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Monday, January 26, 2015

The OCD Bully in my brain/Ramblings of an OCD mind

OCD is truly a bully.  It wants nothing good for us.  It wants nothing more than to destroy us--our lives and our relationships.  I think it is difficult for non OCD sufferers to understand the thought processes that go through our heads.  I've heard this explained so many different ways, but basically everyone has thoughts, even the types of thoughts that OCD sufferers have.  It's just that those of with OCD are unable to move past them.  The chemistry of the brain, the abnormalities in the brain--those things that make up the disorder--they do not allow us to just move past these thoughts.  We place more importance on the thoughts than need be.  We hypermagnify the situation and turn a 1 in a million chance of something happening into a high probability....IF we don't do the ritual.  IF we don't do the compulsion.  Hence, we give into OCD for a moment's worth of peace.  And each time we give in we end up making the OCD worse.  But yet at the same time, we are unable to stop.  It is a vicious and horrible cycle.

My parents came over to my house 2 days ago, the first time they have been here since September.  I really don't like people coming in and entering my "safe zone".  Remember, I have never told my parents I have OCD.  I want to do a little something this different this post.  I want to purposely ramble on.....a chance to show the character of OCD.  How once OCD thoughts get started, it just feelings like rambling and complete chaos.  So many thoughts screaming out, so many things to remember.  It's important to remember that the OCD thoughts are not how we want to feel.  The OCD is a bully, but to find that peace, that comfort....we end up giving into that bully.  Time and time again.

I knew that it was going to be hard to have my parents over.  I avoid having anyone coming over, at all costs.  I knew it would be harder if my husband was here, because then if something became contaminated, I would have to try to fix that while my husband was here, which would really throw me off.  So, I asked them to come when I knew he would be gone.  This was actually our family get together for Christmas, and we exchanged gifts during this time.  I also debated whether or not to have my dog out when they got here, finally deciding it was best to have her out already because then they would be more distracted by the dog and less likely to come hug me.  I wore old clothes for this visit, so that in case they hugged me...nothing was ruined.  But wearing old clothes also means they weren't the cleanest....they were contaminated already from another time, although they had been washed.  This would mean I would have to change clothes, wash the couch and shower regarless.  I put my new laptop away because I didn't want them to ask to see it.  I didn't want anyone contaminating my laptop.  I hid the dogs ball, so no one would be tempted to play ball with her.  One wrong move with the ball and it could end up thrown on the couch or touch me somehow, which would further complicate the problem.  A lot went on before the visit, preparing and trying to minimize any problems.  This depicts how OCD is always thinking ahead.

My parents gifts to my daughter included a sweatshirt.  My mom asked her to try it on to see if it fit. 
OCD thoughts:  No way!  That thing is so dirty.  It has never been washed.  It has probably been tried on by a child.  There are probably chemicals in it from the manufacturing process.  It could have been thrown on the floor in a dressing room.  Multiple people have handled it.  Dirty hands on it.  Dirty.  No way is she trying this on.  Make an excuse up fast!

What I actually say:  No that's okay.  She will try it on later.  She is hot right now, that's why she is in shorts.  She doesn't like to wear stuff that makes her hot right now.

Really?!  Even I realize how totally lame that sounds.  But I will say what I need to, to get out of the situation.  I'm sure my mom thought it odd, but I didn't watch for a reaction.  I just said it matter-of-factly and moved on. 

Its amazing how our brains are always soaking up things, anticipating the next thing to happen.  Hyperawareness of the situation.  My dog was playing rough with my dad and actually scratched his arm real good.  He was bleeding from his arm, and my mind was already reeling with the "what if's" surrounding that.  What if he tries to hug one of us when he leaves?  What if he touches our clothes?  He is going to get blood on us.  Thankfully he did not touch us or hug us.

The OCD mind takes us out of the moment.  It is not enjoyable to have people over, when your mind is constantly wandering and obsessed on these things.  My mom often comments to me that I don't seem the same anymore and it doesn't even seem like I want to be with them.  I get all of this.  I am sorry I seem this way.  The OCD is more than anyone could ever understand. 

At one point my mom came over to the couch we were sitting on, to show us some pictures on her phone.  She knelt down next to us and as she was standing up, she pushed herself off the couch to stand up, and her hand was on the couch.  Then my mind starting going toward how I was going to clean that when they left.  OCD thoughts going off in my head....where did she touch?  What if she touched an area I didn't see?  I have to wash it off three times now, because that is the number it takes to restore it back to cleanliness.

Then when they left I thought everything was going to be okay.  There was going to be no body contact involved during the visit.  I was wrong.  My mom came over and touched my daughter square on the top of the head, to tell her goodbye, kind of ran her hand down here hair.  Then my mom put her hand square on my shoulder.  This was of course after she had played with our dog and touched her slobbery toys.  And been on her phone.  Dirty hands.  Remember to tell my daughter to triple wash her hair in the shower.  Shirt possibly ruined.

After they left, I knew I needed to decontaminate.  Which meant wiping the couch, changing clothes and showering.  I ran an errand first.  I can stay contaminated like that for awhile.  I don't have some sense of urgency to decontaminate quickly....I just need to decontaminate before I enter my safe zone.  So off to run my errand I went.  My daughter stood next to the couch until I got back.  Then I wiped the couch down so it would be "clean" again.  Then we both showered, put clean clothes, and resumed our spot on the clean couch again.  Thankfully, my husband did not come home during any of this.  He has no idea how bad this can be.  And it sucks the life out of me.  This is how a 35 minute visit from someone can cause OCD distress.  Why I, like so many others with OCD, avoid.  For a moments worth of peace.

The OCD mind will just not quit.  Once I'm decontaminated, everything seems okay.  For a positive end to this note, I did not throw away the clothing.  I do intend to wash it and wear it again as an exposure.  Because clothing contamination and safety zones....again are my two biggest problems right now.  This post shows exactly why I need to work on these things to the best of my ability this year.  I need and want this bully out of my life.     


  1. As someone who also has contamination OCD, reading this post really took me back to when it was consuming my life. I follow your blog and know how hard you are working to overcome it. I know everybody's situation is different, but I really feel I can relate to your struggle. I wanted to ask if you've considered talking to a doctor about trying meds to see if that makes things easier. For me at least, finding the right SSRI was life changing and made doing ERP much more doable.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I have considered going on meds, but this will sound strange...but the OCD doesn't want me to do it. I took Prozac or something similar probably 15 years ago for anxiety/depression, and after 1 night of staying up hallucinating all night...I am scared to take anything like that again. I do have concerns about what if I have an allergic reaction or some type of unusual reaction to the med. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the truth. I have honestly thought about it though. I think I would feel a lot better, and I have heard it helps immensely with doing the exposures. I think I have been feeling poorly for so long that I don't even remember what feeling good feels like. And I feel disconnected from those around me, and just "flat" emotionally most of the time. I am strongly considering it, and really appreciate your words. Thank you.

  3. Keep in mind that just because you respond poorly to one SSRI doesn't mean another SSRI will do the same thing. SSRIs are interesting that way. I really hope you do seriously consider trying meds though. And I really you find one that helps you as much as the SSRI that I'm on helps me.

  4. My wife suffers from OCD as well. Thanks for sharing your story. I do feel "dirty" most of the time. I'm also accused of being "not understanding" and "unloving", but I'm just tired of my wife trying to justify and normalize her OCD. Do I feel for her? Absolutely. Do I love her? Absolutely. I will admit, that after 18 years of excessive cleaning, excessive hoarding, excessive coughing, excessively blowing nose, excessively brushing teeth (to the point she gags); has really worn me out. I can only pray that she will talk to someone that can help her. Pray for us? Thanks.

  5. My wife suffers from OCD as well. Thanks for sharing your story. I do feel "dirty" most of the time. I'm also accused of being "not understanding" and "unloving", but I'm just tired of my wife trying to justify and normalize her OCD. Do I feel for her? Absolutely. Do I love her? Absolutely. I will admit, that after 18 years of excessive cleaning, excessive hoarding, excessive coughing, excessively blowing nose, excessively brushing teeth (to the point she gags); has really worn me out. I can only pray that she will talk to someone that can help her. Pray for us? Thanks.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi James, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I definitely understand the hardship that the OCD brings to marriage. I live it out everyday. I can completely empathize with your spouse, as she suffers with illness. I also realize that there is a flip side to the situation, and that the spouse and family suffers greatly too. I get that, and I would guess that your wife does too. It is reassuring to me that you are reading about OCD and stumbling upon a blog, such as mine. It shows that you are trying to find out more about your wife's condition, and that along with communication, I believe, is the best way for you and wife to fight this together. I think the lack of communication my husband and I have is what continues to feed the cycle. I think it takes an incredible amount of open conversation, honestly, support, encouragement and love to get through a marriage where this is involved. I know that marriage is worth it though, and it sounds like you do too and are wanting her to find help.

  6. Wow, my heart goes out to you for this much suffering. There is great hope to recover from OCD, through meds and proper therapy. It's so sad how much your life is restricted. Please, for your family's sake, and for your own, as you don't have to be in this much pain, seek out help. Go to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation website and seek out a provider in your area. Buy the best books on the subject which are Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well, by Fred Penzel, and Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson. Have your spouse read Loving Someone with OCD. Please, you don't have to suffer this much. I'm a lifelong sufferer, 98% recovered, who became a therapist specializing in OCD treatment because I know how deeply this hurts. Don't waste another day. Please get help.

    1. Thanks so much for reading my post and taking the time to comment. So, it is interesting to me that you have OCD and have gone on to become an OCD therapist, because of this. I have often thought the same thing. I am a nurse, and I feel that because of this OCD I have developed so much interest in the disorder and compassion for others dealing with it, and wanting to help. I have actually read a lot of the books out there on OCD and am currently working on a self ERP program. Unfortunately I don't think I would get my husband to read a book on the subject. He has admitted to "mentally burying my OCD" and it is a source of great tension our relationship. A bad cycle of OCD feeding marital disconnect, and vice versa. It is in real trouble. I did "talk therapy" with a psychologist a few years ago, but I honestly felt he was more intrigued by my condition, and never mentioned ERP as an option for treatment. The truth is, I'm scared to do treatment. There are a lot of psychologists in my town, but no true OCD specialists. That is who I feel I need to see. The closest anxiety/OCD treatment center is about 2.5 hours away from my hometown, and it would be an incredible time commitment, probably necessitating a leave of absence from my job even. At this point my OCD wouldn't even allow that as an option. My husband is greatly contaminated in my mind, and I rarely leave the house because I am afraid of him being here by himself (wanting to watch the things he touches and make sure he isn't in my "safe zones". Ugh, I know. It sounds utterly ridiculous. On a positive note, I am so happy to hear that you are so well recovered. 98% is absolutely changing, as I'm sure you well know, coming from the the depths of OCD suffering. I appreciate you reaching out to me. Again, it is so cool you are an OCD therapist now. I have often said that I could probably lead someone else out of the OCD woods, I just can't get myself out of it. I know all the exposures and things I should be doing. I just need that support to help me get through it!

  7. It's so worth it to have your freedom, and the example you will create for your daughter by not being a slave to a condition when there is help. It doesn't sound ridiculous that you have the compulsions, just sad. Why are you afraid of treatment? What could be worse than living the way you are now? I'm really concerned.

  8. Here is just one of my many articles for you to read and consider:

    Effects of OCD can be Helped with Therapy
    by Kristen McClure

    Effects of OCD: Isolation
    One of the most common effects of OCD is difficulty interacting with others. The pressure and exhaustion a person feels to hide in order to be able to do their rituals can cause them to decide it would be easier to just stay away from everyone. Many of the children and adults I work with will say they are fearful of other people calling or thinking them crazy. Additionally, at times, triggers for the rituals can be in the public. For example if a person has fears of contamination, a grocery store or restaurant may be a trigger for them, and it’s easier to just avoid it. Unfortunately this just reinforces this vicious cycle.

    Effects of OCD: Anger
    Anger is common both in the family or loved ones of the person with OCD and the actual victim. It can take many forms. Until OCD is understood, a person may think that it is their fault, and their family may as well. It is important to think about OCD as the culprit and not yourself or the person you love. Honestly, who would choose to behave and suffer this way? It is embarrassing, exhausting and depressing! This is not a choice, this is a disease.

    Effects of OCD: Thinking You are Crazy
    Many of my clients who haven’t had therapy to understand their illness think they are crazy. It is certainly big reliefs to find out you are not and that there is treatment for the problems you are having. When you have OCD your brain functions in a stuck way. There are ways to unstick your brain. You don’t have to feel like this forever. It doesn’t mean you are crazy. You can change. In fact, most people who participate in ERP have a very high success rate.

    Effects of OCD: Depression, Frustration and Low Self Esteem
    The longer people who are suffering from OCD deal with their illness without help the more likely they are to suffer from feelings of powerlessness. Without a way out of this, people feel stuck, out of control and unable to change the things that make them the unhappy. This, of course, is a recipe for depression. A child who suffers from OCD often feels unable to achieve the things they would most like to, and so they begin to believe they are not capable of doing well. With treatment, most of these symptoms will get better.

    Effects of OCD: Family and Friendship Problems
    Engaging in compulsions
    I will often see clients who have involved their family and friends in their illness. Family members and loved ones can be co-opted into the client’s compulsions. Once you become a part of these compulsions, you are enabling the person you love to stay ill. Therapy must include these people who have become a part of the illness. Therapy should teach the family to shift from anger and resentment to compassion and support. It also should equip the family with the tools to stop participating in the compulsions. This can be a difficult process because the ill person may fight to keep the family involved in compulsions. This is to be expected, because they have a distorted view of what will happen if they don’t engage in their compulsions. In order to learn that they are safe and okay, they need to experience the anxiety at its peak. They need to see firsthand that compulsions are what make their anxiety worse.
    A Family is often affected in many similar ways by OCD as the client. A family feels resentment at being forced to live in an isolated way, at having to participate in the compulsions. They also may feel resentment at having to stay away from social situations, and feeling they need to hide the illness. Resentment dissipates once the family understands that the illness is to blame for these issues and not the client. Therapy can also help the family to decrease their resentment.

  9. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I really appreciate you reaching out to me and forwarding me on one of the articles you wrote. You asked why I am afraid of getting treatment? I think it's just for the same reason that most people with OCD hesitate to get treatment. It's pushing yourself to face the exact things you are afraid of. For me, I can realize that a lot of what I do is ridiculous and irrational. But the things that truly are a concern, such as the germs, are difficult to think about facing. My husband in particular is a trigger for me, because he works with a lot of chemicals and just doesn't have good hygiene in general. There are some truly valid concerns there (such as sleeping for months on sheets that are stained brown on 3/4 of the sheet--from what I'm not sure! and he got blood on them from a cut that he got so there is blood all over the sheets. I would never lay in that bed anyway. He also heaps dirty clothes all over his bed (legitimately dirty/muddy, paint stained). His clothes and hygiene are a huge issue for me and kind of what started getting me into this mindset to begin with. We have a lot of marriage problems on top of that too, so my OCD sets him off and he gets angry and we disconnect and I feel more stressed by him. It is a bad, bad cycle. I have heard from many that contamination OCD is probably one of the easiest to treat of the subtypes, but I honestly have found that I have been able to treat myself with all my other forms (checking, perfectionism, magical thinking), but I just can't kick the contamination :(