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Monday, December 29, 2014

Attending family gathering for the first time in over a year

Avoidance has been my biggest problem for awhile now.  I have avoided our family gatherings for a long time due to contamination fears and not wanting to be triggered.  I remember going to Thanksgiving in 2013 at my parents house, which was just a small gathering consisting of my parents, sister, my family of three, my grandpa, my sister and my niece.  This was right at the time when I started developing my clothing contamination issues.  I had previously (and still do) have a problem with germs, and not wanting to catch germs/viruses from others.  This is why I have a really hard time being around my niece, because of her age and the fact that she is in daycare and almost always has some type of runny nose or cough.  I remember wearing an old pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt to that gathering, and coming home and tossing them both aside.  That was back in the day when anything that felt "contaminated" to me would just get tossed aside, to never wear again.  The pile would continue to grow and grow, and my closet would continue to dwindle.  I was stuck in that for a long time, and am just starting to come out of it.  I am happy to say that I am now washing and re-wearing many items that I wouldn't have been able to a year ago, or even a few months ago.  My closet is finally being replenished, and it's a good feeling to see that I am coming out of that (although I will admit I have still thrown some things out, but not nearly as much as before).  When I do throw something out now, it is because it still so high up on my hierarchy list of contamination (such as contaminated by my husband or dog).  I have made up an excuse for about every family gathering over the last year, and I made a promise to myself that I would get to two family Christmas celebrations this year (my side and my husbands side).  On Christmas Eve, we went to my aunt and uncles, which was a fairly large gathering.  I will be honest (because I've tended to not hold much back on this blog), that I did have to come up with a trick or two to help facilitate this, but I did it.  That is important, because for the first time in a year I forced myself to not avoid.  And I believe that a couple of compulsions at this point, to help deal with it, are a much better thing than avoidance.  Yes with time, hopefully I can stop the compulsions associated with it.  But for now, this is where I am at.  I knew the things that would bother me the most were:  all the people there and the potential that someone could have a cold/cough or virus, hugging other people, walking around on someone else's floor, sitting on someone else's furniture, and then feeling like my clothes, carseat, shoes, and socks were contaminated afterward.  I discovered a way to get around this was to wear an old pair of shoes, and I wore double socks.  That way these old shoes can be my "contaminated" shoes when I go to my husbands gathering (which will be sometime later this week).  I sat on one dining room chair the whole time, because I basically talked to my sister and grandma in that area the whole time we were there.  I tried to avoid the children there as much as I could, but one of my cousin's kids kept coming over to my daughter and trying to touch her feet under the table.  This really bothered me, but I tried not to obsess over it.  He was also coughing every now and then while he was under the table.  Another child had a runny nose and my aunt took him into the bathroom to wipe it.  They were only in their a split-second and I can't imagine she would have had enough time to wash her hands, so I avoided hugging her at the end of the night.  The thought that snot was on my clothes would have put me over the edge and rendered the clothing unwearable, and I didn't want that to happen.  My niece was not at the gathering, because she was spending some time with her dad out of town.  When we got home, I took my shoes off at the door and the first layer of socks.  That way I felt the under layer of socks was still "clean enough" that I could walk into my house, strip my clothes down, get them into the hamper, shower, and put on clean clothes and sit on my couch.  Floors seem really dirty to me, and I always wear slippers at my own house.  No walking around in socks for this girl.  So my socks got pitched, but I washed the clothes and they are ready to go for the next round.  I kind of labeled them my "contaminated outfit", which now will be the jeans/sweatshirt I will wear in the future if I need to go to someone else's house.  There.  Done.  Of course I tried to do this without drawing attention to myself, around my husband, but we got through it.  Basically, I just wanted to make myself "clean" before switching over to my "non-contaminated" environment in my house.  Then I went out the next day and washed my carseat off with soap and water, so I knew it would be clean before I got into it next.  To be honest, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  There were a few things that bothered me, but I think I can do this again.  I think I need to do this again.  And it was nice to see my relatives, although I admit a bit akward because I often wonder what they think about me and why I don't really come to stuff anymore.  It was good that my daughter got a chance to see our extended family too.  This was the easiest of the family gatherings though.  My husband's will be much harder, because his parents house is very contaminated to me.  This is probably because his dad is contaminated to me, because of all the farming stuff.  All of the furniture there will be dirty to me.  If his dad touches my clothing or my daughters clothing (and I am pretty much expecting this to happen), that will be it for those clothes.  I honestly feel like my clothes will go in the discard pile after this gathering.  This is one of the highest on my hierarchies.  I am trying not to think about it too much.  I really don't think I am ready for this one yet, but I don't have a choice.  I think I can handle being there and feeling contaminated, the question though is just what to do with my clothes when I get home?  I will pull the same double sock and contaminated shoe trick again.  I know there will be hugs involved.  My in-laws haven't seen my daughter or I for almost 7 months (and we live 5 minutes away from each other).  The one issue I also might have here is feeling like my clothes are so contaminated my by father-in-law, that I won't want to wear my seatbelt home, or I will contaminate it.  I am hoping no one is sick at this gathering.  Influenza and pertussis (whooping cough) are very prevalent in my town right now, and I am extra on-edge because of that.  Also its December, it's just bad cold season in general.  The plan is for us all to get together on New Years Day.  I hope that things go okay.  I was really pleased with how things went for my own family gathering, I just know that this one is going to be much more difficult. 

My mom really wants our family to come over and celebrate with them this weekend too, when my niece can be there.  I'm not sure how to deal with this one.  Avoidance is going to come into play again.  I talked to my sister just over a week ago and my niece had a terrible cough at that point.  I just know that if we go over there and my niece is sick, that will put me over the edge.  I won't be able to stay.  I really want to avoid this.  My mom is determined that all of us should get together, and keeps asking about dates that work.  I keep putting it off and making excuses for this one.  I do feel terrible, because my daughter and my niece are cousins of course.  They are the only cousins each other has, and I have seen my niece one time in over a year......I'm still thinking on this one, but I'll keep you posted when I update on the gathering coming up this week. 

To end this post, for those that celebrate....I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!  Over 2000 years ago, a little baby was born in Bethlehem in a manger.  The Savior of the World.  Happy Birthday, Jesus!  With Jesus, we are never alone.  He walks with us every step in our lives, the happy and the difficult steps.  The moments where we just don't know how to keep going.  He is always there and He loves us more than we could ever imagine.  Hope you all had happy holidays, and will have a blessed New Year!

Let's keep moving forward in the fight against OCD in 2015!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Explaining OCD to family

My parents are not aware that I have OCD.  They are aware that I have some "germ issues", but don't even realize how deep those go.  Nor that it is part of a larger, and very serious, problem called OCD.  This letter is not something that I plan on giving to my parents anytime soon, if ever.  I've not yet decided if or when I will tell them, but this is what I imagine I would want them to know.

Dear Mom and Dad,
There is something that I have been keeping from you for a long time.  I feel really bad about this, because I know as my parents you would want to know if I was dealing with something serious in my life.  I think after I tell you this, a lot of things will start making sense for you.  The truth is I've been ashamed and embarassed, and so I've continued to keep it a secret from basically everyone around me.  I know that you've noticed how I am very distant lately.  I used to come around to your house very frequently and go to all of our family gatherings with extended family, and it's been a very different situation now for a few years.  I know it probably bothers you that you don't get to spend a lot of time with your grandaughter.  I know it bothers you that our family doesn't come to birthday and holiday celebrations.  That we don't eat at gatherings.  That we don't come over on Mothers or Fathers Day.  That we don't take you up on offers to go eat together or go see a movie or anything else you might suggest.  The truth is I've been dealing with a problem for about 9 years now.  When it first started, it didn't really interfere with my life too much.  But over the last few years it has become such a problem to where I have a hard time leaving the house anymore.  I've been sick.  I have an illness, not a physical one.  Something that is hard for a lot of people to understand, and the fear of being misunderstood is honestly a lot of the reason why I keep this a secret.  Unless you have this disorder, it is hard to really understand anything about it.  What I have is called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  Yes dad, you watch the show Monk, but it goes much deeper than that.  It is not a quirk, it is really a way of life and a disorder that has affected virtually every part of me and affects my family and your family, in turn.  t is not just a germ fetish as you may think.  It goes so much deeper than that.  I have a very severe case of OCD, and it has continued to get worse throughout the years.  OCD can cause people to have issues with a lot of things:  checking things (to make sure that lightswitches, faucets, ovens, doors are turned off).  People can develop what is called "magical thinking" where they feel that something that they do can somehow affect the outcome of something else (for instance someone might think if they don't do X task acertain number of times, then they could cause harm to come to someone they love).  Some people have issues with symmetry or order.  Some people have contamination issues (which goes much deeper than being germaphobic).  OCD is an anxiety disorder.  I am not crazy.  That is important to remember!  :)
OCD is characterized by "obsessions" and "compulsions".  I definitely have a fear of germs and very much am at a point where I don't even want people touching me anymore.  It makes me sad, but this is where I am right now.  Here is an example of how OCD is triggered and hopefully this can explain a little bit to you.  If I come over to a family gathering there are so many things that bother me.  People everywhere, that could possibly brush up against my clothes.  People will want to hug me, and I can't stand the thought of peoples hands on me or their clothes touching me.  I don't want to sit on other peoples furniture, because I don't know how "clean" it is or who has been sitting there, or what they have been wearing in those chairs.  Food bothers me because people touch the food, they touch the serving utensils.  I've seen a lot of really gross things happen at family gatherings which become "stuck" in my head and I just can't mentally deal with it.  If I come to a family gathering I start to have the "obsessions"--many of what I just named above.  I can not get them out of my head. They are distressful thoughts.  When I come home I have to "fix" the situation, and this is where the "compulsions" come into play.  Compulsions are the OCD's way of reducing the anxiety that comes with the obsessions.  I feel extremely dirty after people have been touching me.  My way, at the current time, of dealing with this is to avoid a lot of situations, because it's simply too overwhelming to deal.  This will probably sound crazy to you, but here is what I would do in order to "decontaminate" myself if I came to your house.  First of all, my clothes are now dirty because I've been touched/hugged by people and sat on couches that I don't feel are clean.  My socks are contaminated because I've walked around on your floor.  I am now going to carry that "contamination" to my car and my shoes and now my carseat and shoes will be dirty.  When I get home I will have to first clean off my carseat because I don't want to sit in there again once I have new, clean clothes on.  I'm not sure what I will do with my clothes, it depends on what happened.  You might find that I stand around your house and don't want to sit down.  If I can manage that, then my jeans are still clean, but if I have to hug someone then now my shirt is dirty.  Depending on what happened will determine how I handle my clothing.  I try really hard to keep it and it will require a couple cycles through the washer separately in order to wear it again.  If it is completely contaminated, then I might feel like I can not wear it again.  Then I need to get in the shower and decontaminate my body.  If people have hugged me, then I will most likely  need to apply antibacterial soap over my entire body, in addition to my regular body wash that I use.  I would plan ahead and wear a pair of "contaminated" shoes to your house, so that my dirty socks from your carpet wouldn't contaminate my everyday clean shoes.  Because I hate these rituals and compulsions of decontaminating myself and feeling dirty, I avoid situations in where I can be triggered.  I don't come over, I don't go to family gatherings because it makes it easier to deal with.  I realize it also socially isolates me and that our relationship is not as close as it could be, because of that.  The OCD affects my life in more ways that you can imagine.  It is impacted my marriage, my parenting, my job.  It affects how I eat, how I do laundry, how I clean the house.  It affects my ability to be with our dog.  I am unable to do a lot of things socially that I want to do, and that in turn affects my family too.  What I want you to understand is that I don't want to be like this.  I did not ask to have OCD and is not a choice for me.  It is a brain based disorder, one where the chemicals in my brain are "messed up" and there are structural differences in my brain since I have OCD.  It is a true medical disorder and one that is very debilitating.  It is not something to be taken lightly.  I read about it in nursing school, I remember probably a few paragraphs was dedicated to it in our book, and I probably never gave it a second thought after reading it.  I could never have understood the devestating effects of OCD at that time, but I fully understand them now.  I'm really not proud of OCD at all.  I'm quite embarassed by it and angry at all that it has taken away from me and our family.  I have struggled with anger and depression because of this all.  I have been very unmotivated and discouraged at this point.  I don't want you to think any differently of me because of this disease.  I am still the same person, but now you know that I struggle with OCD.  I don't want to be defined by my OCD either, that is not who I am.  I want you to see the OCD as something separate from me, and that is really hard for a lot of people to do.  It's easy to take it personally, but you should learn not to.  I don't know how you do that, but it's important to remember.  I don't know how you feel about knowing this--if you are angry or sad, or disappointed that I didn't say anything sooner.  I just feel really guilty a lot of the time and I don't want you think anymore that I am avoiding you or just don't want to be with you.  Please know that I very much want to spend time with you, but the OCD gets in the way and makes it hard.  I realize a lot of this is because I've chosen not to share this with you.  Perhaps if I'd said something sooner, then we could have still gotten together for celebrations and you would have realized the OCD was just preventing us from not eating with you, not that we didn't want to spend time with you.  The OCD is really a daily struggle for me.  It's not something that just pops into my head a few quick times a day and then it's done.  It's really become a way of life for me and pretty consuming.  I have been reluctant to get help for this, because as you know I am an independent person and I don't like relying on someone else to help me.  It's also embarassing as I've mentioned before.  I have let this OCD run my life for awhile now, and I'm trying to start working on things to get my life back.  It is going to be like digging myself slowly out of a hole for awhile, basically.  There are some things that go on that cause me way too much distress right now in my life, and with OCD treatment you need to start low and work up high.  I make baby steps, because I feel that gives me the best chance of beating this.  You can't even begin to imagine some of the things that go through my mind and what I deal with, and so I just don't know if its possible or even necessary to explain that at this point.  I think that going on the Internet and doing some research on reputable sites is the best way that you might be able to find out more about this illness.  Because you don't live in my house with me, it is hard for you to see how this affects me.  People with OCD are generally very good at hiding their behaviors, because they want to appear normal on the outside to other people, including their own families.  Hiding it is stressful and a lot of work too.  I don't mind if you ask questions either.  I would rather you ask me why I do/don't do something rather than come up with your own opinion as to why I do/don't do something.  Please realize that this will be a constant struggle in my life.  There is no cure for OCD.  It can be managed, but it is very hard work.  I am doing that hard work, and that is another reason why I have been do distant.  It is exhausting to try to beat this thing, but I'm doing my best.  I'm also trying to function as a wife, mother, and a nurse in the midst of all of this, so my days are mentally/emotionally taxing on me a lot of the time.  I am trying really hard, and I need for you to understand that.  My OCD started off as mild over 9 years ago, then became moderate for several years and then very much consuming for about one year.  I am starting to imorove in some areas, have completely eliminated a lot of problems, but this is probably my biggest issue right now and it causes me to avoid and isolate.  It makes me sad, and I desperately wish it didn't have to be this way.  I am sorry if you feel I don't want to spend time with you. And I'm sorry that I'm distant.  I know it appears to you that I don't care, But I can assure you that I do.  I care about you both very much, and I don't want you to think otherwise.  Plainly put, OCD makes me feel embarrassed, ashamed and guilty.  But mostly its because an illness that' hard for people to understand.  I'm not so much embarrassed that I have it.  Its more that I'm embarrassed by the fact that OCD is poorly understood by others.  Its hard for you to get why I think and act this way.  And that makes me feel alone and can explain why those with OCD hide their behavior and suffer alone.  I hope that this letter starts to explain things better.  OCD is a monster, ripping it's way through the sufferers life and everone around that time.  It is a disease that affects sufferer and family.  Just please take time to educate yourself.  Visit the OCD foundation website, and read peoples stories.  Learn about my symptoms and what triggers me.  Learn about what I am facing, and what I am working on.  Realize that I don't want to have this and I am working hard to improve it.  It will be a long process and I need your support.  I want to fight this this thing, so we can all have happier times together....

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lacking support of spouse in OCD

Sorry in advance, this going to be a heavy post....
I think the current state of my relationship with my husband is creating a very toxic environment for me.  I honestly feel myself slipping into a depression again.  Through the years, I have struggled with a difficult marriage and the OCD.  The two paired together create a separate issue.  My husband and I have had issues for years, since very early on in our relationship.  Since long before my OCD ever entered the picture.  I wrote a very long post last fall about how I feel marriage stress and disconnection spurred the onset of my OCD.  If I had to simplify that down to one sentence.....I would say that I stopped feeling loved by my husband.
     That was a very emotionally traumatic time for me.  Our daughter was very young at that time (2 years old), and I dont think he meant to "check out".  He just became busy with other things and went back to school for his MBA.    Due to his emotional and physical absence I started to feel like my daughter and I were our own little family and I became desperately afraid that something would happen to one of us.  That is when the OCD started, and that is what still spurs my OCD to this day.  I know my husband is very angry at me for my OCD.  He says a lot of things that make feel like he doesn't get of the bigger things is he continues to say that I "want" to do these things.  He already has quite a temper at times, and the OCD can really set him off...slamming doors, throwing his phone, yelling at me, getting angry, telling me "this is ridiculous and he can't do this anymore".  Threats that he wont financially support the OCD anymore, and statements that would imply I better work more hours or find a different job.  One time he told me he was going to put our house for sale, and implies getting divorced. Our arguments become very heated, and I am very guilty in these times as well.  I have outright rage when dealing with him...will flat out say, "I hate you".  We will usually fall into a deep argument like this at least every month.  But the aftermath sticks with me, and all I can think about is how poor our relationship is.  He also rolls his eyes when I try to explain things to him sometimes about my OCD.  For instance the other day there was a dead fly in our pre-packaged lettuce salad and I noticed it on my plate.  I had some pizza underneath the salad too.  My OCD wanted me to throw away everything on my plate, but I removed the dead fly, pushed my lettuce aside and still ate the pizza.  It didn't even make me that anxious, but shows how I didn't give in to the OCD and just ate the other food on my plate.  At that moment I chose to explain my husband what my OCD was telling me and how I resisted, simply to give him an example of the kinds of little things I push myself in each day.  Then our daughter says, "dad, I saw you roll your eyes at that", to which he responded that he was just looking at the ceiling trying to figure out what to say.  I have him seen him roll his eyes at me, so I have to think that is what he was doing.  He accuses me of hiding behaviors from him (and there are maybe a few behaviors he doesn't know about), but yet his reaction is anger, impatience or annoyance when I talk about it.  Every time I do open up, I make myself vulnerable and he doesn't react well and I feel even more unloved, which perpetuates the whole cycle.  I really don't know what to do anymore.  I don't really "involve" him in my rituals.  But my avoidance of him makes him angry.  Our social and family life is very much affected.  His tactics in dealing with the OCD are not helping.  His anger is making things worse and I feel it is actually hindering my progress.  I don't feel motivated to work on things involving him, because I don't feel close to him at all anymore.  I have offered to share all kinds of details about my OCD with him, but he doesn't feel comfortable talking about it.  I have shared so much information about my struggles and he rarely shows any emotion or concern about my well being.  After our last heated argument, which was about not going to his family's Thanksgiving, I wrote him a really nice letter describing how tough it must be to deal with my OCD.  I also apologized to him and discussed our argument cycles and anger breeding more anger.  How Im very disrespectful to him, but reminded him he is also being that way to me.  He did write me back and commended me for working on the OCD and wanting me to get help, but he never apologized to me or owned his part and that really bothers m.  He admitted to being angry and that he mentally buries my OCD and that he doesn't feel we will get anywhere until I work on my OCD.  This tells me a lot.  I have been working hard on my OCD for 7-8 months now and I have actually come a long way.  But why is he not able to see his part in this?  What do you do when you have no support from your spouse?  When he seems to use my OCD as an excuse for his anger.  He almost always seems to be angry all kinds of situations.  It feels like can trace any situation back to me having OCD.  Now he says the reason he checks out is because of the OCD.  So everything ultimately falls back on me.  I am supposed to beat OCD, without his emotional support, and the reason the relationship is so negative seems to be my fault.    I understand the OCD has got to be wearing on him.  But why can't he see how his reaction is making everything worse?  How some of his behaviors and  absence early on in the marriage triggered my OCD and continue to act as the catalyst.  I feel so "flat" anymore, and this not healthy.  I physically feel horrible too.  Clenching my jaw at night, fatigued, lots of physical symptoms.  Panic attacks, headaches.  There are some pretty devestating cycles going on in our marriage.  I don't believe in divorce.  I don't know how to keep going in this relationship though.  I am more than my OCD.  I feel like that is all my husband sees in me anymore.  And now all I can see in him is a jerk.  Just being real and honest.  Sometimes it feels so hopeless.  I would to hear from you all.  How does your spouse or significant other react to your OCD?  What is helping?  What is hindering?  Is it possible to get through the dark waters of OCD when you are in a toxic environment and it doesn't appear to changing.  I think communication is essential in a marriage, especially in regard to the OCD.  But when your spouse doesn't communicate, what do you do?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Getting back to the "ordinary" world

      I like to watch the music talent show "The Voice".  A couple of weeks ago, one of the contestants sang "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran.  I don't know what the meaning of the actual song is, but when he got to the chorus the words really stuck with me.  If you take these words out of context and put them on their own, it very much describes what fighting against OCD is like.....
  "What has happened to it all, crazy some say, where is the life that I recognize?
I won't cry for yesterday, there's an ordinary world somehow I have to find, and as I try to make my way to the ordinary world, I will learn to survive"
     I have some weird OCD thoughts about even putting these lyrics out of context.  It's true.  I am not trying to make the song appear to be about OCD, because I am pretty darn sure that it's not.  But again, these words seem very fitting for OCD sufferers as they work their way through treatment.  How many years have we lost to OCD?  How much time have we wasted?  How many experiences have we and our loved ones missed out on because of this?  How many pieces of our lives has it stolen along the way?  The longer the OCD is winning, the deeper we get in it's trenches.  Until it's all-consuming, and we don't even recognize our lives anymore.  But that is just the thing....we can't cry for yesterday.  We can't get it back.  All we can do is keep plowing forward in the fight, in the hope for better tomorrows and eventually freedom from these OCD walls.  There is an ordinary world that we do have to find done through the very hard work of exposure and response prevention therapy.  And with each exposure, we get a little closer back to the ordinary world.  As OCD sufferers we have to be brave.  It's the only way to find our way back. And as we go down that hard road of treatment, we must remember that it IS worth it.  Some moments are so painful, it seems that we just won't survive that next exposure on our hierarchy....and then we do it and come out as the victor in that battle!!  Oddly enough, for many of us, it feels like we can't survive with the OCD any longer, but also feels like we can't survive without it either.  The truth is, as long as the OCD is winning, then we are not really living fully.  We are functioning and getting through each day.  In order to break free of the confines of these OCD prison walls, we must do the hard work.  And it is hard.  And it is painful.  But we must walk through the dark forest to get out of it.  To find our way back to the ordinary world.  And in the process, we will learn to survive.

Friday, November 21, 2014

OCD and Lying or Making Excuses/A very stressful week

It has been a very stressful week.  Deer hunting week.  My husband is a hunter.  Lots of contamination issues for me with that.  But here we are on Friday, and I've gotten through, with lots of OCD issues along the way.  Which brings me to this paradox--My OCD doesn't want me to lie, yet I lie in order to hide my OCD from others. I don't like to lie in general.  In fact, my OCD wants me to be very honest.  I am the type that feels like I need to be extra truthful.  I have been known to take things back to the store that I was undercharged for, and make sure that I pay the correct price.  I feel like I need to tell people things, that they don't necessarily need to know. is where it gets tricky.  I have been known to make tons of excuses and flat out lies when it comes to protecting my OCD, or when in an OCD situation.  I've told lies to get out of going to family gatherings.  I've called in sick to work (when I wasn't sick) because of OCD.  Yep, just did that today.   Times where I needed to concentrate on a ritual and couldn't get to work that day, or one time I had to run some "OCD errands"--oh yes, there is such a thing.  Going out to buy something that needs to replace a contaminated object.  I prioritize the OCD, so I call in sick to work.  I don't do this routinely, today is probably the third time in the last year.  My husband took the whole week off work to deer hunt, so he would be in and out of the house all week.  I am supposed to be working downstairs at our computer.  I already have a huge obsession with needing to know what he is doing in the house, and this week being hunting week, escalated things about 1000 times.   Earlier this week, I called my daughter in sick to school, because I didn't feel comfortable and wanted to make sure he wasn't "contaminating" anything around the house--touching anything I didn't want him to.  She hung around upstairs so she could tell me if he was touching anything.  It makes me feel like a horrible parent to write and read that sentence right now.  I realize I'm involving my daughter in my compulsions.  I'm relying on her for reassurance, to "make sure that nothing happens".  I also realize that I am making her think somehow her dad is dirty.  I know this, so please please don't comment on that to bring it to my attention.  Trust me when I say that I am fully aware of this.  It's just an example of how bad my OCD is and the lengths in which I will go to, to feel comfortable.  I called in sick to work today in order to clean some things around the house.  He used our computer which is a "clean and safe" item normally.  I also had to go downstairs for a few minutes, and then I was fixated on the thought that he might have sat on "my safe couch".  I knew I would then have to wash the couch down (even though he probably didnt even sit there), and wash the blanket draped over the couch, and clean the computer.  There was no way I could focus on my job and get all this cleaning I totally let the OCD win, and gave in and made up a lie to my work that I was sick.    He got a deer yesterday, just in case you're wondering.  I will give him credit that he washed all of his hunting clothes out at the farmhouse washer (so it wasn't at our house), and wore clean clothes home.  But there are tons of thoughts going through my head.  At some point, I would think he had to be wearing the clothes in his truck, after dealing with blood and organs.  So now his truck is contaminated heavily.  Also I would imagine he took pictures of the deer with his phone, and so going back and forth from a deer his phone, contaminates his phone even further. Then of course now his hands are always contaminated, because he is always on his phone.  So doorknobs, fridge handles,  everything he touches is going to be contaminated.  I am going to need even more space between us, and will either avoid touching certain things or washing my hands more frequently again. I'm really frustrated, because I had been doing so much better.  And now this has thrown everything off again.  Because his carseat is now contaminated with deer blood/guts, I think that all of his clothes will be contaminated. Because even his normal day to day clothes will be contaminated whey touch that carseat.  And now I'm going to start having problems putting his clothes through the washer again, because I don't want the washer contaminated.  And even though my husband realizes I am grossed out by all of this, he is oblivious to how this could send me spiraling backward.  Just when I was finally starting to get some freedom from this.  Ugh!!!!
I have also lied to my parents/family over the years.  I've become really good at just making up quick little white lies to explain a situation.  I told my parents when they visited my house, that our main bathroom toilet flusher was out of order, just so they wouldn't use my "safe" bathroom.  One time at a work meeting I didn't want to "contaminate" my clothes by sitting in a public seat, so I came at the last second to the meeting and stood up, and told everyone I had hurt my knee and just needed to stand for a bit, because it hurt too much to get up and down.  When I was getting my hair cut last spring, I told my hairdresser that I didn't want to wear the cape over my clothes because I was super hot from the weather that day and also claustrophobic.  I did this to avoid feeling "contaminated" by the dirty cape that has been worn by hundreds of people and also probably has remnants of bleach/hair dye on it, and wanting to avoid figuring out what to do with my own clothes after that.  I haven't actually had my hair cut since then, because I don't want to deal with it again.  These are just a few examples, but it is amazing to me what I can come up with on a whim.  I really don't like it.  I don't like how lying comes so naturally to me to make excuses so I don't look "odd" to other people.  Because let's face it, one excuse here or there doesn't look so strange.  But I hate lying.  I hate how my OCD has that much control over me.  It also shows that we realize our behavior is illogical, but we are trying to put on a normal appearance.  These are some examples of what might make OCD sufferers appear "quirky", but in reality the problem goes so much deeper.  Something that non-OCD sufferers can not understand.  What is the biggest lie you've ever told with your OCD?  What are you struggling with in regard to your OCD today?

Monday, November 17, 2014

OCD and the Holidays

So I've got a lot of catching up to do here.  I have a few posts circulating around in my head that I want to get out, so you will probably hear from me more often than usual for the next couple of weeks.  Thanksgiving is coming up.  The holidays are always a difficult time for me, because my OCD wants me to avoid, avoid, avoid.  For most family gatherings anymore, I come up with excuses so that I don't have to go anywhere.  Because frankly, I just don't want to deal with the contamination and the "after-effects"--being all of the not so fun compulsions that I go through afterward.  My husbands family gatherings are always out of town.  For Thanksgiving we typically make a 4 hour drive to his aunts house--that is an 8 hour round trip, with about 4-5 hours actually spent at her house.  It will make for an all day affair.  We make this trip every other year, usually, as we spend the alternate year with my side of the family.  There were a few OCD-free Thanksgivings where everything went "normally" for this occasion.  Driving up there, eating, coming back.  No issues.  Those were even fun times, that I enjoyed.  Then enter in contamination OCD.  About 4 years ago, I remember bringing my own food for the occasion.  I did not want to eat there, did not want to eat off others dishes or eat food that other people had prepared.  I brought some snack type stuff in bags for my daughter and I to eat.  There were a lot of people there, so it was somewhat easy to make it not seem so obvious that we weren't eating the food there.  We just mingled and went to different areas of the house.  2 years ago, we did not make the trip there (for reasons outside of my OCD).  My mother in law happened to be out of the country, and so we had my father in law over to our place for Thanksgiving dinner.  I can tell you it was a relief that we didn't travel there, but this time it was honestly for other reasons, which just happened to work out well with my OCD.  This year I am assuming we are supposed to travel again.  My husband hasn't said anything.  I don't know if that may be partly because he knows how much I'm dreading it.  Maybe part of him doesn't want to go too, because he doesn't want it to look strange when my daughter and I don't eat.  I really don't know.  That is purely speculation.  Nevertheless, there are many contamination issues I have now, that are new since the last time I traveled, and I honestly don't know how I will make this trip.  As of now, I have convinced myself that I'm just not going to go.  I actually am scheduled to work the 3 days after Thanksgiving (as my holiday weekend) at my job, so another excuse that I'm just too tired?  I don't know.  Here are the concerns I have about the trip:
   --Eating food that others have prepared (I absolutely can not do that)
   --Bringing my own food with (I don't want to look weird to others)
   --Sitting on their furniture and having my clothes contaminated (I could probably deal with this, if they didn't have cats, as I have been making marked improvement in this area.  Still I would need to come home and wash my clothes at least twice through the washer even if they didn't have pets.  Cats on furniture bother me, because they are in litter boxes and I feel like their feces is then on the couch and then in my clothes.  We have a dog at home, but she does not get up on the furniture.)  I'm not sure I could sit on their couch.  I feel like I would stand around all day for hours.  If I did sit down, I would feel my clothes were ruined and want to throw them out.  And I really don't want to throw them out.  I've been doing so much better in this area, it would be like a huge step back to have to throw them out, even due to the situation.
  --Eating off someone elses dishes.  (Can't do that).
  --Seeing my in-laws and family and knowing that people will be hugging, and I will just feel dirty.  Being cramped into a close space with a lot of people will really bother me.  People there might have colds or other viruses, and then there is no way to get out.  There will also be a couple of babies there, and they trigger me too.
  --And the new thing, that has never been an issue before, is the actual transportation to get there.  I don't want my husband driving my car, because I don't want him contaminating my seat with his clothes (see many previous posts if you're not up to date on this).  Meaning, I would have to be the driver the entire trip.  That part doesn't bother me so much.  What has happened almost every time we go here, is that his dad ends up traveling with us (sometimes both ways, but usually for sure on the way back), because his mom ends up staying there for a couple of extra days, since it is her family.  If his dad rides with us, I know my husband will want to drive so they can ride up front together.  I can not have my husband in my drivers seat.  I am also concerned that my in-laws might offer to have us ride with them, and I don't want to ride in someone elses's car.  Ugh.  This is too much work.
   --We would need to find someone to let our dog out during the day, if we are gone for 12 hours or more.  This would most likely fall on my parents.  I don't want someone in our house when I'm not here.
  --The last problem is the guilt I feel.  If we don't travel, I will feel guilty.  I will feel like I've let my husband down.  Like I've let the OCD win.  I will feel guilty that my daughter did not see our extended family for the holiday.

What to do?  What to do?  Ugh.  I hate OCD.  And I have a feeling it's going to win this time.  Sorry for the negativity.  I have been doing a lot better with my OCD in general lately, but it takes these types of things for me to put back into perspective, how much work I really have left to do.  The truth is, even though I'm pushing out small pieces of the OCD, the big issues are still there.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

OCD and "the unknown"

I am about 5 months into my self-guided ERP program.  I can honestly say that I did not expect I would come this far without professional help.  I still have a long ways to go, but I like being able to take this at my own pace.  There is a quote that says you never really know how strong you are, until you have to be.  That definitely applies here.  In order to overcome OCD, you have to be motivated.  It is so scary to think about facing the precise things that you have been trying to avoid for so long.  I have probably had a 25-30% reduction in my symptoms in the last 5 months, and I am happy with that.  It's really odd, because I almost feel like I'm coming out of OCD the opposite way that I came into it.  For instance, if you looked at a time line of all of my symptoms throughout the years, I'm going backwards and taking out the ones that haven't been ingrained for so long.  I'm at a much higher level of functioning than I was last year at this time.  The better you get, the more motivated you become, and you kind of start reversing the cycle.  As opposed to the "I'm so deep into OCD and so depressed, that everyday I keep getting worse" cycle that I was in last year.  I'm really trying not to listen to my OCD all the time, which is definitely a work in progress.  One of my most time consuming problems up to this point has been the manner in which I've handled doing laundry--all kinds of rituals and rules....the highest fear is that somehow the sewage water will get into the washing machine, so I don't flush toilets while the laundry is going, and I turn off the water supply to a couple of them before I do the laundry (because I think there is a venting problem with those 2 toilets and they randomly flush on their own.  Freaks me out).  I KNOW it's irrational, I KNOW it doesn't make sense, but it has greatly affected how I do my laundry.  A couple of days ago, when I was finished with 3 loads of laundry, I went downstairs to turn back on the water supply to the downstairs toilet and found that it was already on.  When I turn the crank, I can hear the water supply return and it didn't that time.  So one of two things happened:  either I forgot entirely to turn it off in the morning, OR I maybe just didn't flush the toilet after turning the supply off (to clear the line).  In either case, it drove me absolutely crazy because I just didn't know which one it was.  If I forgot to turn it off, then all of my laundry could possibly be "contaminated".  If it was that I had turned it off, but forgotten to "clear the line" by flushing, then the first load I did would be contaminated, but none of the rest.  In the past, I would have responded to this by redoing all the laundry again, because I just wouldn't be able to take the "what-if"s, even if that "what-if" was only a .01% chance.  I am proud to say though  that I didn't rewash the laundry.  I just put it away and actually am wearing one of the shirts today, and slept in the sheets.  I can honestly say it is not even bothering me today.  Now, of course I'm not ready to purposely wash my clothes with those toilets not turned off and do my laundry, but I was able to tolerate the uncertainty of it without it causing me really anxiety at all today;.  So that is what I call progress.  And really, that is what OCD is, is unable to tolerate the uncertainty of things.  Constantly obsessing over "did this happen, did that happen?  Well I better do this just in case". And then pretty soon you've got yourself a whole list of rituals and a way of doing things that is not necessary.  And you start avoiding things, and things spiral out of control.  As far as the other 70-75% of my symptoms, I will eventually get to those too.  I am taking things one step at a time, and so far it is working well for me. This laundry is just one example in so many things that I have been working on.  It is solely to give an example of the lengths one with OCD will go to avoid the "what-ifs".  I am starting to feel myself have a little more control over this disorder.  Every exposure I do, and every time I face a fear or face "the unknown", I get one step closer to getting my life back free of OCD.  And that may take awhile, but I am closer than I was before.  Many steps closer to breaking free of this.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Anticipation of the Exposure

Today I contaminated myself.  On purpose.  I have to be honest that touching my clothes without washing my hands is a huge problem for me.  For some reason, I don't want to contaminate myself.  I find myself washing my hands a lot during the day, especially around my dog, when I'm doing laundry, cooking, or cleaning.  If I'm just sitting there on the couch it's easy to avoid (as long as my dog is in the kennel), but if I'm up and about the house doing seems I'm always washing.  A classic case of not wanting to spread the contamination around the house.  I've had a problem that has gotten quite of our hand, evidenced by some nasty looking warts that are appearing on my hands.  It has come to the point where it's critical for me to address my handwashing.  Over the past few months, I have developed many small warts on my hands and fingers.  It disgusts me, it is gross.  I have about 40 small warts now total on both hands and I don't know how to get rid of them.  I was seen at a dermatology office a couple of weeks ago.  Since I'm a pediatric nurse, I blamed my frequent handwashing on my job.  What I didn't tell her is that I work from home and wash my hands 150 times a day due to contamination fears.  She told me that I had to get my "hand eczema" under control and recommended steroid cream on my hands, and lots of moisturizing...then she will treat the warts when that cleared up.  The crazy thing is that my hands actually look better now than they have in years.  My husband noticed that recently too.  They are actually a normal color again, and I don't have any cracking or bleeding.  I have spent the last couple of months really trying to cut back on antibacterial soap. And I have actually done a pretty good job.  So that is why I'm frustrated.  I know I've obviously had this wart virus for awhile, but I'm afraid I waited too long to work on the handwashing.  Now I've damaged my skin, and I feel like this is a catch 22.  The warts aren't going to go away until I get control of the handwashing.  But I can't get control of the handwashing until I get rid of the warts. Because of the warts, I don't eat anything with my hands.  I use silverware for everything, even chips, candy, burgers. Everything.  I dont want to use my hands in the shower to apply body wash, so I squirt it on a kleenex and lather up that way.  My left hand used to be wart free, so I would shampoo with that hand.  But now I've got a few starting on that hand, and I'm not sure what to do if they start spreading there.  I don't want to develop new compulsions to get around more stuff.  If I could get rid of the warts, I think I could start eating and showering normally again.  I get so discouraged because it seems like  almost everyday super tiny ones are popping up and it makes me wonder how many more are really there, that I just can't see?  I have, for a nanosecond, considered stopping all handwashing immediately, other than the "normal times" but I don't think I can do that.  I need a baby step approach, but I don't think that is smart choice right now either.  I think if I didn't wash my hands, then I'd start using paper towels or baggies as a barrier...and I don't want to do that either.  If I honestly think about the times I do wash at home, the place where I really should back off, it's usually centered around not wanting to contaminate my clothes.  I wash before I put laundry in, before I take it out.  As long as I'm not touching my clothes I am okay.  But if I need to change clothes, go to the bathroom, I must have clean hands before I touch my clothes.  This is what I am going to work on this week, because I feel like I have to.   I am terrified that through the use of years of overdoing it with antibacterial soap, I've quite possibly screwed up my immune system to where it is not fighting off this virus.  I know there won't be a quick fix to this problem, but it can't keep getting worse.  I need to tackle this now.  I don't want to contaminate myself, but I fear if I don't address this now, it will keep spiraling more and more out of control.  Sometimes I try to look to others around me, and notice things they are doing....and I think wow!  They can do these things without even thinking twice about them....and they are probably all okay.  For instance I saw a guy filling up at the gas station last week and he was touching the gas pump handle and then he was scratching his stomach and adjusting his clothes.  I saw the kid across the street climb up on their giant trash can.  I see kids on our street literally rolling around in their grass.  I see people throwing away garbage in dumpsters and then rubbing their hands on their faces, probably not even giving it a second thought.  I see my husband picking up my dogs rawhide bone that is all chewed up and nasty, and then he goes right back on his ipad.  When I think back to a time that I didn't have OCD, I was obviously much happier.  When I wasn't consumed by these thoughts, I didn't pay attention to these things either.  But now I am to the point where I feel like EVERYTHING is dirty.  Of course, outside the home is worse than inside.  But today I did contaminate myself.  I touched our remote, my Nook tablet, the microwave, computer keyboard, pen/paper that I was working with, phone, washing machine knobs and a dusty door in our entryway...and I made myself not wash my hands each time.  The items themselves don't concern me, it's just touching my clothes afterward.  But today I just went about my business, and then when I needed to use the restroom I didn't wash before.  (Who the heck washes their hands BEFORE they use the restroom???  Anyone else besides me??!!  :))  I also purposely rubbed my hands over my clothes to really immerse myself in it....that is a technique that Jonathan Grayson refers to, and I don't like it...but I think it does work.  So although this (again) sounds ridiculous, it is a step in the right direction for me.  I need to purposely start contaminating myself with lower anxiety objects.  And as to the title of this post....the anticipation of the exposure is almost ALWAYS worse than the actual exposure itself.  You see, my brain has convinced me that I absolutely must do things a certain way...and I have to just tell my brain that I'm not going to listen anymore to the OCD.  I truly am so sick of this OCD, and I am ready to do whatever I need to do to get out of it  (well, no level 10's yet though!)  I have honestly found that most everytime I do an exposure I always think I can't do it, but then as soon as I do, it wasn't even that bad....I didn't even feel that anxious after I contaminated myself.  So whatever you are facing today and whatever exposure you just think you can't do....let me tell you that YOU CAN DO IT!!!!  You absolutely can!!!!  And you MUST do it, to overcome this disorder!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

OCD and a myriad of emotions

Today I want to talk about all of the emotions present in OCD.  I would love to hear from all of you too, and the emotions that you experience with this disorder.  I've had a couple of people say some things recently regarding OCD and it has really struck a nerve with me.  I feel like I'm starting to climb down this OCD mountain a little bit at a time (and truly getting into some moderate level exposures)...and I will post a progress update next post....but the emotional aspects of OCD are really wearing on me, and I could really use some good advice.  My boss said to me on the phone the other day, after learning that I was having some "health struggles" which is the extent to what they know, "Well, I can't see you, but you sound okay".  I also had a relative comment awhile back when talking about people being type A or organized in general, that "everyone is a little OCD, aren't they?".  This relative doesn't even know I have does none of my family, other than my husband and daughter.  Those of you that are familiar with my blog probably have already heard me say that at certain points.  I have also have been seeing more posts on Facebook that are upsetting in of things being "off" or assymetrical and kind of mocking OCD in general, and others posting pictures of organized rooms in their house with the statement that they are #soocd.  Maybe they are, I don't know.  Just things in general that are getting to me.  I have felt so many emotions through my struggle with OCD, but what I'm primarily dealing with right now is GUILT....because of avoidance behaviors!!!!!  I haven't been to a family function in almost a year on my moms side of the family.  I have missed all major holiday gatherings and grandparents birthdays, parents birthdays, nieces birthday--making up excuses every time that I didn't feel good, or I had to work, or some other excuse.  My daughter has missed spending time with family because I don't want to go anywhere.  My daughter has missed out on a lot of experiences because of me.  My husband has been affected by this (aside from our other marital issues unrelated to OCD).  All of my personal relationships have been affected by this.  Our finances have been affected greatly by the point where I have spent an insane amount of money on this illness--SO much money spent on new clothes, shoes, slippers, paper towels, plastic gloves, leashes for the dog...replacing anything that is contaminated.  The contamination issues have kept me from going to church for several months...although I did go back for the first time this past weekend.  I hadn't given offering for such a long time because my money was going towards replacing everything in my wardrobe constantly.  I feel SO guilty inside.  In some future posts I plan on talking in detail about how each of these relationships has suffered, but today I'm going to try to stick with this topic.  I socially isolate myself mainly because I don't want to be trapped and hug people, because that triggers me so bad.  I am making so much progress in certain parts of my OCD, but feeling contaminated by other people is the very top of my hierarchy, and I just can't handle people touching me right now.  I don't want to walk on their carpets, I don't want them touching my clothes, I don't want to sit on their couches.  I don't want them hugging me.  I can tell that my mom is getting irritated with me not coming to anything...I think she just kind of feels like I don't care if I come to stuff or not.  Like I have other things I want to be doing, so I just don't come.  She is starting to sounds more upset,with me sometimes on the phone, and to be honest that is another emotion that I feel.  Numb.  It's like I don't care if people get mad at me anymore , or what they think.  I just distance myself emotionally.  I think I really do care's just that I know my OCD is in a place where I can not deal with that, and I just want to shut out the noise of people and just not deal with it emotionally.  My sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this summer and had her thyroid removed.  She is divorced mother.....and so my parents help her out quite a bit.  She stayed at my parents house for almost 2 weeks while she recovered from surgery, and several of her friends came by to see her during that time.  I have not seen my sister at all since she was diagnosed.  She is doing well now and they don't anticipate any long term problems, but I still feel really guilty.  Like I wasn't there for her.  My dad called me last night and told me that my grandpa, who lives by  himself in an assisted living facility, is declining rapidly health wise.  He had a hospice nurse evaluate him and they told my parents that he had begun his end of life journey.  I really want to go to see my grandpa and I don't know how my OCD will allow me to do that at this time.  I just feel awful, like I am a horrible person.  The last time I saw my grandpa was last Thanksgiving (actually that was the last time I was at my parents house too).  It was shortly after I started my clothing contamination issues (which in turn has caused the social isolation), and I remember wearing a super old pair of jeans and old sweatshirt to their house, because I knew after I hugged people I wouldn't be able to wear those clothes again.  I feel HORRIBLE saying that.  I have to throw away clothes because I hugged my grandpa in them.  I can't go to my nieces birthday party because I don't want her to hug me.  Little children really trigger me too.  The thing is, is that I am getting better sitting in public places.  That is something I've been working on.  Again, I will talk more about this in the next post, but I have been able to wear clothes in public again and wash and re-wear them without too many problems.  Its hugging people and having their clothes or hands on me, that bothers me.  I am so not ready to work on that yet.  I just feel guilty.  And embarassed and ashamed.  I feel lonely and angry.  I feel sad and depressed.  I feel  isolated and misunderstood.  I feel disconnected from those around me.  At times, I feel numb.  I feel like a horrible wife and mother a lot of the time.  A horrible daughter, a horrible sister.  A horrible friend, and a horrible employee.  But yet to people who look at me....I "look normal", so I must "be" normal.  I "sound" normal, so I must "be" normal.  I still carry on with my responsibilities.  I go out and do grocery shopping.  I run errands.  I work.  I take and pick up my daughter from school everyday.  I clean my house.  I pay my bills.  I cook dinner.  I help my daughter with her homework.  I take care of my daughter and my dog.  I still have lots of happy moments.  I can go out and do things.  But I look very rude and distant to those around me, because they just don't know what is really going on.  On the outside I appear "normal".  But the inside is a different story.  And unfortunately, the inside is a part that I keep hidden.  My secret.  My suffering in silence.  But I know I am not alone out there.  I know so many people suffer from OCD and keep it hidden too, oftentimes keeping it hidden until it gets so severe it can not be hidden anymore.  But what is it doing to us on the inside?  I feel like I hit my rock-bottom worst with the OCD from about August 2013-May 2014, and I am starting to come out of it.  It is a deep hole, that can feel so overwhelming.  It took me about 9 years to really start doing something about my OCD, all the while it continued to worsen and morph and grow, and I can honestly say that I am so happy that I started self-treatment.  I have actually gotten further than I ever thought I would, by devising my own program....and I know I just have to keep pushing forward.  One real quick thing I want to add is a few things that I have done in the last week that if you told me three months ago I would do today....I wouldn't have believed it....(and these are just a few examples of improvement, like I said more to come in the next post!)........I went to pick up a pizza and the worker was wearing a band-aid on his finger and I came home and ate the pizza over the course of 3 meals.  I ordered a sandwich the other day and the worker was wearing a huge gauze bandage over his thumb (even though he had his hand covered with a glove), and I came home and ate that.  Also, I am down to only one wash cycle for most clothing now this week---which is GIGANTIC improvement, if you look at my laundry post from last summer.  I am still separating things out, but this is also HUGE, and again....something I didn't think I would ever be able to do again.  I've been washing and rewearing many contaminated items, even though I will admit I have still thrown some things out.  I'm allowing myself to feel contaminated more often and not doing anything about it.  I have almost completely cut out antibacterial soap...and although my hands still look unhealthy, they are free of the redness/cracked skin that once covered them for so long.  I feel myself SLOWLY coming out of the deep, dark, consuming OCD.  It definitely still affects my life everyday.  I would still consider myself severe OCD, but I feel better emotionally than I did.  I don't feel as depressed anymore.  The hardest part is the guilt and the isolation that I mentioned.  I KNOW that I can keep working on this and will come out stronger because of it.  And if you have deep, dark, consuming OCD...please know that it CAN be beat.  You CAN start to come out of it.  Our minds are stronger than our OCD . We just have to believe in ourselves, and get our stories out there.  So we know we're not alone.  So we can help each other.  So we can get awareness out there to the public to fight off the horrible stigma that mental illness has.  Because OCD is a mental illness...and we need to remember that.  An illness.  But one that can be beat with some hard, persistent work.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

OCD and change

Change can be tough on anyone.  For people with OCD, it has the capability to really throw things off.  My daughter started middle school a couple of weeks ago, and this has changed many things in my routine/way of doing things, which I'm not going to's been difficult.  BUT, I think sometimes change can be good and maybe help propel you forward, even when you don't think you're ready.  Because let's face it...when we're met with something that triggers our OCD, it doesn't feel good.  Our instinct is to avoid or find someway to fix it.  It's scary to face it.  But sometimes it's necessary if we're going to get out of these woods.  I've been thinking a lot lately about my OCD in general.  I've beat "bits and pieces" of it through the years, but I really started putting together a program and working very hard on hit at the end of May.  3 months later now, I would estimate that my symptoms are probably 20% reduced.  Of course that's just a guess.  But it's still a significant portion of my OCD.  Things that I would never have thought I could face 3 months ago, and they are just "normal" now and not a problem.  Am I still consumed with OCD everyday?  I wouldn't say that it affects me 24/7 anymore, but it definitely still affects me alot.  It still is affecting all kinds of decisions I make.  When I first started tackling my laundry issues 3 months ago, I didn't ever think I would be at the point I am today...and truth be told, that was an area in which I wasn't ready to face, but was kind of forced to one day.  And I am THANKFUL for that, because it has given me a lot of freedom in that area.  I am doing pretty well with my laundry issues, there is really only two big things left on that list, and both are yikes!!--at the top of my hierarchy.  I'm not ready for those yet, but I am glad to be rid of the other rituals in that area.  After looking at my bank account and really trying to figure out just how much money I've spent unnecessarily on throwing things away, I knew it was time to start handle the clothing contamination.  I have  a LONG, LONG ways to go in this area, but I have been able to wash and rewear some things, that I wouldn't have been able to do even a few weeks ago.  So back to the change in routine that I was mentioning daugher started middle school a couple of weeks ago, and this has forced me to start working on a couple other areas of my OCD pretty hard-core.  First of all, when she was in elementary school we had a 9:00 start time, which meant my  husband was long gone to work by the time we had to leave for school.  This year she starts at 8:00, and we actually have to leave a couple of minutes before my husband does in the morning.  Now if anyone remembers from all my previous posts, one of my big issues is not wanting my hubby home by himself, because I'm scared of what he will touch and I don't want him getting into my "safe places".  Well now there is a few minutes time lapse that he is home before we leave.  I'm not proud of what I've done to make myself feel more comfortable right now, so I'm not even going to mention it on this blog for now.  I do have a temporary solution to help give me comfort, until I can get used to this idea of him being here by himself (even though in reality he is probably just finishing getting ready and walking out the door).  The clothing contamination issue is something I am having to force myself to work on now, and I don't feel ready..but I feel it's necessary.  My daughter has woodshop class this year (yes, even the girls have to take it), and so of course the contamination concern is huge there.  It's her first class of the day, so then I worry she has sawdust and all sorts of things all over her the rest of the day.  This is the first year that she actually changes clothes for PE during the day and has her PE locker.  So of course PE is her 2nd class of the day and she goes there directly after shop.  So then I worry about her touching her clothes and changing and getting "shop class contamination from paint, chemicals, etc.) on her clothing.  I know many of you will disagree with what I'm doing, but I gave her hand sanitizier, and told her to put it on (and better yet, try to wash her hands) before PE class...especially if she has been working with "stuff" in shop.  Then of course her socks are on the locker room floor, and I get concerned that contaminates her shoes, and the list just goes on and on.  I know there is nothing I can do about it, and I've found some creative ways (that again I'm not proud of and are probably reinforcing my obsessions), but as time goes on, I'm hoping I become less and less concerned with it.
I have still been avoiding get togethers with family, basically because I don't want to be hugged by family members.  Although I did receive a couple of "half-hugs" in the last week, from my doctor and an old neighbor, and I was able to wash and re-wear those clothes.  So I guess some progress is better than none.  I even washed and re-wore some outfits that I had worn to doctors office appointments and sat in waiting room chairs, and to me that used to be an absolute no-no.  One of the shirts had even brushed up against the doctors scrubs and lab coat, and I knew he had probably been in the hospital at some point that day (because he is an OB/GYN), and so of course I imagine all the contamination that could be all over him, and I still washed and wore it.  So that is HUGE to me!!!
On a not so good note, I feel horrible because I missed my grandpa's birthday dinner last night.  I honestly was going to go, had bought the birthday card and everything.  Then all of a sudden something clicked in my head, and it was too much to deal I didn't go.  Then I texted my mom after the fact and explained I didn't feel good (which that actually was true, because I'm still dealing with some physical health issues that I posted about last time).  Then I felt even worse because I didn't show up or call.  The reason why I didn't want go?  Because I knew I would have to take my shoes off in their house and I didn't want to walk around in socks and then contaminate my shoes.  Because then my shoes would always be "contaminated", and then I'd have to figure out what to do about that.  I also did throw out a shirt the other week because my dad touched my arm.  Oh, that makes me feel so horrible to say that.  My niece turns 4 next week and I'm not sure how I will go to her birthday party.  I don't want to be hugged by  her...sad  :(  Oh, how I hate OCD.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Putting one foot in front of the other...

    Just a progress update today.  After my last post, I have really been stuck in a rut for lack of a better word.  Feeling panicky, anxious and depressed--not a deep dark depression, but just not wanting to get off the couch and do much of anything.  Not feeling motivated.  Having an array of physical symptoms such as random chest pains, headaches, bodyaches, and fatigue.  Oddly, I find myself feeling more and more like this when my husband is home.  When he is not home, I feel less stressed in general and find myself having a little more energy.  I've been trying to take those opportunites to go outside and enjoy the sunshine with my daughter.  We even did some back to school errands and topped the morning off with miniature golfing a few days ago and that was so nice to just get out of the house and spend some quality time with my little girl!  So as far as the stress symptoms go...this isn't really improving.
The OCD symptoms however, I've continued to work on.  It's hard to be motivated to do the exposures when I feel so stressed out...but I have to keep reminding myself of why I want to do this.  Whether or not I have a "happy marriage" or not, I still want my OCD to get better.  I want to feel better and I do not want to be controlled by this OCD any longer.  I also don't want my daughter to follow in my footsteps, and although it will be a long path...I truly have a goal of wanting to be significantly better by this time next summer.  I'm trying to be realistic....I look at all of the things I have ahead of me, and I know that it will be a slow process, but I need to just keep putting one front in front of the other and moving forward.  When I am able to tackle something....even something is still a victory, and when successful at an exposure it shows you that really can do it and just need to keep moving up the hierarchy.  Sometimes I think my "little" exposures sound so ridiculous, but I know they are important because they are preparing me for the bigger ones to come.
     In the past few weeks I've managed to almost completely knock out some perfectionist and magical thinking tendencies that I have, that I struggle with when I work.  I am a nurse and I have had a lot of problems with charting and making sure everything is perfect.  If I don't do it perfect then I get into magical thinking where I am concerned something bad will happen to my daughter and I, if I don't chart "just right".  I know that magical thinking is irrational.  I know that the two events can't be connected...but it's still hard, because I have a lot of anxiety surrounding this.  I'll get into more of the magical thinking and how I've been able to beat this in a future post, but just know that this is a pretty good accomplishment for me.  I've been more productive in my job, and even been charting "wrong" the last week just to take it to the next level.
     The food issues have not really been progressing as I'd hoped.  My birthday is in a couple of weeks and I really was hoping to be able to eat at a restaurant for my birthday.  I'm not sure I will be ready yet, but we'll see.
    I'm trucking along pretty well with my laundry issues.  I still have a LONG ways to go, but at least I'm finding myself tied to the washer less, and that is really freeing up some time for me...more again on this part too later.
   What I'm really trying to work on right now is handwashing and cutting that down, along with letting myself feel dirty.  If anyone has any tips on how to slowly cut down on handwashing, I would love to hear them.  I really don't feel clean unless I use antibacterial soap...but I know that is so bad for you, and at my worst times I have gone through a whole bottle  a day, probably sometimes even more when I use it in the shower.  About 3 weeks ago I started replacing some handwashings with a regular liquid soap (non antibacterial).  I've slowly been cutting back on the amount of antibacterial soap I use.  In the beginning this was difficult because I did not feel clean.  I read somewhere once that a good exposure SHOULD leave you not feeling clean.  It should leave you feeling like you did it wrong...and that is ultimately what will help you.  So for awhile, I did feel unclean, but now I'm getting more used to it, and I would say I'm about 75% regular soap and 25% antibacterial.  There are still certain times when I feel I need to use antibacterial...such as if I left the house, if I touched one of my dogs toy's, if I touched anything of my husband's, and before I make food.  I normally take one shower/day, always at night.  Maybe once or twice/week, I've been skipping my shower...just making myself change my clothes and go to bed, which I don't like doing because I feel then that I contaminate my bed.  But that's getting easier too.  I think one way this is helping me is to in a sense merge my "safe" and "clean" worlds, and yes...I realize this is very low exposure, but you have to start somewhere, right?!  I'm trying to make a list of things in the house that I routinely touch and mark them up from lowest to highest far as if I touched that item, and didn't wash my hands afterward, how would I rank that?  So far my lowest anxiety is my Nook (my e-reader), then the TV remote (because my daughter and I are the only ones to use that), then the computer keyboard downstairs, then we start getting into some doorknobs in the house.  One of my biggest concerns right now is getting my clothes some of my exposures I have planned for the next week.  For example, currently if I touch my Nook or the remote and I'm just going to sit on the couch, then I'll be fine.  I keep my hands in front of me and am careful to not touch  my clothes.  If I need to use the restroom or go touch something else though, then I feel like I need to I don't contaminate myself or something else. plan is to to touch the Nook and then start by placing my hands on my clothes.  That way I can become comfortable with the contamination of the Nook.  Then work my way up the hierarchy to other things.  This sounds so stupid...because I watch other people..and they touch objects and then themselves all the time, and don't even give it a second though. But I feel that most things are contaminated and I don't want them to contaminate me or my clothes.  I look at my husband who let's our dog lick him all over his face.  Our dog tosses her ball on his lap or on the couch he sits on.  He is on his phone or iPad and doesn't wash his hands.  The kids across the street sit in the driveway and probably go sit on their couches in their house afterward.  People at the store touch their faces or clothes all the time as they are pushing their shopping cart (which that handle is probably a germ fest).  I think if I could get comfortable with contaminating my clothes, that would really be a HUGE step for me.  But this is going to be hard.  Any tips?  Would love to hear them!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Decisions.....and needing to take care of myself as a priority right now!

I haven't posted for awhile, because I've had kind of a rough 1-2 weeks.  I've starting having some panic attacks again, which take me back to when the OCD got started in 2005.  I had 2-3 panic attacks that summer and battled a major depressive episode.  That was really the beginning of when the OCD started.  I have had periods of depression/anxiety in my life prior to that, but had never experienced a panic attack.  I didn't even know what was happening until it was done and I sat down with one of the doctors at the pediatric office I work at and she told me she thought that is what happened.  I go into great detail about the panic attack in a previous post from September of last year.  If you've never had a panic attack before, it literally feels like you might be dying.  All of a sudden this intense feeling comes over you and you are gripped with panic.  Your heart starts racing, you start hyperventilating, you can become very warm and nauseous and feel like something horrible is going to happen.  It's very intense and I can't even put into words to describe what it feels like.  If you've had one, you know what I mean.  And if you have a good way of describing it, please comment!!!  In the last 1-2 weeks I've started to have some panic attacks again, and it really worries me where my anxiety is headed.  Things with my husband have just not been improving.  Not only from an OCD standpoint, but this is more a disconnection in our marriage which is very longstanding.  The feeling of disconnection from my husband is really what fuels my OCD.  The worse our marriage gets, the harder I try to keep my daughter and I safe and healthy--because my daughter and I feel like our own little family, and I'm scared.  I'm scared of not having each other.  I'm scared to write this, because as you know with OCD--it's hard to say or write the things you're scared of.  My  husband and I had a long talk a couple of weeks ago and I started to explain my OCD to him.  He told me he left the conversation feeling a little bit better about things and understanding things somewhat better--and I replied that we needed to keep talking about this.  We have so many things in our marriage we need to talk about . He assured me that this time things would be different and he would do whatever it took on his side to start improving things.  That w would start talking more openly...about my OCD, his issues and our marriage in general.  I really believed this.  I wanted to believe it.  But 2-3 weeks have passed now and nothing further has been discussed.  I really am starting to lose hope in our marriage and it is leaving me very depressed and in a very bad state with all of this OCD crud.  As I mentioned above, I've started feeling panicky much more again.  Fortunately now I know when these attacks are coming, and I can usually slow them down so they don't escalate into a full blown panic attack.  I've learned the very first symptoms of one coming on and I immediately close my eyes and start deep breathing, and it doesn't get as intense.  Nevertheless, this is a sign that I simply can not handle things anymore, and I think it's time for me to take a step back and start caring about myself more.  How can I be a good mother to my daughter, when I am not taking care of myself?  I feel like I'm giving up on my marriage, but I know that's not true.  I'm simply calling a "time-out" for about a month.  I am going to keep working on my OCD as much as I can, and I'm going to try to eat well, sleep well, and take time to relax during the day.  As crazy as this probably sounds, I need to find a way to disconnect from my husband enough to the point where I don't let him emotionally affect me.  Meaning his irritability, his impatience, his always being gone and disconnected from the family.  I need to find a way to not let that affect me, so that I don't feel hurt and spiral further down.  I have been making some pretty good progress with my OCD, and I will post more about that in the next day or two as a quick update.  This is a really hard thing to do, and I worry that when I disconnect myself--then can I find my way back?  The problem is that our marriage has been in real trouble for such a long time and I've been waiting for almost 10 years for it to improve.  The thing is, I'm hurting myself in the process, and I'm starting to realize that.  And when I'm hurting myself, I'm hurting my daughter.  These last few years have been such a blur between the stress of our marriage and my OCD, and this is time that I won't get back.  I don't think I'm being selfish by taking this standpoint.  It's just something that I feel I need to do.  I think when I feel better emotionally, I do better fighting off my OCD too, so it really just makes sense right now.  It just feels like I keep striving for this slim possibility of our marriage ever improving, and I've focused so much of my life on it.  My poor mental and emotional health is affecting me phyically now with the panic attacks.  I've also started to get more headaches, migraines and just random symptoms in general.  I feel very tired and worn down.  And I need to get myself out of this funk.  While I still have the motivation, I need to make caring for myself a priority right now.  Here is a song on the radio that I just love right now, by Danny Gokey.  Hope in front of me.  Wanted to share it with you all, and hope that it gives someone else hope too.  To keep fighting...because as long as we have hope, we'll stay in the fight.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mindfulness in OCD (and a progress Update)!!

Happy Sunday, everyone!  I'm planning on writing about my progress each Sunday now.  Seems like a good way to end the week--talking about the things I've been working on; my gains and my struggles with the OCD.  And to kind of "plan out" in a sense some exposures for the following week.  I have been reading  The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy.  This is a very interesting concept, incorporating mindfulness into OCD.  The book goes into some meditating and muscle relaxing exercises, and reinforces to be present in the moment.  OCD is usually fixating on the past and looking toward the "what-ifs" of the future.  So in a sense it's telling you to be mindful in the moment.  That is really hard to do for someone with OCD, when your mind constantly goes a thousand miles a minute.  Something that I also took away from the book though is learning to slow down your thought processes.  I was talking about this recently with a friend of mine, that I've met through this blog (so thankful for the Internet community pulling us OCD sufferers together).  I tend to start flipping out the moment that something happens that I don't like it, and immediately go into fight or flight response, where I almost feel like it's some kind of survival mechanism.  What do I need to do at this exact moment to fix this problem and make it okay?  That is where the compulsions can become very heavily ingrained and problematic----and difficult to stop.  The more you do them and the more urgency you feel to do them, I think, perpetuates the whole cycle  of obsessions and compulsions.  Sometimes I "feel" contaminated, even though I'm not really contaminated, and this is where I need to bring mindfulness in, and stop the "what-if" thinking and gravitate toward "what is" thinking.  IThe interesting thing is, I posted a couple of weeks ago about hyperawareness with OCD, and this book actually does have an entire section about that.  It talks about how people that are hyperaware of what is going around them are in a sense too mindful of what is going on.  Now most people with OCD notices things, that the average population doesn't even take note of or realize.  This is something I really personally struggle with, as it has caused me to avoid LOTS of places and things and people.  So what I have mostly been working on the past couple of weeks is being mindful about the things that pop up for me.  Now, I'll admit--I'm not very good at it yet.  But part of the process is retraining your brain, and this is a great tool to use in conjunction with ERP and CBT.  For example some areas in which I might practice mindfulness is with my dog in particular.  A lot of things happen with her to make me feel contaminated.  She might come barreling across the room with a slimy bone in her mouth and I worry "what-if" she somehow got her bone on my clothes.  I was watching her the whole time.  My brain KNOWS she did not get her bone on my clothes, but my OCD keeps taunting me, "well,what if she did?  what if you didn't see her?  there could be a chance"....until finally I just say "whatever!" and go change my clothes, so I can be done with it and not worry about it.  In mindfulness, I need to slow my thought process down and remind myself that she did not get me.  I know she did not get me.  My OCD just likes to play tricks on me and wants to win.  It really goes hand in hand with CBT and doing self talk, which is essentially what I've taken away from this book.  It's doing self talk to rationalize, rather than react to the problem.  I think it will be a very helpful tool as I move forward in trying to treat some of this stuff.  I highly recommend you look into this book, if you haven't already.

As far a progress update, I've really been working on just trying to be mindful in every situation and not jumping the gun on trying to fix everything.  Sometimes I'm able to sit with the anxiety and it will pass, but other times I'm still fleeing into the bathroom to wash a random body part or "fix" whatever situation has presented itself.  What I've really been trying to continue working on in my hierarchys is my laundry issues.  I have a very long post from last year about my laundry rituals.  I have many issues in this area, but the one I'm currently working on is trying to get down to just one wash cycle for most of my clothes, and I'm pleased to say I have made quite a bit of progress in that area.  I used to wash most things twice and I separate all of my laundry into all kinds of categories.  I honestly feel if I could get my laundry and clothing contamination issues under control, that is what will help me the most.  I did not think that I would EVER be able to go back to washing certain types of clothes only one time through the washer.  Especially things like socks and towels which I feel are very dirty.  Granted, I still put them through a sanitary wash setting.  But I've been doing it now for a couple of weeks, and everything is okay.  I am able to wash "inside clothes" once through now--that includes t-shirts, pajama/lounge/pants, towels and socks), but I still do underwear and outside clothes twice.  I still am separating things out as I mentioned previously too.  One thing I am hoping to do this week (and I'm not sure if I'm ready for this or not yet, but I am going to try), is to put my shirts, my daughters shirts, and our sleep pants all in the same load together.  EEKS!!!!  Fingers crossed I can do this, it's on my list for the next few days.  If not this week, then hopefully very soon.  I would like to start combing clothes in the laundry, so I'm not separating stuff out into 10 loads over the course of a week.  I think I could get a lot of time back by doing this, but I am nervous.  If I am able to combine them together, I am going to wash everything through twice.  It might seem like a backstep to some of you, but I don't think it is.  It basically starts the process of combing clothes.  After a week of two washes, then I hope to just move it to one with combined clothes.
Did have a gross experience at a sandwich place the other day (and I'm not making much progress in that area).  Yesterday I went to a well-known sandwich franchise and the employee took my money, then directly went back and I saw him in the kitchen handling my food (no handwash, no putting on of gloves).  I was exasperated at that point.  I had already paid for my food.  I actually drove away without my food...I knew I wasn't going to eat it anyway.  So mad at myself, and unfortunately when these things pops up, it makes it really hard to want to continue in that'm going to focus on the laundry for now.  SEems to be the area where I'm making the most progress (and ironically, one of the areas I didn't think I was ready for to self-treat yet).  Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Safe zones" in OCD

Question for the day, that I've been pondering for awhile....If I'm able to function in a "dirty world", and I'm able to wear "dirty clothes" at certain points during the day, then why do I feel the need to create a "clean world" for myself at home or in certain places?"  Besides clothing contamination and endless loads of laundry, one of my biggest time consumers with OCD currently is keeping my "safe zones" clean and contamination free.  There are starting to become fewer and fewer places where I feel clean in my own house.  My house has always been kind of a safe haven for me...besides the storage areas in our basement, and my husbands bedroom.  Up until very recently, I felt that if all of us washed our hands when we got home from being out in public, then the house was pretty safe.  Of course I still have very frequent handwashing after touching doorknobs or remotes or anything of my husbands in particular (such as his clothing).   I really like to keep my things safe particular so my husband doesn't touch anything.  Our house is built with the master bath and bedroom on one side of the house, and on the other side is my daughters room, a spare bedroom, and the main bathroom.  The kitchen, dining area and family room are all centralized.  Then we have our basement, where I really don't spend a lot of time...other than being in our home office down there.  As I previously mentioned, I really used to feel pretty clean once inside my house.  This is not the case anymore.  I am becoming increasingly concerned with my "safe zones", which basically are my daughters room, the spare upstairs bedroom (which is where I keep all of my stuff), our main bathroom, and our loveseat in our family room.  I have some "mediocre" safe zones which kind of act as a mediator between the dirty "outside world" and my safe zones.  I'm just going to go into a little information as to why I want to keep these areas safe, and what I do--my compulsions and rituals--to keep them "safe".

1.  My daughters room--My daughter is 11 and her and I share a bedroom.  I stopped sleeping with my husband in our master bedroom pretty shortly after she was born.  At first it started off as more convenience (with middle of the night feedings), but then the contamination issues started to bother me to where I couldn't sleep in the bed.  (More on that in a future post).  Her bed is clean to me and I like that feeling.  I keep most of my clothing in her bedroom closet (because I feel it's the safest place in the house that my husband won't go).
2.  The upstairs spare bedroom--this is where I keep all of my other stuff.  Since I line dry all of my daughter and I's clothing, this is the room where I keep my garment racks and box fans going, and dry all of our laundry.  It is also where I keep some of our clothing in that closet, and where I keep basically anything I don't want my husband to touch (I keep shoes, shopping purchases, it is just a "free for all" room right now with all my stuff, to kep it safe.
3.  The main bathroom--only my daughter and I use this bathroom.

(The whole side of the house with my daughters room, spare bedroom, and bathroom are pretty much my biggest safe area.  I don't want my husband back there, and I'm starting to try to explain this to him).

4.  The loveseat in our family room--we have furniture upstairs and downstairs, but I only feel that one couch cushion on the loveseat upstairs is "safe".  My daughter and I sit here and my husband is always on the other couch or downstairs.  Only one seat on the loveseat is "safe" because my dog has jumped on the other side and other things such are remotes are always on that cushion and it just feels dirty.  Also other people have sat there and that bothers me.  My daughter and I are very small people, so we actually can both fit on one seat of the couch.

I used to feel that my spot at the kitchen table was safe, but now I've had trouble eating at our kitchen table for a month (see recent post about the "chair fiasco").  To review though, as my husband walks by the table to look outside he sometimes puts his hands on the back of the chairs that my daughter and I sit in, and most recently he put his hand directly on the chair seat of my daughters, right after he cleaned up our dogs urine mess.  Also a point I didn't make in that post but is also part of the issue, is that our puppy is a horribly messy drinker, so she drips water all around our table, and of course my obsessed mind starts talking me into the notion that it could be urine (because she does occasionally have accidents too).  I just don't want to sit at the kitchen table anymore.  The other day I did decide to spend the time cleaning up the kitchen and the chairs so I could sit there.  I asked my husband if he could try to be mindful of not touching my chair for awhile, so that I could sit at the table for now.  I know that eventually as I work on exposures, I will need to probably let him actually touch my chair and then sit in it, but I'm not anywhere close to ready for that yet.  We had a talk about my OCD the other day (which will need to be a series of converstations, but at least we got started on it).  He has been careful not to touch it, and so I am happy to say that for the past few days I have been able to eat meals at the kitchen table again, and this has been a very good thing for our family, to have this table time together.

My car used to be a safe place for me, but now I'm finding that since its the "mediator" between my clean and dirty world, I am very obsessed with trying to keep my carseat as clean as possible.  After I've been out in public I feel the need to wash it off.  Especially if I am worried that someone brushes up against me, I feel that my carseat then becomes dirty because my clothes touch the carseat, and now I need to wash off the seat before I get in it again.  Sometimes I will keep the same outfit on hand for several days at a time, and whenever I leave the house I'll just change into that.  That way it's already "dirty" and my carseat is already "contaminated", so after a few days I wash off the carseat, and then make sure to be wearing different, clean clothes the next time.  I'm almost borderline paranoid at times now too...what if my husband got in my car and sat in the seat sometime when I wasn't watching?  The crazy thing is this isn't even possible because we only have one set of keys to that car and I keep them hidden in the spare bedroom, "my safe place" and I keep my car doors locked all of the time.  But of course the OCD doesn't believe the car is locked.  I have to stand there everytime I get in my car and try to open the door several times before I've convinced myself that it is truly locked, and that he couldn't have gotten in there.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I also feel contaminated when out in public a lot so I end up washing my carseat off with soap and water, and then make sure that I am wearing different clothes the next time I get in my car.  I'm having a lot of issues with keeping my car clean now.

Here is something that may sound funny...but it's really not.  My couch gets a bath at least once, sometimes 2-3 times/day.  I can't stand the thought if my dog brushed up against the couch or if my husband might have, and then my mind gets really irrational sometimes and starts worrying, "what if my husband got up during the night and went and sat on my couch, on my "safe place".  As soon as I get up in the morning I let my dog outside and let her run around for about 30 minutes.  Then after my husband leaves for work, I put the dog back in her kennel and give the couch a bath, before I can sit on for the day.  Then I know it's clean.  This consists of using soapy paper towels and I wash and rinse of the couch seat that my daughter and I sit on.  I NEVER used to do this until about 2 months ago.  To my knowledge my husband has NEVER sat on the loveseat, other than to simply test it out when it was first delivered to our house over a year ago.  I don't remember cleaning it at that point, which now bothers me in retrospect.  The fact that he didn't sit on the couch used to be good enough for me.  But now its..."what if he sat in it?  what if he got up during the night and sat on it?  what if he did something to it?  what if the dog jumped up there and I didn't see it happen?  what if the dog brushed her toy against the couch cushion?"  I could go on and on with my thoughts.  One day this just got stuck in my mind and I had to start cleaning the couch in order to feel I could sit there.  And now the compulsion is VERY strongly ingrained.  Only "inside clothes" can be worn while sitting on the couch.  If I leave the house in my car or just to walk down to get the mail, I have to put on my "outside clothes" on, then when I come in I have to be wearing "inside clothes" before I sit on my couch.  Usually if I have been out running errands I will just keep my "outside clothes" on and stand up if I need to.  But then once I'm showered I put on clean "'inside clothes" and can then sit on the couch.

I used to be able to sit in our computer/office chair, even despite the fact that my husband would occasionally sit there (he never did very often though because usually he is on his ipad or phone).  A couple of years ago I started putting down  a shirt or barrier on the chairseat after he was on it, and then I would keep using that to sit on until I noticed him on the computer again...then I would get a new shirt and put it down.  I feel that his truck is so dirty from his hobbies out at the farm that his clothes are always contaminated.  Even his "clean clothes" that he wears to his normal office job probably get dirty when he sits in his truck, since he wears dirty clothes in there too.  One day he came home and was looking at pictures on our computer about 6 months ago and I saw him sitting in the office chair.  I wasn't sure what to do at that point.  I found a comforter in the closet and felt that it was pretty thick and a good barrier so that worked for awhile, but then he went in that room frequently and it bothered me that  I never knew if he was sitting in that chair.  I ended up buying a barstool to sit on, but that didn't work well.  I work from home and it kept me at too high of a position to be comfortable typing.  For awhile I just stood there for 4-8 hour shifts while I worked.  I bought a folding chair about a month ago and have been using that since.  I now keep it stored in the spare bedroom where he can't see it (or even realize that I'm using it).  But I don't like sitting on the seat so I keep folded paper towels or some type of barrier still on top of the chair while I'm sitting there.  This just sounds so crazy sometimes.  Often when I look at what I'm writing on this blog, I can't even believe that these are my words.  This is what I do with my life.  It makes me feel so sad.  I just don't feel comfortable anywhere anymore.  When I go out in public, I'm constantly obsessing over if someone brushed up against me at the store, are my clothes ruined?  Did my shirt brush up against the shopping cart handle?  I really have thrown clothes away for both purposes before.

It just seems like I'm worried about the contamination spreading again.  And I'm more aware of where I've been sitting and not wanting to transfer that to someplace else.  For instance, I really am not able to sit anywhere in public anymore, because the obsessions are, "who sat there?  what were they wearing?  were their clothes clean?  did a bird poop on the chair outside?"  Then I don't want to take those "unknown substances or contamination" and spread them to my safe house.  I really avoid sitting anywhere in public anymore, which makes it impossible to even go anywhere...a restaurant, movie theater, church, park bench, someone else's house, etc....because then I obsess that whatever the unknown contamination is on my clothes are permanently stuck there.  For example, if I did go to a movie theater...then I'm sitting in a seat where thousands of other people have sat, in who knows what kind of clothes...then I can not even imagine coming home and sitting on my couch in those same clothes.  Because now the contamination is on my couch.  Then when I change my clothes the couch contamination is going to spread to my clothes.  Then the contamination on my clothes will spread to my bed.  I read in a book recently that when everything is contaminated, then nothing is contaminated . Sounds easy enough, right?  But it's easier said than done.  And the truth is, I don't want to do it.  I like my safety net.  That makes it really hard to proceed in exposures in this area.  Feeling contaminated through my clothing is probably my highest anxiety situation right now.

Basically, I'm rambling once again....(what's new, right?).  I apologize for all of my ramblings, but in a way it helps me document stuff, and I start exploring ideas and thoughts too.  Which takes me back to my original question at the beginning of my post.  If I'm able to function in a "dirty world", and I'm able to wear "dirty clothes" at certain points, then why do I feel the need to create a "clean world" for myself at home?  I really don't get this.  It seems like I'm to the point where anything on me, whether its filth, dirth, germs, dust, or anything at all......just makes me filthy and I want to be clean.  It's like I can tolerate it for awhile, but then I must have a place I can be clean.  My bed is the ultimate clean zone to me.  My bed (actually that is my daughter's bed) must be clean.  And I think the problem lies that if I keep "spreading" contamination as I move from chair to couch to bed, then my bed will never be truly clean.  I know it makes no sense, it's so hard to understand.  Anyone else struggle with this, and what have you done to merge your "clean" and "dirty" worlds together?