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Friday, March 27, 2015

Bad OCD Days...and an interesting work encounter

     For those of you that suffer with OCD, you definitely know what I mean by a bad OCD day.  A day that is much worse than our normal days with OCD.  I had a day this week that was kind of one of those.  But the good news is that it showed me how much progress I truly have made in the last year.  The final result was that the bad OCD day wasn't nearly as bad as some I have had in the past.  I was able to handle it better for the most part, and even did some pretty good exposures that day, after all of that, which was a pretty great feeling! 
     My daughter got sick during the night earlier this week and vomited three times.  This has happened previously, in the midst of my more severe OCD, and I was able to handle it much better this time.  Last time she threw up (back in the fall I believe), which I posted about, it put me out of sorts completely.  Even though I couldn't see vomit on her clothes, the OCD convinced me they were contaminated and I had throw out everything she was wearing.  I may have even thrown my own clothes out too because I couldn't get over the "what if" the vomit had accidentally sprayed on me?  (even though I knew it hadn't).  Vomit did actually get on her bedsheets that time too, and I did get new bedsheets (which I feel isn't too irrational), and I bought us new slippers because I was worried "what if" vomit somehow got our our slippers when she was vomiting into the toilet.  I actually drove to Wal-Mart at 2:30 in the morning to purchase these things.  I also had just washed and dried some underwear sitting in a laundry basket, that was in the path of the vomit from her room to the bathroom.  Nothing looked like it was vomited on, but I pitched all of that underwear, "just in case".  Fast forward to this week.  I did not make her shower, I did not buy us new slippers, we went back into bed (after I had her change her clothes). The shirt seemed questionable to me, because I saw some water on it, but I think that was probably from washing her hands.  I washed that T-shirt separately this week, but did not throw it out.  When I got up that next morning, I realized my husband wasn't coming out of his room and possibly wasn't going to work that.  That stressed me out too because I desperately wanted to go back to bed and take a nap (exhausted from being up most of the night), and work on my exposures this afternoon with him gone.  He did end up going in late, so that was good. 
       When I went to get gas in my car over the lunch hour, I had to expose myself again.  Normally I wear a glove when I pump gas, because of a situation that happened last summer and I can't bring myself to touch a gas pump.  Normally I go to the pump on the edge of the gas station, so no one sees me use the glove.  Because that's embarassing, right?  I try to hide my behavior to appear normal.  But that day, another customer pulled up on the other side of the pump...and I suppose I could have chosen to wait until he pulled away, but I was in a hurry to get home.  So...I did have to touch the gas handle, which I didn't really want to do either.  But it was okay.  The vomiting event alone would have sent me over the edge a year ago, and then the sequence of events after that would deepened the stress that day.  But the good thing is that I was able to get through the day better.  And I definitely have better days than worse days in general anymore (in regard to the OCD).
     Despite all of this going on, because I was pretty stressed out already, I still decided to proceed with my exposures for the week.  I decided to do more laundry, without turning the toilets off.  I washed my sheets and bedding, which was pretty huge, because my bed is my "safest place" in the house.  It didn't actually feel that anxiety provoking.  I have since then washed some jeans and "outdoor clothes" without shutting the toilets off.  I am heading in the right direction.  I still wonder "what if" there is toilet water going in there, but I'm able to move past it much quicker and most of the time I don't even think about it.  I'm getting more used to the idea of washing my clothes normally again and not paying much attention to those intrusive thoughts.  I am really hopeful that I will still be able to wash about everything without turning the toilets off, normally again, by the end of next week.  I am definitely close to being there.  It feels good.
     After I was feeling pretty good about this, I had an interesting experience when I was working this week.  I was talking with a mom of a newborn, who was calling because her older child had a stomach flu and she was concerned that her 2 day old infant would get the flu as well.  Understandably, I could see her concern.  When I started talking with her about good handwashing at home and keeping the baby and sibling isolated from each other, she became very emotional and suddenly said something along the lines of, "I'm a little OCD about this, I just don't know what all I need to clean".  Now I know many people use that term lightly, but with her I could tell she truly does have OCD.  She asked me questions such as if she could hug her other child and then feel safe coming back to her baby?  She then said she keeps thinking of things she has touched, and then went and touched something else and is now worried that she didn't clean those things and if the baby could end up getting sick?  My heart really went out to her, as I am all too familiar with that spread of contamination.  In fact I chose at that point to say something along the lines of "I myself have clinical OCD too, so I  know how that feels".  I hope I didn't overstep by saying that, but I could tell that she felt an immediate connection, and I could truly relate to her.  There really are so many people out there with OCD, more than we realize. 
     The rest of that day went pretty uneventful.  Thankfully my daughter had no further vomiting, and was feeling back to normal that night!  I do feel stressed again with my husband in particular and his reaction to my OCD, and that has been escalating big time again.  He came home from the store tonight with a bulk sized box of cereal and immediately I fretted out him using my milk in the fridge for his cereal.  I asked him if he bought milk to go with that, and he said no.  Then when he figured out that I was concerned about using the same milk bottle as him, that set him off immediately.  He got mad at me started spouting off things about why don't I just go off and get everything by myself?  Maybe I want a washer and dryer to myself!  And he wasn't going to taint the milk, and slamming doors behind him. In retrospect, I realize the better thing would have been to just not say anything and make a mental note to myself to not the use the milk, but sometimes I feel these experiences are good opportunities to try to educate him.  The bottom line is I don't think he is every going to get it anyway.  His gut reaction is anger every time something with the OCD comes up.  And in reality, I have come so far in the last year with self treatment.  My biggest area right now is just my "safe zones" and feeling like my husband is contaminated.  Unfortunately his anger and unwillingness to talk to me creates even more tension, and I think worsens the OCD in the areas he is concerned, because of the negative feelings I have toward him.  I've kind of given hope in that area.  He seems really in angry in general, blaming things on me more than usual and very short temper.  I realize that the OCD stresses him out,  but he draws almost every problem back to that as the cause.  I know that there is much more to our marriage problems, but I'm not sure he gets that.  It makes me really sad.  Just widens the canyon between us even more every day.  I did make an appointment with a counselor, through an Employee Assistance Program at my work.  It allows 3 free sessions, which I realize won't get too far, but I am interested in a professional's opinion on our entire situation.  I'm still waiting on a determination from my employer regarding my work situation.  Hopefully more on that next week!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The ADA Law and a thank you to my readers!

This is just an update after my appointment with my primary care doctor last week.  I decided that I was going to be completely honest about my OCD, as I've really minimized it in the past with her.  Since I needed her to fill out paperwork to submit to my employer regarding ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), I wanted her to understand just how severe my symptoms really are.  The reaction I got from her was not what I expected, but she did fill the paperwork out, so now I have documentation that I hope will allow me to continue to work from home for a period of time yet.  Of course I started breaking down and became very emotional when I started talking about my OCD.  It has been a long time, too long, since I have spoken about my OCD to a medical professional.  What shocked me was her initial reaction.  I hadn't even really described my symptoms yet, just summed it up with a couple of sentences to start.  She then asked me if I was sure it was OCD, and if I had ever considered that maybe I was bipolar and not OCD.  This really rubbed me the wrong way.  It's not that I think anything badly about bipolar, it just frustrated me that after living with this condition for 10 years, her initial reaction was to second guess what I had.  She then said that she herself was "a little OCD, and that doctors have to be that way to do their job, but the difference is that she knows how to shut it off in her free time".  This statement just kind of showed me how little she probably does understand about OCD.  It just goes back to people without any knowledge about the condition saying "Oh I'm so OCD" and throwing the term out lightly, not realizing how OCD entangles itself into every aspect of the sufferers life and that it is a true, oftentimes debilitating disorder.  I also brought up ERP as the preferred form of therapy, and she kind of brushed that off like she didn't think that was helpful.  She was very pro-medication, and I almost got the impression that she felt medication was the only way anyone could ever manage this disorder.  I was very disheartened at the lack of knowledge about this disorder, but I think through the course of the conversation she at least understood (and we honestly didn't even get into specifics about my OCD) just how much it affected my life, and she signed the paperwork which I am now submitting to my employer today.  I would imagine that by the beginning of next week, a determination should be made.  If you're not familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act , check it out.  OCD usually qualifies under the ADA if your symptoms are affecting your life significantly.  If you are having trouble doing your job because of your OCD, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations to help you do  your job better (and this could include a number of different things).  I was nervous to disclose my OCD because of the horrible stigma attached to mental illness, but I decided I needed to do this.  I've done a lot of research on this.  If you have any questions after reading this, please let me know.  I also contacted the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), who will talk about your particular disability and give you ideas.  It is a free consultation and they were extremely helpful.  I would also like to thank Janet from ocdtalk for her own post about this recently, as it first gave me awareness of the law and protection that we have with a disability.  She is an excellent resource too, and if you haven't checked out her blog I would highly recommend it!
       I am so thankful for this blogging community.  I have met some of the most amazing people  through this blog.  I read all of your comments and await to connect with all of you.  Many of you give me close-ups into your daily lives and struggles.  I follow others blogs and read others stories.  I have been given wonderful advice on this blog.  I have been inspired by others, and hope that somehow my story and struggle inspires someone else.  You have shared honest details about your OCD, things that you don't tell anyone else.  You all are truly the people that best understand this.  We all my  have different forms of OCD, and a different collection of symptoms or problems, but we can truly relate to each other and feel like "someone else gets it".  I have connected with many of you and feel that you are my friends and that you truly know me better than most people in my life do.  I think it is so important to connect with others that share similar life struggles.   I am so thankful for all of YOU.  As I worry about my work situation, and my marriage and my OCD, I can't help but note that not many people in my regular life that know the sum of everything.  This is where I come to be honest and put it all out there.          

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kicking it up a notch

         It has been beautiful and sunny outside in my hometown for the past week, much higher than average temperatures for March.  It has been amazing.  Last summer my OCD was so severe that I didn't get out much at all during the summer.  Didn't even want to walk around my neighborhood much, because there was a lot of construction going on and it made my "clothing contamination" issues really escalate, as I found myself worrying about dirt/dust debris flying all over me when I went outside.  This summer, things are going to be different.  My daughter was also on Spring Break from school the last week, and it was wonderful.  We spent a lot of time outdoors, walking around, walking the dog, sitting in chairs on our driveway talking, and her riding her scooter.  The sunshine felt so good, and I truly believe that sunshine and exercise are important for mental health.  The walking has helped me feel better too.  In fact, I felt so good this past week that I decided it was time to "kick it up a notch" and finish working on the rest of my laundry issues. 
         If you're familiar with my blog and my issues, you probably know that one of my biggest laundry issues is that I have to turn a couple of the toilets off in our house when I do laundry, because I obsess that somehow toilet water is backing up into the washing machine.  This obsession started about 1 1/2 years ago when I would hear the toilet "ghost flushing" at times.  At first I thought it was just happening when the washing machine entered a drain/spin cycle, but I think in retrospect it was just going off randomly whenever.  I just happened to hear it one day while the laundry was going, and somehow my mind connected the toilet water with the washing machine and the OCD convinced me that toilet water was entering the washing machine.  I know rationally that this could not be the case unless the plumbing was hooked up incorrectly, but the OCD kept telling me it was possible.  And in order to feel confident that toilet water was not going into the washing machine and getting all over the clothes, I started turning off the water supply to the 2 toilets in the house that did that (one is hooked up on the other side of the wall of the washing machine).  There is a 3rd toilet in our house that doesn't "ghost flush", but I would never flush it while I did laundry, because I was still anxious that might get in the pipes and somehow end up in the washing machine.  (This is an example of how someone with OCD knows how irrational their thoughts are.  This just looks insane reading this, but I give into the OCD to get rid of the distress).  This set forth in motion a pretty crazy way of doing my laundry which has been going on for about 1 1/2 years now.
           I have had a lot of rituals that have centered around laundry, and recently I have been able to get rid of a lot of them.  But this is the icing on the cake, the top, the utmost concern that I have, and I decided its time to get rid of this compulsion.  My husband actually fixed those two toilets about 2 months ago, but I was unable to stop that compulsion.  It was so ingrained, that I felt I could not do my laundry normally anymore.  I knew I would have to form a hierarchy for these exposures alone, going from the "dirtiest clothes" to the "cleanest clothes".  I figured if I had to "contaminate" something, I might as well start with something that seemed the dirtiest to me to begin with, such as socks.  I "contaminated" my socks last week.  I left both toilets on, washed the socks, and even went to the non-worrisome toilet and purposesly flushed it while the socks were washing.  It wasn't actually as bad as I thought (the exposures usually never are).  As I've written before in a post, the anticipation of the exposure is always the worst.  It is usually never as bad in reality, as you think it is going to be.  Today I contaminated a couple of "outdoor outfits", and I plan to eventually contaminate the rest of my things, ending with my "houseclothes", underwear, towels--the things that I want to keep as clean as possible. 
         This is actually HUGE progress for me.  Last year I was in a very different place, with my laundry OCD consuming me.  I was throwing away entire loads of clothes often.  Hiding the fact that I turned off the toilets to the point where if my husband came home unexpectedly I would go turn the toilets back on (so he would never know the difference), feel like the laundry was contaminated and toss it.  So to purposely do this and wear the clothing is a place I didn't think I could get to.  It is really an amazing feeling.  I need to keep pushing myself forward with this.  My goal is over then next 2 weeks, that every load of laundry will be done normally, without turning the toilets off. 
      On a side note, and update to my previous post, I have an appointment with my primary care physician tomorrow.  This will be to discuss how I am doing overall, to finally "come clean" about my OCD, and discuss her making a formal accommodation to allow me to work from home.  I am pretty nervous about all of this, but I will update after the appointment. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Work dilemma

I have been really fortunate to be able to work from home for quite some time.  It started about 9 years ago, when I was working from home partly out of "convenience".  My employer allowed me to work from home 1-2 days a week because my daughter was younger at that time, and it helped with keeping her out of daycare.  I am actually quite surprised, in retrospect, that I was allowed to do this, but I am grateful for this.  When my OCD was at it's worst, about a year ago, I really started working on a self-help ERP program.  I have made a lot of progress during this time, but the truth is it is still affecting me very much.  I also am having a lot of physical problems, which are making it difficult for me to function.  I am sure that both problems feed off each other, but they are both there.  I sometimes think I legitimately have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I have most of the symptoms--severe fatigue where it doesn't how much I sleep at night.  I am always exhausted.  I wake up feeling like I was in a fight overnight.  Half of the time I feel "drugged" or weak, and I am no medications, other than thyroid medication.  I have my thyroid checked regularly and it is always within normal limits.  I have muscle aches and soreness, I have trouble concentrating and remembering things often  I have headaches, nausea, and dizziness.  It does affect my life significantly.  That and of course, the OCD.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome seems like a "catch all" diagnosis, when nothing else is found, but it's symptoms are real and have a negative impact on quality of life.  But what does all of this have to do with the title of my post--work dilemma?  Well, last summer when things were getting real bad with my OCD and physical symptoms, I started giving all of my available hours only from home.   I only work on a "prn basis"--less than 24 hours/week), so I turn in the hours I am able to work each week.  For the last set of hours I turned in last week, my manager asked when I would be able to start working in the office more again (they know I am having "medical problems" currently, but nothing more than that. When I said I didn't anticipate the ability to do that for another 6 months or so, she referred me onto the HR department, whom presented me with the Americans with Disabilities Act Paperwork.  Now, I face a dilemma.  I am very reluctant to give out my medical diagnosis or any information to my employer.  Looking through the paperwork, it doesn't appear a diagnosis is necessary however.  It seems more that the medical provider just has to agree that I have a medical or physical impairment that affects the ability to do my job, and that I should be allowed to have "reasonable accomodations", which would be working from home.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experience with this.  There is such a stigma with OCD that I don't want to throw it out there.  However I believe that OCD or CFS would qualify me to work from home right now.  There is no way that I can afford not to work right now.  I feel that by working from home, I am still able to make an income and feel that I am contributing to society.  The other problem, is that my primary physician really does not know the extent of my OCD.  I have mentioned to her that I have OCD in the past, but I'm not sure it's even written in my medical record (we have never had more than a very minimal conversation about it).  I'm not sure she would even realize how disabling or severe my OCD is right now.  I do have medical documentation of my OCD from when I saw a psychologist a few years back.  So, she would have to know I am not just making this up.  Who would be able to make this stuff?  Who really would choose to live this way?  I am concerned that she will want me to start seeing a therapist regularly for my OCD if she does sign paperwork to make "accomodations", and the next problem lies in that I just don't have the money right now for OCD treatment, at least not the kind that would actually be life-changing for me.  I've considered leaving the OCD out of the picture and just focusing on the Chronic fatigue, as I think I would qualify with that diagnosis.  Truthfully, I am embarrassed about this, and I just don't know what to do.  It is causing me a lot of stress.  I am approved to work from home (without ADA paperwork) for another 2-3 months, but after that they will not schedule me unless I can come into the office, or if I have the ADA request approved.  I don't want to label myself with a disability either, but I know that OCD is a disability.  It has affected my life so much, and because this disease is so misunderstood--I'm not sure that other people understand just how severe and debilitating it can be.  So the dilemma I face, is do I go the CFS route and then enter in OCD if that doesn't work?  Or am I just outright honest from the beginning?  As I mentioned earlier, financially I just don't have the money for treatment right now.  And if I know this is hanging over me at work, it may give me an extra push to work on some other things.  I realize that any information I give my employer is confidential, but I still have concerns about that too.  What if when they find out I have OCD, they think I am not competent to do my job?  (Even though I get good evaluations on my performance).  What if they end up denying my request, and then I have to find a way to face going into work again (before I'm ready), and on top of that now my HR manager and actual manager both know I have OCD?  I don't know where to go or what to do.  I have an appointment with my primary physician next week, and am hoping for some advice prior to that.  Thanks, friends.