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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!!