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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Get-Togethers...A Success!

      In this struggle to get out of OCD one step at a time, I find myself comparing how I was at "x" time, versus how I am now in certain situations, to get a better feel for how I am progressing with my self-directed ERP treatment.  2 years ago, in 2013, I had great difficulty in attending any family get togethers.  This went on for an entire year, where I basically avoided every single family gathering for fear or some type of contamination, mostly revolving my clothing.  Last year, I still had  difficulties, but forced myself to go.  This year, things were quite a a bit better.  I saw my niece for the first time in 20 months.  That is a really big deal.  It's been awhile since I've seen my sister too.  I feel horrible saying this but, truthfully, this was the biggest concern I had about getting together with my family for Christmas.  I didn't want my sister or my niece touching me, or hugging me.  They seem more contaminated to me than the rest of my family.  I thought we would be okay at first, but as the day progressed she would come up to me a few times and put her hands on me or want a hug.  Things like that.  I didn't hug her.  I couldn't.  I kind of put my hands on her arms and just smiled at her, but I did not want her to touch me.  I kind of sat with my hands in my lap, not touching, anything, until I could get a chance to go wash them.  Toward the end of the afternoon though, she had touched me.  Really, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  I still feel like my clothes are dirty though, and that is what I want to work toward in 2016.  Once I got past the initial hugs with my family, and could just sit there and socialize and not worry about being touched by anyone, I had a really good time.  I enjoyed myself, and I liked seeing my family.  I liked socializing and just being together.  I double sock when I go to someone else's house, so that is an easy fix to the problem of not wanting to "contaminate" my socks when I go there.  And I wear old shoes, so that I'm not contaminating my good shoes.  I really find the only problem I had on Christmas was feeling like what I was wearing was dirty.  Now, I do have every intention of getting it washed up as soon as possible and back in my closet, and I wasn't even sure I would be able to do that after my niece touched me.  But that is my plan.  I find that once things are washed and put away, they don't feel as contaminated to me anymore.  If I just let them sit in my closet for weeks on end, and don't wash them, then it's just a reminder of how "filthy" they seem to me.  If I am able to wear these clothes again, that will be HUGE for me.  My ultimate goal though, isn't to have these clothes feel "contaminated" going forth anymore (to the point where I would wear this outfit only when around my niece).  In 2016, I really want to start "contaminating" everything, or more accurately, just being able to wear what I want when I want, and wash it all together and not worry if its clothes I wore only to the grocery store (that no one else touched) paired with clothes that I wore when hugging other people.  It all gets washed together.  All comes out clean together.  That is what I want to work toward in this area.
     Christmas gathering with my husbands side was a little more difficult.  There was a meal involved at this gathering, and of course I do not eat at family gatherings.  I feel very awkward and self-conscious about this, but there is just no way I can eat at family gatherings at this point.  I've seen too many things in the past and my OCD pays way too much attention to details, that really truly are unsanitary.  I saw people go directly to put out food, touching crackers and sandwiches with bare hands (without washing them first).  My 6 month old nephew was also at this gathering, and I saw a few things his parents did that really bothered me.  They would put his fingers in his diaper to check to see if he was dirty/wet, and not wash their hands.  Then the baby spit up directly into his mom's hand, and she just wiped it off with a paper towel, and didn't go wash her hands or anything.  So to eat at a family gathering, when you just don't know where people's hands have been, well that is just too much for me now.  So, my daughter and I awkwardly sit there and don't eat anything, because of course I don't want her to eat the food either.  Which works at this point, because she is a picky eater and wouldn't want to eat the food anyway.  But, I do feel strange about this and I wish there was a better way to work around it.  The rest of the evening went okay though.  They do have dogs, which were all over the furniture and sit on the kitchen chairs, begging for food.  At one point, of them even jumped on the table and got some food.  Ugh......Of course, I also had to wash my carseat off when I got home, since I had been sitting on other peoples furniture. 
     So, even though I'm able to go to these functions now, they still present me with problems.  But at least I'm not avoiding anymore.  And I have faced many fears this year, in my next post I plan on summarizing what all I've accomplished in regard to the OCD in 2015, and what my plans are moving forward next year.  As always, I'm amazed at how the anticipation is always worse than the event.  I am glad that I have stopped avoiding many things, and have started to reclaim my life back from OCD.  I hope that you will push somewhere in your fight too.  I promise you, it will be worth it!!   

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Colonoscopy with Contamination OCD...A "Crappy" Exposure, Quite Literally!

     Well, I am here to tell you today that it is possible to have a colonoscopy when you have contamination OCD.  And it is important if you need to have one.  Colon cancer is one of the most lethal types of cancer, and unfortunately there are not many symptoms in the early stages.  It is a type of cancer that by the time one starts exhibiting symptoms, it is often in late stages.  I have had a long history of GI problems.  It has been recommended that I have a colonoscopy a couple of other times in my life (before OCD ever entered the picture), and I just put it off and didn't do it, because the whole process made me nervous.  But, I visited the GI doc again a few weeks ago and it was recommended again.  Since I met my insurance deductible with my surgery last month, I decided I was just going to do this.  I have been trying to sort out my physical health problems for the last few months, and this was a big thing I really needed to cross off my list  I had no idea what to expect with the colonscopy.  I knew the prep was going to be dreadful, but I got through it!  And on the other side of the fence today, I can truly tell you that I'm glad I made the decision to go through with it.  Everything turned out completely normal with my colonscopy.
     The most difficult part about this process was the prepping of the colon.  And I am going to be honest, I am going to get real graphic here.  So, if talk of stools and diarrhea bothers you, please just skip forward to the end of this post.  This is important for me to talk about, because it is the details about the prep that collided with the OCD, and I want to help someone else that may need to figure out how to deal with this as well.
     As I mentioned, I had no idea how bad the diarrhea was going to get.  Obviously the intent is to clear your colon out.  But some things I read said that you could still make it to the toilet, just stay close by at home.  Others said that they couldn't even leave the bathroom until the prep made its way through.  I had 3 "rounds" of prep.  My procedure was on a Friday.  Starting on Wednesday night, I drank a bottle of Magnesium Citrate, which is a powerful liquid laxative.  It said that it would normally produce a stool within about 30 minutes-3 hours.  Meaning, I took that literally.  A stool.  Not so much.  First of all, it didn't do anything for me until the following morning.  Then all of a sudden I jolted out of bed, ran to the bathroom, and yep--it was working.  30-45 minutes straight of liquid stool.  This, I would consider to be "loose stool", it did spray all over the back of the toilet and even shot somewhat onto the outside of our bathtub, which is right next to the toilet.  A fact I should mention now is that I don't sit on my own toilet seat at home.  I'm a squatter.  Fortunately, this didn't prove to be a problem for round 1 of the prep, but it was difficult to stand there for 30-45 minutes straight.  It also became very painful, and I was feeling dehydrated, and nearly passed out during this round.  But when it was done, it was done.  I drank my clear liquids for the remainder of the day, and just tried to relax and keep in mind that round 1 was done.  Round 2 had to be similar, right?
     Wrong.  Round 2 and 3 was the actual split dose colon prep.  I took the first dose on Thursday night, and within about 20 minutes it started to work.  I was already in the bathroom waiting for it to start, squatting over as usual, and as it continued to work it's magic the stool became so watery and uncontrollable.  There would have been absolutely no way I would have made it to the bathroom.  I squatted there, and things started to become a real mess.  Liquid stool was literally spraying out onto the toilet seat and back, dripping down my leg, onto the floor in small amounts.  I would alternate between having diarrhea, using wet wipes to clean off my legs, and when I felt I might have a 3 minute break from the stools, I would quickly disinfect the toilet seat and flush, and start all over.  Finally I just removed the clothes I was wearing because I could tell stool was getting onto my pajama pants and socks as it dripped down.  There wasn't really anything I could do at that point, other than to let it happen.  It took about 2 1/2 hours for the stools to stop.  At that point it was so late at night, I just wanted to go to bed.  I was truly exhausted.  I disinfected the toilet, Cloroxed all around the toilet and wiped down the outside of the tub.  I stepped in the shower so I could at least get clean from the waist down.  I was worried about being in there too long and having an accident in the shower (and then I would really run into some cleaning problems if that happened.  Fortunately it was okay, no accidents).  I put on a clean outfit, laid an old comforter on the floor and slept there, about 5 feet from the bathroom.  There was no way I would trust myself to sleep in bed that night.  If I stooled in the bed, I wouldn't ever be able to sleep there again.  I also had purchased some Depends briefs and wore one of those to bed, paranoid that I might have a stool in my sleep.  I didn't though.
     I didn't sleep well that night, partly because I drank so much fluid that entire day, I was honestly up urinating about every 20 minutes for the first 3 hours of sleep.  Then somehow I was able to get 3 hours in a row of uninterrupted sleep, then I woke up at 5 am and just laid there anticipating round 3 and how I was going to deal with that.
    I knew I could not do the whole squatting thing again.  I felt like sitting on the toilet seat at that point would be less contaminating than getting actual stool all over me again.  Plus I only had a few hours this time before I needed to arrive for the procedure, and I wasn't sure if I would have enough time to hop in the shower again if needed.  I covered the toilet seat with paper towels, starting drinking Round 3 and just sat there for 2 1/2 hours straight again as it worked.  I have to say this ended up being much easier, and I honestly wished I had just done this from the get-go.  Again, I just hadn't known what to expect.  There were no messes this time with the floor my clothes, although the stool did seem to still be getting all over my bottom.  If you've never had a colonoscopy preop before, let me just tell that you that it feels like you have a garden hose attached to your bottom.  Someone elses's words, not mine.  But the best description I have found, and very true.  The prep wore off about 11:30, and my dad was set to arrive about 11:45 to pick me up.  I thought all was done, so I changed again, put on a new Depends brief, and my "contaminated outfit" that I wear to dirty places.  Before my dad arrived, I made one trip to the bathroom, "just in case", but I ended up going again, watery and uncontrollable.  I had no idea how I would make it to the endoscopy center without an accident, but I did make it.  Went to the bathroom shortly after I got there, liquidy and uncontrollable again.  I was mortified I would have an accident and expressed that concern to both my nurse and the doctor.  As far as I know, I never did have an accident. 
    I was nervous about the procedure too, because I don't like to be sedated, and the whole idea of someone manueving a colonscope through your entire large intestine is a little scary.  But the procedure itself was a breeze.  I don't remember anything after they gave me the sedative.  I have a brief recollection of being at the center afterward and sipping from a can of Sprite.
    When I got home, I disinfected my bathroom.  No major binge cleaning here, just disinfected the toilet, cleaned the toilet bowl and mopped the floor.  Got rid of all my garbage from the last 2 days.  Then I took a shower, cleaning bottom and legs REAL good, and that was it.
     As I mentioned earlier, my colon was completely healthy.  And I am so thankful for that.  It would be easy to say, "Oh, I wish I hadn't done that.  Everything was normal and I didn't even need to have that done".  But that is not the case.  There is no way to know it is normal, unless you have it done.  It was difficult, but I got through it, and I am glad that I did it.  It also helped put things into perspective for me about what is contaminated.  I am always worried about "what if this" has stuff on it, or "what if that" has stuff on it.  Always worried about the what-ifs and the might-be's.  There was no question here.  I got stool all over my legs and I'm still okay. 
    Even if you're reading this post and you don't suffer from OCD, I urge all of you to have your colonscopy.  It is a very important thing to do for your health.     As with the surgery last month, I am so glad I did this.  It would be easy for me, with severe contamination OCD, to say I am going to avoid these things because they create too many problems and are "too hard" with OCD.  But I want to be proactive in my health and help myself be the healthiest person I can be.  I think the better I feel physically, then I am also better able to cope with the mental and emotional demands of OCD.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Surgery Update...and another procedure to come in 2 more weeks!

    Well, I had my surgery a couple of weeks ago.  Time has gotten away from me these last couple of weeks, but I wanted to update on how that whole process went.  There were a couple of things I had to do to prepare for the surgery, since it was gynecological.  I had to go in and have my cervix dilated the afternoon prior and because of that I needed to take a small course of antibiotics to help prevent infection.  Taking medications is typically a no-no for me.  I have too many obsessions about having an allergic reaction to something, very fearful of a life threatening anaphylactic reaction, which stems back to some problems I had about 10 years ago when my OCD first took off.  So to put it very blunty, this was a week of many exposures for me.  But I came out on the other side of it great, and I am thankful for this process because I think it helped me to face many things I would typically avoid.   A lot of "what if's", but at the end of that week everything turned out just great and it helped to show me I could take some medical "risks" and still be okay.
     The antibiotic was the first hurdle.  I was so fearful of this that I truly took the first dose in an ER parking lot, so that just in case I did have a reaction, I could literally walk right through the doors of the hospital.  The first dose wasn't too bad, I felt myself getting a little anxious, but I didn't have a reaction!  I drove home after 45 minutes because I was fine.  As I continued to take the medication through the week, I did become desensitized to the anxiety and found it not to be a problem.  In fact, after just a few doses of the medication it became normal and I really didn't have any anxiety at all. 
     The day before the procedure I went in to have my cervix dilated.  They use a device called a laminaria, which is basically a matchstick size piece of sterile seaweed that absorbs fluid overnight and causes your cervix to dilate.  This actually was probably the most painful part of the process, and again I was nervous about having some type of strange reaction. But once it was in, I actually did really well.  Had some cramping that night,  which was expected
     My biggest concern with the surgery was the general anesthesia:  I was really scared about this part.  Scared about what would happen and being put under and not knowing what was going on.  I had never been under general anesthesia before, and was truly terrified.  All kinds of "what ifs" came in to play here.  What if my heart stops?  What if I stop breathing?  What if I don't wake up?  What if I have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic?  Every time the nurse would ask me if I was doing okay, or when anesthesia would come in to talk to me beforehand, I would start crying, but then I would be fine until someone asked me about it again.  Ultimately, it was all good though.  My heart didn't stop, I didn't stop breathing, I didn't have any reaction, and I DID wake up!!  I don't remember much after they put the mask on me in the OR, I was probably out within a few seconds, have a very brief memory in the recovery room, and was pretty much "back to normal" within just over an hour of the start time of the procedure (the actual surgery only took about 10-15 minutes).  
     Of course I also had a few concerns about the actual surgical Procedure, but nothing too terribly anxious:  Nothing really bothered me much surprisingly, looking back on everything.  I trust that the hospital follows good disinfection guidelines and the nurses were super on top of using hand sanitizier basically every time they came into the room and did anything with you.  So I felt pretty comfortable overall there.  I also knew my nurse in the outpatient surgery area, which was a bonus.  She gave me lots of good TLC and lots of hugs (which hugs typically bother me, but it's weird that as I've learned to be more contaminated those things don't bother me as much).....but I knew that I was going to feel ultra contaminated from the whole hospitalization that day anyway, so I suppose part of that could have been that I knew I was going home to shower immediately afterward, and so I just let myself be contaminated while at the hospital .
    There were a few things that happened in the hospital that proved to be small issues,  but I found my way around them.  After I got back to my room, I ate some crackers that a nurse "might" have touched", I drank from a cup that had a straw in it that was already unwrapped, there was a slight gown issue when I got there(saw some dried set in blood spots and ended up swapping that out on my own when I found some spare gowns in the cupboard in my room), had to wipe down with some antiseptic wipes (which bothers me, chemicals!), my mom kissed me on the cheek before I went down to surgery, I had to use the hospital bathroom (and the first time I got up to pee after surgery I went straight back to bed and didn't wash my hands (the nurse had to make sure I peed this time so she told ME not to flush and that she would after she checked the toilet), so since I was just peeing and wiping myself and not flushing the toilet I went straight back to bed and didn't wash my hands (for some reason this actually didn't bother me).  The nurse was on top of it and handed me a wipey to use.  The rest of the time I was able to wash my hands after using the restroom.  
     The next issue was the decontamination process when I got home:  I just didn't want to bring any of the hospital germs into my house.  Fortunately I felt very well when I got home.  I was completely alert, moving around on my own, and felt actually very normal.  I was supposed to have an adult stay with me for 24 hours, but I told my mom I felt fine and I think she realized I was doing fine.  After she took me home, I let my dog out and played with her and even took a couple of garbage bags outside from my kitchen, so I seemed to be doing fine.  I had all kinds of plans in place for what I would do following surgery, but it turned out I didn't need any of them.  I spent a lot of time (too much time) the entire week of the surgery coming up with plans for each situation that could be present itself.  I had debated if I should go over to her house to recover for the day or have her stay at my house for the day.  Each would bring certain sets of complications for me.  Ultimately having her come into my house and sit on my furniture or use my bathroom, would have produced a lot of contamination from the hospital, that I didn't really want to deal with.  I would have had to wipe off the furniture she sat in (because she wore the clothes in the hospital), and I had even bought a huge blanket to cover the couch with, but thanks to my dog, the night before she got ahold of it and drug it all over the house.  The bathroom would be tricky too, because then I would have to clean the whole bathroom the next day, which wouldn't have been a HUGE deal, but I still didn't want to go through the process.  Staying at her house would have been tricky too for other reasons, but I honestly think had I needed to choose one of those options, I would have stayed at her house.  I just didn't want the hospital contamination to come into my house.  Since I felt so well I showered soon after she left, dumped the clothes I wore to the hospital in my closet (and I will wash those separetly but yes I WILL wear those again).  I threw my underwear out because too much happened to it in the hospital.  My mom had to touch it to give it back to me, I also kind of not really fell backward while I was urinating once in the bathroom, but I was trying to squat over the toilet and kind of misjudged the height and my body kind of went back and my lower thighs both very much came in contact with the toilet seat and the underwear that was around my knees at the time, made full contact with the toilet bowl seat.  I had to put these back on, because I had no choice.  I was bleeding and needed to have pants on.  So my shower was definitely longer than usual, but it wasn't a super long complicated process.  I'd say I was in there maybe 15 minutes, put on some clean clothes, rinsed my mouth out with some mouthwash and was good to go.
I faced so many things this week that I was terrified of, but I made it through it.  God pulled me through.  I prayed every step of the way.  Didn't have any reaction to any of the meds I was given and I feel pretty good about the whole thing overall.
     One thing I am mad at myself about is I kind of wished I had eaten off the hospital silverware.  OK, let me rephrase that.  I didn't WANT to eat off the silverware, but in retrospect I think it would have been good for my OCD.  I think if I could have eaten off hospital silverware, then restaurants would have been a breeze as a step down the next time.  Meaning hospital silverware was a 100 on the scale easily. 
    I am pleased to say that everything came back normal after my surgery.  I had a few polyps that were removed, but nothing more serious than that.  I do have to start taking hormones now, but after the antibiotic exposure, I'm not as nervous about taking new meds.  Now I need to address another issue and have a colonoscopy done next week.  I am actually not too nervous about this one.  More to come on that later.
     I am feeling happier lately too.  More energy again, which is a good thing.  I've found myself a little more motivated to do things, such as cleaning my house, and making dinner again.  I'm finding in general I don't have as many issues with certain things that I used to.  I can clean my bathroom (with chemicals) and not feel dirty or gross afterward.  Being around my dog is getting easier.  I have seen things I "don't like" when at food places and I try to just it let go the best I can.  Although I will admit, I did get take out the other night from a pasta place where they put your food together right there in front of you.  The gal at the front was handling cash and credit cards, then going back and putting her fingers right into the cheese to sprinkle on the pasta dishes.  She did this multiple times, my food included.  Needless to say, I didn't eat my food.  That was a legit sanitary issue to me though, I wish I would have said something while I was there.  I'm still having some laundry issues, but hoping to knock more of that out next year.  Christmas is right around the corner and I don't want to avoid any family gatherings this year.  I also plan to sit down and make out a list of everything I have left to accomplish to rid myself of this OCD.  Since I got a pretty good start on this over the last 6-9 months, I really hope to knock a lot of other stuff out by the end of 2016 and kick things up a notch!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Trip to the Mechanic and a Baptism

     Well, the trip to the mechanic is least for another week or so.  Yes, I have to go back again because they couldn't get everything done the first time.  I went there simply to have all new tires put on my vehicle and an alignment.  When I went up to pay for the services, they told me they could not do the alignment until I had some other work done.  Usually my husband does all of the mechanical work to my car, but he can not do an alignment (because obviously that involves equipment only available at a tire shop).  The trip itself wasn't too bad.  The only real problem was the "decontamination" of my car afterward.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the seatbelt was my main concern.  I put on a car seat cover and a steering wheel cover and drove it over there.  I was trying to get clever with the seatbelt and how I might know if they had worn it or not.  So I twisted the top of the seatbelt three times and put the "seatbelt clicker" (because I'm lacking what the correct term for that is) into a little notch at the top of where the seat belt connects.  If they weren't paying attention, I don't even think they would notice it.  But I would notice it...and if it looked different then I would know they might have worn the seatbelt.  I also set my trip odometer to zero before I walked in the shop, so I would be able to get a better gauge for if they drove it.  Nothing looked different with the seatbelt and the odometer was only up about 3/10 of a mile (which would easily account for being pulled in and out of the garage and into a parking stall afterward).  Regardless of this, I still cleaned my car thoroughly as I just wanted to make sure it was okay to get back in afterward, and that I would feel comfortable sitting in my seat again.  It took me about 2 hours to clean the car out, which involved wiping the drivers seat and the back seat (where my daughters sits), wiping off the keys and all off the gadgets in the car (turn signals, gear shifter, door handles, etc), and wiping off my seatbelt (yes,  even though they hadn't worn it), then I took a shower and changed into fresh clothes.  I debated whether or not to wear the seatbelt right away, but then decided to just put it on so I didn't carry the anticipation out....and I have rode comfortably in it since. I have to go back in another week or two to finish it off.  So I am less nervous this time, and I am hoping I can do a less thorough clean this time, but I am still concerned about that darn seatbelt.
     On another front, I have been trying really hard to not avoid most stuff.  I'll be honest, there are still things I avoid.  Such as my daughter has an orchestra concert at school this coming week, and I have already made up an excuse for her to get out of that (because I don't want to be in an auditorium full of people).
     My husbands brother and his wife had their son baptized this morning.  I have known about this for a few weeks now.  I had every intention of going since we received the invitation, but I knew that I was going to need to sit in the back of the church.  I figure it is better to go places even if you have to sit in the back, rather than avoid going at all.  I have felt like I have been doing so much better in general with my OCD, so I figured as long as I sat in the back, I would have minimal problems there.  My  husbands reaction to my OCD is always a huge trigger for me and causes a lot of problems. This is nothing new and I have documented this in many places on this blog.  I waited until about an hour before we left, and I told him that I would be sitting in the back of the church and to let me know if that would be a problem for him...well, it was.  I am getting increasingly frustrated with his reaction to my OCD.  It just seems like whatever I do, it is never enough.  I should think he would be happy that I was going, but instead it was a problem because I didn't want so sit in the reserved seats up front.  I get how that would be frustrating from the other side, I really do.  But his yelling at me and acting like I am such an imposition and embarassment to him, is really starting to wear me thin.  I don't know how much more of it I can take.  I was so close to saying to forget the whole thing, and he could go himself then...but I didn't want to do that to his family.  It's not their fault that he acts that way.  I called my mother in law right before we left and explained the situation to her.  I used my upcoming surgery as the reason for this, and that I didn't want to sit in a crowd at church where I might be exposed to something, so I would be sitting in the back.  She did not seem upset at all about this.  There was a luncheon after the baptism at a restaurant, where there was about 20 of us family members that ate lunch in a private room together.  I considered eating off the silverware (as this would have been an exposure for me too) for the first time in a long time, but then after I saw the set up (it was a formal set up, so everything was just laid out beside the plates, not wrapped in a napkin like you might get some places) I couldn't do it.  I usually don't eat with my hands either, because of the warts on my hands.  They are getting better now and aren't too visible, so I decided to go ahead and order a sandwich and just eat it with my hands (so I didn't have to worry about the silveware).  It's frustrating to me, because before we left he was also talking about how frustrated he was that he would have to explain why I wasn't eating at the restaurant), and so I took it upon myself to FORCE myself to do this, even though I didn't want to, because I am still not comfortable AT ALL eating with my hands.  It just felt like he sat there and scrutinized my every move at the restaurant, like he was just watching me out of the corner of his eye to see what weird or unacceptable things in his eyes I would be doing.  Even looking back at the event now (a few hours later), I still don't feel he has any appreciation for the things I force myself to do to appear semi "normal" at an event.
     He said some very disturbing words to me before both the baptism and the mechanic trip.  Both were pertaining to the idea that "why can't I just be okay with things".  He is not encouraging to me at all.  In fact, he is the very opposite and discouraging to me.  He makes me feel that no matter what I am doing with my OCD or how far I have come, he just still can't accept where I am.  And instead of being thankful and celebrating how far I have come, he yells at me and acts embarassed because I still have problems doing a lot of things.  Before the baptism today, in a very irritated tone, he said to me "Why can't you just be okay with this today" (meaning why can't I just sit in the front of the church like everyone else and why can't I just eat the food and use the silverware and be normal).  As if I can just shut it off like a switch for a day.
    The truth is I'm really starting to accept that he will never understand this disorder, nor even try is the worst part.  It is so difficult for me to understand how after knowing fully about my disorder for several years now, that he thinks I can just "shut it off" for a day.  And how he thinks that yelling at me is going to motivate me to want to do things.  It is discouraging is what it is.  He doesn't even understand most of what I deal with, and that is his choice, not mine.  Because he doesn't want to talk about it.  But his attitude has always worn on me.  It brings me down and it makes me feel negatively about him.  I really don't have much "trust" in him anymore, from an emotional standpoint.  And because I don't "trust" him or find him to be a safe person to share my emotions with, I think this is part of the reason why I feel he is so contaminated to me.  I find myself avoiding a lot of things where he will be, simply because I don't want to see him roll his eyes at me, sigh, yell, or act like I'm embarassing him.  It's easier to avoid and not have to deal with his reaction.  The interesting thing is that I can go out and do a lot of things when he is not there, that I would have trouble doing when he was there.  Again, it's just him constantly watching me and feeling a sense of shame.  No matter what I do, it's just never enough for him.  The problem is that he wants me to be "normal" and not have OCD get in the way of his life.  And there is no in between for him.  I just feel so depressed and defeated thinking about this whole thing.  That is a dangerous place to be, as depression leads you to places where it is really  hard to fight off the OCD.  And I WILL NOT get back to the place I was before.
   One of the hardest things for me to figure out, is how I get over feeling like he is contaminated.  How do I push myself in these areas.  When I don't "trust" him enough to feel emotionally safe with him, it is really difficult to even think about wanting to have a physical relationship with him.  And when he finds fault in everything that I do with the OCD and is basically ashamed of me, then what am I really working for here?
   At the end of the day, I have to keep fighting against this OCD for myself...and for my daughter.  When I was at my most severe with this, I managed to get myself out of it (even despite his discouragement and attitude toward me).  I did this with the help of God.  I'm not sure that my husband understands how his attitude toward me plunged me further down.  Today, I know that I am getting somewhere in this fight.  I look back to when I had severe OCD and most of my days (from an OCD stanpoint) were rated at about a 2.  Now most of my days (from an OCD standpoint) are about an 8.  That is HUGE progress.  And I will keep working on it.    

Monday, November 2, 2015

Upcoming Surgery and Contamination Concerns

     So, last week I found out I need to have surgery.  It is an outpatient procedure, but this will be the first time I have ever been under general anesthesia.  And it will be done in the hospital.  I am very nervous about the whole process, and of course the added component of OCD really complicates things.  I've actually had several doctors visits in the past few months, and doctors offices are one of the more "contaminated places" for me.  So, I've resorted to wearing my "contaminated outfit" for these appointments, but at least I'm able to give them one wash through a sanitary setting, and hang it back in my closet until the next time.  This surgery is really going to push me.  I've actually told myself several times that if I could just go in and have this done and not compulse in anyway, maybe that would knock out a serious portion of my OCD.  I joke around saying it, but it's partly true.  I will have to face many things during this surgery, that are high up on my hierarchy.  But it's important for me to have the surgery done, and I realize this.  So, I must just go with it and see how it goes.
     These are my OCD concerns:  hospital gown (yuck, yuck, yuck), hospital sheets, hospital pillow, dirty bedrails, having to potentially eat off hospital silverware/dishes, still feeling groggy when I get home to where I can't shower right away, the fact that when you're under general anesthesia you don't have a clue what is going on, people in the operating room touching me, feeling uneasy about the surgical equipment being sanitary enough, needing to take oral antibiotics (this is a trigger for me too, as I've always been scared to take new medication since I had panic attacks 10 years ago which were one of the first defining symptoms of my development of OCD).  Just for a little background on the antibiotic concern, I found out I had some potential food allergies in 2005.  One afternoon when I was driving to work I had a panic attack.  Didn't realize it at the time, as I'd never had one before.  I initially thought I was having an anaphylactic reaction to something that I ate.  After that time I began to get very scared about what I was eating, and I started avoiding common food allergens, including a lot of medications.  I am terrified of having an anaphylactic reaction to something, be it food or medication.  I've gotten back to the point where I can eat most foods (other than I avoid nuts as I did test positive to those), but I have not taken any antibiotics during this whole time.  But I have to take them now.
     The surgery is planned for a couple of weeks from now.  I am honestly planning on taking my own food and drink to the hospital.  A few bottled waters in my purse, along with some baggies of crackers.  I know they just want to make sure you can eat without getting sick before they send you home.  I just don't think I can eat hospital food.  But that is another scary thing.  When I'm still feeling the effects of anesthesia, I know I won't really know what I'm doing.  I will probably likely do things, that I normally wouldn't do.  My OCD might go to rest during this time, and that scares me.  The recovery nurse may hand me a cup of water and a straw (how do I know her hands were clean and if they touched the straw), and I may likely take a drink at that given time, because my OCD won't be telling me not to.  And then I won't know what I did, and I can't shake that feeling.
     When I get back to my actual room, where my mom and my daughter will be waiting for me, I have given instructions to my daughter to take notes for me on what is going on.  Such as, did I take a drink of water from a hospital glass?  Did I touch the bed rail and then touch my finger to my face?
     To add to this, I also have to take my car in to a mechanic shop next week, to have tires put on and have them aligned.  Hospitals and mechanic grease.  Two of my biggest yuck-factors.  This was supposed to be done last summer, but I kept putting it off.  I do have a plan in place for this, which I won't get into detail with, but my biggest concern is the seatbelt.  I found out during a trial run for preparing for this appointment last week, that it is possible to wash a seatbelt.  Of course I have no way of asking the mechanic if he drove my car.  My OCD tells me to check the odometer when I drop it off, and if its just a couple tenths of of a mile up then he probably just pulled it in and out of the garage.  But if there is definitely new mileage on there, they may have driven it afterward.  I don't know.  Maybe I will just sit there in the shop waiting room and watch.  But the seatbelt is my concern.  I am worried that if I feel its contaminated enough after a mechanic has sat there and had his dirty/greasy clothes up against it, how will I feel comfortable wearing the seatbelt again?  I tried to buy seatbelt covers, but there obviously isn't anything to cover the entire thing (chest and lap belts).  So, I will wash it, and I guess I will have no choice but to wear it again.
     For a quick update on the rest of the OCD front, I am doing okay.  Becoming more comfortable with being contaminated.  There have been times out in public where I have ran into an acquaintance, and they gave me a hug, or there was the time that a woman (that I didn't even know) at the grocery store put her hand on my sweatshirt while she was telling me to go ahead of her in line.  Things like that throw me off, and I have to wash those clothes separately.  But I am so happy that I am no longer throwing things away anymore because of that.  And I'm actually finding out that they don't bother me as much as they used to (it still bugs me, but I don't fixate on it like I did in the past).
    If anyone has any friendly advice or tips on how to deal with the surgery or the mechanic, I would greatly appreciate it.  I will post an update later this week after the mechanic (that is the lesser of my worries though), and a little longer update on how I've been doing in general.    

Friday, October 16, 2015

Real OCD is when...

     Wow!  It has been almost 3 months since I have blogged.  I've been trying to sort out some physical health issues in my life the past couple of months, so my OCD treatment has kind of taken a backseat for the time being.  No worries, I'm doing pretty well in the OCD department right now.  Tackling some smaller things, but as soon as I get these physical issues sorted out I plan to get back on track and start taking out big chunks of this thing again.
    My main reason for posting today is because it is OCD awareness week.  And OCD does need awareness, doesn't it?  I think I've read somewhere on about every OCD blog I've read about people's frustrations with how casually the words "I'm so OCD", can be thrown around.  So, I thought it would be interesting, because of OCD awareness week, to just point out what real OCD is.  These are just a few of the many examples I could give, things that I have done because of OCD.  Thankfully some of these items are from a long time ago, but there always contamination issues that present themselves for me every day.  So here is what real OCD is:

--When you haven't seen your niece in almost 2 years because you don't want her to hug you.
--When you don't eat at restaurants because you don't want to use the silverware/glasses that other people use
--When you haven't had any type of physical relationship with your husband for over 3 years due to fears of becoming "contaminated" by him
--When you wash your hands before AND after using the restroom
--When you, in a sense, make your own child fearful of touching her dad because you are always talking about how dirty he is.  You won't let your child hug her dad.  
--When you avoided getting your hair cut for 8 months straight because you didn't want to sit in the stylists chair and contaminate your clothes with hair dye/color from the chair.
--When you don't take your car to the mechanic because you're not sure how you'd deal with the contamination of the car seat after the mechanic sits in it--what to do with the seat, seat belt, etc.
--When you have one special outfit that you wear to very contaminated places (doctors offices).  It gets washed and put back in the closet until the next time.  It is to be worn nowhere else.
--When you lock in your keys in your car and you dread calling someone to pick you up to take you to pick your child up from school, because you don't want to sit in their car and have your clothes contaminated.  So you rely on the above mentioned "contaminated outfit" above.
--When you try to buy a purse from a store and end up returning and repurchasing another one three times in the same day (even going to different franchise of the store) because the cashiers have done various things during the process (touching drink straw to the purse handle, or the cashier possibly had a draining sore on their lip).
--When you take back clothes to the store because the cashier licked their finger before they touched your clothes and put them in the bag to take home 
--When your clothes are designated for outside or inside use
--When you will absolutely not go barefoot in your house because you're afraid of contaminating your feet and spreading it all over the house
--When you stop using cleaners to clean  your bathroom for a period of time, because you're afraid of chemicals
--When you have to wash a load of laundry through two to three cycles to feel like it is clean.
--When you go to a sandwich shop and the person assembling the sandwiches (with gloves on) pushes something on the cash register screen, and goes back to making the food, and you end up leaving and making an excuse that you forgot your money in the car
--When  you go to a work meeting and pretend you hurt your knee so you can stand up in the back, and kind of not look stupid (so you don't have to contaminate yourself by sitting in a public chair)
--When someone possibly brushes up against you at the store and you have to wash those items separately from the rest of your clothes, so you don't "mix" the contaminated stuff with the clean stuff
--When you have your daughter wear different socks to school on the days she has gym class, and wash those socks separately from everything else because the school floor is contaminated
--When you wash your couch off everyday "just in case" your husband might have came out during the night and sat on the couch
--When you wash your carseat off everytime after you sit in a "public seat"
--When you line dry your clothes instead of using the clothes dryer, because the dryer is "contaminated" after having your husbands clothes in it (even after they've been washed)
--When you run an empty cycle in the morning before you start your laundry (to clean out the washing machine after the last use)
--When you basically depleted your entire closet of clothes over a 6 month period because everything felt too dirty to even be washed at one point
--When you develop warts all over your hands because of such frequent handwashing
--When you didn't go to family events for a year straight because of fear of contamination
--When you start to avoid everything around you.  Everything and everyone.  When you start to avoid these things in life, that is the beginning of your spiral deep down into OCD.  I really believe that.

     Well, the truth is that I could go on and on.  Real OCD is life affecting, certainly.  It affects the sufferer and everyone around them.  I thank God that I have come as far as I have in my treatment over the last year.  Self guided treatment that has changed my life significantly.  I have gone from rock bottom extreme OCD to probably moderate levels at this point.  And that is something to celebrate.  I still have a long way to go, but every day I get closer.
     The struggle with OCD is real.  Through this struggle, I have developed a true passion for learning about the disorder.  It is evident how much awareness this disorder truly needs.  1 in 40 Americans have OCD.  That is very significant.  If you are struggling with OCD, I urge you to find help.  For many people, it truly does take them hitting rock bottom to realize that they can't live this way any longer.  And you don't have to live like this any longer.  When you make the decision to not let OCD control you, it is going to be a process.  But as you grow healthier fighting against this, you are taking your life back from this disorder.  Each and every day it gets better.  I genuinely feel for every one of you that has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  A brain based, neuropsychological disorder.  Real OCD.  Not quirks, not a personality character.  You are brave, courageous people.  One of the really cool things about blogger is that you can see what keywords people are searching to bring you to your page or post.  My heart breaks at most of the phrases that are used to bring people here.  There is a lot of suffering with this disorder, I am certain of that.  I know that first hand too.
     I love to hear from my readers, so if you're reading this please leave a comment for me and let me know what real OCD is for you.  Let's keep drawing awareness to this disease.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Breakthrough Exposure

    This past weekend I attended my 20 year high school reunion.  When the information first started coming out last summer, those initial attempts to start gathering addresses and information on all the classmates, I probably would have laughed out loud in disbelief if someone told me I would actually be able to attend this event.  And through the course of the past year I never really thought about attending, because I figured there was just no way I was going to be able to go.  If I couldn't make it to other social things, why did I think a reunion would be any different?  I was wrong.  All of the stuff that I have been working on these past several months has actually led me up to be able to do this exposure, and I never really planned it that way.  Getting out to some events here and there, being able to rewash "contaminated" clothes and just feeling better altogether, led me to start mentally preparing for this reunion about a month ago, when I decided that yes...I was going to go.
     I believe that part of my mental preparation with this exposure, was knowing that there was no way to protect my clothes during this event.  When I go out socially normally, I am so worried that there might be a chance someone might hug me or touch my clothes with their hands, and I want so badly to "protect" my clothes.  If someone hugged me, then I would have to clean my carseat, wash that laundry separately a couple of times (or even toss out), and so I would avoid the whole ordeal and skip out on social events because it was easier that way.  But it was making me worse in the meantime.  Isolating me too.  Avoidance is one of the worst things you can do to get further drawn into  OCD's web.   I knew that because I graduated in a class of about 275 people, that I was definitely going to be hugged and touched by many people that night, and there wasn't going to be one darn thing I could do about.  So, I went.  I didn't give in, because I knew this could potentially be a wonderful chance at exposure.  And I am SO glad I did.  I truly believe this could be a breakthrough for me
    They had a photo both there, and one of my old friends grabbed me immediately and took me right over.  Of course they have an assortment of things you can "wear", that have been worn by all kinds of other people.  Hats, scarves, eyewear.  Stuff I would never normally wear.  But I figured I was there, and I was going to expose myself, and I was just going to pretend I didn't have OCD for the night, the best that I could.  My friend immediately put on a police helmet and handed me one too, so we could match.  So, I just slipped it right on and tried not to think about it.  As I thought would happen, I hugged multiple people that night.  It was very crowded in the private room, so people were sliding by constantly and I was in very close quarters with everyone.  I was surprised by how little these things bothered me.  By the end of the night I was even touching my own clothes, to adjust my shirt, or fluff up my hair a little bit.  And I don't EVER touch my own clothes normally, especially when I have been touching things out in public--doorknobs, etc.
     As far as how did I wash my clothing when I got home?  A few days later, I washed the outfit I wore in a sanitary washing setting--just one time through--and all the clothes are currently back in my closet ready to be incorporated back into my normal wardrobe.  No need to consider them contaminated anymore.
    All in all, it was really a success.  They  key here is that I need to continue to go out to social events.  I have proven to myself that I can do it.  My hope is that I continue to do it, that all of my outside clothes will eventually be contaminated, and that there will be nothing to protect anymore. I am thinking that the way to keep going about this is to work on contaminating myself in the outside world, and then eventually moving to my own home/safe spaces.
    This event made me realize how truly important it is to be involved socially.  I have not been out with friends in years.  I actually had a lot of fun.  I smiled, I laughed, I had a great time.  I even stayed longer than I anticipated.  And I kind of wished I had bought tickets for the entire reunion (that went on the whole weekend).
     This just goes to show, as the picture above portrays, that you do have to be willing to be uncomfortable to change.  If we stay in our "comfort zone" in OCD, we will never truly get better.  It is when we take those big steps and let ourselves feel the discomfort, that we truly create change...and start getting our lives back.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Health Triangle & Turning the OCD cycle around

     This triangle.  This is important stuff.  Between about November of 2013 and June of 2014, I was at my absolute lowest point with my OCD.  My most severe and debilitating time.  That summer of 2014 was not much better, although there was some improvement.  Starting last fall and especially this past winter and spring, I have really been pushing myself toward better health in ALL of these areas.  All of them are so important, and all of them affect each other. When OCD gets to an extreme level, you are in a mental torture chamber.  Trapped in a prison that you've essentially created for yourself.   I started avoiding everything and everyone.  I lost my social life and in a sense I lost myself.  I wasn't taking care of myself physically and it showed.  I was a mental, emotional and physical wreck.  It is a place that I don't ever want to be again. 
     For awhile, the OCD affected everything.  As far as physical aspects, I let myself go.  I stopped cutting my hair, stopped highlighting my hair, stopped wearing makeup, stopped wearing hairspray--all because somehow I would be contaminated by it or come into contact with chemicals.  I recently looked at a picture of myself just from last winter, and I don't even look like myself.  It is truly a person I don't even recognize.  I wasn't sleeping well at all (and to be totally honest, I'm still not sleeping the greatest).   I was waking up feeling utterly exhausted, like I'd been up for days straight, walking around like a zombie, feeling like I could collapse.  I was having increased headaches, nausea and just a strange assortment of symptoms.  Bad panic attacks, anxiety reactions, and shortness of breath.  Severe teeth clenching (still have that too).  I would be too exhausted to take care of my teeth, sometimes not even brushing them every day.  Not eating properly, not exercising, not getting sunshine or fresh air.  Cooping myself up.  I felt numb, flat and detached.  I was struggling to keep my head above the water.  I felt like someone was holding me down and I was drowning at the time.
    From a social standpoint, I isolated myself completely.  Stopped going to all events.  Made up excuses for every single social family gathering.  I started only working from home (and still do this for the most part).  I was too exhausted.  Every day was a battle to get through.  And then it started all over again the next day. 
    Mentally, my mind was consumed 24/7 with OCD thoughts or compulsions.  Even in my dreams, it seemed I could not escape some of the stuff (and I will still even have OCD related dreams about certain obsessions, usually ones of my husband invading my "safe spaces").  I was not productive, I was more forgetful.  I  got to the point where I was just trying to get through each day.  To survive the OCD each day.
    Emotionally, I was a mess.  The OCD was wreaking havoc on me, but also my marriage and the relationship with my husband was (and still is) extremely wearing on me.   The marriage stress makes me more anxious, which makes the OCD worse, and thus the cycle continues in both directions.  Never-ending.  Sometimes it felt like there was no way out of it.
    Slowly, as I started working on my OCD, I began to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  It is hard to become motivated to work on your OCD though, when you don't feel physically or emotionally feel.  But when you don't work on your OCD, and it consumes you, you dive deeper and deeper into depression and the OCD cycle.  I truly believe one of the biggest reasons why I slid so far down into the depths of OCD was because it became so depressing, that I literally just could not fight it off anymore.  As I started working on all 3 of these aspects of the triangle at the same time, I saw myself improve in all areas.  I felt less depressed, more "alive", and then I became more motivated.  But it has taken a long time to really get to this point, where I truly can see results in my progress.  
     I am making it my mission to improve my health.  My marriage is one of the most frustrating things I deal with.   Probably even moreso now than the OCD, to be completely honest.  I'm able to function much better right now, but I am still very much trapped by the OCD in a lot of ways.  I am able to get out and socialize (although I still engage in certain "decontamination" compulsions when I get home).  They do not affect my life as much as they used to.  BUT....they still do affect me, and ultimately I don't want them to.   I am trying to get more sleep at night.  I am trying to take naps on the weekends if able.  I am trying to eat 3 meals per day, and I actually have gained about 5-10 pounds over the last several months, which is a good thing for me.  I am walking my dog several times/week, and trying to get outside and enjoy the sun as much as I can this summer.  I am trying to push myself to get to family gatherings, and do things I wouldn't ordinarily do.  I am trying to do the opposite of what my OCD tells me, and I've actually been doing fairly well at that part.  I've been back to getting my hair cut now since early this year (and highlighted too), I've been wearing hairspray and putting on eye make up, and am getting myself ready when I go out to run errands or go somewhere.  I look more like myself, and that is a good start.  I feel somewhat better emotionally.  And that is important.  As much anger as I have toward my husband, it is ironically a good motivator for me.  I have made the choice to keep pushing myself harder to get further out of this.  I will NOT go back to the point I was at, at my lowest.  I have seen my lowest OCD point, so I can only get better from this point on.  The choice is to either be sucked in deeper, or suck it up and truck forward in the fight.  Seeing where I've been, and seeing how far I've come is the motivation that I need.  I am very aware of the fact that I can not let myself become depressed again.  I need to continue improving my health physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.  When I feel better physically, I feel like I can cope with things better emotionally and mentally.  When I can cope better, I can deal with the mental stress of OCD better.  When I'm fighting off the OCD, I feel emotionally better.  They are all interlaced and very important.  So, wherever you are in the fight against this monster, please know that it CAN get better.  And it just have to keep working in the right direction.  So choose something today.  Choose something to get the ball rolling.  Every step you take is so worth it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Week 1 Progress

     So, I just wanted to update on my progress this past week with my planned exposures (see my last post).  I've done pretty good actually!  I have eaten some new foods--things that I haven't eaten for a long time due to fear of allergic reaction.  I have continued to buy donuts from behind the bakery counter.  One thing that really bothers me about that, is that sometimes they use the bakery tissue to grab the donuts from the case and I worry that their fingers might actually touch the donut.  Other times, they are already wearing a glove when I get there, and they use their gloved hand to directly put the donut in the bag/box.  This bothers me, because I don't know where their gloved hands have been, BUT....I've actually been doing really good with this for weeks now.  I've kept the donuts and ate them, and so far it's been okay.  I have not worked on handwashing this week, as I was supposed to.  Not because I don't think I can do this, it just doesn't come I really need to work on this next week.  I did combine a couple types of clothes in the washer that I normally wouldn't.  I have been flushing our main bathroom toilet during most loads of laundry.
    Also, I had an excellent time this past weekend--My husband was out of town all day Saturday, so my daughter and I did a "fun day".  It was awesome.  We went out mini-golfing, got lunch, took our dog on a couple of walks, ran some errands--got some new books and some clothing at a couple different stores.  I have been buying most of my clothing online anymore, because somehow it feels that people might not try those on so much as they would in a store.  But we did each buy some shirts from a store, and to my surprise I wasn't even as fanatic about the employee handling them as I have been in the past.  I suppose this is because I am getting more used to "contaminating" my clothes and it feels a little more comfortable to have people touch them.  We also went OUT to eat...yes OUT, at a restaurant.  It was so fun!  Yes, I did bring my own silverware, but surprisingly I didn't have any other issues while there.  I did end up washing my car seat (just the part you sit on, not the whole thing) after we ate out, but that was only because I wore shorts to the restaurant, and that was not my intention.  But..I was able to wash those shorts (even though had worn them out publicly) with some other that was good.  I can't tell if the reason I felt so comfortable going out to eat was because I am doing so much better or because my husband wasn't there (which makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like he watches me to do OCD related stuff).
    Some other surprising things I've been able to do recently is visit my newborn nephew.  They were in town at my sister in laws house and although it is somewhat easier for me to sit in other people houses or public chairs now, I still feel like I have to double wash those particular clothes to make them feel clean again.  I wanted to hold the baby, but my OCD did not want me to, because it knew it would raise the discomfort up a notch.  Driving over there, I was pretty sure I was not going to be able to hold the baby.  It just made me think of the birth process, dirty and wet diapers, and spit up.  Those were the thoughts going through my head.  As soon as we got there my brother in law asked if we wanted to hold him.  My husband said "no", but deferred that I would probably want to.  The baby was kind of put in my arms at that point, so I knew there was no turning back.  But in hindsight, I'm glad it happened the way it did.  I held the baby a couple of times for a very long period of time.  Even at one point I felt like he was wet on the back of his clothes, but I'm pretty sure that was just the OCD trying to taunt me.  I did come home and get out of the clothes right away, I washed my arms up to where my T-shirt ended, but then did not shower until that night, (which is my normal time to shower) this is good too.  Progress.
   I also find it is getting easier to wash clothing that I would have deemed "unwearable" in the past.  For instance, 2 examples recently were my nose started bleeding last week and I got blood on my shirt.  Another time I was holding my tablet and it became wet which I thought was strange, it might have just been sweat accumulation, but somehow my OCD managed to make me think it was battery acid from my tablet.  I double washed each set of clothes separately and incorporated them back into my regular wardrobe, but in the past I probably would have pitched them.  I think back when my OCD was it's worst, I simply felt so overwhelmed when something became "contaminated".  The laundry rituals were so time consuming, that it was easier to throw away clothes here or there, rather than spend hours washing them.  Now that my laundry rituals don't take as much time, it doesn't seem as overwhelming to have to wash something separately if needed.  I've still got a ways to go there, but I am getting there!
     I was able to flush our main bathroom toilet during most of loads of laundry, so this process is started too.
   I also went to my 20 high year high school reunion yesterday.  Crazy!  I will have a huge post about this and how things went coming up shortly, but this is incredibly miraculous that I was able to go to this...more to come later!!  It went VERY well though!  I think a lot of the exposures that I have been doing over the past few months have really helped set the stage for when I did something big like this.  It was potentially a breakthrough for me in the clothing contamination area.
   One thing that I really struggled with this past week and just could not resist was washing the couch off each morning.  It is such a pain, and I truly hate doing it.  I know I don't need to be doing it, but for some reason I cave every time.  I would really like to kick this soon and am going to make a stronger effort to reduce that this week.  I really struggle with my safe spaces in general still.
     So, this brings me to exposures for this next week:  The next step in my laundry issues is to start purposely flushing my husband toilet (which sits directly on the other side of the wall of our washer/dyer.  I don't think I can do this completely this week, but logically it is the thing that makes the most sense to do.  If I could do this, it would make it possible for me to do laundry whenever I wanted.  In order for this to happen, I have to feel comfortable if he flushes that particular toilet, or I will never be able to laundry when he is home.  I am going to try to reduce the number of times I am washing the couch off in the morning.  I would like to start reverting back to some non AB soap instead of always using AB soap.  I am also going to keep working on my exposures from last week.
     Just one last random thought to wrap up.  I think the more you prove to yourself that you can fight back against OCD, you truly become more and more motivated to keep moving forward.  When you see yourself really starting to make some life changing progress, it's a really good feeling.  And it gives you the "oomph" that you need to face some of the harder stuff.  More on this later too!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Where I Am and Where I'm Going...

     Wow, it's been about 1 1/2 months since I posted.  Mostly, I've been trying to enjoy the summer. I've been doing fairly well with my OCD lately, really trying to push myself many time to do the opposite of what my OCD is telling me.  I'm still trucking along with my self guided program.  I thought it would be a good idea to put it all out here and figure out "where I am" with the OCD" and really get a good plan going for moving forward.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, it's going to be a long one!  From this point on for awhile, my plan is make weekly updates on how I"m doing with my planned exposures, and also use it as a resource to plan the next week's set of exposures.  I really want to knock a lot of this stuff out before the end of the year.  Below are each of my "subcategories" and a little background on where I am CURRENTLY with them.  Also following each category is a list of some small and large exposure ideas...they key being to work on a few things each week, and keep practicing those while I add in newer exposures each week.  Sometimes I will do a bunch of "smaller" stuff, other times I may do a really big exposure.  Keep in mind, as you go through previous posts, that I've been in a lot worse places with most of these things.  Sometimes I have really remember how far I have come--it is definitely motivation to keep going.  Also, the below exposure ideas are just that--"ideas"--it is a brainstorming of some possible things I can do to start really tackling these areas.  I'm sure there are a thousand exposures I could do, and if anyone has any good ideas I would love to hear them!  

Laundry:  I need to learn how to do laundry at any time I want to do it.  I need to be able to know that toilets are flushing and feel comfortable with that, that somehow toilet water isn't contaminating the washer.  I know it sounds incredibly ridiculous.  I need to combine more types of clothes, to make larger loads of clothes so that I'm not washing 1 or 2 things by themselves.  I need to have less detergent in the washer so that the clothes rinse out better and it only takes 1 hour or so per load, as compared to 2 hours due to extra rinse cycles.  I need to lessen the # of cycles to "clean out" the washer after I wash my husbands stuff, which I feel is contaminated.
**Little exposure ideas:  combine sheets with towels, combine my daughter and my "outdoor clothing" (instead of washing separately), work with detergent so I am using less each time, each week take out 1 of the cycles to "clean out" the washer after I wash my husbands stuff (currently I run about 6 empty cycles after I wash his stuff)./
**Big exposure ideas:  Combine whatever needs to be washed into one load, purposely flush toilets while laundry is going (similar to how I worked with things when I stopped turning the toilets off earlier this spring), do laundry while my husband is here.

Clothing Contamination:  It's hard to break this down.  I feel like this obsession spreads to everything.  Because I feel uncomfortable having my clothing contaminated, that is why I avoid things and why I create safe zones.  Why I have laundry rituals too.  This seems to me the absolute biggest OCD issue I have and if I could get rid of this I think it cut out a massive chunk of my OCD.   I'm really at a loss how to describe this category right now.  As I knock out other stuff, some of this stuff will resolve on it's own.  Back to this one later.

My husband:  I need to feel more comfortable just being in close proximity to him.  It would help if he would start cleaning out his room (taking all of his old clothes he doesn't wear and donating them).  Doing something with his bed.  Then if I could get in again and start cleaning his room weekly (vaccuming, doing his laundry, cleaning his bathroom), I think this would help.  Right now I am repulsed by his clothing or even going in his room.  At this point I don't see how our physical relationship will improve unless he is willing to make some changes on his end with his hygiene/room.  Ideally, I would like to get to the point where we can sit on the same couch, hold hands, hug him, kiss him, etc. .  Also, a big key to this category is working on the emotional aspect of our relationship, as a lot of these issues are "emotional contamination".  I feel negative thoughts when I'm around him because I feel unappreciated and unloved, oftentimes.  Somehow I correlate that in my mind with him being dirty and I avoid, avoid, avoid him.
**Little exposure ideas:  handling his clean clothes without wearing gloves, standing in closer proximity to him on purpose, going on more outings with him, having him be in my car more often, touching his hands, touching him.
**Big exposure ideas:  Sitting on his couch, sitting in his truck, handling his dirty clothes without gloves, putting his dirty clothes against mine, hugging him, allowing myself to be intimate with him.

Our dog:  I need to get to the point where I'm not constantly watching out for where she is or what she is doing.  I am always concerned her nose or mouth is going to touch my clothing.  I have a hard time walking her too because I am afraid she will brush up against my clothes.  She tugs on her leash with her mouth and then I'm mindful of making sure her leash does not touch my clothing or skin.
**Little exposures ideas:  Letting her mouth/nose touch my skin 
**Big exposure ideas:  Hugging her completely around her body, putting her rawhide bone on my clothes, letting her lick my skin.

Safe Zones:  I still maintain safe zones in regard to kitchen chair, car seat, couch, bed and "safety rooms".  I don't want anyone using the main bathroom (other than my daughter and I).  I wash the couch off almost every morning (unless my husband is out of town).  I wash the kitchen chairs off before we eat at the table, so often we eat on the couch.  I've been better at not cleaning my car seat as much.  I need to try to let all of my "outside pants" become contaminated so that I don't feel the need to keep the carseat clean.  This would also allow me more freedom to get out and about where I need to sit on public seats.  As I read in a book once, "if everything is contaminated, then nothing is contaminated".  Also I don't want contamination to occur when I can't see what is going on, so I feel tied to the house.  Unable to leave the house if my husband is here.  There is also something even more crazy that I do to protect these areas, but I don't even want to bring it up in this blog.  It's kind of been my safety net for awhile though and it's become a big compulsion.
**Little exposure ideas:  All "outside pants" become contaminated.  All pants can be worn anywhere, so there are no pants left to keep "clean" (unless going to a doctors office waiting room, car mechanic or somewhere I have deemed very contaminated).  Stop washing the couch off in the morning (unless I have a valid reason to do so). 
**Big exposure ideas:  Stop my "even crazier compulsion: eventually, allow people to sit in my safe spots, wear outdoor clothing in my safe spots 

Work:  This is honestly the one main area that I don't have many problems in at all now.  Hooray!!! I have almost completely managed to get rid of these problems.  My productivity is much higher, I'm not charting "the right way" anymore, but just typing out what comes naturally and being done.  I just need to keep sticking with it!!!!

Handwashing:  I need to keep trying to handwash less often, especially at home.  I need to back off the antibacterial soap, and use regular soap instead.  My warts are looking better which is great.  That will help me in eating/showering areas eventually.  I have been using gloves and paper towels more for barriers instead now.  That was supposed to be a temporary measure to use until the warts started going away.  Now that they are almost gone, I need to start working on this again and reducing barrier methods to contamination. 
**Little exposure ideas:  only use antibacterial soap before eating, after having a stool, after coming home from being in public outside, after dealing with my husband, our dog, or raw meat.  The rest of the time I should be trying to use regular soap.  Start finding things that I can allow myself to be contaminated by (tablet, computer, remote) without washing my hands before using the restroom.  Start applying lotion throughout the day (without washing hands before). 
**Big exposure ideas:  Stop using paper towel to open the back door, eventually get to mostly all regular soap, try to touch things purposely (especially clean clothing) without washing hands first

Eating:  I still need to continue to try new drive thrus/restaurants/grocery foods.  I have found that I have limited my diet so much due to fear of being allergic to something, which stems back to when my OCD first started and I thought I had some food allergies.  I find that when I do try something new, I often feel panicky and nervous that I am going to react.  I am scared of anaphylaxis.  I also am just concerned about contamination in general when someone else prepares the food.  I have branched out and tried some different foods and I need to continue to do this.  Need to start introducing more fruits again into my diet and trying new foods at restaurants.  Eventually would like to start eating out together as a family.  Need to eventually try to use silverware at restaurants again and drink from glasses.
**Little exposure ideas:  Keep trying something new every few days . Also need to keep doing mini exposures such as getting donuts behind the counter at the bakery, eating the sandwich even when the employee touched their glove to their hat while making it, etc..  Don't be afraid to try different places.  Go to restaurant and bring own silverware.
**Big exposure ideas:  Eat at a restaurant.  All of us order what we want (even letting my daughter get what she wants to eat, doesn't have to be the same thing I get--for some reason I am concerned with getting different foods, in case one our meals is contamianted with germs).  Use the restaurant silverware.  Use the restaurant glass/straw.

How does this breakdown for me on a daily basis?  What order of obsessions is affecting me from most to least on a daily basis?
Laundry, Safe Zones, My Husband, Our Dog, Clothing Contamination , Handwashing, Eating, Work

How does this breakdown for me in general?  What order of obsessions is affecting me from most to least in general?
It's hard to break this one down.  I think clothing contamination is the biggest problem I have.  I think if my clothes didn't feel contaminated and I could successfully wash them and they would feel clean, then I wouldn't feel uncomfortable around my husband.  I think I could be around him easier.  I think I could be around our dog easier without feeling contaminated.  I think I could do laundry more efficiently and not break my laundry down into levels of contamination...but everything would go in dirty and everything would come out clean.  I think I would not feel the need to create a safe zone.

Where do I go from here:
It makes most sense to really tackle the clothing contamination/husband/laundry for now as the biggest goals.

What I've decided to work on this week: 
Eating:  Keep trying new foods.  Eat a banana (as I'm concerned I will react to those).  Keep getting donuts from behind the counter at the bakery (because I'm worried that they will touch their finger to the donut as they're taking it out).  **Side note--I've done the bakery thing pretty often recently.  Too recently often, and I may be developing a slight addiction to donuts :)
Handwashing:  Use above guidelines for use of AB vs. regular soap.  Put lotion on without washing hands first.  Once I am successful at weaning off AB soap, then the next step is to try using the restroom without washing hands first.
Safe zones:  Do not wash car seat per above guidelines.  All outdoor pants are now considered same level of contamination and can be washed together.  Reduce days that I am washing the couch off.
Laundry:  Start flushing main BR toilet during loads of laundry (yeah--so far I'm being successful at this too), combine something I wouldn't ordinarily combine together.
Clothing Contamination:  Use mindfulness when talking through if something is "contaminated"
My husband:  touch his hands, his clothes or his body directly )
Go out to eat and go to church this weekend

At the time of this post I am actually doing pretty well on the above exposures, as I've been working on writing this post for quite some time.  I plan on updating early next week as to how things are going, and what my next step is.

To those of you that are fighting your own battle with this, keep on trucking forward.  I promise you, every step you take is worth it.  Keep on fighting!!  You can do it!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Some bigger exposures this weekend!...and I let my husband "contaminate me"

   This past week my daughter turned 12 years old!!!  Last year, due to my OCD, I was unable to have any one come into my house, therefore we did not even have her grandparents over for a birthday celebration.  I still am very particular about my house, my "safe zone", mostly not wanting people to use our bathroom if needed, so I knew I would not be able to have people over again this year.  I wanted to do something for her birthday though, so we invited both sets of grandparents out to eat.  I knew that this would also bring some difficulties for me, but much easier to deal with than people coming into our house.
    Since I am doing better with the clothing contamination, sitting on the restaurant chairs didn't bother me as much.  It is still people touching me, hugging me (or doing those things to my daughter) that bother me, as well as using the restaurant dishes/silverware.  It has been quite awhile since I have eaten at a restaurant.  I will not drink from the glasses (too many obsessions about the cups being refilled and the ice scoop being contaminated and dirty from other customers glasses) and I do not use their silverware (just feels gross to eat off things that others have eaten off and questioning if they truly are clean enough).  The plates bother me too, but kind of hard to eat out without using their provided plates.  So, I brought forks for my daughter and I and swapped them out at the table so we could eat off my "clean forks".  I was able to eat at the restaurant though and ate food off the restaurant plate, so that is actually decent progress for me.  My plan is to eat out several times over the summer, allowing myself to bring my own fork the first few times, but by the end of the summer be able to use restaurant silverware again.  I'm not sure how that is going to go, but it is my goal.  I did notice throughout the dinner that I seemed not so bothered by things that have really bothered me in the past.  For instance both my mom and my mother in law each coughed a few times and cleared their throats (they were directly across the table), which in the past would have sent me over the edge.  I find that I'm still noticing things that bother me, but I'm able to move past them faster and not get "stuck" on those thoughts.
    After we went out to eat, the three of us (husband, myself and my daughter) went out mini-golfing.  I don't really like my husband being in my car, so I figured this was a good time to go out and do something together.  Normally I would freak out if my husband even got anywhere close to me.  If I sense that his clothes brush up against mine or even come anywhere near my comfort zone, I have been known to discard those clothes before.  But since II was already in contaminated clothes tonight, and we were already out and about, I figured if he accidentally contaminated me it wasn't a big deal, because I had a big exposure planned for that night anyway (more to come on that).  Things went pretty well the entire night, actually.  Again I noticed things, but I didn't dwell on them.  When we were mini golfing I noticed there was bird poop on some of the greens, and wouldn't you know my ball landed right on those spots a few times.  But I was able to just pick it up and finish golfing, put hand sanitizer on the car, and not really think about it afterward much.  I enjoyed getting out.  I have forgotten how great it feels to get out and socialize, to be with family, to do "normal things" and just have fun.  I was surprised that the night didn't actually bring too much stress with it. 
  So here is where I topped it off tonight, and did something huge.  I let my husband contaminate me.  And if you've been following my blog for any period of time, you will know that my husband is my biggest contaminant.  I was already in "dirty clothes" and I knew that his clothes were clean because I had just washed them that day (even though his clothes still don't feel "clean" to me, so I felt this was the safest place for me to start, the lowest of my hierarchies with him.  At the end of the night when we got home, I asked him to wash his hands but then I had him come over to me, wrap me up in a hug and just stand there full on contact for about 2 minutes.  Then I had him take his hands and run them up and down the back of my sweatshirt during the hug, so as to completely contaminate my clothes.  Yes even with his "just washed hands", this was extremely nerve-wracking for me.  I don't even know how I will begin to do the higher up exposures, but this was actually a good exposure I think.  It is the first time I have let my husband even make any type of body contact with me in a year and a half.  I will NOT throw those clothes away.  I will probably wash them a couple of times and they will still feel contaminated, after all it is my "contaminated going out outfit".  But I WILL wear them again.  I had already planned on showering right after the hug anyway, because I normally take my daily shower before bed.  So I waited about 10 minutes and walked around feeling "contaminated", then I took my shower and changed into clean clothes.  And once wasn't as bad as I thought.   I realize that ultimately my goal is to let him hug me, not care what's on my clothes and just continue on with my day, but realistically I am so far away from that.  I realize that I could have taken this to an extreme and let him "contaminate" me, and go sit down on my clean safe cough feeling utterly contaminated.  That something to that degree would have a profound effect on my OCD, but I also feel it could be traumatizing too.  I think was a good first step.  He was actually very patient the entire evening, which is not often the case.  And I truly chalk that up to the fact that I tried to explain things ahead of time, and that communication helped.  Usually I do try to communicate as best I can with him, but he is often angry about the OCD.  Tonight for some reason, it seemed different, and I'm still not sure why.  I need to keep letting him "contaminate" me in more ways, and these are some exposures I need to start working on, although I am scared.  I think our family had a really good night.  And it felt good!  I really want to have more nights like that, hopefully with the OCD lessening a bit more each time. 

**On a side note, some other things I've surprised myself with this past week are some eating issues that I would have had major problems with in the past.  But for some reason I was able to not give into these things this time.  I went into a sandwich place about a week ago and as the girl was assembling our sandwiches she was touching her gloved hand to her hat, which does gross me out.  In the past I would have not eaten the sandwich.  But I was able to move past the thought (even though I still noticed what was happening) and still purchase and eat the sandwich.  Another time I went to get pizza and breadsticks at a pizza place we go to weekly.  I saw the delivery guy come in through the backdoor and immediately start working without washing his hands.  He was working with our breadsticks and brushing the garlic sauce on them.  I don't think he actually touched the breadsticks, but I can't be sure.  Also the boy taking the incoming orders coughed right into his hand (although didn't appear sick to me) and then I'm pretty sure he cut our pizza.  Both of these things would have rendered the food unedible in the past, but I took everything home and we ate it.  And I didn't even feel that grossed out afterward, nor did I fixate on it.  Thirdly, I normally buy a lot of pre-packaged donuts from the bakery, and I avoid getting things directly from behind the bakery counter, because they take those paper sheets to grasp the donuts with and I can't ever be sure they aren't directly touching the donut.  I know that in reality the same thing is going on when they prepackage them, but for some reason it's different in my mind if I can't actually see the process.  So, last week I got donuts from behind the counter.  She may have touched them somewhere with her bare fingers, but I got them and we ate them.  Fourthly, I got lunch last week at the same pizza place that I referred to earlier, and they take your breadsticks out at lunch with the same type of paper wrapper.  This is of course after the same person has handled your credit card/money, so that feels very contaminated to me.  But I ate those breadsticks too.  So that was 4 food issues this week alone that I would have never been able to face last week.  I realize they are small things, but every battle counts in this war against OCD!! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Possible dog poop on my jeans

    Well, I guess when I was writing my blog post yesterday, I didn't realize it at the time, but I was actually giving myself a pep talk for a situation that would present itself that night.  Now, I need to follow my own advice.  Last summer I had a very difficult time being outdoors, particularly walking around my neighborhood.  Just felt dirty, because a lot of construction was going on.  Especially when it was windy, I would feel like things were blowing all over my clothes, "contaminating" them, and feeling very dirty and uncomfortable in general unless I was indoors.  Because of that, unfortunately my daughter and I spent the majority of last summer inside.
     This year, since I am doing a lot better, I was bound and determined to not let those same issues get in the way of enjoying time outdoors again.  The other day I was walking our dog and as we rounded the corner to come home, I noticed some brown liquidy spots on my arm.  I'm not sure when they popped up.  I know my dog did her #2 business outside, and I cleaned up after her, walked back home and washed my hands.  Then we went back out again and walked down the street a second time.  As we were approaching home, I noticed these spots.  Where else would they have come from?  I can't imagine how cleaning up dog poop could have gotten on my arm, but it was you never know.  Maybe something blew down from a tree?  But how does it get on your arm?  I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I walked in the door, immediately took my clothes off, looked over every square inch of my clothes for any brown liquid...didn't see any, but washed my hands probably about 10 times, and then took a shower, and changed.  I told myself I needed to wash these clothes, and not let them sit there forever thinking they were ruined/contaminated.  Well, long story short....they are still sitting there.  I haven't done anything with them, because the pants are spandex yoga pants and they probably can't withstand the heat level of a sanitary wash cycle.  I have NOT thrown them away yet, but not sure what I'm planning on doing with them.  I remember sitting there after the incident thinking, " I probably won't want to go outside this summer again.  Every time I walk the dog I'm going to be afraid that somehow her poop is ending up on me". rained so much over the next couple of days that I didn't have to think about it again.  I heard the rainfall in our area was about 7 inches one night.  Places flooded in town, people's backyards had formed swimming pools.  A lot of rain.  Yesterday things had dried up, and I decided I was going to walk our dog again.  I was not going to let what happened the other day prevent me from going out again.  After all, what happened that day had never happened before.  I really felt it wouldn't happen again.  Wrong.  I had on a nicer pair of jean capris and a hoodie this time, and again she did her #2 business on our walk.  She kind of pulled away on her leash as I was picking it up, so then I'm afraid somehow the poop bag brushed against me or something, and ...of course it was slightly windy again.  Also because of the rain she was lapping up water continously around the block, trying to make her way over to mud puddles and dirt.  Splashing through the water puddles.  When we got home, I inspected my clothing (because I was paranoid about last time), and wouldn't you know I find a damp brown chunk on my jeans that kind of flaked off.  I picked it off, and couldn't see any reside left behind.  So, I don't know...was it dog poop?  Was it mud or dirt that flicked off as she was splashing through the puddles?  I just don't know.  And not knowing it was drives the OCD crazy, because it will tell me it is poop.  Definitely. 
      Ugh!  Today I am forcing myself to wash the pants, twice through a sanitary setting.  And I need to wear them again.  Even moreso, I need to tell myself as I'm doing this, the following:   "This is dog poop on my jeans.  I am now wearing pants that have had dog poop on them.  There could be dog poop remnants on me right now".  It sounds utterly ridiculous (because maybe it isn't dog poop), but I I've found that by taking my self-talk to an extreme level that the grossest thing I can think of to happen is actually happening (even if it's not), then that is what helps me make progress.  Eventually my mind will accept that there could have been dog poop on them, but I am still wearing them, and it is okay.  And they don't have to be contaminated forever.  This is so gross to think about, and so hard.  But I so very badly want to be free of this disorder, and I need to face these fears.  But I'll be honest...I'm scared to walk my dog again.  And I had some fleeting thoughts again last night where I told myself I'm not going to take her for walks anymore.  But that is not realistic.
     I was thinking about OCD the other day, in the sense that it feels like we live inside a box sometimes.  We are inside of it, looking out.  It feels like we are locked in the box, but the only way we're ever going to get out of it is by using the right key.  But then once it seems like we are partially out, then is another door that takes another key.  But each "key" is a breakthrough.  There are a bunch of windows that help things seem not so dark sometimes, but to keep walking out the doors, and eventually leave them for good, we have to find the right keys.  I am hoping that this is one of those times, where this will be the key I need for another breakthrough.  The pants are being washed, let's hope I can wear them.  An update soon!