Total Pageviews

Monday, February 16, 2015

Progress Update, Ideas?

Just a quick update on my progress, since I've posted a lot recently but have neglected to talk about my progress over the past few months.  Where I'm gaining victories and where I'm struggling.

My husband:  Biggest OCD trigger by far.  I just can not seem to get anywhere in this category.  Of course this is because it would require that he cooperate and learn about this part of my OCD, which he at this point seems very resistant to doing.  His level of contamination continues to grow.  As I've pondered this a lot lately, I've tried to come up with some theories of why I feel contaminated by him.  It is contaminated in a dirty sense, but also emotional component.  It started out with his hands that were contaminated, then it grew to his body.  Then it grew to his clothes and his personal items.  I want a 5 foot bubble around me when he is at home, because I'm afraid he is going to contaminate me.  His clothes really bother me.  I've pondered what if I started washing everything of his through a sanitary wash cycle on my washer?  I am not able to hug him right now, so by default there are a lot of other things that don't go on and haven't for quite some time.  What if I started making a plan with him as far as what I am willing to work on, provided that he does indeed change the things that are of sanitary concern (such as picking up his clothes, finding a hamper for his clothes), cleaning his sheets.  I need to come up with a list of exposures to start working on.  The way I deal with other people feeling contaminated is to come home, take my clothes off and put them through the washer by themself.  In reality, I can not do this every day with my husband.  I would honestly like to get to the point where I can hug him, or have his clothes brush up against me, and it doesn't bother me.  His hands feel less contaminated to me, than his clothes.  I am going to start making a hierarchy and working on exposures, such as placing my hands next to him, having him touch my hand, and working my way up the ladder.  Of course, again this necessitates that he understands what the purpose and goal of the treatment is.  He does not like to talk about my OCD, and I am not sure how this conversation will go.  If he starts rolling his eyes and sighing at me as I'm doing an exposure, I'm not sure I will feel like this is going to be something I want to pursue.  I need his support and I need him to understand that.

My dog:  I have more trouble with her when she vomits in her bed, which she doesn't do very often.  Then I feel like she lays in it, and somehow there could be vomit particles in her fur.  Then when she brushes against me, I don't like that and feel like that transfers to my clothes.  I haven't been throwing things away anymore though because of this, so this is good.  It doesn't bother me as much anymore.  She acts as a source of "secondary contamination" between my husband and I.  So when he is hugging her or holding her, then I feel like his clothes contaminate her, and then she could pass that contamination onto me if she brushes against me.  Overall though, I feel like I am doing better with her than I was previously.  Because she used to pee in the house a lot, I started wearing slippers.  I was replacing slippers very often, sometimes daily, 6 months ago, and I have been much better about that too.  If her ball gets my slipper I can deal with it better.  If her ball gets my clothes, that will put me over the edge though.  I'm not sure if its the fact that it's been in her mouth, or that my husband has handled it...but it is too contaminated for me.  In those cases, I would still throw my clothes away.  Because of this, I am really careful around her.  If I pay close enough attention, then it's not a problem.  But if it does happen, it is still a obviously I am still having issues in that area.

Handwashing:  Terrible again.  I had been doing better at using non-antibacterial soap, but I'm finding I've reverted back to antibacterial most of the time.  I have the warts on my hands which are still causing me a lot of problems.  I feel like I want to wash when I've touched the doors to let the dog out, especially if my husband has touched those doors.  I still don't want to touch my clothes without washing my  hands first, for example even when using the bathroom.  I've been wearing gloves which has helped to reduce handwashing some.  My hands are dry again and unhealthy looking.  I really need to push myself to get back to using more non antibacterial soap and try to limit my handwashing.  I need to start finding safe items in my house, maybe starting with the remotes, laptop and tablet...that I could contaminate myself with (touching objects, rubbing hands on clothes and not washing), and working my way up to higher contaminated items.  I have made progress in this area before, but I keep falling back.  I think if I'm consistent, I can do better though.

Laundry:  Doing pretty well with this overall, I am pleased with how far I have come in this category.  Last week I found a coin trapped in the washing machine that came from my husbands pants, it was stuck in a divider in the washer.  Everything with the OCD screamed at me to throw away everything I had washed after that, because it is all contaminated by the coin now.  But I have made so much progress in the last 6 months or so with the laundry, that I can not allow myself to do that.  I will not throw anything away.  It did feel contaminated, but I knew I needed to deal with it.  I continued to wash clothes in the washer the entire week, basically "contaminating" everything I own, and didn't throw it away.  Surprisingly, it didn't even bother me that much.  He has removed the coin since.  This is a huge source of victory for me, as this would have been something even a month ago I would never have been able to do.  Every item, had this happened then, would have been thrown away and I would have been replacing probably $200 worth of stuff (towels, gym clothes, and sleepwear).  But I kept it all and I am proud of myself for that.   I am still shutting off toilets when I do the laundry (master bath and downstairs).  I am only washing loads one time through at this point, where previously I was doing multiple cycles through the wash.  I am still separating out loads by "level of contamination"--but this is okay right now.  I find I'm spending significantly less time on laundry.  Washing my  husband's stuff on the weekends and cleaning the washer afterward, so my weekends are much freer in that sense.  Even am able to not do laundry for 1/2 day or even a couple of days, if I really needed to, which means I can get to the grocery store and appointments better.  I am not nearly as tied down.  Also not "watching" the washer like I used to.  I do check a couple of times to make sure there are soap suds, but I don't stand there for 3/4 of the cycle like I did 12-18 months ago, "making sure they were getting cleaned".  I think the next thing in this category is maybe combining more types of clothes.  Eventually getting the toilets to stay on while I do laundry.  But for now, I am pretty happy where I am with this.  Probably need to concentrate more on other things right now.

Clothing contamination:  Have thrown away a few things, but MUCH MUCH better in this area.  I can tolerate the feeling of being brushed against at the store.  For items that do feel more contaminated, I wash those separately, but still only once.  I was able to wash and rewear the clothing that we wore to families over Christmas, which was huge for me.  I need to keep contaminating myself and sitting in public places and washing the clothing.   

Food:  Doing better in this category.  I've been able to make lots of progress.  I still for some reason like to eat at my "safe" restaurants.  I bought cinnamon rolls the other day at the bakery, even when I had seen the bakery girls blowing their nose and sneezing the day before.  I ate lasagna I picked up at Italian takeout, even though one of the workers there was rinsing their hand on the water and appeared to have cut themselves.  I see the rusted pans in the bakery and I still eat the foods there.  Checkers and sackers at the store have licked their fingers to peel off a plastic bag and I just deal with it and move on.  I used to have a harder time with this.  I still don't like it, it grosses me out, but I am able to move on and not let it affect me all day anymore.  I do need to work on expanding my food and eating at some other restaurants or going through different drive thrus.  Once we get through flu season, I need to get back into a restaurant and try eating there.  For now, I should make goals of trying different places for take out though.

Germs in General:  This is tough, because influenza and pertussis are a problem in our town.  Also measles is being reported throughout the US.  I am still finding myself wanting to go to the store during non-peak times, although I do sometimes go on the weekends and afternoons/evenings, when they are busier.  I have had people in line behind me cough on me, and I am still very observant about what is going on around me.  I think I deal with this better in general though, than I used to.  I don't want to be in the same room or area where someone that is sick with a cold/cough is, but just to be out and about in general I'm finding is easier.  Part of this is probably because I avoid crowds of people.  I need to get back to church and be more social in general.  Get to more gatherings, go to concerts.  I suppose then, that the fear of contamination, still bothers me here. 

Work Issues:  Doing much better with this, as well.  I have become much more productive with my work, compared to where I was last year at this time.  I still catch myself falling into "magical thinking" at times.  Thinking if I don't chart "just so", then something bad will happen.  What I really need to do to push myself to completely break this category and obliterate it from my OCD routines, is to start "charting wrong" (I'm a nurse).  What I mean is to chart abbreviated and in incomplete sentences.  I have been starting to do this.

Safe zones:  Big problem right now.  Still don't want to spread the trail of contamination between my "clean" and "dirty" worlds.  I have not washed the couch for about a week now, and I didn't even wash the kitchen chairs the other night before we ate, which was huge for me.  Safe zones on our side of the house are off limits to my husband.  I have something else I've been doing as a big compulsion in this area, but I'm too embarrassed to even write about it on my blog, so I won't for now.  :)  I don't want to sit with my jeans that I've worn out in public, on the couch.  I very much want to separate outside from inside.  I have expanded to sitting on the other couch cushion of our loveseat, and that was big for me too.

I feel like the areas I'm making the biggest progress in are work related issues and laundry.
I think that my world outside of OCD would expand if I worked on the clothing contamination and safe zones. 
I think that the issue I have with my husband is ultimately the biggest piece of the puzzle with my OCD and other things including chemical contamination and safe zones might work themselves out on their own, if I started working on the issues with him.  But the problem is I need a commitment from him to work on this, and I'm not sure I can get that.

Where do I go from here:  Devise a plan that I can share with my husband and encourage him to commit to.  I am willing to work on a plan that we can both be happy with, if he can commit to encouragement, working on his part, and being supportive.  Try a new take-out place.  Contaminate my clothes (don't wash hands before going to the bathroom).  Start trying to mix clothing together in washer, that I normally wouldn't. 

I need some good exposure ideas, friends.  I know what I should be doing, but they all seem difficult for now.  I would love to hear if anyone has any ideas.  For those of you that are way ahead of me in this, where did you start?


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Emotional Contamination in Marriage: Part 2

I apologize in advance, because this is going to be a long series.  My marriage is always on my mind.  I'm not sure if you would call it "relationship OCD" or "emotional contamination" because I think they are indeed different things.  Because I have OCD I tend to naturally overanalyze and think about everything, and my marriage is no different.  A few years ago I saw a psychologist and the reason for those visits was threefold.  To discuss my OCD, how the OCD affected my marriage, and finally to discuss the marriage itself (the problems aside from those related to the OCD.  More classic problems like communication, time, etc.).  After taking much time to figure out how I would organize these posts, I've come to the conclusion that there may not be an organized way to go about doing this.  These issues are so complicated for me, and literally draining me.  There are so many thoughts, ideas, theories, and hurts that go through my mind on a daily basis.  I just want to get these posts out there.  Since this series is about emotional contamination, I'm going to try to stick to that mostly.  My husband definitely triggers me in my "classic contamination" issues, so there will be much more about that in future posts.  So for now, I'm going to be a rambling woman.  I've thought about all of the feelings I have related to my husband and how they make me feel, and this is a brainstormed list of what I was able to come up with:  feeling neglected, contempt, eye rolling, not acknowledging progress with my OCD, refusing to talk about my OCD, not communicating, almost constant Ipad, internet searching, Craigslist, and videos, not eating dinner with my our daughter and, not seeming to appreciate me, partaking in own hobbies over family time, disconnection, doesn't include me in decisions, farming (his side job/hobby) seems like a separate life, not safe to share feelings, no resolution to conflict, he can do things that aren't a big deal, but gets mad at me when I do them, blames me for things, doesn't take responsibility for his part of marriage problems, he does not want to help me or be a partner, I feel a sense of disgust when I am around him or his things, on the occasions he does eat dinner with us he looks at the Internet instead of interacting with us at the table leaves the table when he is done, he really doesn't know me at all, he is oblivious to the fact when I am speaking to him, because he is so focused on his phone or tablet, he leaves the house without saying anything and comes in the door without saying anything often, he makes time for his friends, but not for us.  I have made him special meals or desserts for birthday, and he doesn't even acknowledge it.  Once I made a caramel apple pie for his birthday that took me hours and our daughter and I sat down at the table to eat it, and he just went to the kitchen counter and flipped the TV on and started eating his.  These are just examples that come to mind. 

I'm not saying I'm a perfect person.  I am far from that.  I am just as capable of him as the eye rolling, contempt, sarcasm, everything I've listed above.  But because this is related to my feelings, this is what I'm focusing this post on.  Our relationship wasn't always ruled by these things.  Our relationship was once very healthy.  I think that different things affected us in different ways, and we started going separate ways.  We started dealing with our relationship problems alone, rather than together.  And the downward spiral started, then began to spin faster and faster as the years went by. 

In a nutshell, the biggest word I can draw everything down to is emotional neglect or abandonment.  Yes, he is physically here.  But, there is no emotional connection.  A lot of this started early on in our marriage, BEFORE the OCD started.  I felt like I wasn't enough for him.  He was always making time for something else, but not for me.  On top of that, there was no communication, and no resolution to conflict.  His time became occupied with numerous things in our marriage--drinking, poker, friends, farming, schoolwork (going back to get his Masters degree).  Through the years the disconnection has grown.  It has moved to what I feel is being addicted to his phone and iPad.  Countless hours spent daily searching the Internet, and watching videos.  Mindless activity.  Our relationship has suffered greatly.

I do want to make a point briefly of going back to my childhood, and I will share some theories on this later too.  My parents and I did not have a real close relationship when I was growing up, which I am just realizing now as an adult.  My dad tended to get angry at times, and my mom was more distant.  I think I got along with them well until my teenage years, and then we just did not relate.  I know that my mom struggled with mental health issues when I was growing up, but I don't know what those actually were.  It was very hush-hush in my family, but I recall my dad sitting my sister and I aside often, becoming teary, and talking about it.  I don't remember them asking me about schoolwork or friends in general.  It's possible they did, but I don't remember that.  I don't remember being talked to about drugs, alcohol, or relationships.  I don't remember getting talks about life.  We never talked about the things that should be talked about in a parent/child relationship, so I suppose it's possible that I developed some attachment disorder.  My sister has recalled and pondered upon these same things too.  It's not that I don't love my parents.  Of course, I love them.  Even when I see them now, they often feel or seem like strangers.  Like I don't really know them in an emotional sense.  When I started dating my husband, things seemed very different.  I had dated a few guys off and on before him, but none of them I connected with emotionally.  When I met him, things were different.  He wanted to talk to me, he wanted to be with me.  He cherished me.  We talked about anything and everything, he did know me very well at that point.  I held on to that feeling of connection, because I treasured it with someone.  Fast forward 15+ years and I don't think he knows me at all.  I don't even feel safe going to him with emotional things anymore, because I'm met with indifference.  Maybe the feeling of being emotionally disconnected early in our marriage triggered something in me, that I related back to my childhood years.  This is very possible, and something that I've been thinking about a lot lately.  Once our daughter came along and I sensed the loss of emotional disconnect with my husband, I started leeching onto my daughter for connection.  My emotional investment has gone into my daughter now and I protect the both of us.  That is what my OCD is trying to do.     

Theories on why I feel emotionally contaminated by him:

*I feel like because he didn't need me back then, that I don't need him
*I somehow want to punish him for all the hurt I have felt through the years
*I want to put as much distance between myself and him as possible
* I bared my heart to him in the past (and still do), and then he abandoned me emotionally
*Beer and his technological devices serve as a reminder everytime he is on them of how he has abandoned me and disconnected
*I have negative self-talk regarding him and have labeled him as "stupid" and an "idiot"
*I feel trapped in the marriage and the OCD also makes me feel trapped.  It makes me more resentful because I feel like I have a loss of freedom in my home, and am not able to do the things I want to do, so I'm even more mad at him
*Maybe I feel like I've never been what he wants in a relationship.  All of the years of him going through different activities and making me a last priority.  I have also let myself go physically in the last year and a half or so.  Not that I ever cared about makeup or hair or clothes.  But I've found myself just not even taking care of myself.  Not taking care of my teeth, I also severely clench my teeth at night, not taking care of myself nutritionally.  Not exercising or even wanting to go out and do anything.  Loss of motivation.  I am now going on 8 months without a haircut, which I have never done before (although I do have an appointment to get my hair colored/cut in a couple of weeks.  More on that later).  I stopped wearing make up and wearing hairspray (a lot of this was for OCD reasons too). 
*I have bared my heart to him and worn my emotions on my sleeve throughout our relationship.  I am a very emotional, passionate, creative, relationship oriented person (as a lot of people with OCD are).  So many times I've bared my heart to him, I've been met with indifference.  So many times, I've cried about different things--gut wrenching cries and he sits unphased in front of me.  I've asked him for physical contact (hugs) at the end of fights earlier in our marriage (when the OCD didn't see him as contaminated), and he flat out denied me.  He blames me for a lot of things and becomes angry.  I never knew my husband was such an angry person.  I realize a lot of this is because of the OCD, but it doesn't help.  He doesn't want to say "I'm sorry" when he hurts me, and that has put so many forks in the road.  It feels like there is a bridge with those wooden planks going across it, and so many planks have been removed that I don't know how to get from one side to the other.  I don't know if I can. 
*Maybe, just maybe, really subconsciously deep down I have wanted out of the relationship.  After all, I wrote a journal 10 years ago mincing no words about how badly I wanted out of the marriage.  Is it possible that this is somehow aimed at hoping he will leave?  I honestly don't think so.  Because, ultimately I want my marriage to work.  I always have.  And why would I go about this crazy path of OCD taking pieces of everyones lives?  The only answer would lie in that it was so subconscious. I honestly don't think this is the case though.

Other thoughts:
I don't think this part of my OCD ever will get better.  I am not motivated to work on getting close to him, because I don't feel close to him.  Why would I want to purposely come into contact with his clothes or contaminated items, so that I can feel the pain and anxiety associated with that.  I want to avoid the pain of the feelings I have when around him.  Unfortunately the OCD brings more problems into our relationship and his attitude toward my OCD brings me more pain.  It is like a cycle that just doesn't quit.  I don't feel "safe" with him, emotionally.  Therefore I want to protect myself from any kind of harm he could possibly bring to me, even it if it's perceived harm.  I think I am so mad at him, and then he feels even more contaminated to me because he seems "dirty" to me, which compounds the problem.  I think the more unsanitary I see him, the harder I try to keep my distance from him.  And the more distance I keep, the more he thinks it doesn't matter.  He continues to live doing things unsanitarily.  Im not sure if its to prove a point to me or not (this is getting into more of how I feel he is actually more "classically contaminated" though which I will get into in a future post soon.

I never knew how capable I was of being an angry person, as well.  The OCD has made me such an angry person.  I am also angry because of my husband and the problems that we have.  I sometimes feel like my blood is boiling when around him, and I watch him in front of me and get upset about everything about him.  Almost every time we discuss our relationship, he draws everything back to my OCD>  This is not a healthy way for anyone to live--my husband or I, or my daughter.  Sometimes I don't know if, or how long, I can keep doing this.  But divorce is not an option for me. 

On a final note today, the OCD has drawn me closer in relationship to God.  After all, it is God who gets me through this.  My  husband doesn't understand what I'm going through.  My daughter has a very good understanding and is very empathetic.  Sometimes I think I tell her too many details because she is so understanding.  I have put this burden on her too.  But she still can't completely understand either, as she does not have the OCD mind that I do.  God DOES understand what I am going through, and He has been with me every step of the way.  And HE is with you too, no matter where you are at with your OCD.

Lots more to write on this again soon.  This has become much longer than I planned for tonight!