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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!