to stay downstairs.  In turn, I've tried very hard to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes when my anxiety really gets going and I've been triggered, I have a hard time keeping quiet about my concerns.  So far, amazingly, we haven't had any arguments.  But I feel edgy.  I worry about him walking through the house after I've gone to bed, coughing and projecting stuff on the furniture.  It's been rough.  Thankfully, I think he is past the worst of the cold now. 
     I don't know if it's the combination of these things, because of course stress just makes OCD even worse.  But I've been very worried about all sorts of things this past week.  I suppose part of it is just with it being cold/flu season in general, I am so much more mindful of being around other people at the store.  I kid you not, that somehow I managed to be right next to 3 people at the store in a 24 hour period who were coughing in line, mouths wide open.  I washed my coat twice in a 24 hour period, because I can't stand the thought of that stuff being on my clothes.  If I see someone coughing, I generally do everything I possibly can to get out of the way.  As I was crossing the parking lot one of those times, a guy started coming toward me coughing with his mouth open, and I stopped like a deer in the headlights and turned around and started walking fast.  It's like my mind just can not handle that.  But yet, we were around my nephew at Christmas who was coughing in close proximity to all of us, and we didn't catch anything from him.  (This cold my husband has could not have been from my  nephew.  Too much time has passed for that to be from him).
     Also, it's just been cold as can be here!  30 degree below zero wind chills at times.  I'm finding that car exhaust (from the heaters probably) is terrible.  I have to sit in my car while in a parking lot, waiting for the right time to run in the store, so I don't get blasted with the exhaust from the other cars as I'm walking by.  I can just see it like a cloud, and it is so bothersome to me to think of all that yuck/smoky stuff getting into my clothes, skin, hair, etc.  I try so hard to avoid that stuff, but it is not always possible.
     So although this year hasn't gotten off to a great start, I am determined not to let it slow me down.  I know we are just at a point during the year when I typically do worse anyway.  I think a lot of people with any type of mental health issues just have a tough time during the winter.  So, I'm not giving up or anything over the next few months.   It's just a rough patch that I know I'll have to get through.  I've got a lot planned this year for my OCD, and hoping to knock out some big stuff.  I'll keep working, one step at a time.  Albeit a little slower probably through these next couple of months :)
      
   
            

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas with OCD

      I haven't posted for awhile here, so just wanted to give a little update how I've been doing.  First of all, I am over 50,000 views on my blog now!  It doesn't sound like a lot, but I am reaching people out there somewhere in my little corner of this OCD world.  That is what it feels like, right?  But it's so far from the truth.  I have heard from countless people on this blog, things such as "I never thought I would find someone else who struggled with similar problems", "I never knew other people did things like I did".  What I have learned is that there are so many people like us.  We are not alone.  And we must keep sharing our stories and supporting each other and connecting.  So that we do not feel so alone, and also so we can reach others out there with this disorder. 
     The holidays are usually pretty tough for me.  I was a big avoider for awhile, because I simply didn't want to deal the aftermath of feeling contaminated.  I didn't want to hug people.  I didn't want to sit on their furniture.  I didn't want to possibly be exposed to other people there who "might" be sick.  There was no way of knowing.  I didn't want to deal with the clothing I was wearing when I got home...was it salvageable, would it need to be thrown out?  I didn't want to clean my car out because that was the mediator between the public world and my safety zone at home.  I have learned to face many of these things over the last few years.  But I still struggle in some ways.  It is definitely not easy for me to go to these events, but I force myself to.  I knew this year was particularly going to be tough.  We had sick family members on both sides of the family, so potential for exposures to illnesses the entire day.  At one point it was determined we wouldn't be getting together, but then things changed.  And then a whole new set of concerns entered my mind....it wasn't only contaminating myself with "normal stuff" that people do everyday--sitting on others furniture, hugging, etc.  But rather actual exposure to people ill with colds.  This is super high anxiety provoking for me.  I spend so much of my time avoiding germs and avoiding contamination, and now I'm supposed to purposely expose myself?  And to up the ante even further, I knew I would have to deal with this--or the flip side of the coin would mean dealing with my husband's anger/irritation because we didn't get to our family Christmas because of my concerns.  My husband will never understand what I forced myself to do (pushing myself into a level 100 anxiety situation) but I did it.  I went to 2 family Christmases, where 2 of the children had pretty significant coughs.  Children are even more of a trigger for me, because they typically lack cough hygiene, and I know the "cough germs" are going to be airborne everywhere.  I will admit that I kept my distance to the best of my ability, but I did it.  I went, and it is done.  To be honest, a lot of things happened there that bothered me.  Although I was able to keep my distance fairly well from one of the children, the other one was more difficult.  It was in a smaller house (and mostly we stayed in one room).  My nephew coughed all over the place, mouth wide open--a loose junky wet sounding cough.  His nose kept running, and he was drooling most of the time--spit hanging down onto his clothes.  At one point his mother wiped his nose and then just stuffed the snotty Kleenex in her pocket.  He coughed all over the food as he sat at the table (thankfully we didn't eat there, I have to draw the line somewhere).  Then as they left the gathering (they left before we did, so he could get home to go to bed), they told him to go around and high five everyone.  This is with sticky snotty fingers.  He seemed hesitant at the end and was getting tired, so thankfully I was able to decline and just politely say that I will pass on the high five.  Ugh.  I can't imagine all the germs everyone else collected on their hands from doing that.  Also at one point someone was holding him and he coughed directly in her face!  So many concerns, so many thoughts and worries.  I was so happy when it was over.  I went, but I'm not going to lie.  It was a relief when it was done.  
     I have a lot of concerns moving forward, because my nephew is only a year old.  He is in daycare, always getting exposed to stuff,and I have a fear that he is going to be ill often at family get togethers.  It makes me nervous just thinking about it now, and all of the gatherings we will have in the future and how I will deal with those, but I guess I'm just going to take it one gathering at a time.  That's all I can do. 
    As far as the rest of my OCD, I am doing fairly well overall other than dealing with contamination issues with my husband still.  It continues to be my #1 OCD problem.  Just so many things that I see him do on a daily basis that causes me to lose trust in him.  It makes me more mindful when I'm around him, and I really don't trust his judgment.  Some random examples of things that would bother me that I see him do are:  goes to the bathroom and flushes the toilet without washing his hands, he reuses a cup several times and digs it into the ice bin each time (even though it hasn't been washed for days on end), he handles our dogs rawhide bone and toys and then eats food without washing his hands, he picks up clothes off his floor that haven't been washed for months and months and wears them.  I have actually seen him do the "sniff test" when picking up clothes to wear to work.  He was sick with a cold and wore the same shirt for 5 days in a row, coughing into it constantly.  He lets our dog lick his face, ears, hair and clothing all over.  He lets our dog sit and put her butt directly on his pillow.  He goes several days without showering usually over the weekends.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.  I just feel he is dirty and I just don't want to come into contact with that.  And once the bridge between him and I is crossed, there is no way to protect my spaces anymore.  So I am very protective of my safe spaces, and my clothes with him.  Our worlds just can not collide.
    But back to the beginning of this post, I am so thankful for those of you I have been able to connect with on this blog.  I have already heard pieces of many of your stories, and I feel your pain. Please continue to share your stories, so we can continue to get this out there, reduce the stigma associated with this disorder, and find others to connect with.  There are so many of us out there.  You are not alone.
    
      

Friday, October 14, 2016

Medication and OCD--is it worth a try?

     I want to talk about medication today and it's use in OCD and depression in particular.  I have been opposed to medication for quite some time...but the tables seem to be turning, and I think I am reconsidering my view on this topic for some very important reasons.  There was a time when OCD completely consumed me.  It was all I did, it was all that I was for awhile.  It was during that time that depression reared its ugly head, and I believe was probably the downward spiral that sent me into such a deep dark place I never thought I could recover from.  I knew I was in a deep depression, I knew I was not functioning.  I knew I did not want to live that way, but I could not pull myself out.  In all honestly I was not capable of thinking clearly at that time.  OCD was a way of life for me, and I was stuck.  It was just the way I resigned myself to living for quite some time...ruled by obsessions and compulsions, and avoiding everything that I could.  This only deepened my condition.  I didn't really have a support system at that time (as far as someone I could talk to safely about my OCD).  After all, the only people that had a name to what I suffered from was my husband, my daughter and my doctor.  My marriage has been extremely dysfunctional, and highly toxic at times.  We have had our share of marriage issues that alone would be difficult for a marriage to endure, but once OCD was thrown in the mix, it became a whole other type of nightmare.  It brought about issues in our relationship that most people could never even fathom.  You can visit previous posts or search my blog for "husband contamination" if you want more details on all of that.  But in addition to the stress that OCD brought into the marriage, and the toll it has taken, one thing stands out to me that I never in my wildest dreams anticipated would be a problem.  My husband's anger at my OCD.  His daily anger at me for having this condition.  I've often questioned whether or not I can stay in this marriage.  I love my husband, but I hate what this is doing to us.  We don't have much of a relationship at all anymore.  And I am certain that OCD is not the only path that has led to that.  I never imagined that a spouse would check out when their partner became ill.  And yes, OCD is an illness.  It is a chronic, day to day struggle.  I needed someone there for me in my darkest days, and he failed to show up.  In fact he became more angry at me, which I believe further worsened the cycle.  I don't know how to get out of the mess with him.  For religious reasons, I don't believe in divorce.  Yet I also struggle with "Does God really want me to live like this?" 
     I have worked so incredibly hard over the past 2 years to reclaim my life back from OCD.  This was with a lot of hard work with ERP self treatment.  And I have a long ways to go, but I am definitely getting there.  That is something I truly believe he will never understand.  But it is something I am so proud of for myself for doing.  I have pushed myself and fought against this, in the midst of a highly toxic environment.  Without professional help.  Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I was bound and determined that I was going to do it that way.  Maybe I didn't want a professional pushing me when I wasn't ready for certain things.  But for awhile, I've felt at a standstill.  I feel like for some reason I'm not making huge jumps of progress anymore.  In reality, I think its just because I have the "big stuff" left on my list to do.  No more baby steps.  At this point, its jumping in and ridding myself of my safe zones.  I will never fully overcome OCD if I don't make that step.  Although I'm trying to get better sleep and exercise more, I just feel that I'm not getting anywhere.  In fact I went to my doctor yesterday and discussed all of my symptoms again (fatigue, irritability, low mood, low energy) and she feels I do have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I mentioned in my previous post), and she wanted to see me feel better this winter.  I'm already dreading winter and already feeling blah.  I am so tired of feeling like this.  I want to live life again and feel like myself again.  OCD has already taken so much life from me, and my family.  It has taken away experiences I can never get back.  And it has created situations that I'm not sure can be repaired.  So, I think I have made a big decision....
     As I stated earlier, I have always been opposed to medication.  I took an antidepressant for a few days in my early 20's, and experienced such terrible hallucinations on it at night I thought I was going crazy.  I have never wanted to take anything similar to that again.  Another problem is that my OCD, believe it or not, has also not "allowed" me to take medications as my OCD fears I will have an allergic reaction to the medication or something bad will happen.
     What I do know, is that I can not continue to live like this.  I fear for my health--physically,  mentally and emotionally.  I looked at the Serenity Prayer again recently,
and in relation to my OCD and marriage, this is what I know.  I can not change the fact that I have OCD.  I have accepted that.  My husband has not.  I can not change his attitude or reaction to my OCD, and I have a hard time accepting that, but I need to learn how.  All I can do at this point is to keep changing the things I can.  Keep myself healthier.  That means working even harder at eating better, and exercising more.  One key component I have really been considering lately is my depression and feeling down about the way he treats me.  Feeling hopeless in the marriage.  This is an even bigger problem than the OCD at the current point.  For awhile I didn't think there was anything I could do about that.  But after talking more to my physician yesterday, she believes that medication could be a useful tool for me and she urged me to give it a try.  I'm not excited about taking the medication, but I'm considering giving it a try.  Because ultimately I want to feel my best.  I owe that to myself, and I owe that to my family.  I want to know that I'm making the best decisions for myself to improve my health, even if my husband's attitude never changes.  And the bonus part of the medication is that it is not only an antidepressant, but it has been shown useful in OCD specifically, to help filter those intrusive thoughts out of your head faster, so you're not getting so "stuck" on certain things. 
    I know that medication is a very personal choice for each person with OCD.  I've heard from quite a few people over the years from writing this blog, that it has truly helped them.  So, I'm thinking it may be worth a shot.  I still believe that ERP therapy is the gold standard, but I am hopeful that maybe this medication could be a useful tool in helping me do the rest of the work that needs to be done, and just to feel better in general.  Part of me feels frustrated that I have to take medication.  Part of me is so frustrated at my husband, and feeling like I shouldn't have to take meds just to deal with a marriage.  I'm torn between the "what if this doesn't work?  what if I have a reaction?  what if something really bad happens because of this medication", and the other side of the coin, "what if this can really  help?  what if I feel a lot better on this and can start living life more fully again?"  I am concerned about the black box warning on the medication, I won't lie about that.  That terrifies me. 
     I'm picking up my medication today, and I haven't made a set decision yet, but I know I'm  more apt to try it once it's purchased and sitting in my medicine cabinet, so I will definitely keep you all posted on how things are going.  If you are reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!   


     

Saturday, October 1, 2016

One step at a time

    
     

     Wow--I can't believe it's been about a month and a half since I last posted.  When I first started this blog, I remember posting all the time.  Probably because OCD was completely consuming my life at that point, and it was a means of journaling and trying to process this disorder.  I don't post quite as much anymore.  In some ways I guess that is good, because it means OCD is not in the front seat anymore....but it is still definitely there, more than I would like it to be. 
     I forged ahead pretty well over the summer, and a lot of that had to do with my motivation and feeling better physically during that time.  Now that we are in October already (what?!), I feel the change in seasons wreaking havoc mentally.  I don't need to be diagnosed, I know that I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It is a real thing.  As summer starts winding down, and we are back to school for several weeks, and especially when the days start getting shorter, and that much needed sun isn't showing itself as far into the day anymore, I can feel myself mentally slipping into this.  I am aware of what I'm facing, so I just need to stay one step ahead of it.  I must keep exposing myself and working on all things OCD, at least doing something day to day so that I keep making progress. 
     So the whole car thing so far has not been an issue.  My husband hasn't needed to ride in the car yet, so that is good.  That was one of my primary OCD stressors over the past month.  I think I have figured out a way to deal with this when the need arises, so now I just wait for the time he needs to ride in the car, and go from there. 
     I've been doing exceptionally well with laundry.  I'm down to about only 6 loads of laundry per week now (excluding my  husbands stuff which is easy to do in a half day), which has given me back loads of time--pun intended!  It is so nice to be able to run some errands, or whatever I should be doing, without worrying about my laundry lurking in the background.  Now, if I could just figure out a good detergent balance we would be good to go there!  I still feel like the clothes don't rinse out well, and I'm down to not using much detergent at all, so I don't know what else I can do there, but those few extra rinses per load do take some extra time that I wish they didn't need to do.  I am able to do laundry now while my husband is home.  I still prefer not to, because it brings about way too many obsessions if he could somehow open the door when I wasn't looking and "contaminate" the laundry.....but if I absolutely need to do a load while he is here (which isn't very often), I can do it.  All of my toilets can flush now while I'm doing laundry (that has sure come a long way since 3 years ago).  If things get contaminated, I am able to throw them in a wash cycle by themselves.  I rarely throw clothing away anymore (but if I'm being totally honest, I have on occasion). 
     Things still aren't going great with my husband either.  I told him that he needed to clean up his room/clothes situation before he could even get in my car and he agreed to this.  He wasn't doing anything about it, so I actually cleaned up his room for him about a week ago. Sorted through everything and vacuumed that room for probably the first time in 2 years.  Then I told him he needed to go through all of the clothes so that he could toss/donate what he doesn't use anymore and I could get everything else washed and back into his drawers and at least feel some semblance of normalcy in his room.  He still hasn't done this.  I just don't honestly know what to do about this situation anymore.  I bring up things that bother me about the OCD in relation to him and living together in the same house,  and he just still doesn't want to hear any of it.  I have thought about going to see a therapist again strictly for this reason...to see if I can get some guidance on how to deal with this, because I just don't know how we are going to continue to do this.  But then I get frustrated, because why should I go spend $200/month on a therapist, when I feel that my husband could just easily listen to me and we could work on a plan together.  After all, he knows that I've been able to self treat most of the rest of my OCD, so I'm not sure why he feels it would be different with him.  Basically I have always been willing to do the work, but I don't feel he is willing to listen/work together.  And there is a lot of resentment on both ends, and it is just big mess.  To add to this,  he has also been sick with a cold for over a week now and this really has me on edge.  I'm worried to leave the room because I want to make sure he covers when he coughs...the other day he didn't.  Coughed completely open mouthed right onto me and our daughter.  That turned into quite the argument, and I will leave those details to your imagination.  Sigh.
     Onto other exposures....my neighbors had a block party last week where they welcomed some new neighbors that just moved in.  It was a fairly good sized gathering with lots of kids there.  I went!  It was a fun time too!  Not too many problems, other than one of my neighbors touched my sleeve (why oh why do people feel the need to touch others?  I know it is human and all of that, I just don't ever remember doing that to people even when I did not have OCD), but fortunately I was able to just wash that the next day and it was fine. 
     I've continued trying to "resist" OCD thoughts, meaning if my OCD is telling me to do something, I am trying really hard to just let that pass.  Such as when it tells me to wipe the couch down, or go wipe my car down.  I don't always win, but I am getting better so that is good.
    And that is the essence of the image at the top....Two steps forward, one step back still gets you ahead.  Please always remember that in your fight against OCD.  OCD can consume us, it has taken away so much from us.  We can't let it win.  We must fight, and that means constantly moving forward.  It is hard, hard work.  Don't let the days that OCD wins (and we all know there will be those days) defeat you.  As long as you keep pushing yourself (even despite the inevitable setbacks), you will be staying in the race.  You will eventually get ahead of this monster, which is what we all want.  A life that is not consumed by OCD.  And that is what we need to keep fighting for.