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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?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Letter to my OCD

Dear OCD,
You have been part of my life now for 9 years.  I have such mixed feelings about you.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely can't stand you. You slowly crept into my life and were just a minor nuisance when you first appeared.  Through the years, you have completely entangled yourself into every aspect of my life, and really taken so much away from me.  You hover over me, over everything I do.  Constantly telling me what I have to do.  I don't even remember life without you anymore.  I hate you.   Every day you take another piece of my life and I can literally feel the energy being sucked out of me everyday.  You are relentless and you don't give up.  You have taken time and experiences away from me that I will never get back.  You have me left me socially isolated and depressed.  You have turned me into someone that I don't even know anymore. Someone who is scared to touch anything for fear of being contaminated.  Someone who spends her time and energy making sure there is perfect cleanliness of most things around her.  The truth is, I was doing just fine until you reared your ugly head.  I look back through pictures before you came along and I looked happy and relaxed.  I used to go eat at restaurants, go to movies, hang out with friends, touch/hug people, work and be in public, go to the lake, go swimming, take walks, go shopping, go to the park, touch whatever I wanted without really giving it a second thought.  To move freely about and feel comfortable in my own skin.  I used to go to the zoo, take vacations and visit family and friends.  Nowadays you force me to sit in my house most of the time, because it's the only place that feels "safe" to me.  I spend my time maintaining my clean zones and making sure that all of my clothing is perfectly clean.  I don't have time to do the things I want to do anymore, because I am constantly under your control.  "Go clean this, go clean that"--I'm sick of it!!  The constant what-if's.  The second guessing myself.  I heard someone say once that OCD is the worst betrayal of oneself, and it is true.  I hate what you have done to me.  I can't even trust if what I'm looking at is true anymore.  I am an intelligent person and perfectly capable of living my life without you.  So why, then, do I listen to you?  In some strange way, you make me feel safer.  The rituals make me feel safe and comfortable, even though I hate doing them.  And it feels comforting to feel safe, so I keep listening to you.  But the more I listen to you, the worse I get.  I hate how you've impacted my family too, that is one of the hardest parts.  I don't EVER want you to lay your hands on my daughter!  It already makes me sick inside what she endures because of what you've done to me.  You also keep me from having relationships with people around me.  And I wish they could understand that it's not me that wants it to be like this, it is YOU controlling me.  It is not my personality or me trying to be difficult.  It is you that controls me!  You are like a death grip, a vice around me.  I feel like you are quicksand and I'm constantly sinking.  Like I'm in a deep ocean, out in the middle, and struggling to keep my head above water.  Like I'm slowly drowning and suffocating.  And I hate what you do to everyone else that deals with  you too!  I have met so many great people that deal with YOU and I hate you for what you have done to their lives and families too.  You are a friend to no one, but yet for some reason those of us that have you in our lives can't get away from you.  You have a way of taking away the things that are most important in our lives....relationships with the people around us.  The ability to just feel comfortable and relaxed will never happen when you are lingering around. I don't want to listen to you anymore.  I am sick and tired of you controlling my life and of you telling me what I must do all of the time.  I want my life back, and as long as you are part of it--that will never happen.  If I keep listening to you, I am afraid that I will eventually get to the point where I can't leave my house at all. I will do whatever it takes to get rid of you once and for all.  I will post this letter around my house and in my car as a constant reminder of what all you have taken away from me.  I do not want to give into your demands anymore.  I do not want my daughter to develop OCD.  I want to be able to go out and do fun things with my daughter again.  I want to have a relationship with my husband.  I want to spend time with my family, parents, sister and relatives.  I want to take vacations again.  I want to just go out for a night on the town with my family and hang out.  I want to go out on dates with my husband.  To walk my dog like normal.  To go shopping or do whatever it is that I want to do out in public.  To be actively involved in church.  I want to come home and be relaxed and not worry about "decontaminating myself" everytime I leave the house.  These are all things that you've slowly taken away from me.  And there are plenty more too!  But wow--to feel free and comfortable again.  What does that even feel like?  It's been so long I can't even remember.  But guess what, OCD?  I AM going to find out.  You WILL be removed from my life, maybe never completely....but I will do whatever it takes to get rid of you enough to the point where I can get my life back.  I've already fought some battles against you.  I had given up the fight for a long time and you caused me to become even more depressed and spiral further downward.  I have been in a dark place for about a year now because of you....again, time I will never get back.  I lost the battle with you for a long time.  But in the last few weeks, I've discovered that I can beat you.  I can allow myself to not give into your demands. I can outsmart you.  I AM smarter than you are.  I may have a long road ahead of me, but I am on a start and that gives me hope that I can win the war against you.  So just go away and leave me and my family alone.  And take all your nasty clones with you that are ruining the lives of everyone else affected by you.  I can speak on behalf of every one of them...we are all sick of you!!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

OCD and Hyperawareness

A few days ago I had a REALLY bad OCD day.  Most of my days are pretty consumed with OCD, but sometimes I have really hard days which almost push me to a breaking point.  The good news is that it ended with a successful exposure, something I didn't think I would be able to do.  I will get to that at the end of this post.  This is a good opportunity, with many examples, to discuss hyperawareness with OCD.  OCD brains are like sponges.  They soak up and remember everything.  It also makes you very hyperaware of everything going on around you.  Problems and situations presented can lead to engaging in compulsions/rituals and even cause you to avoid that situation in the future because it's now "burned in your brain".  OCD causes me to notice everything around me and have lots of thoughts about what COULD have happened or the possibility of something happening.  For instance some random thoughts I might have:  The person 2 rows ahead of me is coughing at church.  Did that person brush up against my sweatshirt or not when I was standing in line?  The guy behind me in line just cleared his throat hard and didn't cover his mouth.  Did my T-shirt touch the shopping cart handle when I put that grocery item in my cart?  The kid swimming 3 feet next to me in the pool is spitting water out of his mouth as he's playing and that spit is going into the pool.  Is that construction worker really going to eat with paint plastered all over his hand?  My husband just let the dog lick his hand (a full out lick several times) and then just resumes going back to what he was doing on his phone/tablet without washing his hands.  When someone is standing close to me at the store, I take note of their clothes--are there stains?  Do they look clean?  The cashier at the grocery store just itched their nose while bagging my groceries.  The clerk at the department store just licked their finger in order to open up a plastic shopping bag to put my newly purchased clothes into.  I could go on and on all day, these are just a few examples to give you the point.  Eating is particularly hard for me too, because I've seen too many things at various fast food places and restaurants and I don't want to go back to those places.  It also accounts for a lot of why I don't eat at family gatherings.  I've seen people do things and I just can't take the thoughts/anxiety that follow those and I don't want to be exposed to other people's germs.  I've seen my mother in law lick her fingers as she's serving cake.  I've seen my mom set spoons on the bare counter that she is using to stir things on the stovetop.  I've seen my sister pick up topping off a casserole on the table one time with her fingers before everyone ate.  One of my cousin's kids grabbed a cracker off the counter at a gathering and gummed it in his mouth, and put it back on the table and someone else ended up eating eat.  My aunt stirred some corn in the microwave at a holiday gathering, then tested the temperature of the food with the spoon, then used it to re-stir the corn later (after she had eaten of it!)  Now let's stop and be honest here.  Many of these things are VERY unsanitary.  Probably no one is going to get hurt or sick because of it, but the OCD mind can not let these thoughts go. I notice that I do better eating at places where I can't see what is going on the kitchen.  Once I've actually seen something disturbing, then I tend to avoid that place in the future.  Thus why I was down to 3 take out places for awhile...the only places I felt comfortable eating.  As I've mentioned in previous posts I am trying to expand the places I will eat again and become more comfortable in doing so.  I've had a particularly hard time with a sandwich shop in the past.  They assemble your sandwich in front of you, and they do wear gloves.  But why, can I ask, do people automatically think that gloves on their hands makes for a magical germ barrier, and they can still do anything with gloves on their hands?  The point of gloves when food handling is to keep the food sanitary, and is a step above and beyond normal handwashing (which should take place anyway).  But I'll get off my soapbox now....This is where my exposure comes into play.  I had already had an especially difficult day with clothing contamination (my #1 issue right now) and I was just mentally exhausted.  I decided that for an exposure to end the day I would go get sandwiches and try to eat at that place again.  I've had a hard time eating here in the past because I've seen the workers do things that I feel are "unclean" when their gloves are on, and then they continue to make my sandwich (for example wiping down the meatcutter with a washcloth/solution, then immediately starting to make my sandwich when I walk through the door with those same gloves).  It is gross, right?  Right?  But again....most people with OCD wouldn't even think about this or even notice it.  Probably the food worker doesn't even think it through.  I do think about though and I can't get it out of my mind.  If I can catch them doing something "unclean" before I have to pay, then that is good--I can simply make up an excuse (don't we all get so good at making excuses with our OCD to sound normal?) that I left my cash out in my car and leave.  BUT....many times I've had to end up paying and throw out the food when I get home because I feel it is contaminated.  This time I walked in the door and there was already a fairly large line which was good because it gave me a chance to "scope out" what was going on before it was my turn, time to leave if I needed to, even though I desperately wanted to follow through on this.  I only had to stand there for about 10 seconds before I saw a problem.  The kid making the sandwiches kept brushing his gloved hands on his shorts (which who knows if they were clean?) between he was going from one sandwich to the next.  Then the paper that the sandwich sits on as it's being assembled kept brushing against his T-shirt.  And I knew at that moment that I did not want whatever was on his shorts or T-shirt in my food, so I left.  Bummer.  I knew I needed to get something else to eat so I decided to revisit a hamburger drive thru that I used to avoid.  I went there a couple of weeks ago as an exposure just to prove to myself that it was okay to eat there, and I managed successfully at that time, so I thought...hey, I can do this again, right?  This hamburger joint caused me the same issues as the sandwich shop in the past...the whole glove issue.  I stopped eating there awhile back because I saw through the drive-thru window that someone with gloves was pressing something down into the garbage can (probably to make it fit)--and then my mind started worrying if he was going to go right back to making food after he put his hand in the trash?  I don't remember that far back, but I'm fairly sure I probably threw my food away after I paid and haven't been back there until 2 weeks ago.  Anyway, when I did go 2 weeks ago (for a small exposure) I allowed myself a 5 second look through the drive thru window, just to make sure nothing totally gross was going on.  Nothing appeared to be, so I paid for the food, came home, and ate it.  And everything went well.  So I thought this would be no big issue this time.  I remember sitting in the drive-thru and they were taking awhile to get my food.  I kept telling myself not to look into the window, that would only make my anxiety worse, but of course the longer I waited....I just had to look.  So I did look in, and I saw 2 things right off the bat that bothered me.  Both involved gloved employees.  One was standing at the fountain pop dispenser at the drive-thru window, filling up his own personal cup with pop.  The other was using a broom and dustpan and sweeping the kitchen floor.  Both were wearing gloves, so of course I immediately fretted that these people were making my food with really dirty gloves.  Of course once I started looking, I couldn't stop.  I tried to watch them to see if they would go back to the kitchen.  The guy sweeping continued to do so the whole time, so I know he wasn't making our food.  The guy getting his pop was gone for just a moment but then I saw someone hand him the burgers and he put them in a sack.  So I know he touched the packaged burgers, but I don't think he actually made them.  The thing is though, I wasn't 100% sure and that bothered me.  I was so ticked off at that point because I'd already paid....I told myself there was no way I was going to be able to eat those.  Then I thought about all the food, dishes, clothing, shoes, etc...that I have been throwing out recently and I was so mad at myself and so mad at the OCD.  I decided I would go home and my daughter and I would eat the cheeseburgers after all.  The best way I've found for me personally to do an exposure is just to get it done as quickly as possible, that way there is no turning back.  I remember opening the cheeseburger and just eating it as fast as I could...and then there, it was done.  I remember my anxiety going up to about a 9, and it took about an hour for it to get down to a 3, but since then it has not bothered me at all.  I still don't like what I saw, but I'm not fixated on it anymore.  And I should probably go back there sometime soon to eat a cheeseburger again, just to reinforce the point.  So at the end of the day it was a pretty successful exposure for me.  It sounds so ridiculously stupid that eating a cheeseburger would cause me so much stress, but this was pretty huge for me.  The point being that I didn't allow myself to give into the OCD at this time.  And usually I do give in to what the OCD tells me.  It was amazing to me that I went from "no chance am I going to eat that" (giving into the OCD) to eating it and being okay with it today (a big gain in my book).  I'm hoping that as I continue to do more exposures, I will become less "hyperaware" of what is going around me, and maybe just take on a more normal awareness level.  For those of you that are way beyond where I am in treatment (which is still self-treatment at this point), did you find that the level of hyperawareness you experience goes down?  Do you find that the things that once bothered you immensely, you don't even give a second thought to anymore?  Does anyone have any good exposure ideas for how to continue with my eating/restaurant contamination issues? Thanks for reading!  Hope you all are doing good and keep on fighting the fight against this nasty OCD!

Monday, June 9, 2014

To tell or not to tell....that is the question!

I have really been struggling a lot with whether or not to tell certain people about my OCD.  Currently my only family that knows are my husband and daughter.  I have not told my parents, sister, other relatives or friends about this.  My husbands family also does not know (at least that is what he tells me).  I suppose a lot of it is because I'm ashamed of the behavior.  Also I just don't feel like a lot of people understand OCD, and I worry in some ways it might make it worse to "let the cat out of the bag".  Of course living with my husband made it necessary to tell him.  It got to the point where it was pretty obvious something was wrong and I told him I had OCD about 2 1/2 years ago.  I did not have OCD when we got married in 2001, but it started developing about 2 years after we got married and has slowly gotten worse through the years.  A lot of the initial behaviors were things where no one would ever know and I kept it to myself for a LONG time.  I would classify myself as mild-moderate at the time I told him which was December 2011.  At the present time, I would now classify myself as severe, almost borderline extreme.  Also a lot of my obsessions currently revolve around feeling like my husband is contaminated, so it has been very difficult for our marriage and obviously very difficult to hide.  Ironically our marriage troubles and stress is kind of what triggered my OCD, so it feels like a vicious cycle.  Anyway...I'm rambling. I tend to do that in my posts, don't I?  Even though my husband knows I have OCD, he does not know a lot about my particular symptoms.  It's become something I've been very good at hiding through the years, but it's becoming increasingly harder to do that.  He made the comment about a week ago that things seem worse....and I thought to myself...."if only you knew how bad they really are".  He is not someone that I feel emotionally comfortable with right now, so it's very hard to talk about my OCD with him.  I continue to hide most behaviors from him, although some are very obvious--namely when I'm avoiding him or acting like I'm scared to death of him.  Avoidance has become one of my biggest compulsions when dealing with the contamination issues, and I've started avoiding my family (parents, sister and relatives).  I don't want to go to social gatherings because I can't deal with people touching me and I'm not going to eat there and I don't want to hug I just stay home.  Then my family things I'm being rude or just don't want to come, which has probably created a lot of hard feelings and resentment.  We've had several get-togethers lately with my family and I've avoided all of them, even things like my grandma's 85th birthday party and Easter, simply because I couldn't stand the thought of hugging my relatives or sitting down on their couches.  That is so sad, but so true.  My daughter turned 11 a couple of weeks ago and for the first time ever, I did not plan a birthday party with our families over.  Too many people to keep track of.  I didn't want people using the bathroom that I use or sitting on our couches or touching things around the house, because I wouldn't be able to see what was going on.  My parents ended up bringing over her birthday gift last week, and I suggested they bring their dog over to meet our puppy...just so I had an excuse that we would all be outside.  I didn't want people in here again or sitting on our furniture.  Then my dad came over and gave my daughter a big hug and I felt mortified, and put all her clothes aside, and I later threw them away.  We went to a wedding this weekend and I felt horribly contaminated after that.  My father in law (who concerns me at about the same level as my husband because they both have the same hobbies of farming and machine restoration) touched my clothes and my daughters dress just trying to say hello and be friendly, and I had to hug a few people there.  I wouldn't even wear my seatbelt home from the wedding because I didn't want to contaminate it with my now contaminated clothes.  I didn't go to the reception because I just needed to get home and "decontaminate myself" as quickly as possible.  This meant removing all clothes worn there, and I know I won't wear them again.  I threw my dress and my daughters dress aside and will get rid of those.  I went outside and cleaned off my seat in the car twice with soapy water to remove any contamination from the clothes after hugging people and sitting in the pew at church....I feel so horrible saying that, but this is true, and this is where I'm at.  Everything just feels contaminated to me when I am out in public.  I had several appointments for my daughter and I last week and I bought special inexpensive outfits for us that we would wear to those appointments and then I knew I wouldn't wear them again afterward.  We visited the dentist for the first time in a year (that is a whole other blog post to write about soon and why I have avoided that for so long).  They always wipe down the chair with chemical wipes between patients.  I knew this ahead of time, and so this was the main purpose for buying different clothes.  I didn't want chemicals on my clothes and I knew I wouldn't want to wear them again.  So we went to the dentist in those clothes and I bought special  little pads (like someone who has incontinence might put down on their bed) to put down on the seat, so that the now contaminated clothes wouldn't ruin the seats in my car.  The day after that I had my own doctors appointment with a family doctor (to check my hypothyroidism).  I of course can't stand the thought of sitting in waiting rooms and doctors office chairs, so I wore the contaminated clothing there again so I didn't have to ruin my regular clothes.  Same issue again when my daughter went to the orthodonist later that week.  I had her wear the same pants she wore to the dentist.  Now that week is past us and all of those clothes are being disposed of.  Thank goodness that week is over....that was very stressful for me.  Once we were in the "diirty clothes" for the day, we remained in those until we showered at night.  We never sat on the "safe couch" in the living room in order to not contaminate that.  Once we showered and put on clean clothes, then we were clean and we could sit on our normal couch.  I also hate how I draw my daughter into these compulsions too.  Just a little background information for ya--I also like to keep this stuff for my own documentation purposes.  So anyway.....back to my original question in the title of this post...."to tell or not to tell, that is the question!"  Sometimes I wonder how things would be if I chose to tell people.  If I tell my parents I have OCD, then it may make more sense.  There is an explanation for why I can not eat at peoples gatherings and why I don't come to stuff.  What concerns me is that since my mom and her family (her mom and sisters) are very close, I'm not sure if she would be able to keep this from her family if I asked her to do that.  I definitely am not ready for my grandparents and extended family to know about this, maybe not ever.  I think I haven't eaten as so many family gatherings by now, that it doesn't even phase my family anymore....they probably think its odd, but don't push it anymore, and frankly just don't expect my family to show up for meals at family gatherings.  One of the main reasons I continue to avoid is because I don't want to hug people and I don't want to sit on their couches or kitchen chairs, because I question the cleanliness of their clothes and their furniture and my mind just keeps ruminating about everything that could have happened (ex. my relatives have dogs...who knows if they've peed on the couches.  I saw my aunt clean up dog pee on one of her couches once.  Darn OCD makes you remember everything!!!!)  I could probably go to a function, but I know I would end up throwing clothes away, and I HATE DOING THAT!!!!!!  I really do.  My niece's birthday is in August and she will be 4.  My sister has a knack for taking her around to everyone after she opens her gifts and telling her to give people kisses and hugs.  I don't want a kiss and hug.  I feel so horribly awful saying that, but I don't.  I want to celebrate my nieces's birthday.  I want to see my family.  I do NOT want a hug and kiss from my niece, and so that is probably what will keep me from going to the celebration.  I feel like a horrible aunt saying that.  Feels good to have this outlet on my blog where I can get it out though.  That is another instance where I feel like maybe if my family knew that I had OCD and didn't want to be touched by people, that I could still take part in celebrations, but at least my parents and sister would know that I don't want to be my sister could just not bring her niece over to me or "force" her to give me a hug afterward.  That still doesn't solve the problem of my grandparents and aunts or cousins hugging me.  I just don't want to be touched!!!!  Also if my in-laws were aware of my OCD, then maybe they would realize I don't need a hug or a pat on the arm to say hello either.  Am I sounding totally rude yet or what??!!!???  The bottom line is I just don't know if I want people to know yet.  But when I don't tell them, I know I come off as being extremely rude or avoidant and I don't want to create further tension with my family or my husbands family for that matter.  People just don't get the whole OCD thing.  They really have no idea where our thought processes are capable of going, and how it mentally tortures us through even the most mundane of activities.  Most people would have no idea where our brains can go on simple thought and how we can be taken from Point A to Point B and all of the possible things that could happen in between.  How we give into what the OCD tells us, in order to be free of the thought.  My husband doesn't even get this yet and he has known about it for 2 1/2 years, so how are my parents and sister going to understand, when they don't even live with me and can't see my "OCD in action" everyday.  I'm just curious for all of you out there.....who all knows in your life, and how did you make the decision to tell them?  Are you glad that you told people or do you regret it?  Do most people try to understand or do they now treat you differently?  That is what I am struggling with right now.  Do I keep it a secret or do I tell?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Chair Fiasco.....and some updates!

So I've continued trucking along with my food/eating issues.  I have continued to work on the same things and started to move forward in others. I have now eaten pizza 3 times from the pizza place I banned long ago, and can honestly say I have no anxiety eating the pizza, even thinking they may have been baked on rusty pans.  I have continued to purchase bakery items almost daily and eat them, without any anxiety either (rusty pan concern here too!).  In fact, I've probably been eating too much of them, ha!  :)  I went through a drive thru about a week ago that I haven't been to for awhile and successfully ate a cheeseburger there.  I have gone back to the Hy-Vee grocery store a few times, that I stopped going to about a year ago.  Have purchased and eaten food from there each time.  I plan to make a big trip there tomorrow to buy several days worth of groceries.  Wow, it is so nice only traveling 5 minutes to a grocery store, instead of driving a long ways away to get to a different Hy-Vee.  I am planning starting this week to try some other new restaurants (take out of course, I can't bear the thought of eating AT a restaurant and using their silverware right now).  The ultimate goal for my OCD in the food hierarchy would be to be able to eat out a restaurant without concerns, and I hope I can get there someday.  I've been pleased with the progress I've made so far.  It may not sound like much, but every little step helps.  On another note, I had posted last week about an unexpected laundry exposure I needed to do.  It turns out that actually went quite well, and I have been able to wash most loads of laundry only one time through, without really having any anxiety wearing them afterward.  The loads I have had trouble with are towels and underwear, BUT for normal clothes....pants, T-shirts, I've been able to do them one load through the washer and they are done.  Talk about a time saver!  It makes me feel awful thinking about all the time I wasted back when I was running them three times through, even twice up to last week.  I wasn't sure I would ever be able to do this and thought that basically my days were going to revolve around doing laundry.  I imagine I saved about 5 hours of time this week alone, just on this one ritual.  If you refer back to my last post, there is obviously a ton of work ahead of me in this area, but for me to start here when I wasn't ready is huge.  Even if I don't get cracking on my laundry issues for awhile in full, at least I know I have gotten a start.
Now.....the clothing and husband contamination seems to get worse every day for me.  This is what scares me.  I feel that I may be able to slowly self treat some areas of my OCD, but the clothing contamination and feeling like my husband is contaminated are very extreme.  I am going to call this episode the "chair fiasco", trying to be humorous but it's really not.  I haven't sat in my seat at the kitchen table for almost 4 weeks now.  It all started on Mothers Day.  My puppy peed on the kitchen floor right next to the kitchen table.  My husband cleaned it up and during the process he put his hand on my daughters chair seat.  Well all I could imagine after that were his hands which had been touching pee soaked paper towels.  The chair was now contaminated with dog pee.  I meant to clean it up right away, but I didn't want my husband to see the decontamination process that I would put it through.  One day turned into another and pretty soon it had been almost 4 weeks since my daughter and I sat there.  We ate our meals on the couch or standing up at the kitchen counter.  A couple of times during the past month I have noticed my husband touch my seat back with his hand when he is standing there looking outside.  I asked him to please not do that because then I don't want to sit there or I have to wash it off.  I have continued to explain this is why I'm not sitting here.  His hand is contaminated to me ( for reasons I have previously explained in posts and he also has his hands in the dogs mouth frequently pulling stuff out that she tries to eat). I had off work last week and took the time to reall clean up my house, as I've been fousing on OCD cleaning and other parts of the huse were really needing some attention.  I decided on Friday that I would tackle the kitchen chairs since I got the rest of my stuff done throughut the week.  I wiped and cleared the kitchen table, and wiped down my cair and my daughters chair.  They are wooden chairs wih a fake leather seat.  It took me about an hour total to clean both chairs and I used a combination of wet wipes, rubbing alcohol and paper towels and Dawn dish soap and water.  I was really excited to have a place to sit down again.  I told my husband the day before that I would be cleaning this and if I saw his hand on my chair again I wasn't going to be able to sit there and if that happened, then I told him not to keep asking me why I wasn't sitting at the table again.  On Friday he got home from work a couple of hours after I had cleaned them.  He hadn't been home for more than 5 minutes and I saw him walk over to the window...and this is when he typically grabs my chair.  In hindsight I should have said something.  I should have reminded him, but I said nothing.  I suppose part of me was hoping he would remember.  Then he placed his hand just like he normally would.  The first thing I said was" oh. my. gosh" in a very irritated way.  As soon as I spoke the words, I think he connected it and his hand quickly pulled off the chair.  I explained that I had just spent an hour cleaning the chairs and he insisted that he never touched it.  I asked my daughter later if she had seen it, and she said yes he did touch it.  So all that work for nothing.  Then he asks me something like " what difference does it make if I touch your chair anyway?  You are really not going to sit there because I touched your chair?.......I don't really answer him, because I've tried explaining things over and over to him in the past.  I don't want him to touch my stuff.  If I sit in the chair, then everytime I will worry that my clothes are brushing up against the part he touched.  That has the potential to turn into a lot of " contaminated clothes" which would get even more expensive.  How do you all handle these kind of things in your households?  I understand that my husband doesn't think like me.  I understand that I am the one that has OCD.  My husband knows that this stuff bothers me though.  Where is the fine line between families not engaging in your OCD compulsions, and just trying to keep peace in the house?  These kind of situations come up all the time in our marriage, and the end result is always being angry with each other.  We also had a family wedding last night and I can't stand people touching me, so I am mentally exhausted today from that.  Next post will be about my decontamination processes from the wedding and some doctors appointments last week.  It has been a stressful week, but I am reminding myself of the few positive steps I did make in this fight, or sometimes what I feel is a raging war, against OCD.