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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hugging and OCD

     So, I've got a few family functions coming up in the next several weeks.  I really am hoping to attend some of these (if not all), but I know that hugging is going to be a part of most of the events, and that makes me really anxious.  Because of my clothing contamination issues, it bothers me immensely to have other peoples clothing against me, and to have their hands touch my clothes during a hug.  I have no idea if their clothes are clean, no idea how well they were washed, etc.  Have no idea where their hands have been or if they have pumped gas or went to the bathroom or who knows what before their hands touch my shirt.  It's not the idea of hugging a person that actually bothers is the feeling of my clothing being forever contaminated and dirty, and I don't want to wear it again.  In the past I have thrown out a lot stuff because of that, but I have actually improved in this area.  Not significantly, but I have improved.  Currently the way I'm dealing with this is when I have to go to an outing or event where I feel someone might hug me or touch me, I wear one certain outfit.  I call it my "contaminated outfit".  After someone hugs or touches me, I will go home and wash it completely by itself in the washer, and then it hangs in my closet until the next outing.  The problem is that I can't just keep wearing one outfit to go to family gatherings in.  I need to eventually be able to contaminate my whole wardrobe and be okay with it, but I don't know how to get there.  I'm hoping that someone that has been through some ERP's with this or struggled with this, would have some good suggestions on how to get started.  I also think if I could get to the point where I could hug my husband, that things would be a lot better between us too.  I'm curious if anyone else has dealt with this issue.  I know that what I should eventually be able to do is to just wear whatever outfit I choose, wear it, get contaminated in it, come home, toss it in the hamper and wash it with everything else.  But that seems like a zillion steps away. 
     My cousin graduates from college next weekend and there will be a party following that at his parents house.  Then we have Mothers Day next weekend too, and I would like to be able to visit my mother and my mother-in-law.  The following weekend I have 2 baby showers that I have been invited to.  Going into others homes also brings more levels of concern too, which I have addressed in previous posts.  Sitting on others couches, that don't feel clean.  Feeling like my socks, or worse barefeet, are contaminated from walking on their carpet.  I can find ways of dealing with all these little compulsions, so I'm not avoiding.  I really, really want to attend some of these upcoming events.  I just don't want to be wearing my same old sweatshirt and baggy jeans to do such  :(
.....I would appreciate any help, friends!   

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Feeling like a bad person today

  So, it's been awhile since I've posted.  I'd like to say it's because my OCD has been improving.  And I guess, truthfully, it has to some degree.  But I am still very much not out of the woods.  I am leaps and bounds better than where I was at last year at this time, and I actually do fairly well on a day to day basis (as long as Im staying with my normal routine).  But that is just the problem...take me out of the routine and I can see how much this is still affecting me.  I like to think that the OCD isn't bothering me as much.  Since I work from home, and as long as I don't have any family functions or appointments to attend (where I would contaminate myself), then I do pretty well.  I've developed some "rules"--yes because those of  us with OCD seem to have issues with that.  But these are actually good rules:  things I want to incorporate into my life everyday.  Nine things...getting adequate sleep, eating 3 meals regularly every day, walking every day, getting sunshine for 1 hour everyday, spiritual involvement (church, listening to Christian music, reading Christian books/inspirational fiction, reading the Bible, praying), positive self talk, doing something relaxing or fun by myself everyday, doing something fun with my daughter every day, and facing up to my OCD everyday (whether it be a small exposure or big, I need to face up to it everyday).  And to be honest, I've found that as I've incorporated these things into my daily routine, I do feel a lot better.  I feel like I am functioning at a pretty high level again...but of course that also includes the fact that I continue to work from home, and don't like to veer outside my comfortable routine. 
    But on to the title of this post, something that does veer outside of the routine.  I'm feeling like a bad person today.  A horrible person.  A horrible sister.  I've talked a lot on this blog about how I have trouble being around children (other than my own daughter).  Because of this, I don't spend very much time with my sister and niece at all.  I haven't actually seen my niece in over a year, and she is almost 5 years old.  I'm a horrible aunt too.  I didn't use to have as much trouble being around her when she was younger, as long as there were no illnesses, which I was sure to ask about every time we got together.  Now that the clothing contamination and safe zones are still a huge issue for me, I'm finding that it is difficult to be around her, because I don't want to hug her or have her touch my clothes, or sit on my couches, etc.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  My sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last summer.  Fortunately it was a thyroid cancer that typically has a great prognosis.  I didn't go visit her at the hospital or at my parents as any of this was going on.  She stayed at my parents for several weeks so they could help out with my niece.  She had friends come visit her, but I never went over.  Not once.  Never offered to take care of my niece during this time either.  I've seen my sister a couple of times since then, but it's been on occasions where my niece wasn't there and was with her dad instead.  My sister recently found out that she has another malignant node in her neck and she is scheduled to have surgery again in a couple of weeks.  She called me yesterday and asked if I could watch my niece for about a 36 hour period following the surgery, as she was trying to line up caretakers for her.  It would involve her being at my house during this time, sleeping 2 nights overnight.  As she was telling me this, she was even considering letting a woman at her church help out that had offered (that she barely knew).  So, I am feeling horrible.  So many contamination issues around this.  I have a really difficult time with people coming over to my house anyway.  Only my parents really have been here in the last year.  I don't let anyone use the bathroom either.  So how is this supposed to work?  I made up some stupid excuse that I may have to work, and told her a truth also--that there is a lot going on at our house right now and it is tense place and I'm not sure it's the best place for my niece to spend a weekend.  That is really true.  But what kind of sister and aunt am I when I can't help out in a time of need?  When I'm willing to let my niece stay with a stranger basically, because it is too much for me to handle?  When my OCD is obviously such a problem that I can't figure out how to make this work.  In reality, I would be keeping my distance from her, in a similar way to which I do my husband.  It would be contamination of everything, and a 5 year old can't understand that.  It would be a great exposure if I was ready for it, but I' m not.  In all actuality I could see the situation worsening as far as my house, my safe zone, being so contaminated that I couldn't get it clean.  I don't want this OCD to get worse.  I don't want to develop new problems.  I fear I'm appearing selfish.  But its not that, it's the disease.  A disease that I keep in silence.  So, in conclusion, I am feeling like a bad person today.  And I obviously have a long ways to go still toward recovery of this disorder.  Ugh.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

More freedom from OCD!!

          First of all, I just wanted to update on my employment situation.  I submitted the "reasonable accommodation" request to my HR department a little over a week ago, in hopes that I would be allowed to continue to work from home.  I had a telephone meeting with the HR manager yesterday, and she did approve my request.  It will be good for at least a year.  This is great news for me.  I have to remind myself though that this does not mean I can just continue to avoid things for another year.  I genuinely want to keep pushing myself in areas, and this gives me good motivation to do such.  I have done a lot of research on the ADA and the laws that protect those with disabilities.  I am a little concerned that even with this formal accommodation in place, that I am still experiencing some discrimination though.  I am curious if anyone has any insight or thoughts on this.  Although they approved my accommodation request, it was followed up with "we may still schedule other people for hours before you, that can be able to be in the office".  To me, this is discrimination still.  If they are not treating me equally in respect to the other employees with obtaining hours, then they are to some extent "using this against me".  I'm not sure how big of an issue this may become.  I decided not to say anything at this point.  I am just going to be as flexible and cooperative as I can with my hours, but if I start finding myself with minimal hours each week, I want to be prepared on what to say.
        Secondly, I am free from a huge obsession as of about a week ago now!  It feels unbelievable!  I set a goal for myself recently of tackling the indoor plumbing/laundry problem that has been deeply ingrained in my life for 1.5 years now.  In fact, I've had several "rules" to follow regarding laundry during this time.  I've successfully been able to phase most of them out.  I still have a little to work to go, but I would consider my laundry problems to only be mild at this point, compared to debilitating 1.5 years ago.  Here is where I was at, at one point.  I actually was able to face this much better than I had ever hoped for.  My initial goal was to phase this out over a 2 week period, then as I thought about it more, I thought maybe I would just take it REAL slow and have a goal of about 6-8 weeks.  Well, last week I said screw this OCD.  I have been able to wash several loads "normally" and I am going to continue to do so.  So I trucked ahead with this and didn't look back.  I still get weird feelings about it sometimes, but really for the most part it doesn't produce much anxiety for me at all.  It is an incredible feeling of freedom.  It's like my mind was able to go from "there is a chance that toilet water is getting in the machine.  I don't care how much of a chance it is, even if one in a zillion.  I can not tolerate the thought that it could be be possible and I will turn off the toilets every day just to make sure there is no chance this is happening" to......"I really doubt toilet water is going on, I can't believe I have wasted so much of my life doing this for the past 1.5 years".  I am able to wear clothes without them feeling dirty or contaminated or without even any thoughts of toilet water possibly getting on them".  It makes me really think about just how powerful the mind is.  You see, the OCD thinks it is some big bad beast.  It wants to take you down and make you do everything differently than you need to.  But this proved to my OCD that I don't have to listen.  So much wasted time.  I feel freedom in such a big way.  I am happy with myself, I feel like a load has been taken off my chest.  I also feel frustrated and sad that I didn't tackle this sooner.  This was by far the biggest exposures on my hierarchy I have done.  And to go from point A to point B in 2 weeks and really feel no anxiety about it anymore....well, that is called fighting off OCD!!  I'm not going to lie...I still have some laundry rituals...I still separate by "level of contamination" and do far more loads than I need to.  I wash my husbands stuff separately, I do several empty cycles between my husbands loads and my daughter and my stuff.  And I won't use the dryer (because it feels dirty to me after my husbands stuff has been in yet.  Yes...even when his stuff should technically be "clean", it does not feel that way.  But I am amazed at how much I have eliminated, without professional help. 
       I have felt a lot better in general since tackling this too.  Another load off my chest.  My mood has been lighter and I feel happier.  I've been trying to walk our dog daily and getting outside in the sun as much as I can.  I am so excited for spring!  Weather wise, these are my favorite 6 months coming up, April-September.  I am motivated to continue in this fight!!  It feels good :)