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Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas with OCD

      I haven't posted for awhile here, so just wanted to give a little update how I've been doing.  First of all, I am over 50,000 views on my blog now!  It doesn't sound like a lot, but I am reaching people out there somewhere in my little corner of this OCD world.  That is what it feels like, right?  But it's so far from the truth.  I have heard from countless people on this blog, things such as "I never thought I would find someone else who struggled with similar problems", "I never knew other people did things like I did".  What I have learned is that there are so many people like us.  We are not alone.  And we must keep sharing our stories and supporting each other and connecting.  So that we do not feel so alone, and also so we can reach others out there with this disorder. 
     The holidays are usually pretty tough for me.  I was a big avoider for awhile, because I simply didn't want to deal the aftermath of feeling contaminated.  I didn't want to hug people.  I didn't want to sit on their furniture.  I didn't want to possibly be exposed to other people there who "might" be sick.  There was no way of knowing.  I didn't want to deal with the clothing I was wearing when I got home...was it salvageable, would it need to be thrown out?  I didn't want to clean my car out because that was the mediator between the public world and my safety zone at home.  I have learned to face many of these things over the last few years.  But I still struggle in some ways.  It is definitely not easy for me to go to these events, but I force myself to.  I knew this year was particularly going to be tough.  We had sick family members on both sides of the family, so potential for exposures to illnesses the entire day.  At one point it was determined we wouldn't be getting together, but then things changed.  And then a whole new set of concerns entered my wasn't only contaminating myself with "normal stuff" that people do everyday--sitting on others furniture, hugging, etc.  But rather actual exposure to people ill with colds.  This is super high anxiety provoking for me.  I spend so much of my time avoiding germs and avoiding contamination, and now I'm supposed to purposely expose myself?  And to up the ante even further, I knew I would have to deal with this--or the flip side of the coin would mean dealing with my husband's anger/irritation because we didn't get to our family Christmas because of my concerns.  My husband will never understand what I forced myself to do (pushing myself into a level 100 anxiety situation) but I did it.  I went to 2 family Christmases, where 2 of the children had pretty significant coughs.  Children are even more of a trigger for me, because they typically lack cough hygiene, and I know the "cough germs" are going to be airborne everywhere.  I will admit that I kept my distance to the best of my ability, but I did it.  I went, and it is done.  To be honest, a lot of things happened there that bothered me.  Although I was able to keep my distance fairly well from one of the children, the other one was more difficult.  It was in a smaller house (and mostly we stayed in one room).  My nephew coughed all over the place, mouth wide open--a loose junky wet sounding cough.  His nose kept running, and he was drooling most of the time--spit hanging down onto his clothes.  At one point his mother wiped his nose and then just stuffed the snotty Kleenex in her pocket.  He coughed all over the food as he sat at the table (thankfully we didn't eat there, I have to draw the line somewhere).  Then as they left the gathering (they left before we did, so he could get home to go to bed), they told him to go around and high five everyone.  This is with sticky snotty fingers.  He seemed hesitant at the end and was getting tired, so thankfully I was able to decline and just politely say that I will pass on the high five.  Ugh.  I can't imagine all the germs everyone else collected on their hands from doing that.  Also at one point someone was holding him and he coughed directly in her face!  So many concerns, so many thoughts and worries.  I was so happy when it was over.  I went, but I'm not going to lie.  It was a relief when it was done.  
     I have a lot of concerns moving forward, because my nephew is only a year old.  He is in daycare, always getting exposed to stuff,and I have a fear that he is going to be ill often at family get togethers.  It makes me nervous just thinking about it now, and all of the gatherings we will have in the future and how I will deal with those, but I guess I'm just going to take it one gathering at a time.  That's all I can do. 
    As far as the rest of my OCD, I am doing fairly well overall other than dealing with contamination issues with my husband still.  It continues to be my #1 OCD problem.  Just so many things that I see him do on a daily basis that causes me to lose trust in him.  It makes me more mindful when I'm around him, and I really don't trust his judgment.  Some random examples of things that would bother me that I see him do are:  goes to the bathroom and flushes the toilet without washing his hands, he reuses a cup several times and digs it into the ice bin each time (even though it hasn't been washed for days on end), he handles our dogs rawhide bone and toys and then eats food without washing his hands, he picks up clothes off his floor that haven't been washed for months and months and wears them.  I have actually seen him do the "sniff test" when picking up clothes to wear to work.  He was sick with a cold and wore the same shirt for 5 days in a row, coughing into it constantly.  He lets our dog lick his face, ears, hair and clothing all over.  He lets our dog sit and put her butt directly on his pillow.  He goes several days without showering usually over the weekends.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.  I just feel he is dirty and I just don't want to come into contact with that.  And once the bridge between him and I is crossed, there is no way to protect my spaces anymore.  So I am very protective of my safe spaces, and my clothes with him.  Our worlds just can not collide.
    But back to the beginning of this post, I am so thankful for those of you I have been able to connect with on this blog.  I have already heard pieces of many of your stories, and I feel your pain. Please continue to share your stories, so we can continue to get this out there, reduce the stigma associated with this disorder, and find others to connect with.  There are so many of us out there.  You are not alone.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Medication and OCD--is it worth a try?

     I want to talk about medication today and it's use in OCD and depression in particular.  I have been opposed to medication for quite some time...but the tables seem to be turning, and I think I am reconsidering my view on this topic for some very important reasons.  There was a time when OCD completely consumed me.  It was all I did, it was all that I was for awhile.  It was during that time that depression reared its ugly head, and I believe was probably the downward spiral that sent me into such a deep dark place I never thought I could recover from.  I knew I was in a deep depression, I knew I was not functioning.  I knew I did not want to live that way, but I could not pull myself out.  In all honestly I was not capable of thinking clearly at that time.  OCD was a way of life for me, and I was stuck.  It was just the way I resigned myself to living for quite some time...ruled by obsessions and compulsions, and avoiding everything that I could.  This only deepened my condition.  I didn't really have a support system at that time (as far as someone I could talk to safely about my OCD).  After all, the only people that had a name to what I suffered from was my husband, my daughter and my doctor.  My marriage has been extremely dysfunctional, and highly toxic at times.  We have had our share of marriage issues that alone would be difficult for a marriage to endure, but once OCD was thrown in the mix, it became a whole other type of nightmare.  It brought about issues in our relationship that most people could never even fathom.  You can visit previous posts or search my blog for "husband contamination" if you want more details on all of that.  But in addition to the stress that OCD brought into the marriage, and the toll it has taken, one thing stands out to me that I never in my wildest dreams anticipated would be a problem.  My husband's anger at my OCD.  His daily anger at me for having this condition.  I've often questioned whether or not I can stay in this marriage.  I love my husband, but I hate what this is doing to us.  We don't have much of a relationship at all anymore.  And I am certain that OCD is not the only path that has led to that.  I never imagined that a spouse would check out when their partner became ill.  And yes, OCD is an illness.  It is a chronic, day to day struggle.  I needed someone there for me in my darkest days, and he failed to show up.  In fact he became more angry at me, which I believe further worsened the cycle.  I don't know how to get out of the mess with him.  For religious reasons, I don't believe in divorce.  Yet I also struggle with "Does God really want me to live like this?" 
     I have worked so incredibly hard over the past 2 years to reclaim my life back from OCD.  This was with a lot of hard work with ERP self treatment.  And I have a long ways to go, but I am definitely getting there.  That is something I truly believe he will never understand.  But it is something I am so proud of for myself for doing.  I have pushed myself and fought against this, in the midst of a highly toxic environment.  Without professional help.  Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I was bound and determined that I was going to do it that way.  Maybe I didn't want a professional pushing me when I wasn't ready for certain things.  But for awhile, I've felt at a standstill.  I feel like for some reason I'm not making huge jumps of progress anymore.  In reality, I think its just because I have the "big stuff" left on my list to do.  No more baby steps.  At this point, its jumping in and ridding myself of my safe zones.  I will never fully overcome OCD if I don't make that step.  Although I'm trying to get better sleep and exercise more, I just feel that I'm not getting anywhere.  In fact I went to my doctor yesterday and discussed all of my symptoms again (fatigue, irritability, low mood, low energy) and she feels I do have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I mentioned in my previous post), and she wanted to see me feel better this winter.  I'm already dreading winter and already feeling blah.  I am so tired of feeling like this.  I want to live life again and feel like myself again.  OCD has already taken so much life from me, and my family.  It has taken away experiences I can never get back.  And it has created situations that I'm not sure can be repaired.  So, I think I have made a big decision....
     As I stated earlier, I have always been opposed to medication.  I took an antidepressant for a few days in my early 20's, and experienced such terrible hallucinations on it at night I thought I was going crazy.  I have never wanted to take anything similar to that again.  Another problem is that my OCD, believe it or not, has also not "allowed" me to take medications as my OCD fears I will have an allergic reaction to the medication or something bad will happen.
     What I do know, is that I can not continue to live like this.  I fear for my health--physically,  mentally and emotionally.  I looked at the Serenity Prayer again recently,
and in relation to my OCD and marriage, this is what I know.  I can not change the fact that I have OCD.  I have accepted that.  My husband has not.  I can not change his attitude or reaction to my OCD, and I have a hard time accepting that, but I need to learn how.  All I can do at this point is to keep changing the things I can.  Keep myself healthier.  That means working even harder at eating better, and exercising more.  One key component I have really been considering lately is my depression and feeling down about the way he treats me.  Feeling hopeless in the marriage.  This is an even bigger problem than the OCD at the current point.  For awhile I didn't think there was anything I could do about that.  But after talking more to my physician yesterday, she believes that medication could be a useful tool for me and she urged me to give it a try.  I'm not excited about taking the medication, but I'm considering giving it a try.  Because ultimately I want to feel my best.  I owe that to myself, and I owe that to my family.  I want to know that I'm making the best decisions for myself to improve my health, even if my husband's attitude never changes.  And the bonus part of the medication is that it is not only an antidepressant, but it has been shown useful in OCD specifically, to help filter those intrusive thoughts out of your head faster, so you're not getting so "stuck" on certain things. 
    I know that medication is a very personal choice for each person with OCD.  I've heard from quite a few people over the years from writing this blog, that it has truly helped them.  So, I'm thinking it may be worth a shot.  I still believe that ERP therapy is the gold standard, but I am hopeful that maybe this medication could be a useful tool in helping me do the rest of the work that needs to be done, and just to feel better in general.  Part of me feels frustrated that I have to take medication.  Part of me is so frustrated at my husband, and feeling like I shouldn't have to take meds just to deal with a marriage.  I'm torn between the "what if this doesn't work?  what if I have a reaction?  what if something really bad happens because of this medication", and the other side of the coin, "what if this can really  help?  what if I feel a lot better on this and can start living life more fully again?"  I am concerned about the black box warning on the medication, I won't lie about that.  That terrifies me. 
     I'm picking up my medication today, and I haven't made a set decision yet, but I know I'm  more apt to try it once it's purchased and sitting in my medicine cabinet, so I will definitely keep you all posted on how things are going.  If you are reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!   


Saturday, October 1, 2016

One step at a time


     Wow--I can't believe it's been about a month and a half since I last posted.  When I first started this blog, I remember posting all the time.  Probably because OCD was completely consuming my life at that point, and it was a means of journaling and trying to process this disorder.  I don't post quite as much anymore.  In some ways I guess that is good, because it means OCD is not in the front seat anymore....but it is still definitely there, more than I would like it to be. 
     I forged ahead pretty well over the summer, and a lot of that had to do with my motivation and feeling better physically during that time.  Now that we are in October already (what?!), I feel the change in seasons wreaking havoc mentally.  I don't need to be diagnosed, I know that I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It is a real thing.  As summer starts winding down, and we are back to school for several weeks, and especially when the days start getting shorter, and that much needed sun isn't showing itself as far into the day anymore, I can feel myself mentally slipping into this.  I am aware of what I'm facing, so I just need to stay one step ahead of it.  I must keep exposing myself and working on all things OCD, at least doing something day to day so that I keep making progress. 
     So the whole car thing so far has not been an issue.  My husband hasn't needed to ride in the car yet, so that is good.  That was one of my primary OCD stressors over the past month.  I think I have figured out a way to deal with this when the need arises, so now I just wait for the time he needs to ride in the car, and go from there. 
     I've been doing exceptionally well with laundry.  I'm down to about only 6 loads of laundry per week now (excluding my  husbands stuff which is easy to do in a half day), which has given me back loads of time--pun intended!  It is so nice to be able to run some errands, or whatever I should be doing, without worrying about my laundry lurking in the background.  Now, if I could just figure out a good detergent balance we would be good to go there!  I still feel like the clothes don't rinse out well, and I'm down to not using much detergent at all, so I don't know what else I can do there, but those few extra rinses per load do take some extra time that I wish they didn't need to do.  I am able to do laundry now while my husband is home.  I still prefer not to, because it brings about way too many obsessions if he could somehow open the door when I wasn't looking and "contaminate" the laundry.....but if I absolutely need to do a load while he is here (which isn't very often), I can do it.  All of my toilets can flush now while I'm doing laundry (that has sure come a long way since 3 years ago).  If things get contaminated, I am able to throw them in a wash cycle by themselves.  I rarely throw clothing away anymore (but if I'm being totally honest, I have on occasion). 
     Things still aren't going great with my husband either.  I told him that he needed to clean up his room/clothes situation before he could even get in my car and he agreed to this.  He wasn't doing anything about it, so I actually cleaned up his room for him about a week ago. Sorted through everything and vacuumed that room for probably the first time in 2 years.  Then I told him he needed to go through all of the clothes so that he could toss/donate what he doesn't use anymore and I could get everything else washed and back into his drawers and at least feel some semblance of normalcy in his room.  He still hasn't done this.  I just don't honestly know what to do about this situation anymore.  I bring up things that bother me about the OCD in relation to him and living together in the same house,  and he just still doesn't want to hear any of it.  I have thought about going to see a therapist again strictly for this see if I can get some guidance on how to deal with this, because I just don't know how we are going to continue to do this.  But then I get frustrated, because why should I go spend $200/month on a therapist, when I feel that my husband could just easily listen to me and we could work on a plan together.  After all, he knows that I've been able to self treat most of the rest of my OCD, so I'm not sure why he feels it would be different with him.  Basically I have always been willing to do the work, but I don't feel he is willing to listen/work together.  And there is a lot of resentment on both ends, and it is just big mess.  To add to this,  he has also been sick with a cold for over a week now and this really has me on edge.  I'm worried to leave the room because I want to make sure he covers when he coughs...the other day he didn't.  Coughed completely open mouthed right onto me and our daughter.  That turned into quite the argument, and I will leave those details to your imagination.  Sigh.
     Onto other neighbors had a block party last week where they welcomed some new neighbors that just moved in.  It was a fairly good sized gathering with lots of kids there.  I went!  It was a fun time too!  Not too many problems, other than one of my neighbors touched my sleeve (why oh why do people feel the need to touch others?  I know it is human and all of that, I just don't ever remember doing that to people even when I did not have OCD), but fortunately I was able to just wash that the next day and it was fine. 
     I've continued trying to "resist" OCD thoughts, meaning if my OCD is telling me to do something, I am trying really hard to just let that pass.  Such as when it tells me to wipe the couch down, or go wipe my car down.  I don't always win, but I am getting better so that is good.
    And that is the essence of the image at the top....Two steps forward, one step back still gets you ahead.  Please always remember that in your fight against OCD.  OCD can consume us, it has taken away so much from us.  We can't let it win.  We must fight, and that means constantly moving forward.  It is hard, hard work.  Don't let the days that OCD wins (and we all know there will be those days) defeat you.  As long as you keep pushing yourself (even despite the inevitable setbacks), you will be staying in the race.  You will eventually get ahead of this monster, which is what we all want.  A life that is not consumed by OCD.  And that is what we need to keep fighting for.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More exposures....moving along

     Well, school started this last week and that means my summer of downtime and some heavier exposures is now finished.  I have to say that I have done pretty well this summer.  Almost everything on my list of exposures to accomplish I did, minus 2 or 3 things.  As always, there are frustrating things that happen every week, but there are also areas that I push myself and find success.  It seems I am continuing to follow a pattern of improvement, so I am pleased about that.  This is by far the best I have functioned in the last 3 years. 
     It seems my post are following a pattern of talking about my steps forward and my steps back. so I will stick with that for now.  It helps me to be able to document my progress and at the same time my thoughts on frustrating events that did happen or things I am anticipating (as those can cause a lot of anxiety).  Last week, I had a pretty big day on Tuesday.  I had to make a trip to the DMV to renew my drivers license in the morning.  That was pretty uneventful.  Then my daughter and I went to the dentist for our 6 month check ups.  Dental visits have created an issue for me in the last several years for two main reasons:  first of all, the spit factor and worrying that the instruments are not clean enough.  Secondly, the hygienist always takes chemical disinfectant wipes and cleans the entire chair right before we sit down.  Now sometimes it is still even pretty wet from the wipes as we sit down.  The feeling of chemicals on my clothes is very bothersome to me.  I always feel icky after we leave there, and of course wash those clothes separately and wipe the carseats down.  There has been times in the past where I've stretched my dental visits out to closer to a year between (simply to avoid dealing with this more often than I need to), but I've really been trying to get there every 6 months now.  Things didn't go too bad though.  She did drop the mirror instrument on the chair as she was cleaning my teeth, so of course I was concerned about that going back in my mouth especially since it was on a surface just wiped with chemicals.  I wanted to go home and use mouthwash immediately following the visit, but by the end of the appointment I wasn't as concerned about it anymore, so we went to out.  The next exposure of the day.  Since I already felt the clothes were contaminated, I thought it might be helpful to sit with that anxiety for several more hours, so we headed out to one of my favorite restaurants, one which I hadn't been to for several years.  This is an Italian restaurant where they serve unlimited bread and salad with your entrĂ©e, so that has always made me nervous too.  How do you know that this is really done sanitary?  Also another weird thought I've had with the breadsticks is worried that somehow they brought someone elses unused bread to our table (like someone else didn't eat all the breadsticks, so they "recycled them" in a sense for the next customer.  I really hope things like that don't happen, but those are my thoughts.  I still haven't managed to eat with the restaurant silverware yet this summer, so I did bring my own.  But it was swapped out easily and things went well.  It was a nice meal, I enjoyed it, and ate a ton of bread and salad. 
     I also celebrated my birthday this past weekend.  We ended up getting take out from the same restaurant again, it was just so good!  I was a little more nervous about this time though, because my husband ordered seafood which really concerned me because that is an allergy trigger concern.  I opted to get take out this time, because eating out with my husband means added stress during the meal.  I know he does not like the thought of me swapping out my silverware (even though it really doesn't affect him and no one else even sees it), but in order to avoid the argument, eye rolls, etc. I thought it would just be easier to get take out.  Before we ate, all three of us went out driving through car lots, in preparation for the new car I will be getting very soon (more to come on this later).  This bothered me immensely because I am really bothered when sitting that close to my husband.  I am very concerned that he is going to bump his arm into mine or touch my seat somehow and I feel like I am constantly watching him out of the corner of my eye while I am driving.  It is very stressful being in the car with him, and I need to try to push myself to ride together more as a family, but that is hard...
     A few nights ago, my parents took our family out to dinner for a late birthday celebration.  I have avoided going out to eat with my parents for years, for many reasons.  Usually my sister and niece would come along and that concerns me as they are more highly contaminated in my mind too.  Also just the thought of contaminating myself unnecessarily in a public seat has made me avoid this in the past.  Also wanting to avoid the hugs, etc.  Also the fear of someone coughing across the table without them covering their mough while I am eating and then feeling trapped, like I can't finish my food.  These are still thoughts that go through my head, but I decided to go ahead and accept the invititation.  I know in the past few years my parents have gotten increasingly frustrated with my behavior (beause they don't know about my OCD) and things have been going better with my parents  recently since I've been to many more family events over the last year, so I decided to give this a go this time.  No hugs involved thankfully (my parents aren't really the touchy-feely type anyway), so that part went okay.  The one snag I did run into is instead of a table as I was hoping for, we got seated in a tight booth.  My husband sat down on the end of the booth and slid down to the other side, which meant I had no choice but to sit where he just sat.  I actually sat down where my husband sat.  And it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would (although I have no idea where he pulled his clothes from in his room, but at least they didn't appear visibly dirty), but it still bothered me enough obviously to want to get rid of that contamination.  When we got home, I showered (as I would anyway at night normally), and cleaned my car out.  I also was able to rewash those clothes, which surprised me because husband contamination is at the top of my hierarchy.  These ones still feel dirty to me though, and I'm not sure if I will move forward treating them as such or not.  This will be the first time that I have sat somewhere he has sat knowingly, and rewashed that outfit and reworn it.  I think this is easier because the contamination occurred in a dirty zone anyway.  This does NOT mean by any means that I could have him contaminate something inside my house, in my safe zones and feel okay with it.  But this leads me into the next situation, which I am going to have to force myself into fairly soon.
     This is the anxiety provoker for me and this is the situation that has been weighing heavily on my mind the last few weeks.  If you've read my last couple of posts, you'll remember that a new car was on the horizon soon.  Well, that time is here.  We did get a vehicle purchased, and will be picking that up in a few days.  Here is the strange thing which will show that I did not always have contamination issues:  the car that I am currently driving is 10 years old.  It was bought used when we got it several years ago and I was okay with that at that time.  We actually purchased that vehicle from a dealer several hours away from us and my husband went and picked up the car himself and drove it home.  I got in the car immediately and started driving.  No cleaning out process of the car, and no concerns that it had been used.  Also no concerns that he had been in it.  I drove that car for several years like that, until one day something clicked in me and the contamination grew worse and before I knew it I was cleaning off the seat and becoming more concerned about keeping it "perfectly clean".  In a sense this vehicle has become comfortable to me now through the years.  It has become one of my safe spots and I am very particular about keeping it contamination free.  I really don't want to let this car go, because transitions are difficult with OCD.  It has had several things need to be fixed over the last few years and my husband is growing tired of fixing it, thus wanting to get a new vehicle.  I know that he has had his eye on a certain vehicle (that I think he really likes the make/model, as he is really into cars) and I've been telling him numerous times over the last few weeks that we need to sit down and have a talk about this.  I needed to explain my concerns about having a new car, having him sit in the passenger seat, the level of contamination concerns I have with him, and all that entails (see previous posts for further details).  He texted me the other night and basically said they were finishing up a deal and if the dealer took his offer we had just purchased the vehicle.  I was very upset at first, thankfully this was over text.  I couldn't believe that he would just decide to do this without having this conversation yet, especially when I've tried on my end to have this conversation multiple times.  I was fairly certain that when we had this difficult conversation about my car concerns, that he would never expect me to say "you can't sit in the passenger seat".  Now I'll be very honest (I hope that he will never sit in my passenger seat), but I knew I needed to make some kind of bargain so that this didn't sound so terrible and offensive to him.  If you are new to my blog, I have a zillion issues with my husband.  One of the things that I would really wish he would do is to clean up his room and sort through his clothes.  Because all of his clothes are laying around on the floor, clean mixed with dirty.  Nice professional work clothes mixed together with dirty stained farm clothes.  Nothing feels clean to me anymore.  It all gets washed together, it all goes in dirty and it comes out feeling dirty.  I have a HUGE problem with his clothes (thus why I basically can't sit anywhere he does meaning we have our own couches, kitchen chairs, clothes put in separate bedrooms, and I have my own bedroom) and I was really concerned how this would affect a different vehicle, one in which I would ultimately be riding in the passenger seat when my daughter learns how to drive in a couple of years.  I ended up calling him after I got the text, so that we could have this.  I knew we needed to have this talk beforehand, because I absolutely wanted to make sure this was agreed upon before the car came home so that it would not cause any future arguments.  I basically tried to explain where I was at with my OCD, how much trouble this would cause me if I were to try to jump into this right now, and reminded him of how hard I have worked and how far I have come and hoped he could have some compassion and understanding with all of this.  I tried to explain that it is not him that I feel is contaminated persay, it is more his clothes and that being spread to different areas.  I reminded him that this is not directed solely at him, as I have my own issues spreading contamination and won't even sit on my own couch after I have sat in a public seat, necessitating washing/cleaning of my safe zones.  I explained that until he cleans up his room/clothes situation I did not want him riding in the passenger seat.  That he would either need to sit in the back seat or we could all take his vehicle when we go somewhere as a family (which would still cause me immense problems, but it would be easier than having him contaminate my car).  I don't want to sit in his car, but this is something I am going to have to force myself to do coming up very soon.  I thought we had a fairly productive conversation on the phone and I thought all was well.  I made sure he agreed to this if he was going to go through with the purchase, and he did.  I said I didn't want to have any future arguments about it and he said that was fine.  We agreed that whether he cleaned up his room/clothes this weekend or 3 months from now (and I was able to feel that he had clean clothes that could be worn in my car), that would be the clicker for when he could sit in the passenger seat.  But...then he came home, and boy were things different.  He walked in the house and declared a magic solution to the problem--a car seat cover!  As if ar seat cover is not something I'd ever thought of before.  I explained that a car seat cover takes care of the car seat, but it does not however solve the problem of the seat belt being contaminated.  And wow...that set him off.  He told me I was "changing my story" and had not mentioned anything about a seat belt before, only the seat.  I tried to explain that it is all one and the same to me.  Everything about the seat needs to be clean, that includes the seat belt.  I understand he doesn't get this, because people without OCD just don't think about these things.  And unfortunately this is a really gray area, as is everything with OCD.  I really don't have a clue how to navigate this.  But I am really hoping this is not going to turn into a problem.  I know he is upset because as I stated earlier he is "car person" and I think he is irritated to think can't ride in the passenger seat in a vehicle that he wanted very badly.  To be fair about it, I did not push for this vehicle.  I was very happy to settle for something different, something less expensive, something that he would not think as so "cool" to get into.  I understand that the OCD is my problem.  But I am really not there with my OCD as to contaminate my car.  Am I wrong to expect that from him?  I have been willing to give in other areas and I do believe that my OCD affects him much less than it used to, because of all of my hard work.  But I feel guilty, as I typically do when my OCD butts in.  I just wish that he could understand not take it personally.  Honestly we don't ride often in the car together anyway, maybe twice per month tops.  But I can already envision him scowling in the backseat when we go places.  I can see myself being panicked to ride in his car.  I am very afraid of feeling so contaminated after being in his car, that I am worried about starting to throw my clothes away again because I may feel they aren't clean enough.  I am worried about this situation potentially making things worse.  I am very anxious.  We will be getting this vehicle in a few days.  But the good news, that I will keep remembering and focusing on, is that I am stronger now.  I can push back against my OCD, I've proved that in other ways.   This will be another challenge to get through.  I will update soon.  Hope you all are doing well. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

An eventful week, some triggers, some triumphs!

     I've had a pretty eventful week, but some good things have come out of it too.  At the end of last week, I started off with a pretty bad OCD day, and I don't have those too often anymore thankfully. So it was a fork in the road, but I got through it.  If you've followed my blog before you probably remember my indoor plumbing issues.  We've had some issues in our house with 2 out of the 3 of our toilets, but thankfully never the one that I consistently use.  That day, I was working out in my living room and I heard my bathroom toilet flush by itself in the bathroom, which created quite a situation for me.  The toilet seat had been up, and after I heard it flush I went in there to find some urine splats all over the toilet seat.   I'm not sure what happened exactly, but something must have been backed up and it flushed by itself (very powerfully) as the whole bathroom smelled like sewage for awhile.  The urine splatters all over the seat made me question where it else it had went--shower?  shower curtain?  all of my soap and toiletries lined up on the counter?  My OCD convinced me that everything in the bathroom was contaminated--after all this is sewage we are talking about-- and I had to throw everything away in the bathroom.  And I mean everything pretty much.  I emptied the shower and my countertop of my products (including my hair dryer).  I cleaned the entire bathroom and scrubbed it down and then replaced everything at the store later that day.  I was feeling very stressed and on edge already because of that, then later that day husband put his hand on the back of my seat cushion on the couch when our dog went back there with something she wasn't supposed to have. This is an invasion of my safe space and I felt very panicked.  I felt stuck in that situation again.  I had to clean it off multiple times before I even felt remotely that it was safe to lean back against.  This resulted in a huge argument between us, namely him not understanding my OCD again.  These are the times when I debate what is the best way to handle these situations?  Do I say "please don't touch my couch" when I see he is coming over and possibly going to touch it, so as to hopefully avoid the problem?  Or do I just let the problem play out and not say anything, and then go clean it up when he is not around.  I don't the latter is the solution, because it forces me to hide the OCD which in turn just kind of makes it worse.  Hiding it makes me feel ashamed and obviously like I can't talk about the situation.  But if I forewarn him to not touch the couch, it just triggers his anger. So it seems there is no way to win in these situations.  I feel like communication is the key, otherwise it just keeps going in circles and the more we don't talk about it, the more I will hide it and the worse it will get.  But he will not communicate about it, so what am I to do?  I'm feeling very much frustrated toward my husband in general still, and his general attitude toward my OCD.  So last weekend was tough to get through too.  Every time these things happen, he just shuts down completely, gives me the silent treatment for a few days and it is very frustrating.  Anymore I just try to keep my distance too.  The problem there seems worse a lot of times.
     After the weekend, last Monday was my father in laws retirement celebration.  We went out to dinner that night with his whole family, including some aunts/uncles/cousins.  There was about 17 people there total.  Of course there was hugs (which I don't like, I'm not sure I ever will), but I was able to hug people and pretend it didn't bother me (it still does, but not quite as much which I guess is good).  I was able to eat the food there with my hands (I won't use the restaurant silverware still, so I need to order finger foods).  I also ate French fries at the restaurant, which was a food exposure.  Normally I will not eat anything fried at a restaurant.  It goes back to my food allergy problems several years ago, being concerned that if I eat fried foods, that they may have been cooked with certain types of fish and I worry I will have an anaphylactic allergic reaction.  I ate the fries (even though there was a good chance they had been fried with some fish, as my  husband ordered fish tacos), and it was okay.  I did not have a reaction.
     On Tuesday I had a hair appointment with a different stylist than I typically go to. This makes me nervous in some ways.  After my daughter had headlice earlier this summer I started having some worries and thoughts about hair salons and if I could potentially get lice there.  She also, I believe, is a smoker because I could smell the smoke on her clothes and that bothered me that she could have chemicals from the cigarette in her fingernails working with my hair.  Of course the chemicals from the highlights are an exposure too.  Then she kept drinking from her straw and putting her fingertips on the tip of the straw ,kind of playing with the straw, pulling it in and out of the cup and all I could think about in that moment was her spit on her fingers and that eventually being in my hair.  Yes, the thought was in my mind, but I tried not to dwell on it.  And it actually didn't bother me really at all after I had put it out of my mind. 
     On Wednesday my daughter had an animal encounter at the Childrens zoo in our city.  I wasn't quite sure what this was going to entail beforehand, so I was a little nervous as I did wear my regular clothes to this event.  I did know that there wouldn't be any handling or holding of the animal from what the zoo had told me beforehand.  It was a behind the scenes experience, so we actually got to back where the zookeeper goes, on the opposite side of the display.   There were tons of trees and tall grasses, as we had to make our way through a pretty wooded area. Tons of large ants, one was actually crawling on my phone at one point.  Then the zookeeper handed my daughter 2 large bowls of apple chunks and asked her if she wanted to feed the red pandas through the fence.  Actually, she said we both could feed them.  I would have liked to try it as an exposure, but I declined and opted to take pictures of my daughter instead.  In hindsight I wished I would have fed them, but I'm not sure how I would have dealt with them eating from my  hand and then feeling like our phones weren't contaminated afterward.  So, I just let have the experience.  We did end up going back to meet another older red panda that was "retired" and not currently on display.  We actually went partway into her cage, then took a tour of their kitchen area in the back.  After the tour/meeting we did find a bathroom so she could wash her hands.  But that is normal, right?  When we went in to the bathroom a little boy and his grandma were going in right before us.  The little boy used the toilet and then just ran straight out of the bathroom.  His grandma went in after him and flushed the toilet for him then walked right out too without washing her hands.  I don't know why, but seeing this really bothered me for quite some time afterward.  They weren't touching me or anything, but its just that the OCD mind still absorbs these things and can't filter them out.  I start questioning other people's hygiene habits and episodes like these are why I don't want other people touching me.  I don't know where their hands have been.  Watching this situation play out made me think of a toilet exposure and how touching my own toilet at home and not washing my hands and carrying on with my business for the day would be super anxiety provoking, and this woman did this probably without even worrying about it and she would likely not think about it the entire rest of the day,  maybe even stopping to eat or something afterward (as it was getting very close to lunchtime).  Most of the population as non OCD sufferers wouldn't even give thought to these types of things, but we with OCD focus on them. 
    For the end of the week, we had a family wedding to attend out of town.  The day started off challenging due to an incident I had at the gas station that morning as I was filling my car up for the long drive we would be taking.  As I was filling up my tank, the pump shut off by  itself--way before the tank was actually full.  So I started it up again and got back in my car.  Then the pump somehow didn't realize when the tank did get full, as I started to hear a weird spraying nose and looked over at the nozzle, and gas was literally spraying out everywhere from all sides of the nozzle, making a huge puddle of gasoline all over the parking lot.  I went into panic mode, because I have huge issues with gasoline.  In fact I had an incident a few years ago when my OCD was starting to get pretty bad where gasoline became a huge trigger for me and in turn caused all kinds of issues with me using my hands, showering, eating.  Things that I have been working really hard to get out of these last couple of years.  The only way to shut this thing off was to go unhinge the nozzle from my tank.  Of course as soon as I get close to it, the OCD fears that gasoline has sprayed on me, my clothing, mjy shoes everywhere.  I don't know if I did, but that is what was going through my mind.  My car reeked of gasoline, because it had sprayed all over the side of it.  This happened about 2 hours before we were set to leave.  If this had happened in the past it would have been enough to throw the entire day off, meaning we didn't make it to the wedding.  But, I came home, cleaned up my carseat (because of course if it had possibly gotten on my clothes, then that was possibly transferred to my carseat now), took a shower (even though I normally only shower at night), threw my outfit into the washing machine (I would have thrown it away in the psat), but I did pitch my shoes.  The whole situation definitely threw me off, but I knew that I needed to attend this weekend, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and did what I needed to do, so that I could decontaminate everything and it wouldn't upset the wedding plans.   This wedding was a huge improvement from the last wedding we attended, meaning my OCD is getting somewhat better.  Flashback:  to 2 years ago when I was in the deepest throes of my OCD.  I remember that year going to the wedding, and purposely driving separately from my husband, so that my daughter and I could immediately come home from the ceremony.   I couldn't have even fathomed at that point letting myself sit contaminated after people's hugs.  After that event we went immediately home, I cleaned our car seats up, and showered right away.  I had no motivation at all to go to the reception.  I just felt downright dirty and disgusting the moment someone touched or hugged us, and I just wanted to get out of those clothes as soon as possible and scrub the contamination away from everything.  Fast forward to last night.  This wedding was a 4 hour round trip.  In my mind, I am worried about sitting in public seating and being hugged by all kinds of people.  Those things I've done better with over the past several months, so this wasn't as tricky as I thought it would be.  I knew I would still wash my car seat off, because I'm not to the point yet where I have been able to cut that out.  It's not a painstaking process, just one I wish I wouldn't have to do anymore.  I logically understand it is not necessary, but my OCD convinces me otherwise still.  I did fairly well at the wedding, we even sat in the third row from the front (and I always, always sit in the back whenever I go anywhere).  I think partly it didn't bother me as much because its summertime and we are not into cold/flu season yet.   Also this wasn't a huge crowd, although there was probably 300 people there.  The ceremony itself went fine and then we headed over to the reception.  A few hugs were shared here, but that is okay.  Now, the issue I have with the reception is the eating.  I do not eat at social gatherings, I do not do buffet style meals, I do not use silverware at restaurants (or gatherings such as this).  If it has not been washed by myself, I don't trust it to be clean.  I had no idea what to expect with this reception.  I was hoping they would have a sit down meal where each plate was served individually.  I know that was a stretch, but that would have been best case scenario.  I brought my own silverware, planned out beforehand) and promised myself that if they brought each plate out (and it was not buffet style), that I would use my own silverware, discretely swap it out and eat the food. ended up being buffet style.  As soon as I saw that, I felt discouraged and started feeling self-conscious right away because I didn't want to field the usual questions I get such as "Why are you not eating?",  and it just feels plain awkward and I feel so ashamed of myself during these times.  My daughter was telling me she was hungry and I was very hungry as well.  I kept looking around me looking at everyone eating, and everyone seemed healthy and normal, and I thought about all of these people that were looking forward to their meal and not anxious about like I was.  I also worried about people's reactions if we didn't eat.  I also was worried about all of the hands on the serving utensils and what if someone coughed or sneezed into the food?  What if children were walking by it and did something to it?  All of these thoughts were swarming in my head, and suddenly I just grabbed the plate (before I could change my mind) and I said to my daughter--we are going to go ahead and eat.  This was something I had absolutely not planned on at all.  But I ate buffet style--and I filled my plate well.  I still swapped out my silverware (and no one knew the difference) and I did it.  I am actually really proud of myself for this.  Sometimes I push myself, other times are more difficult though.  The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful except for a situation that occurred right before we left.  I had not seen the groom's mother (my husband's aunt) the entire course of the day yet.  When I used the restroom before the ride home, I was standing in line for the next open stall.  Who should come out, but her?  She had just used the toilet and was exiting the stall, hadn't even stopped to wash her hands yet.  I was walking toward the stall, she was walking out.  She walked directly to me and wrapped me in a huge bear hug, and I felt mortified right on the spot. I felt so contaminated and I still had to drive 2 hours home before I could do anything.  There was pee on my clothes.  That's all I could think about. I had no choice but to sit with that anxiety, to get in my car like that, wearing my seatbelt and feeling grossed out by everything.  I found this hard to get out of my head the whole way home.  I wasn't incapacitated or anything by it, but my brain just had a hard time letting that go.  I am always worried to hug people, thinking through all the "what ifs". What if they went to the bathroom before they hugged me?  What if they did this or that?  So it really raises my anxiety when I know that she has just used the bathroom and not had a chance to wash her hands.  When I came out of the stall,  she was washing her hands, so I don't know if she just felt awkward and felt she needed to hug me or if she thought she would be rude to wait to wash her hands first or if non-OCD suffers even think about these things.  It was a very eventful day, all in all.  After the way that my day started out (with the gasoline incident) and feeling like I wasn't even going to go to the wedding, ending with being able to go after all and eat at the buffet and withstand toilet contamination.  I call the day a success.  You win some OCD battles, you lose some.  I will keep trucking along.  Hope everyone is doing well. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Somewhat of a rocky road, but making myself get out there more again!

     Well, there are only a few weeks left of summer before school starts again.  At the beginning of the summer I came up with a list of possible exposures and different things I wanted to do this summer that I had been avoiding for the last 3 years.  This week was somewhat of a rocky road for me with a couple of things so I just wanted to talk about those a little further.
     We went to church together as a family for the first time in a couple of years.  I don't so much have a problem going to church, except when my husband comes with.  His presence and the fact he is sitting next to me, possibly brushing up against me kind of ups the ante a little bit.  That, along with the fact that if I find myself "trapped" in a situation and can not get out of it, because I can't feel free to move seats, etc. when he has come with.  Unfortunately I found myself in one of these situations on our first trip back.  A dad with two boys sat one row in front of us and so I was about 5 feet away from one of these children.  The boy started coughing frequently, mostly with his mouth wide open and immediately I wanted to move.  I stayed there simply because I felt stuck.  Had my husband not been there, I would have definitely moved seats. But for some reason, I stick it out in most situations when my  husband is there.  Part of it is because I feel embarassed about needing to move, the other part is because I don't want to endure his annoyed reaction and eye rolling if we moved seats.  But I stayed.  This is probably good for me in the end because it forces me to sit there with the anxiety.  I don't like being around people coughing around me, it makes me extremely uncomfortable.  If someone is next to me that is at least covering their mouth, it is more tolerable.  But....if they are not covering, it is extremely bothersome to me.  I wish there was a way for my husband to understand that there are a lot of things that I am working on, and so sometimes he's just going to have to realize that I can't face everything at once.  But that requires communication, and unfortunately isn't something he wants to do still.
     Because having my husband with us on outings adds more stress to the situation, I find myself doing most exposures when it is just my daughter and I.  I mentioned last post that we went to a paint your own pottery store.  These things are always fun and we enjoy them, but they also tend to be crowded with lots of children...another trigger.  I find myself being able to go to places like this, but I still want to sit in the seat furthest away from the action.  I am still very mindful and completley paying 100% attention to whatever is going on around make sure no one is walking too close to us, brushing up against us.  I am especially mindful of children during this times who are just running around like crazy in many of these places.  I hate that the OCD takes me away from the moment.  It takes away my ability to just enjoy spending time with my daughter.  I am always still thinking that we are going to get contaminated.
     We also went to a movie this past week.  Now, I have not been to a movie theater for 3 years.  Three summers ago was the last sense of normalcy I had with day to day activities and being out in public, because over a period of months shortly following that summer, things were going to start getting a lot worse with my OCD.   Then after our dog died in the fall of 2013, things really came to a head.  I became very depressed and unable to fight off any of the OCD. That is where I spent about 12 months of the worst of my OCD, feeling like there was no way out.  Although I have made progress over about the last 18 months, I made the promise that this summer will be a summer I push myself a little bit more.  And I have.  But I'm still not where I wanted to be.  But I'm better.  Getting to a movie was something I wanted to do.  As it came closer to the date I had designated for this, I found myself coming up with excuses though...oh we can wait another couple of weeks, blah blah blah.  In the end, I realize if my OCD is telling me not to do something, then it means I probably should not listen to it and I should push myself and quit avoiding.  So we did go to the movie.  Now I planned this out carefully, as most people with OCD do try to plan things out so as to avoid any issues that might come up, sometimes even having a few plans in the mix to jump to in case a problem arises.  We went to a morning movie, because I figured it would be less busy.  I was hoping maybe a couple small groups of people sitting closer up front, and we could sit in the back.  But when we got there there was about 8-10 groups of other people and everyone was sitting in the back few rows of fairly large theater.  We found a couple of seats in the back on the end that no one was close by, it was in our own section on the far end.  See, there I am again trying to sit the furthest away I can from everybody.  I wonder if I'll always be like that?  I did something bad here again too.  I did something I hadn't planned on, and I am mad at myself. But I've always kept things real on this blog,  and today is no exception.  Sometimes its hard to really push yourself and I compulsed big time.  I wanted to cover up that seat, I did not want that contamination from that seat on our clothes, so I took big plastic (unused of course) new trash bags and slipped them over the seat back as a seat cover and sat on the second bag. I did this for my daughter and my chairs.  I was hoping I didn't have to resort to that, but I did.  But here is the next step.  I plan to get to another movie in the next couple of months and this time I will try not to put the seat cover on.  I don't know why a movie theater seat seems so contaminated to me.  Why a step above restaurants?  It's almost up there with doctors offices.  I think it might be partly because the theater is dark and you can't see what is on the seat.  Also, so many people go through the theater everyday.  A lot of children in movie theaters that are messy and spill.  What if some kid wet his pants on the seat?  What if headlice is crawling on the seats?  (Normally that would have never crossed my mind, but my daughter had headlice earlier in this month.  I never blogged about it because we got through it surprisingly well, but I have no idea where she came into contact with anything like that.  And it was gross).  I know these are obsessive thoughts, but that is the truth of what this disorder is about.  My mind can't get past that.  But at least we went to the movie, when I wanted to avoid so badly.   Next time I will do better and not cover my seat.
     On a positive note, we went to the zoo today.  A huge zoo.  We live 60 miles away from the #1 ranked zoo in the world and we typically made the trip yearly each summer when my daughter was younger.  We have not gone for a few years, and today was the day.  When we got there I felt like I had made a huge mistake.  There was people everywhere, it was a crowded mess.  I don't know why I thought that the middle of the week would make a difference, because it was just a swarming crowd everywhere we went.  This immediately raises my anxiety...children everywhere, running around, pushing in between people to see the animals.  But we got through it, I am pretty sure that no one bumped into us, but that was with a lot of careful standing around and waiting for crowds to pass and very strategic moving around the place.  It is one of those situations again where I feel so angry that the OCD robs that ability to just relax.  But I suppose that comes with time, the more you recover from this disorder.  Or is that something you never get back?
      I do want to end this note with a situation that I am worried about that is coming up.  I'm not sure how to deal with it.  My husband wants to get me a different car and there are going to be so many challenges that come along with this.  I am really afraid about getting a new car.  First of all my husband has plans to come into  my car and "Armor-all" everything and detail it, which is the first problem.  Once that is done to the car, I don't see how I will be able to even get in it and sit in the car.  Knowing he has sat in my seat and put chemicals/cleaner all over into the seats and everything.  The next challenge comes with the new car.  It has been easy up to this point because my daughter has sat in the back seat.  Now that she is 13 (and technically okay to ride in the front seat at her age) I want to let her do that.   I won't let her do that in my current car because I feel the passenger seat is completely contaminated as my husband sits there.  He rarely rides in the car, and I am afraid if he gets in there it will contaminate the new seat forever.  Then when my daughter gets her learners permit and starts driving, I will not want to sit in the passenger seat when she drives.  I will not want her to sit in the passenger seat anyway as soon as he sits in that seat even one time.  I've gone back and forth in my mind many times, how am I going to deal with this?  Can I wash the carseat off and still feel okay sitting in it once he sits in the car?  I honestly don't think so at this point in time.  Do we go places in his car?  I don't think that is the answer either, his car feels really contaminated to me.  I fear that once I am in his car, I may resort back to some of my old methods and throwing those clothes away, and I can not let myself get to that point again.  Do I let him sit in the passenger seat and then whenever my daughter has to sit there, do I put a seat cover down for her and somehow wrap the seat belt with some type of barrier so her clothes don't come in contact with it?  This seems like a lot of work and the potential for things to get a lot worse here, that is why I am so concerned.  My husband only rides in my car maybe once/month tops.  It seems like a lot to jump through and a lot of cleaning rituals and possible issues to drive myself further into.  I honestly wish that I could just make him sit in the back seat everytime we go somewhere.  I sit in the drivers seat, my daughter sits in the passenger and he sits in the back.  We all have our own seats.  I know that is bad for the OCD, but that is truly where I'm at right now.  I've been working on so many other things (that I wish he could understand) and him contaminating my car is at the tip top of my hierarchy.   How do I explain this to my husband?  How do you explain to someone that you don't want them contaminating your new car?  I am really struggling with this one right now.  And for that reason, I am very much putting off the conversation about getting a new car.  I would love any advice that anyone might have.  Even if you have issues with your own car being contaminated by others, how do you deal with it? 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tackling some exposures this summer

     So, I want to apologize first for my last post.  I was kind of being a Debby Downer.  The truth is I was just having a really bad day that day and I think I just kind of needed to process it.  Although July 3rd didn't fare the best for me, I was able to get out and enjoy the day on the 4th and had a pretty great time.  I was able to get out and sit on our driveway (all three of us) and do some fireworks.  My daughter and I both lit some, but my husband did the majority.  We even went over to our neighbors  (where there were tons of children, which are a huge trigger for me) for a bit to chat.  There was a ton of smoke outside as the wind was blowing things down our direction.  I was actually pretty engulfed in some good clouds of smoke several times.  I did shower right when I came in, but I was able to wash the smoky clothes the following day (separately of course) and do not feel they are dirty anymore.  This is a huge improvement for me over where I was 1-2 years ago, when I would not have been able to ever wear those clothes again.  The only problem that I encountered that night was that my husband at one point reached over and touched my shoe--on purpose--which really frustrated me.  I think he was just trying to be nice, but of course the OCD deems those shoes contaminated, something that I should think he would partially understand by now.  Anything my husband touches of mine at this point becomes contaminated, and as I stated a couple of posts ago I am simply just not ready to handle the contamination he brings into the picture, although I am definitely working on a lot of other things.  He had also just been touching fireworks and throwing stuff away in the outdoor trash so his hands were "dirty" beyond their normal contamination.  I don't think he understands that it's not okay to just make an exception with the OCD one night and that I'll be able to "be okay with it".  I, of course, didn't tell him this as it would just spark an argument, but I did go out and replace my shoes the very next day.  The very same style even thankfully, which was still available.  But overall, I had a really great time.  It was nice to be able to enjoy the holiday and be able to be outside and with everyone else.
     I thought I would take the opportunity with this post to talk about all of the things I HAVE been able to do this summer, so far.  First and foremost, I have been trying to get a lot of rest and relaxation, which has really helped me out a lot.  I have been sleeping in at least half of the mornings in the week, so I'm averaging anywhere from 8-10 hours every single night.  And sleeping pretty good and soundly at that.  I've been trying to get out as much as I can,  doing activities and being in public with my daughter, doing many things that I never imagined I would be able to do again.  I've been trying to get outside in the sun every single day and also walking my dog.  Here is a list of some of the things that I have done this summer, things that have been somewhat of an exposure for me and/or things that I was able to do again that I had previously avoided for awhile due to fears of contamination.  Also, believe it or not--some of these things I simply wasn't able to do the last couple of years because my laundry rituals took up so much of my day that I just did not have time to go out and do fun things, so they got pushed aside while I sat there and did the many many loads of laundry that consumed my life during that period.

--went to the zoo
--went to a paint your own pottery place (previously avoided due to crowds, contamination/paint on clothes and the chairs there)
--went to a fossil/animal museum
--planted flowers in my front yard (fertilizer concerns)
--started wearing contacts again (was previously unable to do this due to warts on my hands and fear of spreading those to my eye, but thankfully my hands are pretty healed up now so I decided to go for it again). 
--went to my nephews birthday party (very young children there, sitting on other people's furniture)
--had an orthodontic consult to start Invisalign (involved all sorts of dental tools going in my mouth, I also have a serious issue with dentists office/contamination/spit/chemicals used to wipe down the seats) and and this will require me to go in every 4-6 weeks over a 15 month period of time.  My daughter is also getting braces during this time. 
--Joined the pool and have been there twice so far (this was something that was an absolute no-no for me the last 2 years and something my daughter very much wanted to do this year.  I promised myself I would do this for her.  Lots of people, lots of kids swimming in the water, requires wearing sunscreen which I don't like wearing due to chemicals, the chlorine in the pool bothers me, children blowing bubbles and spitting in the pool, the fear that a kiddo might have urinated in the pool, sitting on the pool deck with my bare skin against the cement that people my have walked over and gotten their feet germs all over, all sorts of things here).  Got in the water, laid on the lounge chairs there (with our own towels of course).
--went to church a couple of times and even took communion again.  This was from a big plate of bread that other people may have touched as it was passed around church.
--went out to eat as a family (just the three of us) for the first time in about 5 years.  We have gone out for meals with extended family, but that is only because I have to in those situations.  This was something that just the three of us did, which I initiated.
--went to a meeting for work and did not sit in the very back row for once (concerns for others being behind me, coughing,etc.)

     I've got a lot of other things planned for these last few weeks of summer.  We are hoping to get to the pool a couple of times a week over the course of the next month, amongst lots of other day trips.  One thing that I have found through all of this, is that I don't necessarily feel as dirty/contaminated as I think I am going to in these situations, but for some reason I still feel I need to make everything clean afterward.  For instance I don't feel disgusting/yucky/gross after I go to the pool.  I feel pretty normal being there and find that I don't have much problems while I'm there.  It's the aftermath of the situation that I find most troubling.  I feel I just go into autopilot and make sure I want to restore everything back to how it was before, as far as cleanliness.  Such as I come home, throw our swimsuits and towels aside to be washed.  Then I go outside and wash the carseats off (which I have down to a science now and only takes about 10-15 minutes total for both of our seats).  Then we both shower and then when we are restored and have the pool contamination off of us, we can sit back down on our couch and I don't feel like we are contaminating that.  So my mind is still deeply ingrained in OCD and this whole spread of contamination stuff, but the good news is that at least I am able to go out and do stuff again and for that I am thankful.  I think when I was at my worst I avoided everything and I became so depressed and I wasn't really living.  So today I am so thankful that we are being able to experience these fun things this summer.  I'm not doing so great with trying to stop washing my car seat off (I hoped to be doing better at that by now), but I have combined some more stuff (contaminated stuff in the washer) so am doing better with that part.  I've even started wearing my nicer stuff to certain places.  So overall I am happy with my trajectory this summer.  Most of my days are pretty good, other than slip ups that happen, but I am continuing to make my way forward, and hope that for my next update I can show you even more progress!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer Update

     Just wanted to post an update as I haven't posted for over a couple of months now.  Things have been pretty stressful for me this summer in regard to my marriage, so I'm really just trying to stay afloat with that, and have had trouble keeping up with the OCD.  The good thing is that my OCD is in a place right now where I'm doing considerably well overall, so I'm kind of taking a "break" from the exposures, but I read my summer plan again recently and need to start tackling that full on here soon.  Yes, I will.  I am promising myself that I will.  I have worked on some things, but I haven't fully dived in with the clothing contamination yet like I had planned.  I do plan on joining a health club next week with my daughter for a month, so that will help push things along.  What I've really been enjoying this summer so far is the amount of rest and relaxation, and just taking care of myself that I've been doing.  I've been getting a lot of extra rest, trying to eat better (kind of), been outside every single day (unless it's raining), walking, doing fun activities with my daughter, watching movies, reading books, and baking.  I've been amazed at what this has done for me emotionally and mentally.  This is probably the best I've felt in about 7 years (aside from dealing with the marriage/relationship issues still every day). 

     Today is the 3rd of July.  The 4th is a holiday I have also loved and enjoyed.  Being outside in the summer, pretty fireworks.  I have had a lot of difficulty with this holiday the last few years.  Exactly 3 years ago on July 3rd is when I developed an issue with our clothes dryer.  I still remember looking at, thinking it was contaminated, and that was the day that my laundry issues began.  And then they only grew worse after that.  The last couple of years I have had more issues with being outside and clothes feeling contaminated, being out in the smoke, being in close contact with others, the idea of fireworks and what they are made of.  It just wasn't much fun those years.  This year, I am doing better with the clothing contamination, although the smoke is still a concern for me.  And I so badly wanted to get out tonight and socialize with our neighbors.  Our street had a block party and I had every intention of going.  Then my husband told me he didn't want to go (and I believe this was for the reason that he doesn't really know our neighbors, this has nothing to do with the OCD at all).  I feel disappointed, because I have worked really hard to get to a point where I can go out and do things again...but you want to know what I'm really disappointed about?  That I should have just went with my daughter and left my husband at home.  But you know what I'm still concerned about?  Yeah.  The whole safe zone thing and not wanting to leave when my husband is home alone.  So, we stayed here and didn't go out.  And in hindsight, I should have pushed back tonight.  I should have went. 

     I am letting my husband have too much control over what I don't let myself do with the OCD.  Does that makes sense?  What I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of things I could do, but I still avoid because my husband will be there.   Watching me with his hawk eyes.  Rolling his eyes at me.  Sighing.  Frustrated that I do things differently.  And so I avoid...not necessarily because of the contamination issue directly, but more to avoid the reaction from him.  That is so messed up!  And I need to work on this.  Last weekend, my daughter and I went to church for the first time in quite awhile.  We typically only go to church services when my husband is out of  town or out with friends.  Otherwise, we attend online through our church's live stream.  Again, it is not even a clothing contamination issue necessarily.  For awhile, I avoided church because even sitting in the chairs there (as did anywhere in public) felt too contaminating.  Now I feel I can be there and sit comfortably, but I still want to sit in the back row, which I have done for several years now.  I don't like being in a crowd and I don't like people sitting directly behind me.  I don't want someone coughing or sneezing behind me.  So, I sit in the back row.  Big deal, right?  To be honest, it will probably one of those things that will always be the case.  I think I will always just want to sit in the back row.  And that should be okay, because the important thing is that I'm going, and not avoiding.  Yesterday, I suggested to my husband that the three of us all go to church together, and there was no positive words, there was no "yes,  let's do it".  There was a general sense of irritation in his voice, and the question, "did you guys sit in the back row again?"  It's that frustration/criticism that I get from him every single time we go out to do something.  Whatever I'm doing with my OCD, it's never enough for him.  And I'm so tired of it.  It is probably the #1 reason why I avoid doing things with him if possible.  And it's why I try to go out and do all kinds of activities when I get the chance (when he is at work or gone on the weekends).   To prove to myself, that I can fight this thing.  To keep getting out there in public and doing things.  And it feels incredible.  If I could just find a way to be able to leave the house when he is here and feel comfortable, then I would be doing so good overall.

     I have been taking lots of day trips with my daughter this summer and having a blast.  And I so thankful for that time together.  My laundry rituals are getting better, and that is still on the burner most days, but on the "back burner", not the "front burner", so that is good.  There are even several days that my washer doesn't run at all anymore.  I have started combining some more of my outdoor/contaminated clothes, which has cut down even further on loads.  I can't seem to get comfortable with contaminating my car seat though.  I am very comfortable washing contaminated things and rewearing them now again, and that is really something to say compared to how I handled those things just one year ago. 

     If I could just find a way too, to get my husband to be involved with this.  He is checked out of our marriage, I am certain of that.  And sometimes I wonder why I am holding on?  Is there something wrong with me to keep holding on?  Why am I staying in this marriage when my husband has no desire to spend time with me, share life with me, talk to me about anything, cares so little about my well being, refuses to have conversations about our marriage or my OCD, and basically walks around the house completely ignoring me all day, other than to point out the frustrations that my OCD brings into the marriage.  When I have virtually been the only one to try to inititiate conversations about our marriage and my OCD.  He is a very angry person and this affects me very negatively, and just worsens the OCD and how I feel about him.  It is very dysfunctional and toxic.  I stay in the marriage because I believe God wants that.  But there are 90% of days when I question how much more I can take, and if God truly wants me to keep living in a marriage like this. 

     One more thing I can say for all of us with OCD, is that we are not quitters.  We are strong, brave people.  And we'll just keep fighting the fight.  Summer is halfway done already, which is hard to believe.  I will keep taking the best care of myself that I can, and I will push myself harder this second half of summer with the clothing contamination.  A friend of mine, passed away from breast cancer last fall.  It was her 3rd diagnosis of cancer in the last several years.  Breast in remission, then leukemia in remission, then breast again, this time stage 4.  I hadn't had much contact with her in the recent years, other than through Facebook, but I kept up with her posts and her blog that ske kept, fairly frequently. She was one of the most positive people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and her motto was "I can.  I will".  She certainly lived her life to the fullest.  Never let her cancer slow her down, until the end when it took her life.  She was an avid runner and traveler.  If she set her mind to something, she did it.  She swam with sharks, she skydived, she took advantage of every opportunity that came her way.  She was certainly inspirational and motivating to me.  So, this is for you, Andrea.  I can. I will.  Get myself further out of this OCD. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

My Summer Plan/Goals to tackle outdoor clothing contamination

     Haven't posted for awhile, so just wanted to share my summer goals.  I've been working on some laundry stuff still throughout the spring.  What I want to share today though is my plan is to work on my OCD this summer, mostly involving laundry, clothing contamination and several exposures out in public.  This is the exact plan (copied and pasted) that I have formulated and spent a lot of time thinking about.  I am hoping that someone might find some help with it in devising a plan against one of their OCD behaviors this summer.  I've just tried to lay out the goals, my priorities, what I want to see eliminated by summer's end, a "pep talk" for myself at the end, and reminders as I'm doing the exposures.  I still have about a month before I put this into action.  I'm finishing up some other small exposures first, and then I am ready to start working on this toward the end of May.  Here goes!!!

     I am working less than normal hours this summer to help facilitate this and also help myself feel better.  It is important that I stand by this commitment, as this is a great opportunity to help remove massive amounts of my OCD and get life back on track for myself and my family.  These are commitments that I am making this summer to try my hardest at.  I may not always succeed, but the important thing is that I try.  And that I intend to do this summer.

Some of my priorities this summer will be resting (sleeping in), eating healthy (3 good meals/day, healthier foods, healthier snacks, lots of water, try to cut back on sugar), exercising, getting out in the sunshine, and just trying to do relaxing activities with my daughter.  Doing neck massages occasionally.  I also want to cut back on screen time as much as possible.(not OCD related, but still important for me to do.  I want to cut down on the "busyness" and the need to feel caught up on everything.  Such as only checking emails once per day, browsing through Facebook once per day.  Decreasing time spent on games).  Doing interactive activities with my daughter--playing outside.  Reading the Bible, listening to Christian music.  Create a positive mindset.  I have no excuse to not prioritize my health this summer.  Working less hours will enable me to take better care of my health.  When I am able to feel better physically and mentally and reduce some of these OCD behaviors, I will be doing so much better and this will greatly affect not only my future, but that of my family.  I look forward to a time when my life is not ruled by OCD, and this is a wonderful opportunity to help move in that direction.  

     This summer I want to work on outdoor contamination and hopefully eliminate this by the end of August.  I am not working on indoor contamination yet, nor that involving my husband, so if I am able to do some exposures  with these this summer, that will be excellent, but I am not developing a plan to tackle these specifically quite yet.  That part comes later, possibly in the fall.  I will not be upset with myself if I am not improving in these two higher up situations areas this summer.  Again, my plan is to be in the outside world and learn to not feel contaminated in it.  This means I can still change clothes before I sit on my couch and my safe zones can still be maintained this summer indoors.   Anything that I feel my husband “contaminates” can still be handled separately.  Also, any “highest contamination” situations, such as obvious germs, work clothes (scrubs) can still be dealt with separately.  However for most situations outside the house, for example sitting at church or at a restaurant, etc. a “normal everyday” occurrence for people, I need to follow these rules.

**Side note--If you have not followed my blog previously, I just want to make a quick comment, and explanation about my "outdoor clothing".  These are clothes that I wear outside my house.  Just because I go out in public, does not render me contaminated.  I have no problem going to places, grocery shopping, errands, as long as I don't have to sit in a public seat.  Once that occurs, or if someone touches me/hugs me, then I feel that clothing is contaminated.  So when I refer to washing "contaminated outdoor clothing", I am referring to those times when I might sit in a restaurant chair.  For example, currently if I go to a restaurant I would come home and wash my car seat off, before getting in my car again with a fresh new set of clothes.  Then those clothes I wore to the restaurant that are "contaminated" would have to be washed separately by themselves.  My OCD senses germs/contamination on them that I don't want mixed with my other regular clothes.  Instead of handling those clothes separately moving forward, I would like to just be able to incorporate those into my regular laundry and not wash my car seat off.  You know, like a non-OCD sufferer.

Things to work on this throughout this summer:
*wash “contaminated clothes” in normal cycle only, NOT sanitary    
*eat at restaurants, with finger foods
*eat at restaurants, using their silverware
*go to church, sit in seat, body leaned back into chair. not just "sitting on the edge" of the seat
*take communion at church (hand sanitizer allowed before at this time)
*combine “contaminated clothes” (worn out in public) with regular outdoor clothes in same wash cycle
*combine contaminated clothes” (that people have hugged me in) with regular outdoor clothes in same wash cycle
*do not wash car seat off after sitting in public seat
*leave the house with when my daughter when husband is here.  TRY TO GET OUT MORE!!!!!
*take a walk/go outside  with my daughter when my husband is in the house
*do not wash off couch after vacuuming living room floor
*do not wash off kitchen chairs.  Sit in kitchen chairs more often instead of eating on the couch.

Possible Exposures:
*movie theater
*paddle boating
*sit on driveway
*bike rides
*swimming pool
*wear sunscreen when outdoors
*eat outside
*play horseshoes or darts in the grass
*continue to eat more/different types of foods
*allow daughter to hang out at friends houses
*walk dog through wooded areas
*be outside as much as possible

You can do this!  You’ve come a long way in your fight against OCD already.  Think of all the things you’ve been successfully able to stop doing because of hard work and persistence against this disorder.  You’ve stopped handwashing hubby's clothes, you’ve gone from 13 loads of laundry (double or triple washed) per week, to 7 loads of laundry (single washed) per week.  You've started eating with your hands again, you've stopped ritualizing in the shower, you are cleaning your house again (normally), you've stopped throwing most things away (sometimes I still slip), you've been washing contaminated clothes and rewearing them, even incorporating them back into your regular wardrobe so they are not "forever contaminated clothes", you have successfully started combining some clothes in the wash again, stopped turning off water supply to your toilets when you did the wash (remember the indoor plumbing issue, that SUCKED!!).  Your hands look night/day different and healed up.  Your warts on your hands are healed up.  You've stopped avoiding family functions.  You started getting your hair done again, wearing makeup/hairspray and taking better care of yourself.  The list goes on and on, these are just a few examples to remind yourself of how your life has been reclaimed bit by bit from this disorder.  You’ve spent a lot of money on this disorder and you’ve wasted a lot of time.  It’s taken things away from you, things that you really want to be doing.  It's made a lot of decisions for you.  Look at all the ways it has affected you and your family.  Your daughter has also become a slave to this disease.  Her school activities are not attended, she has missed school because of the OCD, she does not hang out with her friends because of the OCD.  Se has not been allowed to experience her childhood as she should have because of the OCD.  She has missed out on fun activities such as birthday parties, and time spent with family/friends.  She has not been allowed to experience playing with her dog.  Family vacations are not taken.  Minimal time spent together doing fun activities outside of the house. She does not spend time with her dad.  She has never spent the night at a friends house.  She does not spend time with her grandparents.  She is ruled and dictated by this disorder so much.  She things hugs are awkward now, because there is no displays of affection in the household.  She has never ran through the grass with the sprinklers on.  She can’t play in her backyard.  She had to stop Girl Scouts.  She doesn’t get to church as she should.  She doesn't participate in Youth Group.  Don't bog yourself down with these hard feelings though.  You are trying to improve your health.  You have come such a long ways and the OCD doesn't affect her nearly as much as it once did.  But, it still does.  And the work you do this summer will be difficult, but it will be SO worth it.  

Reminders to myself through this process:

You NEVER had to give your clothes special treatment before this disease started.  Most people don’t wash their car seat off.  They go out in public, they do things, and they live life.  They experience life.  Then they just get in their car and go home.  Most people do not wash certain clothes separately.  They fill their washer up with everything that is “used laundry”, NOT dirty, and then when it comes out it is clean.  They do not separate their inside and outside worlds.  If this was dangerous, the population would be dropping like flies.  It is NOT dangerous, it is NOT harmful.  The world is not dirty.  The OCD has just convinced you that you have to do things in a different way.  It’s time to NOT listen to the OCD and just trust yourself.  You are not getting dirty or spreading contamination because you do not wash your car seat.  Germs are all over in public anyway.  Germs live everywhere, you can’t see them.  No amount of cleaning you do will get rid of all the germs.  They will not hurt you.  Some germs are good for you.  There are dust mites and bugs living on all of our bodies.  Washing something off with soap won’t make everything entirely clean.  You are making life so much harder by trying to keep things clean.  The OCD is sucking the life out of everything.  Even if I leave germs behind on something, and transfer them somewhere else, so what?  Isn’t living and experiencing life and maybe coming into contact with a germ, MAYBE getting dirty--isn’t that better than avoiding everything around you and isolating yourself and not experiencing/living life?  You can do this.  You were given life, God will take care of you.

I will try to update weekly on my progress throughout the summer.  I think it was important for me to share this, because if I've posted my plan on my blog, I feel more accountable to that.  People now know what I want to work on, its not just ideas in my head.  If you are experiencing OCD, please please help yourself and start some exposure therapy.  I can't tell you how much it has helped in my life already.  If you think what that where I'm at right now sounds crazy with my OCD, I can assure that you that I have been much worse places in the past couple of years.  Exposures are what have helped me thus far to this point.  If you don't think you can do it, YOU CAN!!!  Think of all that you have lost to the OCD.  It is time to get your life back from this.  Starting today.