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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.